Seonunsa Temple and the Hidden Gems of Gochang
Gochang County (Gochang-gun) is a county in North Jeolla Province, South Korea. Although it may seem very rural, it offers some hidden gems for tourists passing by or for those wanting to escape the busy Korean cities.
Seonunsa Temple (선운사) was built in 1318 during the Baekje Dynasty (18 BC-678 AD). Much of the, initially very large, temple was destroyed during the second Japanese invasion in 1597. It’s reconstruction in 1614 took five years.
Seonunsa Temple lies in a lush grove on the slopes Dosolsan Mountain in Gochang County, Jeollabuk-do and admission fees are 3,000 won ($2.7).
The temple is popular for its beautiful surroundings throughout the year. In spring and parts of winter, camellia flowers shower the place of worship in vivacious colors. In summer the sangsa flowers adorn the roadside and in autumn the foliage of changing leaves provides breathtaking scenery.
The temple offers a 2 or 3 day temple stay program on the second and fourth weekend of each month. The programs includes Dado (tea ceremony) and lotus lantern making.
How to get there
There are direct buses to Seonunsa Temple from Gwangju U-square Bus Terminal that run 4 times a day (1.5 hours).
Otherwise direct buses to the temple run from the Gochang Intercity Bus Terminal 8 times a day (30 minutes).
Other things to do in Gochang
This natural fortress was built by Korean residents in 1453 and used as defense during Japanese invasion. Known as the best preserved fortress in the country, Gochangeupseong offers a glimpse at traditional Korean fortress architecture and a stroll amidst peaceful scenery. Entrance fee is 1000 won ($1).
Gochang Dolmen Site (UNESCO World Heritage)
Dolmens are stone grave markers built in Northeast Asia during the prehistoric era. There are around 30, 000 Dolmens in Korea with the largest and most diverse number of these found at the Gochang Dolmen site (more than 447 Dolmen).
Pungcheon Eel and Mountain berry liquor
While in Gochang be sure to sample the local specialty of barbequed fresh water eel. Although rather pricey this local dish of grilled eel with a raspberry or soy sauce is considered extremely healthy and a “stamina boost”.
Another stamina booster which should be sampled is the Bokbunja wine made in the Gochang region. Bokbunja is a Korean black raspberry that when fermented with water creates a moderately sweet and very potent red wine.