Relax and reflect at Bongeunsa Temple during a 24-hour overnight program.
For a true immersion into Korean culture, try a temple stay, a 24-hour overnight program of relaxation and reflection. Several temples in Seoul offer the experience, including Bongeunsa, one of Korea’s most traditional Buddhist temples. For approximately $44, you can live like a monk for one day.
The Setting: Located among the modern skyscrapers of downtown Seoul, Bongeunsa represents more than 1,200 years of history. The Buddhist temple, built in 794 A.D., is a rare gem in Korea for surviving the spread of Confucianism during the Joseon Dynasty. The temple’s 710,000 square feet of land is home to several buildings and the Maitreya Buddha statue, the largest of its kind in Korea.
The Activities: Registration and orientation begins at 2 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month. After an opening ceremony and temple tour, visitors have a traditional dinner of Bal-woo Gong-yang. The rest of the evening includes a Buddhist ceremonial service called Yebool, Seon meditation and tea. Guests wake up at 3:30 a.m. on the second day for another Yebool ritual, walking meditation, traditional Korean crafts and communal work around the temple grounds.
Temple Etiquette: Before you arrive, read the list of temple norms. Clothing should be clean and conservative. Avoid bright colors, revealing clothing, heavy makeup and strong perfume. Because self-reflection is highly encouraged at the temple, silence is expected during most of a stay. Speak quietly if you need to speak.
A Shorter Stay: If you think 24 hours is too long, Bongeunsa offers a shorter version of a temple stay every Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. The temple life program includes a grounds tour, Seon meditation and a tea ceremony. Cost is approximately $9 per person.
If You Go:
73 Samseong-dong Gangnam-gu, Seoul