South Korea’s Templestay programme was launched in 2002 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in order to offer unique travel experiences while helping to improve people’s mental health and well-being. Of the 134 temples currently participating, 27 have English- language programmes. Among the latter are temples in Seoul and each of the country’s nine provinces.
The most exotically located may be Yakchunsa, on the southern coast of Jeju Island. Relatively new by Korean temple standards, having been completed in 1996, the massive, symmetrical edifice sits on a gentle slope, looking down on the East China Sea. By joining the two-day experiential programme, visitors get to beat the ceremonial drum and ring the hanging bell.
East of the historic city of Gyeongju, in the Korean Peninsula’s southeast corner, Golgulsa temple has kept alive the Zen martial art of Sunmudo. All five of Golgulsa’s Templestay programmes feature Sunmudo training, and some include virtuoso demonstrations.
Another unique programme is provided by Baekyangsa, a temple dating back to the year 632 and situated within Naejangsan National Park, which is famous for its fall colours. Baekyangsa’s two-day experiential programme gives guests a chance to take a cooking class with the Venerable Jeong Kwan, the nun featured in the Netflix show Chef’s Table.
This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine