In Japan, visiting temples was an interesting experience. Even during one of our most memorable temple visits to Narita, a smaller city in comparison to much of Tokyo, we were struck by the contrast found when looking from skyscrapers and technology to historic landmarks and temples. This contrast between old and new seems to be present in much of Korea’s bigger cities as well, including Busan, and their temples stand testament to the thread of tradition still strongly woven in present-day Korean life. So we decided to create a list of the 5 Top Temples in Busan for you to enjoy.
Throughout its history, Korean culture has been influenced by Buddhist teachings and its practice in the country, known as Korean Zen (Son) Buddhism, is pretty pervasive. You don’t need to look too far to find symbols, artwork or even temples that are Buddhist in origin. In fact, we’ve heard that there are at least 300 temples, even though we can’t confirm that number. Although many of the older and more famous temples were built in mountains, there are also some impressive and important temples right in the city centres. (If you’re looking, most temples end with –sa as it means “temple”).
We’ve counted about 30 temple names in the Busan area alone and with the number of temples and diverse locations, it can be difficult to decide which one to see. To help narrow down your options, we’ve put together a list of 5 amazing temples to visit while in Busan.
Our 5 Top Temples in Busan
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
One of the most original and unique temples in South Korea, Haedong Yunggungsa Temple is located on the coastline overlooking the East Sea and Songjeong beach. This magnificent temple is also called “The Water Temple”, for its location and the breathtaking views it offers. This is one temple you have to see and while it can get busy on weekends, it is definitely worth the visit. We’d recommend going on weekdays and we’ve been told camping on the beach by the temple is possible and offers a spectacular view of the sunrise. Don’t forget to look for the giant golden Buddha that overlooks the temple from the shore!
Beomeosa Temple has a more traditional location and look, but has a variety of unique features. Located on the mountain Gaumjeongsan, it is one of the most important temples in Korea and has stunning views and gorgeous surroundings. An interesting aspect of Beomeosa temple are the programs that they run for visitors. There are a variety of activities that run throughout the year, including a temple tour, and the very memorable cultural experience of a temple stay where visitors get the opportunity to take part in Buddhist monastic life, from prayer to meals to sleeping arrangements.
Another unique temple, and perhaps not for the faint of heart, Seokbulsa temple requires a bit of a hike to reach. After dirt roads and some steep climbs, the spectacular temple can be found and along the way you’ll be able to pass through interesting mountain villages and see some picturesque views. While the trail is not perfectly identified, there are some signs to mark the route, and locals are always willing to help point the way. It’s not just the view from the top that’s incredible, the temple is itself. Carved into rock, Seokbulsa includes massive etched Buddhist images and is a truly powerful experience
How to get to Seokbulsa Temple: Head to Oncheonjang Station. From here, take a cab or walk to Geumgang Park. There is a cable car that gets you part of the way up the mountain. Follow signs out of the South Gate for Geumjeongsanseong Fortress. From here, the path gets tricky and you may need to ask questions along the way. We’ve also found some directions and photos that may be of help. You can also check out Google maps to help you find your way to the Seokbulsa temple.
Samgwangsa temple stands at base of Baegyangsan Mountain and has a panoramic view of the city. Open 24 hours a day, it is located pretty centrally in Busan and is one of the most impressive temples to see around the time of Buddha’s birthday. Although it is worth a visit any time of the year with its expansive grounds, amazing scenery and hiking trails, the biggest draw happens once a year, in the weeks leading up to Buddha’s birthday. During this time, Samgwangsa Temple holds Busan’s largest Lotus Lantern Festival and the temple become an incredible display of light and colour as thousands of lanterns adorn the grounds providing a memorable experience and an amazing photo-op.
Tongdosa temple is one of the “Three Jewel Temples of Korea” and represents the Buddha although, unlike most temples, there are no statues or images of Buddha himself. Instead, it is famous for its relics since, legend has it, several of them, including Buddha’s skull and robe, are contained within temple grounds. The temple itself is the largest in Korea and is about 1500 years old. Near the entrance, there is a stream that is popular among locals and is a beautiful start to a visit to this popular and traditional temple. You’ll also find a restaurant within the grounds that offers Korean dishes and is a great spot to stop while visiting Tongdosa Temple.
Before you start your quest for the best temples in Busan, have you found a hotel in the area yet? If not, we have some of the best deals around. Just click below to head to Hotels Combined for the best hotel comparison site ever!
If you already have a place to stay that’s great! All you have to do now is explore Busan and its magnificent temples.
Although we’ve rounded up 5 top temples, if you only had time to visit one of these temples, which one would it be?