Editor’s note: The cities and the countryside of South Korea are scattered with a myriad of Buddhist temples. From the grandiose to the tiny, nearly every village and mountain has at least one temple tucked away in one corner or another.
Having visited my fair share of temples during my time in Korea, I have found some temples to be overrated and some to be hidden jewels visited by only a few hearty travelers. Over the next few months, I will be mentioning five or six of my favorite temples scattered around Korea. While they aren’t always the most important or touristed temples, each one has caught my attention for a variety of reasons.
As I sat down, tired but exhilarated from my trek, I felt a sense of tranquillity come over me. As I looked at the temple in front of me, the thumping of the monk’s gong filling my ears, and the sweet smell of incense wafting through the air, I felt the stress melt away.
I had arrived at Cheongpyeongsa Temple with no preconceived notions. Knowing only that the trip required a short boat ride and trek, I went expecting a run of the mill temple. Despite this, or maybe because of this, I was blown away by the peacefulness of Cheongpyeongsa. While temples are supposed to be tranquil, the sad reality of tourism is that most of the temples that I have visited have been anything but. Cheongpyeongsa was different, however. I’m not entirely sure what made it so restful, but I just found myself wanting to sit in the temple’s shade for longer than I would have thought possible.
Getting to Cheongpyeongsa
Getting to Cheongpyeongsa from Seoul requires taking a train, a bus, a ferry, and then a 30-minute hike, all across fantastic scenery.
From Seoul, take the Gyeongchun subway line, which whisks you all the way to Chuncheon in about 90 minutes. Leaving from Chuncheon, take buses 11, 12, or 12-1 until you get to Soyang Dam (Don’t worry, you can’t miss it).
From the bus stop, follow the crowds downhill to the ferry dock. From there, you can buy a 6,000 Won return ticket to the Cheongpyeongsa Temple dock.
The boat ride itself is a very scenic 15-minute ride. As the boat chugs along the calm, green waters of Soyang Lake, its hard to imagine that this lake was only created in 1973, when the valleys in the area were flooded by the creation of Soyang Dam, the largest rock filled dam in Asia.
[box_light]Tip: If you are looking for a little adventure with your hike, take the speedboat. The speedboat drivers thrive on danger, flying over waves and taking turns at impossibly high speeds. I wonder if any of the speedboats have ever tipped?[/box_light]
Once you arrive at the dock, follow the path past several vendors and restaurants serving food and selling hiking necessities to Guseong Waterfall, a rather impressive 15-meter tall waterfall with a wonderful pool at the bottom. You probably aren’t supposed to go swimming here, but I doubt anyone would stop you.
It only takes about 30-40 minutes of hiking to get to the temple, and you will pass several temple buildings and an odd grave or two on your way up. You will also pass a ticket gate where you have to purchase a 2,000 Won ticket to continue.
While Cheongpyeongsa Temple may not house any relics or be especially important to Buddhism, it is still one of the best temples I’ve visited and probably the most fun to get to as well.
I would highly recommend a visit.
Jim Cheney is the creator of Tripologist.com. Having traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, Jim enjoys sharing his love of travel and some of his favorite places to visit around the world. He lives in Pennsylvania, USA, with his wife and two kids.