Temple Life 11 days
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Folk Museum of Korea
- Jogyesa Temple
- Insa-dong Antique Shop Street
- Namdaemun Market
- Unification Observatory
- Kim Ilsung Villa
- Geojin Fishing Village
- Seoraksan Naitonal Park
- Naksansa Temple
- Woljeongsa Temple
- North Korean Submarine
- Jeongdongjin Station
- Hwanseongul Cave
- Coal Museum
- Buseoksa Temple
- Sosuseowon Confucian Academy
- Ginseng Market
- Bongjeongsa Temple
- Jebiwon Buddha
- Hahoemaeul Village
- Haeinsa Temple
- Goryeong Tumuli Museum
- Seokguram Grotto
- Bulguksa Temple
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Donggung palace and Wolji pond
- Banwolseong Fortress
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Tumuli Park
- Tongdosa Temple
- UN Memorial Cemetery
- Beomeosa Temple Stay
- Gamcheon Village
- Yongdusan Park
- Jagalchi Fish Market
Click on the days to access the programs quick
|Days||Visits and Activities||Distance|
|Day 1||Arrive Seoul||60km|
|Day 3||Seoul - Goseong - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Seoraksan||310km|
|Day 5||Seoraksan - Naksan - Odaesan - Gangneung - Jeongdongjin - Taebaek||270km|
|Day 6||Taebaek - Buseok - Punggi - Andong||170km|
|Day 7||Andong - Gayasan - Goryeong - Gyeongju||290km|
|Day 9||Gyeongju - Yangsan - Busan||120km|
|Day 10||Busan - Seoul||440km|
Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -)
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.
Day 2 Seoul (B)
Your exploration this morning begins with a driving tour of Seoul, featuring sites such as Seoul Plaza, City Hall, Cheonggye Square and pedestrian-friendly Gwanghwamun Plaza that is hemmed in on both sides by rushing traffic and office buildings. The plaza is lined on each side with 365m long streamlets, two centimeters deep and one meter across, the stone bed of the plaza's east side waterway engraved with important events in chronological order from 1392 to 2008.
Standing high on a stone pillar is a statue of Yi Sunsin who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is also honored with prominent statue. On August 16, 2014, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in this plaza to beatify 124 Korean martyrs. Near the southwest corner of the plaza is Korea's Kilometer Zero, marking the distances to 64 cities around the world, including Seoul's antipode, Montevideo, Uruguay, 19,606km.
Step back in time to when life was gracefully slow and discover Gyeongbokgung Palace, a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history. Depending on timing, you may witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony featuring parade, password verification, duty shift and patrolling the gate. Accompanied by a court band with its colorful costumes and royal flags, the ceremony is performed daily basis at 10:00 and 14:00 except Tuesdays, although it is cancelled in case of rain or extremely hot or cold weather.
Up from the gates is a spacious stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters, and at the center of which runs three footpaths through two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall.
Standing majestically on top of a two-tiered stone platform that is lined with detailed balustrades is Geunjeongjeon Hall, where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, presided over large official functions, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors. Check out the royal throne and a large painting, depicting sun, moon, five peaks, streams and pine trees, which was the crucial signifier of the king. And up in the center of the ceiling, the bright golden dragons in bold relief indicate the presence of the king.
At the back of the throne hall is a group of court offices. Displayed in front of the King's official quarters is sundial, conceived in order to catch the shadow of the sun, which tells time and 24 periods of seasonal change from the winter solstice to the summer solstice.
Sitting on the island in the rectangular lake is Gyeonghoeru. Supported by 48 square and cylindrical massive stone pillars representing the idea of Yin and Yang, this magnificent pavilion was used for many purposes ranging from receptions to national examinations.
Gangnyeongjeon is the king's sleeping and living quarters while Gyotaejeon is the queen's domain containing a number of halls. The noted feature of these main buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge.
Amisan Garden, landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks, is seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.
Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed in 1887 after 8 years of Thomas Edison's invention and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins in the early morning of 8 October 1895, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro.
