There are many places to visit in South Korea. Still, beautiful Jeju Island, with its pristine nature and unique cultural heritage, is a must-see destination for both Koreans and foreign visitors
eople come for its incredible beaches with white sand, hike magnificent Hallasan Mountain, or taste seafood caught by the skillful Haenyeo female divers.
If you take the highway from Jeju airport and travel south to Seogwipo, it’s impossible to miss the magnificent Yakcheonsa Temple. It’s the largest and one of the most well-known Buddhist temples in Jeju.
Yakcheonsa Temple was built in 1981 on the relics of a small hermitage called Yaksuam, where monks used to come and pray for health. Nowadays, Yakcheonsa is one of the most well-know landmarks of Jeju Island. Ykcheonsa stands for ‘temple where medical water flows,’ a name given by the villagers because they believed that the temple’s grounds contain water with healing powers. Fortunately, these healing waters never dry up and keep running all year round. Monks who come here for pilgrimage would never miss an opportunity to take a sip of the mineral spring water.
Yakcheonsa Temple impresses visitors with the massive size of its entirely wooden construction. I first saw the temple from the main road and had to stop to check it out. Located in the southern part of Jeju Island, it rises high and overlooks the sea’s sparkling waters.
What to see at Yakcheonsa Temple
Before entering the temple building, take a stroll through the temple yard. Jeju’s famous rock statues Dolhareubang, which offer protection and fertility, are placed outside at the temple entrance. You will see similar but smaller in size statues around the temple grounds. People throw coins in the beautiful heart-shaped pond wishing for luck. The pond fountains are super refreshing to experience, especially during the hot summer days. Tangerine trees with deliciously looking green and orange fruits are planted randomly here and there. Palm trees, not seen anywhere else in Korea, add to this magnificent Buddhist temple’s unique experience.
The main temple hall is impressive, considered to be the largest prayer hall in East Asia. The Golden 4.5 m tall statue of Celestial Buddha – Vairocana, with two smaller Buddhas on both sides, is the highlight of this magnificent display. It is the biggest wooden Buddha statue in South Korea. It is not very convenient to look at the giant Buddha statue on the first floor. For even better views, go up to the second or third floor, from where you can observe the impressive main hall beautifully decorated in dancheong traditional frescos. Look out from the windows on the upper floor to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Pacific Ocean.
Yakcheonsa Temple is well-known for welcoming those who wish to break from daily routine and have a spiritual retreat and unique temple-stay experience. It has various temple-stay programs for several days and temple tours for only a few hours. You will get temple appropriate clothing and get introduced to the Buddhist temple etiquette. To participate in the morning temple chant, you have to wake up early and follow the monk’s instructions.
Meals at the temple are primarily vegetarian if not vegan, and they are delicious. The majority of the dishes served here are traditional Korean dishes. At the end of each meal, you will be required to wash your plates. In the afternoon, everyone is welcome to join meditation practices and tea ceremony with a monk. If you arrive during the tangerine harvest season, you can collect local tangerines grown in the temple’s courtyard. Monks go to bed early. So are those who attend the temple stay program. The bedrooms are quite simple without any frills. But the spirit of Korean Buddhism can be experienced through the simplicity and the practices at Yakcheonsa Temple.
In spring, the yard of the temple is covered in canola flowers and is absolutely beautiful.
Attractions Nearby to Yakcheonsa Temple
Spending an entire day in the area is recommended to fully enjoy everything this place has to offer. Yakcheonsa Temple is located near several famous tourist attractions of Jeju Island. If you plan on staying near the famous Jungmun beach, you can easily visit the Yakcheonsa temple. Another major attraction in the area is Cheonjeyeon Falls, comprised of 3 major waterfalls. Within Cheonjeyeon Valley, you’ll find Seonimgyo Arch Bridge with 7 nymphs carved on its side.
The temple is situated right between Jeju’s Olle walking trail 7 and 8, but for some reason, the trails are not correctly marked, and you can easily lose track of your route. If that happens, you are at the perfect spot – so much to see and do. You can always ask a monk for instructions on how to get on the right trail.
How To Get There
The place is easy to reach by bus. From Jeju City bus terminal, bus number 182 (Limousine bus) and 282 will take you directly to Jungmun beach in one hour 10 minutes, and then you can walk to the temple in less than 15 minutes. However, if you leave from Seogwipo city bus terminal, the trip will be much shorter. Bus number 645 will take you directly to the temple in 10 minutes.
Address:293-28, Ieodo-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 이어도로 293-28 (대포동)
Working Hours: 07:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Admission Fee: Free