One of Busan’s most revered sights is the iconic Haedong Yonggungsa Temple carved into the cliff face overlooking the East Sea. Locals and tourists alike flock to this photogenic buddhist temple, but it’s a little off the beaten path to get to as it is out of the main tourist areas of Busan.
There are many different ways to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and I found the Korean app Naver Map really helpful to figure out the best routes via public transport as my usual travel saviour Google Maps didn’t seem to work so well in South Korea.
Getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
To get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, be prepared for a bit of walking to be tacked on to your trip. If your preference is the Seoul subway, then from Busan station take the Line 1 Orange train towards Choryang Station and then hop off at Busan National University of Education Station.
You’ll then need to change trains to the nice and modern Donghae Grey line until you arrive at OSIRIA station.
Alight from the station and expect around a 30 minute walk, following the signs and trails of tourists up the hill to Haedong Yonggungsa. From Busan station, the trip will take just over an hour and a half and cost around 1500 KRW in subway fares.
You can shave a little bit of time off your trip and do less walking by taking the bus to Haedong Yonggungsa, but it is a teeny tiny bit more expensive at 1700 KRW. From Busan Station, take the 1003 bus for an hour until you arrive at the Sindosi Market Asean Culture Centre stop.
From there, transfer to the green 181 bus to go a further 12 minutes, with a mere 10 minute walk at the end to get to the temple.
If walking isn’t your thing and price is less important, then a 23,000 KRW taxi ride will get you to Haedong Yonggungsa in around 40 minutes – by far the quickest way to reach the temple.
Taxis are able to drive as close as possible to the temple’s grounds, so if you’re trying to avoid walking as much as possible, then this may be the best option for you – though you should note that there is still a lot of walking to be done inside the temple complex.
Why Visit Haedong Yonggungsa?
Haedong Yonggungsa is one of Busan’s most iconic sights. The location of the temple dates all the way back to 1376, though the structure itself has been rebuilt due to damage and disrepair that came about during conflict with the Japanese in the Imjin War.
The name Haedong Yonggungsa means Korean Dragon Palace Temple, but this name is only relatively new, having been given to the place in 1974. Prior to this, the temple was called Bomun after the Goddess of Mercy.
Apart from over 600 years of history, the beautiful seaside setting of the ocean cliff face makes a trip to Haedong Yonggungsa particularly spectacular.
What To Do At Haedong Yonggungsa
Throw A Coin For Luck
As you cross the stone bridge into the main temple complex, you’ll see many Koreans lined up along the bridge attempting to throw coins into the small cauldrons among the statues below. Try your luck with a 100 KRW coin and aim to toss it into one of the bowls being held by the figures. Watch the locals if you’re not sure – they’ll show you what to do.
Find the Statue of Your Zodiac Sign
Just outside the main entrance of the temple is a row of statues corresponding to each zodiac sign. Temple visitors often place coins on their zodiac sign for luck. Try your luck with a coin or simply pose next to your sign for a photo opportunity.
Take a Photo with the Golden Buddha
Inside the temple complex in the open air sits a large golden Buddha statue that visitors were lining up to take photos of right next to the main pavilion. Strike a pose or rub his belly for luck.
Admire the Main Hall of Haedong Yonggungsa
The main temple hall of Haedong Yonggungsa is spectacularly colourful inside and out. Every beam is painted meticulously with signs of nature and deities. Flowers play a big part in the decor here, with the outside beam designs each featuring a different type of fauna.
One step inside envelopes the senses immediately with colour and light. Visitors donate coins and take a spot on their knees to pray whilst others admire the painted murals and take in the sights.
Try the Street Food Stalls
Either on the way in or out of the temple, make a stop by one of the many street food stalls to sample some of Korea’s local treats. Sweet tooth visitors will love the sugary syrupy Korean pancake, Hotteok. Its a dough filled with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts or seeds.
Another sugary treat you’ll find here is the yummy Dalgona, which is basically a honeycomb lollipop. Stalls create them in all different designs and shapes, but the taste is always the same – sweet honeycomb goodness that tastes like the filling in a violet crumble chocolate bar.
Haedong Yonggungsa may be a little out of the way for visitors to Busan, but it is definitely worth making the way out to the coast to see the rugged temple by the ocean. The views are gorgeous, the street stalls offer up tasty delicacies and the whole complex is a great place to wander around and get in touch with the spiritual side of life.
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