Your visit to the National Folk Museum of Korea will familiarize you with wealthy culture of this friendly and picturesque nation. It is an excellent facility to illustrate the history of traditional life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon dynasty. The permanent exhibition features life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life.
Drive past Korea's first post office. On the evening of Dec. 4, 1884, a banquet was held here to celebrate the successful inauguration of Korea’s postal system. Ironically, it was this celebration that helped doom Korea’s postal system as well as other early modernizations. The ill-fated “Gapsin” Coup lasted a mere three days but its toll was heavy. It wasn’t until 1895 that Korea again established a domestic postal system. This was followed by an international mail service in 1900.
Squeeze in a stop at Jogyesa, the head temple of Jogyejong the principal sect of Korean Buddhism, emphasizing the Zen orthodox, meditation tradition and the purity of monastic celibacy. The temple does not give off the solemn and traditional air of the other temples located deep in the mountains, but when you enter the temple the frenzy of the city start disappearing. The Main Worship Hall holds triad Buddhas, Sakyamuni, Amitabha and Bhaisajyaraja. The figure in the center is Sakyamuni Buddha who has overcome greed, hatred and delusion. While here it is worth noting the 500 year old lacebark pine and 400 year old locust tree that still grace the property.
Insa-dong is known as the center of traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and alleys are numerous shops dealing in antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean art of all types and styles. Many scour the main street, but the back alleys do spring some unexpected surprises. Here, you may want to buy some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure admiring upscale art galleries, antique shops and cultural ambience.
You will tour the centuries-old Namdaemun Market brimming with well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. The whole area is a labyrinth of street vendors and buildings. The market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. A fantastic place to haggle over the price to get the best deal on something you want or simply admire the vibrancy of this massive market.
At the western entrance of the market in the middle of a traffic circle stands Sungnyemun. It is a formidable and iconic construct that served as the southern gate of the wall that surrounded Seoul during the period of the Joseon Dynasty.
Day 3 Seoul - Goseong - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Seoraksan (B) 310km
Today, you will drive past small farming villages, gently tumbling streams and rivers, mountains and valleys over to eastern coast of Korea. Less convenient to get to, the route offers much more pleasant countryside scenery and remote tranquility. Once there in Ganseong, you'll find the scenic road along the edge of the coast to be one of courses to drive in the country.
At the northern tip of the east coast sits Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps comprising large lumps of concrete set on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country. The big blocks are designed to topple onto the road and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. You will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched side by side ahead across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands.
Hwajinpo is a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds. Stop at Kim Ilsung villa not to glorify him but to learn Korea's complicated history. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. The villa displays photos and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South.
Geojin is a fishing village where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. As you stroll down the quayside, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, fishermen tending their nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle.
Seoraksan national park is a place that you can definitely find lots of outdoor activities to make it worth while for an extended stay. Rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the most beautiful sceneries on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year.
Day 4 Seoraksan (B)
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Only a small walk from the park entrance, you will marvel at a large bronze statues, Unification Buddha, symbolizing Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. A little further on is Sinheungsa temple where Cheonbuldong valley and Ulsanbawi trails begin.
Cheonbuldong valley Trail
It is the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang cave with a tiny temple inside. You will head up a very steep incline for 600m from the gentle slope of the trail, and you can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley. From Biseondae, another 3.5km to Yangpok Falls, so spacious yet everywhere you looked you are surrounded by giant mountain peaks.
About an hour and half into the walk from the park entrance is Gyejoam hermitage. Located at the base of Ulsanbawi, and the point at which the trail takes a sharp rise upwards. In front of the hermitage on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeulbawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Your adventure begins by climbing a massive steep staircase that winds its way up the side of the cliff that angle up Ulsanbawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky.
Biryong waterfall Trail
The trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will view Biryeong waterfalls at the trail end. About 400m further above the falls, you will be amazed at Towangseong waterfalls cascading down a 320-meter cliff.
There is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong. The peak is surrounded by cavernous drop-off cliffs, cloaked in more towering rocky summits. Definitely, you stand in awe on the top: sweeping panoramic views of the park around you, the Pacific Ocean, and the small beachside town of Sokcho. Be careful as always as there is not much room to move about and people constantly going up and down and moving around.
Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230m above sea level) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
1. Biryong Falls (310m) + Towangseong Falls observatory (5.6km): 3 hours 30 minutes - Moderate and Strenuous
2. Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours 30 minutes - Moderate
3. Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 4 hours - Moderate and Strenuous
4. Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 7 hours - Moderate
5. Heundeulbawi (510m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Moderate
6. Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (873m) (7.6km): 5 hours 30 minutes - Moderate and Strenuous
7. Gwongeumseong (800m) Cable car (3.4km): 1 hour (roughly four minutes each up and down) - Moderate
Sokcho has so much more to offer than just mountains. Daepohang becomes a great attraction when this small alley lit up. You will see a wide variety of fresh seafood harvested from the nearby sea and a number of small restaurants serving sliced raw fish. You will find something to enjoy, from simply feeling the ambiance of this small fishing port to taking picture. And in downtown, there is a colorful market selling fishes, fruits, vegetables, grains and daily necessities, and a little further down is a North Korean refugee village that can be accessible by a hand-pulled boat.
Day 5 Seoraksan - Naksan - Odaesan - Gangneung - Jeongdongjin - Taebaek (B) 270km
En route stop at Naksansa temple from the 7th century. In April 2005, the temple with all the surroundings was burned to the ground. Today, 12 temple buildings and facilities were restored. Exquisitely decorated, the hall is full of statues of the Bodhisattva in various poses, and you will appreciate the skill of Korean woodcarving. There is a fine 6.2 meter-tall seven-story stone pagoda that is believed to have been erected in the 15th century.
Built on the edge of the cliff, Hongryeonam is among the popular spots in the temple. There is a cap on the floor-open it for an unimaginable sight. You can see the surging waves constantly and mercilessly crushing against the cliff. The sound of waves crashing goes up into the temple and the fresh sea air also fills the temple. Near hermitage is Uisangdae pavilion perched on top of a cliff by the sea, where Uisang used to sit and meditate.
Then, enjoy the journey over the scenic Jingogae road to enjoy the wonderful colors as the season changes - Pink azaleas decorating the valleys, the thick forest and crystal clear stream water cooling off the summer heat, the fantastic autumn foliage putting on a brilliant show of color and the snow creating a sublime scenery. While in Odaesan visit 7th century Woljeongsa temple. You will pass under the Boje-ru, which is adorned with various guardians to gain access to the temple courtyard. Straight ahead, you will immediately notice the nine-story, octagonal shaped, stone pagoda from the Goryeo Dynasty. The uniquely shaped pagoda is not only the main highlight to the temple, but it’s also National Treasure. Wind chimes hang on each corner of the pagoda, while a seated stone Bodhisattva is situated out in front making an offering. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter path arched by tall fir trees. The trickles of stream and fresh yet musky fir trees small add the pleasure of your visit.
Drive past the salvaged North Korean submarine that is on display together with retired Korean navy ship. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land on September 15, 1996, to spy on the naval installations in the area while the others were on standby in the submarine. However, it ran aground on September 18. The crew eventually abandoned any attempt to find their way back to the North and split up in several groups. But, one was soon spotted by a civilian who became suspicious and alarmed the authorities. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and of the 26 North Korean infiltrators, 1 was captured alive, 13 spies were shot, 11 were murdered by their colleagues and 1 reportedly escaped back to North Korea.
After a short break at Jeongdongjin, a tiny village located by the ocean with a quaint railway station of being the closest to the ocean anywhere in the world, explore Hwanseongul Cave. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office or a 6 minute on a mono rail gets you to a cave entrance of overwhelming size in the middle of the mountain. The cave itself is super massive and it would take well over one hour to explore. Be prepared for wet walkways, maneuvered up a narrow corridor with a rapidly flowing creek below it and hung off the side of the cave's walls above the creek. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor. Only 1.6km open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or simply relax..
