Discover the ancient martial art of seonmudo in Golgul-sa, an ancient temple complex carved from the limestone mountain cliffs of Hamwol-san during Queen Seondeok's reign. Book in for a day filled with meditation, chanting, bows, community labor and martial art training sessions, enjoying lessons from the highly skilled monks.
You can find Golgul-sa along the same country road as the Girim-sa complex, just outside Gyeongju. That’s because it served as Girim-sa’s monastery until it became the country’s main center of seonmudo. This Buddhist martial art of the body and mind was used in the military during the days of the Silla Dynasty. The troops were taught by early Buddhist priests, just like the public is today. A special sports hall was created at Golgul-sa for this purpose alone.
If learning seonmudo is not for you, follow the path up to the temple complex instead. Explore the 12 grottos that served as the halls and rooms of the monastery, such as the worship cave dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Look up in awe at the temple’s 9th-century image of the Seokgamoni Buddha, carved into the limestone cliff. You can get up close by holding the rope and climbing up to the narrow passage that leads to the carving.
Take a taxi to Golgul-sa or, if you don’t mind a 20-minute walk on the other end, hop on a bus. From Gyeongju, intercity buses towards Gampo or Yangnam can drop you off at the Andong-ri intersection near Yangbuk-myeon Eoil-ri, from where you can hike to Golgul-sa.
The fees for the different training schedules include basic accommodation in the on-site dorm. Note that the program involves waking up at dawn.
If you have some energy left the next day, walk the 2.2 miles (3.6 kilometers) to Girim-sa. This ancient temple complex is still in use as such and has some wonderful architecture and relics on display.