22 Stunning Temples in Korea That You Have To See To Believe

There are around 900 traditional Buddhist temples in Korea inviting one and all in for quiet meditation and calm surroundings. Ranging in size with some only consisting of a few buildings while others have dozens, they all have one thing in common and that is how stunning they are.

From the temples that sit smack dab in the middle of the city to ones that require a hike a couple hours into lush mountains, they are all intricately painted and adorned with gorgeous religious relics inside and out. Some look out at oceans and some look out onto valleys. Some have statues that tower high above everything around and some are small fitting inside of a cave. These are the 22 most stunning Buddhist temples in Korea. This is a list compiled by a collection of amazing bloggers in Korea. To learn more about the Buddhist temples you see here, click on the links to read more and to find some other great bloggers here in Korea to follow.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking. These funds go to maintain the site. Thank you for your support.)

1. Gakwonsa Temple (각원사)

Cheonan, Korea

Set at the foot of Mt. Taejosan, this temple requires a climb up 203 steep steps in order to see the equally massive 15 meter tall statue of Amita-bul, or The Buddha of the Western Paradise. First started in 1976, the statue was the largest statue in Korea until The Future Buddha was constructed at Beopjusa Temple in 1988. The statue here is far more stunning though and weighs in at a massive 60 tons of bronze. The temple grounds are expansive and the buildings are elaborately decorated. Large Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are housed in the halls begging any visitor to peer into each building as you pass.Dale's Korean Temple Adventures: Gakwonsa Temple

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures

2. Saseongam Hermitage (사성암)

Gurye, Korea

Located in the beautiful Gurye valley just west of Jirisan National Park, Saseongam Hermitage is as mesmerizing as the view of the surrounding mountains. Near the top of Osan Mountain, this hermitage allows visitors to explore this truly unique and atypical Buddhist compound. With giant columns holding aloft a small prayer hall at its center, it’s clear that this place is special. Wandering the temple, basking in the afternoon sun while peacefully observing the surrounding area, and hiking to the bonus shrines near the mountain’s summit are all prime activities for visitors to Saseongam. Bonus points are awarded to visitors who hike all the way to this beautiful hermitage instead of using the taxis waiting at the bottom.

Saseongam Hermitage, Gurye, Korea; Hedger's Abroad

Submitted By: Hedgers Abroad

3. Haedong Yonggung Temple (해동용궁사)

Busan, Korea

Built looking out at the ocean, this unique aspect truly makes this Korean Buddhist temple enthralling. A winding staircase with 108 steps representing the 108 agonies of earthly desire leads down to this temple that can be translated to mean Korean Dragon Palace Temple. Doesn’t that make it sound even more enticing? Golden statues sit on rock cliffs and the quiet surroundings of most temples is combined with the lapping of the ocean waves here. Truly a must-see in Busan, Korea.

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

4. Haeinsa Temple (해인사)

Hapcheon, Korea

This temple is rich in history and has a lot of Korean cultural significance. While it can be a bit of a chore to get to, once there, the main hall is gorgeous and the shrine halls, pagodas and relics are numerous. Chief among the must-see relics on the grounds are the 81,258 wooden blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana. First made in 1087, these are the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact version of the Buddhist canon in Hanja script. As photos of the script are strictly prohibited, this is truly a temple you have to see in person to believe.

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures

5. Seokbulsa Temple (석불사)

Busan, Korea

Along with its many beaches and mountains, Busan has several beautiful temples to explore. One of the favorites among locals and expats is Seokbulsa Temple – high up in the hills of Mount Geumjeongsan. Once you reach the top you will be greeted by a colorful temple entrance where you can then explore nooks and crannies of this stone temple. Seokbulsa is like no other temple in Busan; many warriors and Buddhas are carved into the stone walls that reach great heights. And the view is definitely worth the steep climb to the top. Everyone should visit Seokbulsa Temple when they visit Busan!Expat And The City: Seokbulsa Temple, Korea

Contributed By: Expat and the City

6. Sanbang Temple & Grotto (산방굴사)

Jeju, Korea

Said to have once been the peak of Mt. Halla that broke off and was thrown to the spot on which it now sits in the southwest of Jeju Island, Sanbang mountain is now home to two Buddhist temples and a grotto. Whichever legend you wish to believe, the one with a hunter and a deer or a goddess and the mortal boy she fell in love with, the mystique around this mountain and the temples that sit upon it is thick with charm and intrigue and worth every step up to the top to see the grotto and the statues within it.

