Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are 2 sites under one UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Korea, and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country.
Established in the 8th century during the United Silla Dynasty, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are a demonstration of the Silla people’s architectural and craftsmanship skills. The detailed carvings and statues are an excellent example of Buddhist architecture in Asia.
This article provides information about Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple, how and when to visit the site and admission fees.
What to See at Seokguram Grotto
Located 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto is situated on Mount Tohamsan in the Gyeongju area of South Korea. From its elevated position of some 750 m above sea level, the grotto offers views of the East Sea.
Seokguram Grotto features a statue of the Buddha overlooking the sea. This statue is considered to be one of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world.
Key facts about Seokguram Grotto
- It is thought to have been built by Kim Daeseong, chief minister of Silla during the reign of King Seongdeok (702–737)
- Building began in the mid- 8th century and was completed in 774
- The original name was Seokbulsa meaning Stone Buddha Temple
As well as being an important cultural attraction, the site is also an excellent place from which to watch the sunrise. Because of this, many tourists visit the site early in the morning to experience it.
What to See at Bulguksa Temple
The Bulguksa temple, situated on the slopes of Mount Tohamsan, is the head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
Visitors can witness a wealth of important cultural and historical relics at Bulguksa Temple which is composed of 3 main halls within the temple complex.
- Birojeon or Vairocana Buddha Hall
- Daeungjeon or the Hall of Great Enlightenment and the main temple
- Geungnakjeon or the Hall of Supreme Bliss
Each of the halls is a wooden construction with a tiled roof and is built on a stone terrace.
The Bulguksa Temple was built in the early 6th century during the Silla Kingdom, designed as a representation of the land of Buddha. The original name was Hwaeom Bulgaksa Temple, the name changed on completion
Bulguksa Temple offers tourists the opportunity to see 7 of the National treasures of South Korea:
- National treasure 20 & 21: Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas
- National treasure 22: the Lotus Flower Bridge (Yeonhwagyo) and Seven Treasures Bridge (Chilbogyo)
- National treasure 23: Blue Cloud Bridge (Cheongungyo) and White Cloud Bridge ( Baegungyo)
- National treasure 26: Bulguksa geumdong birojana buljwasang, gilt-bronze Buddha statue
- National treasure 27: Seated gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha statue
- National treasure 61: Sarira pagoda
How to Get to Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple can be accessed directly from Gyeongju bus station. Bus service 10 and 11 go to Bulguksa temple and the journey lasts around 40 minutes and costs in the region of 1,700 won (1,42 USD).
To reach Seokguram Grotto from the temple, take the number 12 bus which leaves every 30 minutes. This journey takes approximately 20 minutes.
It is also possible to walk to the grotto from the temple. The trail is relatively easy and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
By car, it takes 20 minutes from the center of Gyeongju. Parking is available for a fee of 2,000 won (1,67 USD) for large vehicles and 1,000 won (0.84 USD) for small vehicles.
When to visit Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are open all year round:
- March to September from 7 am 6 pm
- October from 7 am to 5.30 pm
- November to January from 7.30 am to 5 pm
- February from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm
Most travelers consider the best time to visit South Korea to be between spring and autumn thanks to the mild temperatures.
April in Gyeongju sees an average day time high of 64ºF (18 ºC) whilst July temperatures peak at around 84ºF (29ºC) dipping to 68ºF (20ºC) by October.
Spring and Autumn are particularly beautiful at Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple: in spring the flowers are in bloom whilst in autumn the leaves turn golden.
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple Admission Fees
Admissions fees to access the Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are as follows:
- Adults (aged over 19): 5,000 won (4.2 USD)
- Teenagers (aged 13 to 18): 3,500 won (2.93 USD)
- Children (aged 7 to 12): 2,500 won (2.09 USD)
- Children (under 7): Free
Group discount is available for teenagers and children visiting in groups of at least 10 people. Group discount is not offered to adults.
Tourist Visa Requirements for Visiting South Korea
Currently, citizens of 117 can enter South Korea for a limited period of time.
Travelers from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, all EU countries and Japan and stay for a maximum of 90 days without a visa.
Canadian citizens can stay for 180 days visa-free whilst citizens from other countries can enter for 30 or 60 day periods depending on their nationality.
Travelers should check the South Korea visa requirements online to confirm eligibility.
From 2021, travelers requiring a visa will be able to apply for the South Korea online visa. Once launched, the Electronic Travel Authorization will be the quickest and easiest way to obtain a visa for South Korea.
Until this system becomes available, travelers can go to an embassy or consulate to complete an application.