Known for being home to one of the finest Buddha shrines in the Asia, South Korea’s Seokguram Grotto looks out to the East Sea from Mount Tohamsan near Gyeongju. Commissioned in 742 AD by the Silla Kingdom’s chief minister, Kim Daeseong, it was built in honor of Daeseong’s parents from a past life.
If you’re feeling fit, one of the best ways to get to the UNESCO World Heritage Site is by hiking under the canopy of trees from Bulguksa Temple, past tumbling waterfalls and wildflowers, to the top of the mountain where Seokguram Grotto sits.
Pay the small entry fee and head inside, where the 3.5-meter tall granite Buddha sits on his lotus throne. Surrounded by panels of bodhisattvas and guardians, Buddha peacefully sits with his legs crossed in the bhumisparsha mudra position. The only structure to survive fully intact from the Silla era, look up at the ceiling -- it’s beautifully decorated with half moons and a lotus flower. For a truly special experience, come at dawn to see the sunrise over the East Sea in the distance.
Admission to Seokguram Grotto is 4,000 W for adults, and the site is open from November - January from 7am - 5pm, and from March - September from 6.30am - 6pm. From February - March, and in October, the shrine is open from 7am - 5.30pm. From Gyeongju, take bus 10 or 11 from either the bus terminals or the train station, and get off at Bulguksa. If you’d prefer not to hike from Bulguksa to Seokguram, hop on bus 12, which leaves at 40 minutes past every hour from the parking lot, then heads back to Bulguksa every hour on the hour from Seokguram’s parking lot. As protection, the grotto can only be viewed through a glass wall, and photography is not allowed at this sacred site.