Gyeongju in South Korea is famous for its unique mound tombs, covered with grass from the kingdoms of Silla, Bulguksa temple and Seokguram Grotto. All these sites are designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Things to do in Gyeongju are plenty, however, I highly recommend that you stay here for at least three days to enjoy this destination at leisure.
Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond
I reached Gyeongju only by afternoon and it took me a while to locate my hostel. I took a bus to go visit the palace and the pond and it was already dark by the time I reached. Unaware of the fact that the palace and pond are famous night time attractions, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautifully lit palace and pond. The evening was so windy that at times I felt almost certain, that some branch will break and fall on my head.
Back at my hostel, a cosy book themed hostel, I met Chloe, a lovely girl from Seoul, in my dorm. She was staying at the hostel because she was a fan of manga and there were plenty of them to choose from. She had traveled to Gyeongju by her car for the weekend and planned on going to see sunrise at Pohang in the morning. I asked her if I could join her for the same and she graciously accepted my suggestion. Had it not been for her, I would have missed out on many places and some great company.
Things to do in Gyeongju- Sunrise at Pohang
We woke up early the next morning and drove to Pohang, a 40 minutes drive from Gyeogju, to see the sunrise over the tomb of the Queen and King Munmun of Silla, which is in the sea. The sky was clear and so we saw a beautiful sunrise. The weather was chilly and windy.
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa temple
From Pohang, we drove to the Bulguksa temple complex and reached there by 7:00AM and were the first visitors there. We first visited Seokguram grotto, a cave temple built in 751 AD, located at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan. The cave houses a huge statue of Buddha. The temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the statue of Buddha is a renowned piece of Buddhist art.
Take a four kilometres long trekking route to Bulguksa temple which is located at the top of the mountain. Due to lack of time we drove there. The trekking path looked serene and should be rarked among top things to do in Gyeongju.
The view from the top was beautiful. The landscape was sprinkled with tree- leaves changing their green for autumn colors. The temple is almost fifteen centuries old. A war fire in the 16th century burnt most wooden structures, however, some were saved. The restoration of the remaining structures took place in the year 1972.
After our refreshing excursion in the windy morning, we returned to our hostel for some refreshments, and to pick up my luggage as I wouldn’t have enough time to pick it up later. From there we headed straight to the unusual mound tombs of Silla.
The Royal Tombs of Silla
Things to do in Gyeongju would be incomplete without visiting the spectacular royal tombs of Silla. Gyeongju was the capital of the kingdoms of old Silla and Unified Silla. The tombs are huge mounds rising to several metres from the ground. They are covered in manicured green grass.These spacious tombs house the remains of royalty and nobility who were buried there with such treasures as gold armaments and ornaments. Some tombs are open to visitors displaying replicas of gold ornaments and armaments. The originals are kept at the museum. I couldn’t visit the museum due to lack of time.
Things to do in Gyeongju- Traditional Korean platter
Towards the end of my trip to Korea, I finally tried the assortment of dishes served in traditional Korean meal. The meal was sumptuous and delicious. I am glad I could try it once before leaving Korea.
After strolling for a while in the neighborhood, Chloe dropped me off to the bus stand. She even gifted me a souvenir, a beautiful bookmark shaped like a bell. I could only wish that I had more time here.