Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan: Is it the most beautiful?

The famous Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan

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What makes the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan so special is that it’s one of the only temples in Korea that was built on the coast. Most Buddhist temples are built into mountains far away from the ocean so this is a unique – but stunning – addition to a long list of temples in the country.

It was built hundreds of years ago. Destroyed and then rebuilt, and since then it has been a popular tourist attraction with people travelling from far and wide to visit. This is one of the most visited temples in Busan (and possibly Korea) and is typically added to most travel itineraries for people visiting the area.

Here, you’ll be able to learn about the history of the temple and surrounding area, while also enjoying the Korean coast.

Visiting Korea on a H1 or working visa? Check out how to get set up as an expat & the phone apps that will help you navigate this beautiful country.

Country:South Korea (Republic of Korea)
Currency:South Korean Won / KRW
Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?Check here

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.

History of the Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan

The temple (originally named Bomun Temple) was built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty. It was built in the name of the Buddhist faith before being destroyed when Japan invaded Korea in the late 1500s.

The temple as we know it today was rebuilt in 1930 and then in 1974 it was given the new name of Haedong Yonggungsa. The temple honours the Sea Goddess Buddha of Mercy named Haesu Gwaneum Daebul. Old Buddhist stories depict the Goddess as living a solitary life alone.

This is a particularly special location for a temple as the sea, the dragon and the Goddess all call this area home and exist in unison together.

The line of statues at the entrance of the Temple
Statues line the way towards to temple entrance

How to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan

If travelling by public transport, don’t forget to top up your T money card.

The easiest way to reach the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan is by taking public transportation. Make sure you have an active eSIM to navigate when you’re away from WIFI points.

  • Option 1: Take Line 2 to Haeundae station (Green line) and go to exit 7. From here you can take a bus (No. #181) to Yonggungsa temple bus stop. This will help minimise the amount of walking. This route takes around 45 minutes.
  • Option 2: Take the Donghae line (light blue) to OSIRIA station. This is the closest station to the temple, however, you will need to walk for about 20 minutes to reach your destination. This route will take a little over 1 hour.

From the station, you will need to head towards the Lotte Outlet Mall (which will be on your right) and keep the theme park to your left. You will need to follow the road almost completely to the end until you reach the ocean. Take the gravel road to the left and follow this all the way through until you reach the end of the road. Turn right and you’ll reach a car park and a small market which you must walk through to reach the temple entrance.

If you would prefer to travel by car, you can eliminate the need to walk as far. You can head straight to the car park above which is only a 5 minutes walk to the temple. You can arrange a car rental here.

The car park you can find on naver maps here.

Parking fees

Vehicle size & typeCost (KRW/GBP)
Vehicles with under 15 seats3,000 won / £1.92
Vehicles with 15 – 25 seats5,000 won / £3.21
Vehicles with 26 seats or more7,000 won / £4.49

When you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and make exchanging foreign funds easy. I’ve been using them since 2015.

If you’d prefer to skip out on travel as much as possible to the temple, you could consider staying locally so you have a much shorter journey – this is especially useful if you are planning on visiting for sunrise.

There are no hostels in the immediate area (you’d have to stay closer to the centre of Busan for one) but Booking.com has a few options if you’re comfortable spending a little bit more.

The entrance doorway to the temple
“The most beautiful temple in Korea”

Opening times & Costs

Visiting this beautiful temple is free as there are no entry costs. There are however some small activities you can pay for and gestures you can make if you choose to. However, these are not mandatory.

For example, once you cross the bridge and are close to the main area of the temple grounds, you’ll have the chance to make a small purchase of some local souvenirs. You also have the chance to make a small donation into a box if you would like to write your own personal message on the metallic leaves.

The temple is open to visitors between the hours of 5 am and 8 pm. This is partly due to the Haedong Yonggungsa temple being the perfect place to watch the earliest sunrise in Busan.

Did you know? On New Year’s Day, this is a hugely popular place to enjoy the year’s first sunrise! Be warned this can bring in large crowds.

I highly recommend visiting as early in the morning as possible (you may as well try for sunrise) because the number of tourists will be at a minimum.

A view from the highest point of Haedong Yonggungsa temple over the main hall and the coastline
View of the Main hall, shrine, pagoda and the surrounding coast
A view over the Busan coastline
The view from the top platform overlooking the ocean and the small cave sanctum

How long do you need there?

Since the temple is on the smaller side, most people don’t spend more than an hour there. Those who walk to the temple from the metro seem to spend longer since they’re probably trying to make up for all the time it takes to walk there. However, it doesn’t take long to see everything available.

If it’s not busy, you could easily walk around everything in 15 minutes, but when it’s busy you can expect to spend a lot of time waiting around to get through.

