If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in the daily life of a Buddhist temple, South Korea wants you to know that the dream can become a reality.
Templestay is a programme created by the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism and the organisation is hoping to share the experience with more travellers, even promoting and discounting stays during the month of November. According to the cultural corps, public access to the temples had been restricted before Templestay was created back in 2002 to promote traditional cultural activities when South Korea and Japan hosted the World Cup. Now, there are about 130 temples that take part in the program, and 26 offer programmes in English so that non-Koreans can participate without language barriers.
More attention has been on Korea’s Buddhist culture this year, as seven 'Sansa', or Korean Buddhist mountain temples, were added to the list of Unesco world heritage sites. Some of the temples that were added even allow for tourists to stay through the programme.
The programme aims to immerse travellers and give them a hands-on experience of the monks' practice of asceticism, according to the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism. The incredible experiences that visitors can take part in include Buddhist ceremonies, Seon meditation, making lotus lanterns and Buddhist prayer beads.
It also offers travellers a chance to experience temple food – a simple diet that includes no animal products, or pungent spices like garlic, chives, onions, leeks and scallions. This type of food was recently was featured in the Netflix documentary 'Chef's Table', following monk-chef Jeong Kwan at Baekyangsa temple. That temple is located within Naejangsan National Park in the Jeollanamdo region and travellers can book a stay there with Templestay and try her cooking.
In November, Templestay has been running discounted programs at 39 temples around the country. In general, prices for temple stays can cost around 50,000 KRW (44 USD) for two days and one night. A stay at Baekyangsa, including sampling food from Jeong Kwan, can cost 150,000 KRW (132 USD). Find out more about individual temples and make a reservation on the Templestay website.