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South Korea, Gangwon-do, Sokcho-si, Seorak-dong, Seoraksan-ro, 833
| +82 33-636-7700
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Buddha beneath the peaks, Seoraksan Sokcho Si  South Korea

Buddha beneath the peaks, Seoraksan

About 25 miles north of the site of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics is Seoraksan National Park. These mountains along Korea's East Coast are a hiker's paradise in all seasons, studded with architectural and religious highlights.

Sitting, sheltered on the valley floor, is the 108-ton bronze Buddha of Shin-heung-sa temple. Founded in the 7th century, the current complex was rebuilt in the 1600's; it's one of the oldest Zen ("Seon" in Korean) temples in the world. Today's tranquility at times seems to belie the region's tumultuous past...(Incidentally, the Buddha was cast as a symbol of hopes for reunifying the peninsula.)

The granite peaks of Ulsanbawi soar thousands of feet above the temple, popular with rock-climbers. But you'll also see groups of hardy "ajumahs" ('women of a certain age') and "ajoshis" (middle-aged men) tackling the trail--they just might pass you on the way up! If you reach the top, you're guaranteed (supposedly) longevity, along with a panoramic view of the sea...

(About a 3 or 4-hour trip via express bus from Seoul. Come mid-week for tranquility; weekends, especially during the exuberantly colorful fall, it can seem like all of Seoul has come here at the same time!)