Golgulsa Temple (골굴사)
is located in the outskirts of Gyeongju
at the foot of Mt. Hamwol and is the only temple cave in the Korean peninsula. The temple dates back to the 6th century and can only be reached by climbing up a long flight of stairs.
In the more recent years, Golgulsa has developed the Seonmudo Practice Center to teach martial arts. They have daily performances and training sessions that you can follow as a visitor. They are also running a Golgulsa temple stay program where you follow the temples schedule for a couple of days or months.. this program is totally different that the temple stay program offered at Bulguksa Temple as at Bulguksa there is no Seonmudo involved.
At the top of the temple, there is a 4-meter high Buddha carved in the rocks. The Buddha is displayed with a calm smile, narrow eyes, and his hair in a topknot and with a long narrow nose. A class ceiling has been built to protect the Buddha from being damaged.
Visiting Golgulsa for an afternoon is the perfect way to discover the temple lifestyle. At 3:30 pm (except Monday) there is an hour-long performance at the top of the temple, different monks and students show their Seonmudo skills. The Seonmudo stage has a beautiful view, overlooking the valley and mountains.
At 5:00 pm, you can join the traditional temple dinner in the great hall. Men and women are sitting at separate tables and can enjoy the vegetarian buffet. The buffet includes rice, organic vegetables, soup, rice cakes and fruits.
There is a chanting session starting at 6.30 that lasts for 30 minutes, which is an enriching experience. The main monk will demonstrate and explain in English and Korean.
The chanting session is followed by a Seonmundo training. And will last for one and a half hours. First, there is warm up and stretching. Then followed by the Seonmundo moves and exercises. The training session ends with stretching.
Visiting Golgulsa and watching the Seonmundo demonstration is free. Joining for dinner, chanting and Seonmundo costs 10 000 won and doing the full Golgulsa Temple Stay program costs 60 000 won a day. These prices include the rental of the temple jacket and trousers. The price of this temple stay is cheaper compared to other temple stays in Gyeongju.
It is a little tricky to get to Golgulsa Temple.
From Gyeongju Bus terminal, you can take bus 100 or 150 in the direction of Gampo and should take around 1 hour (1500 won per person). From the bus stop, you need to walk approximately 20 minutes before reaching the temple. When on the bus listen carefully to the announcement, ‘Andong/Girimsa/Golgusa’, you will have to get off at this stop.
I would recommend you to take a one day bus trip that brings you to all the hot spots in Gyeongju. Book your tickets online on Trazy
For the temple stay, you need to make a reservation via e-mail or telephone. If you just come for an afternoon a reservation is not necessary when your group is not bigger than 3 people.