Bokdu-am Hermitage

Buddhist Site in Gyeongju

Close to the summit of the thickly forested Obong-san (640m), Bokdu-am features a huge rock face out of which 19 niches have been carved. The three central niches hold a figure of the historical Buddha flanked by two bodhisattva (Munsu and Bohyeon); the remainder house the 16 nahan (arhat) monks who have attained Nirvana. Just below the hermitage is a stunning viewpoint from the top of a couple of massive boulders. It’s a great place for a picnic lunch.

The carvings are recent and although there’s an unoccupied house up here, the actual hermitage was burned down in 1988 after an electrical fault started a blaze. There is also a statue of Gwanseeum, the Goddess of Mercy (whose name means the one who 'listens to the cries of the world'), just beyond the rock face.

The trail is easy to follow, but bring water as there are no springs along the way. The walk up will take around an hour. From the bus stop in Songseon-ri (송선리), follow the creek up along the narrow road about 500m to a small temple, Seongam-sa. The trail starts just to the left of this temple and is well marked in Korean.

A further 3.8km up the road from the bus stop for Bokduam and Jusaam, remote Sinseon-sa near the top of Danseok-san (827m), is believed to be one of the oldest cave temples in Korea. About 50m to the right as you face the temple are some ancient rock carvings in a small grotto. The temple was used as a base by General Kim Yu-shin in the 7th century and has seen renovation work since then. It’s about a two-hour circuit walk from the bus stop. There’s a little village along the way, about 2.5km from the bus stop.

Bus 300 (₩1800, every 25 minutes) travels to Obong-san and stops near Jusaam. If you’re looking for a more direct route to Sinseon-sa, take bus 350 (₩1800, every one to two hours) and get off at Ujung-gol (우중골). From the intercity bus terminal, catch either bus at the stop near Paris Baguette on Daejung-no.