Taebaek is a highland town once boomed with coal mining until the early 1980s. There is a coal museum showcasing Korea's coal mining with well over 8,000 items including rocks such as silver, ore, fossils, and mining equipments and documents. You will also explore a mine simulation modeled closely after real mine showing how the mining work was like. Taebaek boasts of two river sources. Hwangji pond from which 5,000 tons of water flows daily is the source of the Nakdong River and Geomryongso is that of Han River.
Day 6 Taebaek - Buseok - Punggi - Andong (B) 170km
Travel to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects. En route, visit 7th century Buseoksa representing the Flower Garland school of Buddhism, that developed as part of the Mahayana branch. The teachings of the Hwaeom sect are based on the Avatamsaka Sutra, that includes Ten Grades of Faith, Ten Stages of Wisdom, Ten Activities, Ten Transference of Merits, Ten Stages of Bodhisattvas, teachings about enlightment, about developing as a Boddhisattva, and about how to enter Buddha's world. Muryangsujeon is the second-oldest wooden structure in Korea and enshrined here is Amitabha Buddha with the earth-touching and evil-expelling hand posture. A stone lantern stands in the front and to the west of the hall at the bottom of a steep bluff, there is a legendary floating stone. To the east is a three-story pagoda behind which is a pavilion dedicated to the Chinese girl who, in the form of a dragon, helped Master Uisang. It is a bit out of the way, but worth the trip.
Sosuseowon from the 16th century is the first private institute established in Korea. It was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars. The compound itself is composed of two sections; academic studies and research, and memorial service. There are several old buildings where scholars learned and studied loyalty, filial piety, manners and knowledge. Although the educational function of the facility has long since ceased, the commemorative ceremonies have been and are still held twice a year.
While in Punggi, a small remote town famous for quality apples and ginseng, you will explore ginseng market with piles of fresh ginseng roots, including variety array of ginseng products. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. With all these features combined creates a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.
Bongjeongsa, literally meaning "the Temple of Phoenix Landing", dating back to 672 AD. It is a small temple with only 10 buildings. Daeungjeon, a main worship hall of Bongjeongsa, is particularly apparent in the multi-cluster bracketing of the eaves which is characterized by simplicity and sturdiness. Geukrakjeon, the Korea's one of the oldest wooden edifices, three storied ancient stone pagoda, the main sanctuary of the temple, Hwaeom lecture hall, Yeongsanam hermitage, belfry, and Deokhwiru pavilion are among the temple attractions. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this temple on April 21, 1999.
Tour also includesJebiwon Buddha or Ichon-dong Stone Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff.
Day 7 Andong - Gayasan - Goryeong - Gyeongju (B) 290km
You will explore UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hahoemaeul from the 15th century. It is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. As you take a walk in the narrow alleys, enjoy the rustic and old charm of this unique village. You cannot possibly miss a 600-years old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for traditional festival, Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392).
Journey continues to the 9th century Haeinsa. Renounce each of 108 worldly desires of the mind as you climb 108 stairs. Within the Hall of Great Peace and Light, you will see Vairocana Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas and highly detailed and rather unusual wall paintings of the Buddha's life. And on the outside walls are a fair number of paintings portraying Buddhist stories. At the back of this hall is a group of four depositories or Janggyeong Panjeon from the 15th century. Housed within the depositories are 81,258 wood-blocks of Tripitaka Koreana, the world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras as well as an offering to the Buddha for national protection from the looming Mongol forces. The printing blocks are some 70cm wide, 24cm long and 2.8cm thick on the average. Each block has 23 lines of text, each with 14 characters, on each side. Each block thus has a total of 644 characters on both sides. Some 30 men carved the total of 52,382,960 characters in the clean and simple style. The characters are perfectly carved as if from the same hand. They were completed in 1251 after 16 years of work on Ganghwado and were transported here for safekeeping. The Mongol forces eventually took over the Goryeo Dynasty but the wooden blocks remain preserved today having survived other invasions, wars and fire. Even more amazing aspect is that neither birds built nests nor spiders make webs on these buildings. Check out two long depositories are designed to have natural ventilation by facing different size windows in the front and rear of the building. Tripitaka Koreana and Janggyeong Panjeon have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their artistic as well as religious value. In order to control the temperature and humidity within the depositories and protect the Janggyeon Panjeon and woodblocks from fire, full-time security guards and a 24-hour surveillance system are in place.