Want to avoid crowds? Arrive before 9 am in the week. The busiest periods are weekends around midday and just before sunset.

The dragon statue with small Buddhas displayed underneath
The dragon and small Buddha display

What to expect at Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan?

The temple itself is at the end of a small and narrow market. You will go through a large open gate which will take you through an alleyway with a line of large statues on both sides. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll notice a few differences around the site.

For example, during late March and April, you’ll be able to see many pink cherry blossoms in full bloom!

after passing the long line of statues you’ll reach a tall pagoda where you can pray for traffic safety. So if you’re a nervous driver or have a long journey coming up, spend a moment here to pray for your loved one’s safety on the road before continuing through the temple entranceway.

The entrance to the main grounds

You’ll go through a tunnel with multiple Buddha statues in small enclosures along the wall. Some visitors have been known to rub the ears of the Buddha for good luck – you can choose if you wish to do the same or just pass through. Next, you’ll reach a staircase of 108 steps.

You can either follow the steps straight down towards the main complex or halfway down you can head off on a path to the left which will take you past a shrine and towards the sunrise platform.

If you continue straight down the stairs instead of turning left you’ll reach a small bridge that crosses over some of the water on the rocky coast. The bridge takes you to the main area of the grounds and one of the first things you’ll come to is the large courtyard.

Here you can go downstairs towards the small shrine sanctum inside a cave, or you can stay on this level where the small pagoda stands near the water’s edge. You can also enjoy the dragon and small Buddha displays beneath.

A staircase to the upper tier of a temple and the corner of the colourful roof of a temple
The staircase to the upper platform and Main Hall

There are also bathrooms on this tier within the grounds and some souvenir shops.

The mid-upper tier is where the Main Hall and 2 more shrines belong. One has a reclining Buddha statue and often has a long line of people waiting to go inside and pray. If you want to go inside any of these buildings you can do so, but you must take your shoes off first.

This is clearly signposted so you shouldn’t forget. You will also find the famous Future Buddha on this tier which is a great chance to take a photograph before heading to the final level of the grounds.

Up here you’ll find the towering grey statue that overlooks the ocean and you’ll see exactly why the statue was built here of all places. It’s the best view in the house!

Sites & Attractions at Haedong Yonggunsa Temple

A golden statue of Jijang Bosal at the sunrise platform of Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan
Jijang Bosal statue

The sunrise platform & Jijang Bosal statue

This famous statue of Jijang Bosal is located on the sunrise platform which is located the furthest to the west of the entire complex. It is appropriately named this due to being one of the best spots to watch the sunrise in the area.

From here you’ll be able to see the rest of the temple grounds across the rocks to your right. There is also the option to purchase some snacks or a drink from a small stall run by a local directly opposite the statue.

Daeungjeon Main Hall
The stunning Daeungjeon Main Hall

Daeungjeon Main Hall

This is the largest building in the entire temple complex of Haedong Yonggungsa. This building is one of the newest additions to the area which was only built in 1970. It is one of the most iconic features within the temple grounds as it stands taller than everything around.

It happens to be the central and focal point of Yonggungsa and is covered in multi-coloured tiles which have been so delicately decorated to catch your attention. On either side of the Main Hall, you’ll find two large shrines including one of

The golden Future Buddha
I had to take a photo with the Future Buddha

golden statue of Podae-hwasang, the Future Buddha

This is one of the most recognised statues relating to the Buddhist religion and is also one of the most popular photo opportunities within the grounds. When there are a lot of tourists you can easily expect to wait in line for up to 10 minutes waiting to take a picture.

As you can see there is a small seat ready for people to take a photo on and even a donation box in front of the future Buddha for those who wish to contribute.

Tall statue of Gwanseeum-Bosal
The tall statue towers over everything

The Bodhisattva of Compassion (Gwanseeum-bosal)

At the highest point of the temple complex, you will reach a platform where you’ll find the statue of Gwanseeum-Bosall looking over the coastline. This is the perfect place to watch the visitors below exploring the temple grounds, while also enjoying the stunning view of Busan’s eastern coast.

Up here visitors must follow a one-way system entering from one side and exiting on the other. There is space to bow and pray to the Goddess for those of the Buddhist faith as well as the option to donate and light a candle for her too. Plus, you’ll even have the chance to write a wish on the metallic red and gold leaves and attach them to the railing if you want to.

Final thoughts on the Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan

It’s known as the “most beautiful temple in all of Korea” and whether I agree with that strong statement or not, I haven’t decided yet. It’s beautiful, but it’s also much smaller than expected. There are also many other temples I believe to have more of a “wow” factor to them in comparison to this one. But maybe you disagree with me? I’ll let you decide.

Have you visited yet? What did you think?

Need help planning your trip?

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WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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