Mysterious Unjusa Temple of 1,000 Buddha and Pagodas

unjusa temple hwasun

View of Unjusa in the Spring on our first visit

The South Korean temple, Unjusa in Hwasun County is a bit of a mystery. No one is quite sure who the founder is but it is estimated to have been built sometime between 57 BC and 935 AD. Originally the temple had more than 1,000 Buddha statues and 1,000 pagodas but today only 91 stone statues and 21 pagodas of various sizes remain. They can be found around the temple grounds and in the surrounding fields and mountains.
child looking at buddha statue unjusa hwasun korea temple
small statue unjusa hwasun temple korea
pagoda in mountain at unjusa temple
Buddha statue under large stone hwasun unjusa south korea temple
multi cylindrical pagoda unjusa south korea hwasun
A few years ago when our son was only a few months old we took a trip to Unjusa. We hadn’t researched much before we went. We enjoyed our time but when we got home we found out that we had completely missed the giant statues of Buddha lying down. We knew we would need to return!
Painting on the temple roof
many little gold colored buddha
Temple door carvings and painting lotus

We have just returned to Unjusa and were pleasantly surprised! Since our last visit they have invested in creating beautiful trails and stairs to the main attractions in the mountains. The stone or wooden paths are steep in parts but are some of the best I have seen in my 11 years in Korea! When we visited before my husband and son had to wait at the bottom of the mountain as I climbed to get a good photo because the trail was rather slippery when wet. This is no longer a concern!

walkway at unjusa temple
Stairs going to the reclining buddha
This visit we were sure to get a pamphlet (in English!) and checked the maps so we knew where we were going. The paths are well labeled and there are signs at the major monuments in both Korean and English explaining the significance. We had missed the giant reclining Buddha statues the first visit because we had taken the trail up behind the temple rather than the trail to the left. It is clearly marked and was entirely our mistake.

We didn’t make the mistake again though! After you climb the stairs to the top of the hill there is no missing the reclining Buddha statues. Carved out of the stone in the ground, one is nearly 42 feet and the other around 34 feet. The carvings are rather crude but it is still impressive. I have never seen anything else like it in Korea.

Buddha lying down carving from rock
reclining buddha unjusa temple

The hikes around Unjusa are easy and not very crowded. It’s quite far from the city with few restaurants or other services around. It’s best to bring your own food! Some guided tour groups do make it out to the temple but with such a large area to explore it never felt busy. With so many treasures to search for it’s easy to discover something new each time you visit Unjusa which is why it’s one of our favorite temples in the region.

Cost

  • Adults 3,000 won / Teenagers 2,000 won / Children 1,000 won

Hours

  • Summer 08:00-18:00 / Winter 08:00-17:00

Transportation

  • From Gwangcheon Bus Terminal (USquare) in Gwangju take city bus number 318 or 218. The ride takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Confirm with the driver that the bus will stop at the temple (운주사). 

Gamami Beach – Great Beaches in South Korea!

*Update June 21, 2016* – Photos of the new water park added!

Nearly every weekend, especially once the snow is gone, we try to take a road trip locally. Traveling with a 3 year old who has a ridiculously early wake up time, we usually head out early, travel 1-2 hours from Gwangju and spend the morning at our destination. After lunch when it starts to get too hot and the crowds arrive, we head back to town as our son takes his afternoon nap in the car.

We spend a lot of time in the summer exploring local beaches and this past weekend we finally made it out to Gamami Beach. We had been in the area before to visit other sites but this was our first trip to this section of the coastline. I’ve been hesitant to write about it for fear that it might become too popular. Gamami Beach is by far our favourite family friendly beach close to Gawngju to date!

It is easy to make a trip to Gamami Beach an all-day affair. The drive to the beach takes you through Beoseong Port in Yeonggwang where the specialty is gulbi. The dried fish can be found hanging from ropes on either side of the street and restaurants abound. Either stop for a meal or grab some fish to bring with you to the beach!

Gulbi Jeongshik yeonggwang

Gulbi Jeongshik. A table full of Korean side dishes where gulbi is the feature.

Gulbi yeonggwang drying

Rows of drying gulbi

Also along the way is Beopseongpo (법성포) which is the birthplace of Baekje Buddhism.

Beopseongpo Baekje Buddhism

Beopseongpo, the birthplace of Baekje Buddhism

Gamami Beach has a pine tree camping and picnic area and a large sand beach. Kids can run freely, a game of volley ball or soccer can be played or just sunbathe on the beach without worrying much about getting in the way of others. Even when the tide is still out the water can be reached if you are willing to walk a bit. At low tide digging for clams is a popular pastime. We saw people quickly gathering full buckets of large clams to bring back to their camp. When the tide is in, the water near the shore is only 1-2 meters deep for quite a distance.

Gamami beach yeonggwang

Tide is still out. The rocks directly in front are covered when the tide comes in.

Gamami beach yeonggwang

Exploring the rocks

There is no amission fee to use the beach and during the off season camping is available for free on a first come, first served basis. Starting in July the fees for camping range from about 10,000 won – 50,000 won depending on the site you want to camp in and the size of your tent. During July and August making a reservation ahead of time is recommended.

Gamami beach yeonggwang

The site is also currently going through some renovations. One of the shower and toilet areas is being repaired and a new playground and waterpark are being built. It is expected that they will be completed by July.

Gamami beach yeonggwang water park
Gamami beach yeonggwang water park

Gamami Beach is around a 1 to 1.5 hour drive from Gwangju, Jellonamdo. Alternatively a bus can be taken from Gwangcheon Bus Terminal (U-Square) to Yeonggwang. From the Yeonggwang terminal a local bus can take you to Gamami Beach.

Address in Korean: 전라남도 영광군 홍농읍 가마미로 355
For more informaiton visit Yeonggwang-gun's English website here!

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