Hwasun is about 45mins from Gwangju. Surrounded by rocky, forest-covered mountains, it is home to a Buddhist temple that is considered a South Korea National Treasure. If you want to get outside the city and get a bit of culture and history to boot, try Unjusa Temple.
Although the origins are unknown, it is thought to date back to at least 935AD. Unjusa is famous for having an unusually large number of stone Buddhas and Pagodas. The story goes that the Korean peninsular had fewer mountains in the southwestern region. To prevent the country from capsizing, a monk brought stonemasons down from heaven to build a thousand stone statues to balance the land. That sure got the kids’ imaginations going!
Only 91 stone Buddhas and 21 pagodas remain today but it is an impressive place to wander, nonetheless. Many of the statues are scattered around the mountainsides so its a great place for hiking and trekking.
We didn’t hike the mountain trails but the main temple buildings and many of the stone statues and pagodas are easily accessible with a pram.
Monks and other people in the temple buildings were very accomodating to Missy Moo and Bubbaloo’s peering eyes.
They loved exploring the temple, the mountainside and the stone statues. Exploring and learning as they go!
We’ve visited twice so far. In spring, there were colourful lanterns strung between trees. But, if you get a chance to visit in the autumn, the view is even more spectacular.
For fascinating details on the history of Unjusa Temple and some impressive photos, check out http://www.koreanheritage.kr/feature/view.jsp?articleNo=19
The Nitty Gritty:
Getting there by car is easiest and gives you the chance to explore the area more. Just pop ‘Hwasun Unjusa Temple’ into the Naver Maps App. You could also take the bus from Gwangju Bus Terminal. Numbers 318 or 218 (only take 218 buses with ‘Unjusa Temple’ sign. (About 1 1/2 hours).
The temple is open for visitors M – F, 8am – 6pm