You’re unlikely to be disappointed by SEONGSAN (성산), an endearing rural town with one very apparent tourist draw looming over it: Ilchulbong (일출봉), or “Sunrise Peak”, is so named as it’s the first place on the island to be lit up by the orange fires of dawn. The town can easily be visited as a day-trip from Jeju City but many visitors choose to spend a night here, beating the sun out of bed to clamber up the graceful, green slope to the rim of Ilchulbong’s crown-shaped caldera. It’s an especially popular place for Koreans to ring in the New Year – a small festival celebrates the changing of the digits. From the town it’s a twenty-minute or so walk to the summit; a steep set of steps leads up to a 182m-high viewing platform at the top, and although the island’s fickle weather and morning mists usually conspire to block the actual emergence of the sun from the sea, it’s a splendid spot nonetheless. Powerful bulbs from local squid boats dot the nearby waters; as the morning light takes over, the caldera below reveals itself as beautifully verdant, its far side plunging sheer into the sea – unfortunately, it’s not possible to hike around the rim. If you turn to face west, Seongsan is visible below, and the topography of the surrounding area – hard to judge from ground level – reveals itself.
Besides the conquest of Ilchulbong, there’s little to do in Seongsan bar strolling around the neighbouring fields and tucking into a fish supper, though the waters off the coast do offer some fantastic diving opportunities. South of town is Sinyang Beach, where the water depth and incessant wind make it a good place to windsurf; equipment is available to rent.