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

7. Daewonsa Temple (대원사)

Pohang, Korea

This small temple sits near Pohang’s Chilpo Beach.  It’s not the biggest temple you’ll see, or one you’ll find on many ‘Top __’ lists.  It is incredibly unique, however, in that you literally have to walk into a dragon’s mouth to access the inner sanctuary.  The building is basically a long tunnel that winds up the hillside, and the outside of it is decorated as a dragon’s body.  The effect is stunning: a huge dragon coiled around the hill with its jaws gaping to swallow any who enter.  The inner sanctuary is just inside, while continuing up the hill will take you through a dragon’s belly filled with Buddhist paintings and statues.  Don’t miss this temple if you’re passing through Gyeongsangbuk-do!

Contributed By: Open Road Before Me

8. Magoksa Temple (마곡사)

Gongju, Korea

Situated in the beautiful Gongju city mountains, Magoksa meaning Hemp Valley Temple is one of the major temples in Chungcheongnam-do province and also offers an amazing temple stay program. The surroundings are all the more interesting once one has taken tea with a monk, bowed 108 times, chanted at dawn and been guided in meditation. With a Korean American monk on site, this is a wonderful temple to spend some time at and really get to know more about Korean Buddhism.Alla Ponomareva- Magoksa Temple

Contributed By: Alla Ponomareva

9. Seongnamsa Temple (석남사-울산)

Ulsan, Korea

One of the four major temples of the Gajisan Provincial Park, this complex of 30 buildings is a major temple for Buddhist nuns to reside and practice asceticism. A unique factor about this temple is centered on the Sanskrit circles that welcome visitors onto the grounds and rid the bad karma that they may bring along. We might all use a little of that. The surrounding forests are calm and peaceful and the buildings numerous which means this temple could take some time to walk around and truly enjoy, but it’s worth the short walk into the hills.

Contributed by: The Soul of Seoul

10. Hwagyesa Temple (화계사)

Originally built in 1522 A.D., this temple is located at the foot of Samgaksan Mountain. The temple is a quiet sanctuary tucked away from the bustle of Seoul city. This temple is most famous for being a center for Zen Buddhism and the former home of Korean monk Ven. Seung-Sahn; during his travels, he taught more than 50,000 disciples. Many monks and nuns from all over the world still travel to Hwagyesa to live and practice there. Hwagyesa is also known for the small stream, Oktakcheon, that runs beside the temple: it is widely known for helping to heal skin and stomach diseases.The Seoul Child: Hwagyesa Temple, Korea

Contributed By: The Seoul Child

11. Ssanggyesa Temple (쌍계사)

Hadong, Korea

Set at the base of Jirisan Mountain, this temple was founded in 722 and legend has it that a tiger-like spirit guided two disciples to that specific location to build the temple. Vivid colors and golden Buddhas stand out in the densely forested area and the carvings of Buddhas in the rock formations draw one in to take some time for respite and contemplation.

The Toronto Seoulcialite: Ssanggyesa Temple

Contributed By: The Toronto Seoulcialite

12. Tongdosa Temple (통도사)

Yangsan, Korea

Master Jajang traveled to the Buddhist temple in Yunjisi, China and obtained relics of the historical Buddha and brought him back to Korea to be housed at Tongdosa Temple that was founded in 643. A bone from his skull, his robe and a begging bowl sits within an ancient stone lotus bud on the grounds. Due to the remains of the Buddha being at the temple, there are no statues of the Buddha in the halls or at the shrines making this a very unique aspect of this temple complex that houses some three dozen temples and 19 associated hermitages.Dale's Korean Temple Adventure: Tongdosa Temple, Korea

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures

13. Bongwonsa Temple (봉원사)

Seoul, Korea

While many temples that sit in the middle of Seoul are often busy with bystanders and tourists, Bongwonsa manages to maintain the peace and quiet you’d expect of a Buddhist temple. Thirteen buildings sit on the complex grounds but the one that stands out the most is the 3000 Buddhas Hall that is the largest on the premises and the largest wooden building in Korea. More than that… no nails were used in the building to keep it together. This unassuming Buddhist temple on a hillside of Seoul is a must-see to truly appreciate just how amazingly large the main structure is.

