The Top 5 Temples in Busan

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Here are 5 of our favorite temples to start your Zen in Busan!

When it comes to South Korea, most people have only heard of the country's futuristic capital. But about 200 miles south of Seoul is the sprawling city of Busan, nestled beautifully between towering mountains and the glittering East Sea. Although Busan is primarily known for its miles of white sand beaches, it is also known for its collection of beautiful Buddhist temples.

From Haedong Yonggungsa Temple perched on jagged rocks along the shoreline to Beomeosa Temple perched on the side of a forested mountain.

1. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Possibly one of the most picturesque temples in the world, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is built directly on the rocky outcrops that line the East Sea. Accessed by a delicate-looking wooden bridge, the elaborate temple was originally built in the 14th century, then destroyed during the 16th-century Imjin War with the Japanese, and rebuilt in its present form in the 1970s.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is unique both for its geographical location (it is one of the few Korean temples built by the sea) and its provenance. The temple was founded by Naong Hyegeun, a royal adviser who dreamed that a sea god spoke to him and gave him instructions to build the temple to save the people of Korea from hardships.

Since then, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has become a popular tourist attraction and spiritual pilgrimage site, with the Buddha statue healing Yacksayeorae believed to cure suffering.

2. Beomeous Temple

Situated on the lush slopes of Mount Geumjeongsan, Beomeosa Temple is one of the three main temples in Korea and an important center for Korean Buddhism. Originally founded by a monk in 678 during the ancient Silla Kingdom, most of this picturesque temple was destroyed during the Imjin War. The current building was restored in 1613 and the temple's main hall is considered one of the finest examples of Joseon-era architecture.

A visit to this exquisite site makes for an excellent day trip from Busan, as the temple complex is surrounded by walking trails and tranquil forests. For the most rugged experience possible, visit during Buddha's birthday (which falls in April or May, depending on lunar cycles), when the temple is decorated with thousands of colored paper lanterns.

It is possible to spend the night at the Beomeosa temple and include activities such as chants, meditation, and tea ceremonies.

3. Samgwangsa Temple

Nestled in one of Busan's many high mountains, Samgwangsa is a colorful gem of a temple. The temple's main hall, accessed by a stone staircase flanked by manicured stone gardens, features gently sloping ceilings and elegantly painted wooden beams for which Joseon-era architecture is famous.

Samgwangsa Temple is best visited in spring when the annual lantern festival is held for Buddha's birthday. The event draws thousands of visitors eager to see more than 40,000 colored paper lanterns hung to honor the deity.

4. Seokbulsa Temple

One of the city's most exclusive and secluded temples, Seokbulsa is built on the sandstone cliffs of Mount Geumjeong, the highest mountain in Busan. Reached via a three or four hour walk from the base, the views of the city, sea and surrounding mountains from this small temple are excellent. But the temple is indeed famous for the intricate variety of reliefs of Buddha carved directly into the cliff face.

5. Daegaksa Temple

Built during the Japanese colonial period in Korea, which lasted from 1910 until the end of World War II, the compact Daegaksa Temple is one of the only temples in Busan that is situated on the city limits (most are dotted at the foot of the mountains). Stepping out of the chaotic streets of the bustling Gwangbok-dong district into the quiet temple courtyard creates a tranquil retreat, and the serenity continues as you climb the stairs that lead to a gleaming golden statue of a reclining and smiling Buddha.

Despite its small size, the Daegaksa Temple is known to retain some of its Japanese elements, including a stone pagoda in the courtyard.

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