Visit Goryeong Tumuli Museum featuring a perfect replica of the Jisan-dong Tomb No. 44 itself and learn about the ancient sacrificial burial custom a funerary practice. About 40 persons were presumably entombed together. Such examples of massive human sacrifice have not been found in other ancient tombs of the era of the Three Kingdoms. Visit also includes Daegaya Museum exhibiting a huge collection of artifacts excavated in Goryeong.
Day 8 Gyeongju (B)
With a full day to further explore the delights of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seokguram grotto. It is the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.
A short ride leads you to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bulguksa temple, where you will witness the impressive gates, symbolic bridges leading up to the world of Buddha, graceful architectures, Three-storied Seokgatap and highly ornate Dabotap blending well into the architectural harmony. At Gwaneumjeon hall, check out the image of the Avalokitesvara who is referred to as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and has a thousand hands, and eyes in each so as to reach out to those in need of help. You will see a gilded statue of Vairocana with the gesture of the first wisdom, Sakyamuni Buddha along with sixteen figures of Buddha's disciples sitting in deep meditation, and a gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha who is the ruler of the Western Paradise Sukhavati. The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East.
Visit Gyeongju National Museum for a great insight into Silla culture and history. The first thing that you will notice is The Bell of King Seongdeok, the largest extant bell in Korea. You must certainly stand in awe before the bell from the 8th century with such artistic beauty of design. The bell is distinguished not only for its outstanding beauty but also for its long reverberating sound, the incredibly precise casting technique, in addition to the sad legend surrounding it. On entering the museum, you will marvel at the priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, and clay figures as well as a royal barge.
Afterwards, explore Donggung palace and Wolji pond, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, then followed by a relaxed walking tour covering the ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress where Silla palace and eight fortress gates stood. There is a Seokbinggo, a freezer made of stones. Half of the structure is underground while the other half is above ground with three air vents on top. You can feel the cold oozing out of this simple structure. Near fortress is Gyerim, literally meaning Rooster Forest. It is a sacred woodland area where progenitor of the Gyeongju Kim family, Kim Alji, was supposed to have been born.
Then, check out the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Each stone used in the observatory bears symbolic meaning; the same number of the days of the year by lunar calendar, the number of the major stars, the months of the year and the numbers of the seasonal divisions. Nearby Tumuli Park encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, is opened to the public and you can go inside and see how the tombs were made and replicas of the treasures excavated in 1973.
Day 9 Gyeongju - Yangsan - Busan (B) 120km
Travel to Busan, Korea's second largest city surrounded by the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. Its deep harbor and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest port in Korea and the fifth largest in the world. It is also a center of industry and commerce, a thriving metropolis formed unusually long in shape along its coastal line.
On the way, visit Tongdosa temple, literally meaning 'pass through to enlightenment'. The approach to the temple is completely entrancing. Magnificently set by a lane of pine trees dancing in the wind and beside which a mountain stream sings a babbling song, a distinctive and exalting place. Tongdosa was founded in AD 646 and is comprised of 35 buildings. The main hall is unique in that it does not contain a statue of the Buddha, but rather a window looking out onto the Diamond Precepts Altar. This altar leads up to a platform with a bell-shaped stupa that contains the cremated remains of the Buddha himself, thus earning a name the Temple of the Buddha. The Diamond Precept Altar is a unique and elaborately-built artifact.
While in Busan, enjoy a short stop at Haeundae, a world-class beach resort blessed by beautiful water. The soft sand stretches 1.5km along the beautifully curved coastline, which culminates in the summer. There is a Dongbaek Island off Haeundae. This tiny island became more popular after holding the 13th APEC summit conference here at Nurimaru in 2005. It offers a stunning view of ocean vista on one side and that of skyscrapers on the other. A scenic trail is well established around, making it a great venue for walking tour.
