Bongeunsa, Seoul, South Korea

Nestled behind the massive COEX Mall in Gangnam is a Buddhist temple founded in 794 by Yeonhoei, head of the Seon (Zen) Buddhist sect. The temple’s history, like many in South Korea, is blighted by the Joseon Dynasty’s attempts to eradicate Buddhism altogether. Originally named Gyeonseongsa, it was renamed and moved during King Myeongjong’s reign,…

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Beomeosa, Busan, South Korea

Sunshine, peace, and dazzling mountain views. Add to that one of Jogye Buddhism’s Head Temples and you have a wonderful side-trip from Busan. The temple feels remote, despite being only a half hour’s hike from Beomeosa subway station (or a far shorter bus ride). Hop off at the bus stop and you have more uphill…

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan, South Korea

South Korea’s southernmost temple spreads across rocky outcrops in the Sea of Japan like a spider delicately perched on strands of its web. Built in 1376 it has survived suppression by Confucianism and outright destruction by the Japanese, and remains an important centre of Korean Buddhism to this day. The approach is lined with statues,…

Bulguksa, Gyeongju, South Korea

Bulguksa is about 40 minutes out of Gyeongju by bus, and well worth every minute of the incredibly bumpy, bone-rattling drive. Built between 751 and 774 AD, the temple has had a spotty history. It began as an important Silla-period temple, mainly focusing on prayer to protect the country from invasion. Japanese invaders burned it…

Golgulsa, Gyeongju, South Korea

Golgulsa is a Zen Buddhist temple approximately 25km from Gyeongju. Famous as the modern home of Sunmudo, a wholly-Korean Zen martial art, the temple also offers demonstrations of Sunmudo, as well as templestays for Koreans and foreigners alike. Finding the temple is a test of your adventuring skills. Starting in Gyeongju, either at the Bus…