Legend has it that Unju-sa originally housed 1000 Buddhas and 1000 pagodas, built because, according to traditional geomancy, the southwest of the country lacked hills and needed the pagodas to ‘balance’ the peninsula. The remaining 23 pagodas and some 100 Buddhas still make up the greatest numbers of any Korean temple. Some are set on the hillsides, which you can scale.
According to another legend the monuments were all built in one night by stonemasons sent down from heaven, but another theory is that Unju-sa was the site of a school for stonemasons. Whatever their origins, many works are unique and some are national treasures. Back-to-back twin Buddhas face their own pagodas, while another pair of Buddhas lying on their backs are said to have been the last works sculpted one evening; the masons returned back to heaven before the Buddhas could be stood upright.
Buses run from Gwangju bus terminal (₩3650, 1½ hours, every 30 minutes). Check with the driver as only some of the buses go all the way to Unju-sa. The last bus back to Gwangju leaves around 8pm.