A Trip to Seokguram Grotto And Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are the historic jewels of the Silla Capital Gyeongju, both sites are must things to do in Gyeongju! The sights are located just outside the Gyeongju city center, easily accessible by public bus. Read on for more information!
Gyeongju, located in the southeastern part of South Korea, is a city with a rich cultural heritage and historical significance. Known as the “Museum Without Walls,” Gyeongju is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Bulguksa Temple and the Seokguram Grotto. Visitors can explore the city’s ancient tombs, temples, and palaces, and get a glimpse into the country’s rich history and cultural traditions. The city is also surrounded by beautiful mountains, parks, and beaches, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or natural beauty, a visit to Gyeongju is sure to be a memorable experience.
Quick Facts About Bulguksa Temple And Seokguram Grotto Gyeongju
- Bulguksa temple was built in 528 during the Silla Dynasty, in 751 King Gyeong-Deok started rebuilding the temple.
- The temple burned down during the Imijin war and was damaged multiple time during robber attacks.
- The temple is considered as a master piece of Buddhist art dating back from the Silla Dynasty. Currently the temple is part of the Yogye order; the biggest Buddhist order in Korea. Golgulsa Temple, also located in Gyeongju is also part of the Yogye order.
- The construction of Seokguram Grotto started in 751 and was completed 24 years later.
About Seokguram Grotto And Bulguksa Temple
Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju is a Buddhist temple located in the outskirts of Gyeongju, South Korea. The temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites Korea since 1995 . The temple and grotto were constructed by Kim Dae-Seong; one of the Kings during the Silla Dynasty. It is said that Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju was built in honour of his parents in his current life and Seokguram Grotto was made for his parents in his former life.
The temple and grotto are one of the most popular things to do in Gyeongju for Korean travelers and visitors from all over the world as Gyeongju is often referred to as the “museum without walls”.
1. Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju
The main entrance to the temple exists of a 33 step high double staircase, which represents the 33 steps to enlightenment. The stair case works as a bridge, which is National Treasure nr. 23.
When entering the main court you can see two pagodas, in the early days of Buddhism pagodas represented Buddha, as no images or statues of Buddha were available.
Buddhist pagodas are an integral part of Korean Buddhist culture and history. These structures, also known as “tap” in Korean, are tall and slender towers with multiple levels, each level representing a different aspect of Buddhist teachings. Korean Buddhist pagodas are typically built with stone or brick, and their design has evolved over time to incorporate both Korean and Chinese architectural styles. The oldest surviving pagoda in Korea, the Wongaksa Pagoda, dates back to the 7th century and stands as a testament to the rich Buddhist heritage of the country. Today, many pagodas can be found throughout Korea, from large temple complexes to small village shrines, and they continue to be important symbols of Buddhism and Korean culture.
The temple also runs a Bulguksa temple stay on a yearly basis. You’ll have the option to choose from a one day program (5h) or the overnight program. During the program you will have a tour of the temple, tea time with one of the monks or make lotus flower lanterns, join the morning ceremony and mediation (only overnight program).
Price varies from 30,000 (one day) – 80,000 (overnight program). For more info check out the official Bulguksa website.
I haven’t tried this temple stay; but tried a temple stay in Golgulsa Temple, Gyeongju and it’s a great way to learn more about the temple culture while joining activities.
2. Seokguram Grotto, Gyeongju
The Seokguram grotto is a round-shaped hall with one main Bodhi-sattva statue surrounded with his disciples. The statue is portrayed with a generous smile and is sitting on a lotus flower engraved stage. The dome shaped ceiling is also decorated with lotus flowers.
The stone Buddha statue is considered to be one of the finest masterpieces of Buddhist art in the world. The statue, which is made of granite, is seated on a lotus pedestal and is about 3.5 meters high. The Buddha statue has a serene expression and is said to represent the Buddha’s enlightenment. The stone Buddha in Seokguram Grotto is considered to be a symbol of the ancient cultural heritage of Korea and attracts visitors from all over the world. The grotto and its statue are an important part of South Korea’s cultural heritage and have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best Time To Visit Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto
To visit both the grotto and the temple you will need around 4 hours; Bulguksa temple has many buildings and halls scattered around vast area; whereas the grotto is one main building but it requires 15 minutes from the entrance of the park to the grotto.
The best time to visit the temple is during spring and autumn as the flowers start to bloom or the leaves start to turn golden.
From Bulguksa temple there is an relatively easy hiking trail that will lead to the entrance of Seokguram grotto. The trail will take around 1,5h along a well maintained path.
How To Get To Bulguksa Temple And Seokguram Grotto
From Gyeongju bus station (express or intercity) or Gyeongju train station take bus 10 or 11. It will take approximately 40 minutes to reach Bulguksa temple and should cost 1700 won. The bus passes by Bunhwansa temple, the Teddy Bear Museum and Bomun lake which may be worth a stop along the way.
From Bulguksa temple to Seokguram grotto take bus 12 (comes every 30 minutes), the bus ride should take around 20 minutes.
By car it will take 20 minutes from downtown Gyeongju. The temple and grotto parking fee is 2000won; at the temple you can find free parking across the street.
Opening Hours And Prices Of Seokguram Grotto And Bulguksa Temple
For Bulguksa temple and Seokguram grotto the entrance fee for an adult is 5000 won, for youth 3500 won and for children 2500 won. You will have to buy separate tickets for the temple and the grotto.
Tip! If you are a Gyeongju citizen make sure to bring your ID or ARC card as you can enter for free.
February – Mid March / October 07:00-17:30
Mid March – September 06:30-18:00
November – January 07:00-17:00
March – September 07:00-18:00 / October 07:00-17:30
November – January 07:30-17:00 / February 07:30-17:30
Other Tips About Seokguram Grotto And Bulguksa Temple
- There are FREE tour guides working in the temple. Go to the information booth and ask for an English speaking guide.
- Also visiting Seokguram Grotto? There is a hiking trail from Bulguksa temple entrance leading to Seokguram entrance. The walk uphill will take around 1 hour.
Recommended Accommodations Around Seokguram Grotto And Bulguksa Temple
- Commodore Hotel Gyeongju – the luxuary hotel is located just next to Bomun Lake and only 15 minutes away from the temple complex.
- Attimua Guesthouse & Pension – the pension is the perfect location for a relaxing weekend in the country side. The pension is located next to a small lake and has it’s own swimming pool and BBQ facilities.
- Guesthouse Santa – Located in Gyeongju downtown, a short walk away from Gyeongju train station and express bus terminal. A great location for a budget or solo traveler.
- Polaris Tourist Pension – just around the corner from Bulguksa temple and Seokguram Grotto. A luxuary retreat with swimming pool and BBQ facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bulguksa Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Gyeongju, South Korea. It was built during the Silla Dynasty in the 8th century and is considered one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea. The temple complex consists of various halls, pagodas, and other structures that house many significant artifacts and relics.
Seokguram Grotto is a temple located on the eastern slopes of Mount Toham in Gyeongju, South Korea. It was built during the 8th century and is known for its large, granite-carved Buddha statue that sits in the center of the temple’s main hall. The temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts many visitors each year.
Both Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto are located in Gyeongju, South Korea. To get there, you can take a bus or train from Seoul to Gyeongju. From Gyeongju, you can take a local bus or taxi to Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto. It’s also possible to take a guided tour that includes transportation to and from the temple and grotto.