Next, visit UN memorial cemetery where 2,300 deceased soldiers from sixteen Korean War allies rest in honored serenity. Learn about the Korean War and pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives to the World Peace. During the period of 1951-1954, remains of approximately 11,000 fallen of the UN Forces were buried here. Thereafter, most were repatriated to their home countries. It is the permanent home of war heroes of the following nations. Australia (281), Canada (378), France (44), Netherlands (117), New Zealand (34), Norway (1), South Africa (11), Republic of Korea (36), Turkey (462), United Kingdom (885), USA (36), Unknown soldiers (4), Non-belligerents (11).
Temple stay program is planned in Beomeosa, but is absolutely on temple availability. The program is subject to operate with minimum 10 people. In case of temple stay program being unavailable for any reason, spend the night in the hotel.
There are many temples in Korea, but the opportunity to observe and experience the ascetic Buddhist life in a temple does not come easily to outsider visitors. The temples are places where Buddha dwells and where the disciples of Buddha, or monks, practice asceticism. It is also a place where believers learn Buddhist teachings and put them into practice. Today, you will get to learn and experience the traditional monastic life in the 7th century Beomeosa, all at the same time enjoying the nature.
Legend tells that one day a golden fish came from Nirvana, the Buddhist state of non-suffering, and has lived there ever since, so the temple's name became Temple of the Heavenly Fish or Where fish from Nirvana play. The temple is laid out in an unusual manner. The upper level is the Main Hall with a Buddha of Sakamuni attended by Bodhisattvas. This Main Hall from the 17th century boasts of architectural beauty with its excellent craftsmanship of wooden carvings. On the ceiling, you can see flower carvings as if they were falling from the heaven. There is a stone lantern which dates back to the 9th century. The second level is the Bojeru, the Save all Beings Hall with three storied pagoda from the Silla period and a belfry holding four Dharma instruments. The lower part includes the three gates; the One-Pillar Gate, Four Guardian's Gate, and the Gate of Non Duality, represents the fact that, though the visitor is passing from the secular world into the spiritual world of the temple, these two worlds are not different form one another. In addition, the temple is famous for Wisteria habitat. Some 500 wisterias, some of which are more than 100 years old, grow in the nearby valley.
Temple stay program may slighly vary due to season and conditions of the individual temple situation but it basically includes Evening Ceremony-Yebu during which you will learn how the monks pay respect to the Buddha as you listen to their rhythmic chanting. You will experience silent introspective meditation interspersed by gentle advice from the monks, and enjoy a traditional Buddhist prayer bead making. Beads are used to count to 108, and during the temple stay bowing ceremony led by monk, you get to string your own beads. One by one, bow by bow. Other programs may include Tea Ceremony, Rubbings, Buddhist Martial Arts, and Lotus Lantern Making, etc. The program in general goes as follow.
Upon arrival at the temple and having your rooms assigned, you will have a temple stay orientation session during which desirable appearance, behavior in the temple and general manners in the Buddha Hall are briefed, and Baru Gongyang Practice followed by temple tour. Then you will experience temple meal perhaps first time in your life. The food doesn't have spices and is neither hot nor salty. The temple way of eating is available to laymen though, you will simply have your dinner in the temple dining hall. It is another mysterious experience for the commoners to try.
Following the dinner, the temple holds Four Buddhist Instrument Ceremony at sunset. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong. Hearing it reverberating through the universe, you will reflect upon the profound symbolism of the instruments. It is a great vow to save, or enlighten, the creatures in the universe including those on land, in the sea, in the air and in hell. After this ceremony, you will participate Evening Ceremony, Zen meditation and experience Prayer Bead Making.
All lights are turned off at 21:00. Apart from the moan of the wind, a quiet stillness prevails. The warm Ondol floors (heated from below) of the temple are clean and large enough to accommodate a small group of visitors. Rooms are sparsely furnished with mattress, quilt and pillow. It is advisable to bring your towel. However, the slight inconvenience is more than compensated by the tranquil and introspective atmosphere of the temple.
