Have you ever just started driving with no particular destination in mind and wound up somewhere great? That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago when my friend and I stumbled upon Hyangiram Temple, which is one of the four Buddhist Hermitages in South Korea. My friend and I were out driving, spotted signs for a temple, and decided to check it out. We found ourselves in a long line of traffic, not sure what the hold up was. We contemplated turning around but figured that this line of traffic must mean people were waiting for something pretty cool. So we stuck with it and finally found out that the line of traffic actually ended at a parking lot and nobody could go in until somebody else came out. It seems all the people had come for a kimchi/clam festival which was nice, but the highlight of the trip for us was Hyangiram Hermitage! The temple was first established in 644 and later would become a base for Buddhist monks who helped fight in the war during the Japanese invasion. Buddhist temples in Korea are typically painted with very similar colors, so what makes a temple a favorite for me are the unique features that make the temple memorable, and this one had several. Hyangiram Hermitage sits high above the sea and we had to walk several up several paths and steep steps to get to it.
The first thing I noticed, after I caught my breath, was how beautifully the temple blends with it’s surroundings. As we made our way through narrow passageways in rocks it was evident that great care was taken to preserve the natural integrity of the space.
The second thing that stands out about this temple are the thousands of turtle statues. They are everywhere! Many have bracelets around their necks and coins on their heads or backs. So cute!
In addition to the turtles there are many other thoughtful touches that make spending time in this temple thoroughly enjoyable. It is said that it is a place where the faithful come to pray and I can see why that would be the case.
And the view, well the view is stunning!
Hyangiram Hermitage is all the way at the bottom of the peninsula and I don’t think I’d drive several hours to see it by itself, but if you happened to be in Yeosu or somewhere else not too far away it really is a special site.
Here are a few shots of the kimchi/clam festival.
And a Buddhist artist with a little shop.
My friend and I had such an awesome day. Sometimes it’s really refreshing to forget all the planning and just go.
Hyangiram Hermitage address: 60, Hyangiram-ro, Dolsan-eup, Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do