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

14. Guinsa Temple (구인사)

Danyang, Korea

While hearing “You’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen ’em all” might be frustrating, there’s a bit of truth in the statement. While I might forever be smitten by beautiful paintings and symbolic architectural elements, there are many commonalities that make most temples in South Korea look, at the bare minimum, similar. There’s one temple, however, that’s defied our every expectation and redefined our basic notion of temples in this country with spectacular individuality. Guinsa is the most beautiful temple, hands down, that we’ve found in South Korea. The design, layout, and natural setting all add to Guinsa’s stunning beauty. Not for the faint of heart, this steeply situated temple becomes more beautiful with each climbing step.Guinsa Temple, Danyang, Korea: Hedger's Abroad

Contributed By: Hedgers Abroad

15. Sudeoksa Temple (수덕사)

Yesan, Korea

Housing the oldest building in all of Korea, Sudeoksa Temple has a history that is said to date back to 599AD and is one of the few temples that escaped destruction during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. The Daeung-jeon Main Hall, which dates back to 1308 is the oldest building in Korea and alongside it are beautiful pagodas that beckon a visit as well. Dale's Korean Temple Adventure: Sudeoksa Temple

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventure

16. Naksan Temple (낙산사)

Yangyang, Korea

While many people head to the Yangyang area for beaches and summer fun, there is also another reason to head here and that is Naksan Temple. Featuring an 18 meter high Bodhisattva of Mercy, the largest of her kind in the region, she towers and looks down upon the people whiling away on the beaches below. This temple is considered one of the great eight scenic areas of the eastern region of Korea and it truly deserves to be one. The numerous statues, golden relics and buildings of the complex are astounding.

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

17. Tapsa Temple (탑사)

Jinan, Korea

One of the most unique temples in all of Korea is home to 108 spherical stone pagodas built by one man over a span of 30 years. While the pagodas and structures on the grounds look fragile, they’ve managed to stand over 100 years here which makes them all the more intriguing. The entire grounds are different from anything else you’ll see in Korea and the pock-marked landscape of the Maisan Provincial Park adds to the bizarre yet stunning complex. Unique, stunning and beautiful are but a few of the adjectives that could be used to describe this complex that is a MUST SEE in Jinan, Korea.Dale's Korean Temple Adventure: Tapsa Temple, Korea

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventures

18. Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사)

Seoul, Korea

This temple is one of the most popular in the city of Seoul likely due to how easy it is to access in the ritzy Gangnam-gu area. A 23 meter tall statue of Maitreya is the tallest of her kind in Korea and is what draws many here. The temple has an impressively long history and as the head temple for the Seon (Zen) sect during the Joseon Dynasty, holds an important place in the history of Buddhism in Korea. From morning rituals to evening lit up prayer calls, this temple is a beautiful place to visit in the heart of the city.
Bongeunsa Temple, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

19. Baekyangsa Temple (백양사)

Jangseong, Korea

This temple in Jeollanamdo is beautiful all year round but seems to be on everyone’s list of places to visit when the fall leaves start to change color. The mountain and walkways come alive with yellow, orange and red leaves. The temple grounds have an impressive backdrop of a large mountain rock formation. Follow along a tree lined path next to a winding river to the temple grounds. Photographers and hikers flock here during the fall and whenever there is a beautiful coating of snow so it can get really busy on the weekends at these times. For a more quiet visit try to make your trip during the week when there are fewer crowds.Family In Far Away Places: Baekyangsa Temple, Korea

Contributed By: Family In Far Away Places

20. Mangwolsa Temple (망월사)

Uijeongbu, Korea

Mangwolsa Temple is the oldest temple within the Namhansanseong Fortress walls. Once housing Buddhist monk soldiers who practiced Buddhism and protected the walls from invaders, the temple has stood in this spot since 1624. This temple offers a different perspective to the role that Buddhist monks played in the history of Korea while at the same time offering some stunning views of the surrounding mountainsides. The pagoda on the grounds is also gorgeous and the intricate carvings could leave any visitor walking in circles for some time to take it all in.

Mangwolsa Temple

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

21. Waujeongsa Temple (와우정사)

Yongin, Korea

While this temple is not very old, only just built in 1970, it makes up for it with the unique factor. A displaced monk during the Korean War came to this spot and built this temple that is the birthplace to the highly unique Korean Buddhist Nirvana Order. The first statue that welcomes visitors is a huge golden Buldu (Buddha’s head) that is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest at eight meters high. That statue is just the invitation to the unique statues and buildings that await.Dale's Korean Temple Adventures: Waujeongsa Temple

Contributed By: Dale’s Korean Temple Adventure

22. Jingwansa Temple (진관사)

Seoul, Korea

The westernmost of the four major temples of Seoul, Jingwansa Temple was built in 1011 and once housed the royal Hyeon-jong who had been kicked out of his palace during a power struggle. Once he took his place again and became king, Jingwansa was put under special protection. This is the only Buddhist temple in Seoul to serve Suryukje, a ceremony to provide food and Buddhist teachings to the spirits and starved demons. The beautiful complex is worth a trip into the forests of Bukhansan National Park to see. The colors are astounding and the intricate painted works are worth hours to truly enjoy them.

