seokguram grotto

seokguram-grotto-gateEntrance Gate Area of Seokguram Grotto Site

seokguram grotto

Seokguram Grotto is a work of religious art. It is located in Tohamsan Mountain, Gyeongju, South Korea.

Like many travelers, I was attracted and decided to see this famous site. I hiked over 2 kilometers from Bulguksa Temple to get to this grotto.

FACTS: Seokguram Grotto is added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995 together with Bulguksa Temple itself.

Seokguram Grotto is a hermitage, and it also belongs to the Bukgusa Temple area. Its location overlooks the Sea of Japan (in the east) and is about 750 meters above sea level.

South Korea designated the grotto as its 24th national treasure in 1962. At present, it is one of the most popular and visited Buddha statues in the country.

seokguram-grottoThe temple that houses the Seokguram and where visitors enter to see it
seokguram-grotto-entrance-areaSeokguram Grotto's entrance area and where you need to purchase an entrance ticket

Brief Origins & Features

seokguram-grottoSeokguram Grotto, Gyeongju

The Buddha stone statue was carved out from a solid granite in the scenic side of Tohamsan Mountain.

The grotto was allegedly built by Kim Daeseong, an official of King Gyeongdeok’s court of Silla Dynasty.

This period was the time of the Unified Silla. It was believed that the grotto was completed after the builder’s death sometime in 774.

Seokguram was initially called “Seokbulsa” (Korean: 석불사), which means “stone Buddha temple.”

The Buddha is about 3.5 meters high and sits on a 1.34-meter tall lotus flower pedestal. It is believed that the image is that of Seokgamoni Buddha whose position indicates enlightenment.

There are three other Bodhisattvas, ten disciples, and Hindu gods that accompany Buddha inside the grotto.

bulguksa-temple-four-guardiansFour Guardian Kings at the main entrance gate of Bulguksa Temple

Also, you will notice the usual symbolism of Four Heavenly Kings (or guardians – they look scary though!) guarding the corridor that leads to the innermost of the grotto.

According to the source (Wikipedia), there are ten statues of bodhisattvas, some saints, and faithful that are carved in niches on the bas-reliefs.

Since visitors are not allowed to get inside the grotto, I could not see much more features inside and surrounding the statue, unfortunately!

What to See & Do

When you visit the area, be prepared to see that you will see religious items of Buddhism. Also, expect that the sense of serenity and tranquility, as well as union with nature, is in the air.

The following are the things you will expect to see or can do…

  • Relics (some broken/destroyed stone structures lying in one corner indicating how the place may look like in the past)
  • Nature (trees, birds, greens, streams)
  • Drinking water (you can drink the fresh spring water)
  • Hike (use the trail recommended by the local authorities)
  • Mountain (Tohamson Mountain)
  • Shop (for religious items and souvenirs)
  • Donate or Pray
seokguram-grotto-panoramaPanorama of Gyeongju as seen from Seokguram site
seokguram-grotto-relicsSome ancient structure relics lying around the hermitage site waiting to be restored

traveling to seokguram grotto

If you are coming through Bulguksa Temple, simply take the 2.2-kilometer trail for Seokguram Grotto.

The path or trail is well-maintained. The ascent is not sharp, so it should be not so difficult for any children above seven years of age or any generally healthy and fit individual.

Private vehicles and Tour Buses are allowed to park at the parking area of the grotto’s nearby entrance gate.

Facilities Available:

  • Ticketing Booth
  • Parking Area
  • Souvenir Shops
  • Drinking Water
  • Vending Machine
  • Washrooms
  • Korean Restaurant
seokguram-grotto-souvenir-shopOn the lefthand side of the souvenir shop, you will notice the black curved tiles - these are being used for printing one's supplications to Buddha.
seokguram-grotto-fountainRefreshing drinking water at Seokguram

Now, after your exploration and implemented your other interesting activities, you might be ready (if still energized!) to explore more places...

Nearby Attractions & Sites

You can always travel to the nearby places and surrounding areas of Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple.

If you did not come with a private vehicle, be prepared to do hiking (if this is one of your hobbies or purpose in coming).

  • Mount Tohamsan (745.8 meters high)
  • Bulguksa Temple
  • Bulguksa Market area (Coffee Shops, restaurants)
  • West Five-Story Stone Pagoda in Janghang-ri
  • Tohamsan Mountain Natural Recreation Forest
  • Rock-carved Seated Buddha at Golguram hermitage
  • Golgulsa Temple
  • Kirimsa Temple
  • Hamwolsa Temple (494.2 meters high)
  • Tomb of King Wonseong
  • Three-story Stone Pagoda at Gamsansa Temple
  • Standing Stone Buddha Statue of Yeongji
  • Three-story Stone Pagoda in Ma-dong
  • Dong-ri Mok-wol Literary Museum
bulguksa-templeTaken in front of Bulguksa Temple right before heading to Seokguram Hermitage

Overall, it was a great hike, and the whole area has fantastic views of the surrounding panorama including Gyeongju City.

I was expecting to see a larger size and more accessible view of the Buddha. Unfortunately, the statue is being kept and protected inside a temple through which you can only have a distant sight of the statue.

On the other hand, having no “close encounter” with the image, it evokes in me a sense of mystery. And I’m happy with that.

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Return to Gyeongju Travels Resources from Seokguram Grotto
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