Day 10 Busan - Seoul (B) 440km
The day in the temple begins at 04:00 when the sound of the moktak awakens the residents. Every monk and people in the temple will gather at the Main Buddha Hall and perform Pre-dawn Ceremony. This magnificent Ceremony will clear all dust from your minds and all stray thoughts from your heads. During the ceremony, you will offer 108 prostrations to show respect for Buddha as well as align your body in a proper way to have a release and cleanse your mind of earthly attachments, passions and delusion that disturb and pollute your body and mind.
Following breakfast, Meditation, Tea Time with monk, and Ulyeok or Communal Work complete your temple program.
Normally Ulyeok agenda includes farming or upkeep. However, if there is no particular agenda, one normally does ordinary sweeping of court yards or cleaning the buildings. This is not just physical work, but should be seen as another way of practicing, developing patience and discipline. While not as intensive as Zen meditation, the tedium and mundanity of basic work provides a strong foundation for the monks practice. Also, after meditation, sutras reading, and worship, monks find Ulyeok relaxing. Washing gowns you wore during the stay, sweeping autumn leaves from the courtyard or snow from the pathways provides an opportunity to relate quietly with the nature, and with each other in the community of work. With all these benefits, you should join Ulyeok with pleasure. It is a good way to express gratitude to your hosts. Practitioners also find themselves refreshed through Ulyeok.
Squeeze in a stop at Haeundae, a world-class beach resort blessed by beautiful water and screened by skyscrapers along the beautifully curved coastline. Afterward, cross the Suyeong Bay over Gwangan Bridge, installed with over 10,000 colorful LED lights which sparkle brightly under the night skies.
Visit UN memorial cemetery where 2,300 deceased soldiers from sixteen Korean War allies rest in honored serenity. Learn about the Korean War and pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives to the World Peace. During the period of 1951-1954, remains of approximately 11,000 fallen of the UN Forces were buried here. Thereafter, most were repatriated to their home countries. In the cemetery, lie the remains of Korean War heroes from Australia(281), Canada(378), France(44), the Netherlands(117), New Zealand(34), Norway(1), South Africa(11), Turkey(462), the United Kingdom(885), the United States(36) and Republic of Korea(36) as well as of unknown allied soldiers(4) and non belligerents(11).
Gamcheon village is an amazing community built on the side of a hill. Once a poverty-stricken village, it has been spruced up with colorful houses, cafes, murals, galleries and arts shops, sculptures, and scenic views. The atmosphere feels more fun, creative and quirky, less commercial and mercenary. The attraction weaves in and out of back alleys where people still live. It is out of the way, but relatively easy to get to. The artistic vibes in the village in light of its history makes it a culturally distinctive place in an urban city. You can take winding alleys and stairs that form a maze around and through and freely walk up and down hills taking in the views and the culture.
You will tour Yongdusan Park where people of all ages gather for recreational activities. Sitting on top of the hillock of a steep slope is Busan tower topped by an observatory, overlooking the hilly terrain of this mountainous coastal city and the harbor in a breathtaking view. At the smack dab in the middle of the park stands the statue of Yi Sunsin, who is credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. You will also see a flower clock and a Busan citizen's bell that they ring on New Years' Day, March 1 and August 15.
Just off the park is Gwangbokro Street, full of shops selling everything from bargains to luxury items. Adjacent is a maze of small streets alive with color, sidewalks sprinkled with unique shops and local eateries. Enjoy the vibrant ambience as you leisurely make your way to the BIFF square, another area packed with trendy shops, movie theaters and food stalls. The square is Busan’s modern movie district which was originally little more than a pair of cinemas that were built over half a century ago. However, major renovations took place ahead of the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and the newly transformed district was named BIFF Square on August 14, 1996.
Across the street from the square is a fascinating Jagalchi fish market, a great attraction located dockside. Here you will find a diverse array of seafood on display as you walk along the narrow alleys of street vendors. A nearby indoor market features live fish in the tanks and the upstairs are dried fish along with many restaurants selling raw fish at reasonable prices. The market is really a visual and culinary treat.
Day 11 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.