Seoul, Korea: Jingwansa Temple

Contributed By: The Soul of Seoul

Which temple would you like to visit?

22 Temples You Have to See To Believe: There are around 900 traditional Buddhist temples in Korea inviting one and all in for quiet meditation and calm surroundings. Ranging in size, sitting on mountainsides and seasides, they all have one thing in common: they are stunning. Check out these 22 Stunning Buddhist Temples in Korea You Have To See To Believe.

Photos and information have been provided by the bloggers linked above.

Facebook Comments

You may also like...

22 Responses

  1. This list of temples is awesome! Ryan is in love with all temples so I am sure we will soon be checking out a few of these. Thanks so much for including us in this collaboration!

  2. We have been seriously slacking on our temple visiting in Korea…the ones I have visited seemed so similar in a lot of ways, we kind of stopped bothering (shame), but some of these are pretty incredible. I’d love to check out Saseongam Hermitage, Seokbulsa, and Waujeongsa Temple sometime. That Buddha head is too creepy cool.

    • Hallie says:

      Yes, you’ll definitely have to get back out there. There are some really beautiful ones and some quite unique ones. My list just got longer!

  3. Chasing KM says:

    We loved Guinsa temple in Danyang, and really enjoyed the short hike up to ssangyesa in Jirisan, along wioth quite a few others. They do seem to blend into each other somewhat, but every now and then we are truly surprised by the beauty and intricacy of them. Ive had the water temple in Busan on my list for ages and still haven’t got around to it!!

    • Hallie says:

      I really enjoyed the one in Busan.. though maybe more so just because I like the sound of water lapping on the cliffs. Added a sense of calmness.

  4. Joice says:

    really interesting to see

  5. sophie says:

    Hwagyesa Temple is something where I went last year and I got there what I wanted which is “PEACE” 🙂 One of the best in korea , I recommend it to everyone! Thanks again for the detailed list . Cheers!

  6. MARINA says:

    OMG! What an amazing temple list! I don’t know much about Korea but I have heard it’s getting popular and now I understand why!
    All those temples are out of my mind… the one that caught my attention was “Saseongam Hermitage” that seems to be located inside a cliff!

    Congrats for the pics! Amazing…and thanks for the brief explanation to each of them!

    • Hallie says:

      I think it’s getting popular because of K-pop and dramas BUT there are certainly some beautiful cultural spots to see if you do visit.

  7. Having spent a year in Korea some years ago, my first time living in another country, I was really surprised about the number of awesome temples on display there. Certainly, when you consider the amount of coverage temples in neighboring or nearby countries get, I really think this aspect of Korea is often unfairly overlooked. Anyway, great post and you certainly managed to collect at least some of the highlights

  8. Wendy Flor says:

    Whoaa! So many beautiful temples. I’ve been to a few and would love to go to these stunning ones among your list: Seokbulsa Temple, Tapsa Temple and Guinsa Temple.

  9. The pictures are amazing. I’ve been missing out a lot. I’ve only been to Jogyesa Temple and it’s not even on the list. LOL. Thanks for this post, I shall visit some of them next year. <3

    • Hallie says:

      Yeah.. Jogyesa is very popular since it’s in Insadong, but there are others that just are a bit more intriguing for other reasons. Jogyesa is a good stop if you don’t have much time in Korea though.

  10. Nicole says:

    This is an awesome list. I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t visited the seaside temple in Busan, despite living so close by! There’s something about temples near the ocean that are just so peaceful. I visited another great one in Namhae!

  11. Julie Cao says:

    I dont know Korea has so many amazing temples. #8 Magoksa Temple is my favorite and the surrounding is so beautiful. I think it would be interesting to participate in the temple stay program and get to know more about the life of the monks and the knowledge of Buddhism.

  12. All these temples are absolutely stunning.My girlfriend and I will visit Korea next year and we just can’t wait to visit all of these beautiful places.It’s amazing to realize that there are so many of these beautiful temples in Korea alone and that they are all very easy to access and visit.“Saseongam Hermitage” looks amazing!!

  13. So many beautiful temples! This is why I love Korea (among many other things!). I have many temples I need to check out before leaving Korea!

  14. Thanks so much for including my information! I actually was standing behind Expat and the City when she took the picture of Seokbulsa. It was a nice little walk and I loved the carvings. Great list…so many temples in Korea holy moly!

  15. What a great and comprehensive temple list! I’ll be honest though: I’ve seen a handful and I know I’ve seen them all. I still appreciate them but I doubt I’ll ever plan my day trips based on temples. It’s like when I lived in Italy and regardless of the magnificence of the churches, they all started to blend after a few months.

What do you think?