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Korea, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple – Water Meets Buddha

Haedong Yonggungsa in Busan, South Korea
Written by Duke Stewart

Busan is my favorite of the Big 2 in Korea. Surely I haven’t visited them all but between Busan and that huge city to the north along the Han River, I prefer this southeastern city hugging Korea’s coast and home to so many beautiful sights. Why? There are many reasons I love Busan but its Haedong Yonggungsa temple by the water ranks pretty high on the list.

Crowds at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Seoul is also dominated by a huge body of water but Busan just feels different to me. This city pokes out of Korea’s nearly 2500 km-long coastline into the vast ocean surrounding the peninsula. Many attractions come to mind and among the big players are Haeundae and Gwangan beaches. Busan’s famed crowds roaring for their Lotte Giants are also memorable but personally, the best place worth visiting hosts something more sacred.

Koreans might not all identify with a religion but these places make me think that some do, and in a loud way. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a lovely place even if many view this temple as “touristy” and find the weekend crowds disconcerting. Like Hyangiram near our home in Yeosu, Yonggungsa makes for a most peaceful getaway with views of the water accompanying sounds of monks reciting Buddhist sutras. Just like other places dominated by the ocean, the sea brings out the best in people and there’s a jovial nature that takes over when visiting. But why is it so special? Aren’t there plenty of other temples to visit, even in Busan?

Posing for Photos at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea

Location

Yes, many people might refer to Beomeosa as the spiritual heart of Busan and personal experience through a temple stay might lead me to rate it as the best. The buildings found within Yonggungsa are nice but might not elicit the emotions found at other temples throughout the country. The location helps create the shining star here. Korean temples usually linger among the clouds tucked away in mountains but this one finds itself right against the water.

Buddhism and nature are closely intertwined and Yonggungsa Temple’s watery scenes are much appreciated by those in love with outdoor scenes. The ocean helps give this place a more colorful appearance, if the brightly painted buildings haven’t already accomplished that. Add in smells of seawater mixed with incense and a revisit to Haedong Yonggungsa almost becomes a requirement, if not just a wish.

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Mini Monk Statues at Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea

Getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Courtesy of Naver Maps

Many people go there from Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2) by taking a bus that you can find from Exit 7. Take Bus 181 and get off at the Yonggungsa Temple (용궁사) stop. The trip by bus should take about an hour and is the much cheaper route. If you want to get to Haedong Yonggungsa faster than that, grab a taxi and expect about a 20 minute and 8,000 won ride.

Haedong Yonggungsa in Busan, South Korea

About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome Hipmunk.com. I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.

25 Comments

  • I do love Beomeosa, but this is my favorite temple in Busan. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been here. We always try to remember our big jar of change that we accumulate from the toll roads, to make wishes on the bridge. I really love the first photo because I always go when the light is really harsh, but your shot is awesome and the colors really pop.

    • Beomeosa was great during our temple stay a couple of years back. But you’re right. Yonggungsa is just one of those places that asks for revisits upon revisits. Thanks for your compliments and kind words.

  • It really is so beautiful! I always love going to temples in Korea even though I always think they look the same, but I love how this one is right on the water. Before I leave Korea in August I’m gonna get down there to see this one. Great photos 🙂

  • Nothing beats the ocean. Absolutely nothing. It was cool to see Haedong Yonggungsa again from the eyes of another person. Get to relive my experience and share yours.

    • Thanks Scott. I love that place and really hope to return there. Busan’s a bit of a hike from Yeosu but who knows, maybe we’ll get there again.

  • Great post! We love this temple too, and it’s one of the best places in Busan. We’ll be taking my aunt there soon when she visits for Chuseok! Surprisingly when we were there it wasn’t that crowded at all! I even got some alone time in the little underground cave with candles. 🙂

  • I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but those temples by the water are the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen! Great photos!

  • This temple was also one of my favorite attractions in Busan. Despite the madness, I was still able to be very relaxed. There aren’t many times when that has happened for me which just tells you how awesome Yonggungsa is!

  • I’m based in Busan and it was a treat to visit some of the surrounding temples. When I visited Yonggungsa, sadly it was swarming with tourists (us included), I was hoping to mostly hear the waves splash against the rocks and get my Zen on, but that didn’t really happen. It’s a beautiful place for sure, but I don’t think it’s a temple where you can find some peace and quiet. Maybe there are good times in the year to go? Great post otherwise 🙂

    • Hm, maybe you can go during the week and it will be less crowded? Sorry to hear that you didn’t completely enjoy it. Anyway, you’re lucky to live there. Great city! Still love my Yeosu though:)

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Thanks for the tip, Meagan. It seems that the Koreans don’t ALL travel to places until that same time at about 10 or 11. Their clocks all must be set to the same times in my opinion. 🙂

  • Lovely photos! I enjoyed visiting this temple, as well. Not many temples are built into the rocks on the sea: most are in the mountains, so it’s a nice change of scenery. Glad you enjoyed Busan!

  • I love the ocean and think it brings a calmness and peace to my mind. This place is beautiful. I also like done of the Buddhist s teachings. I like how they always stay in the present. 🙂

  • My visit to Busan left me wanting more. There was such a different change of tempo from Seoul that I couldn’t get enough of it. And I agree that the Haedong Yonggungsa is really beautiful too, it’s hard to find a temple right by the sea like this. I did wish that there wasn’t as many people trying to enjoy it when I was there though…:)

    • It’s tough to visit on a weekday if you live here. I’d recommend trying to get there on a weekend if possible. That goes for most places here. Everyone is off at the same time. Hope you get another chance to visit!

      • There are lesser people there on weekends? Hmm, will take note and see whether I can get to visit again…thanks for the tip! 🙂

        • Ah, no. Meant to say less people there on weekdays. Weekends are madness in this country, because people are actually off work at that time (Sundays especially). Sorry for the confusion there.