Mount Tohamsan

South Korea is know for many things, but it’s beautiful scenery is top of the list. With 70% of the land in South Korea being mountainous, it’s as if you have stepped back in time and landed in Jurassic Park with all the green hills soaring around you. Hiking is an inevitable pass time in South Korea, especially in Gyeongju. If you are interested in getting off the beaten track of Gyeongju and would rather look down on the city from one of the many beautiful mountains situated on the outskirts, then hiking Mount Tohamsan is the way to go.

With 2 Unesco World Heritage Sites along the way, this hike is as much historically and culturally significant as it is liberating. The hike itself has many different routes to suit all hikers needs, but which ever route you decide to take it won’t take you very long as you reach the peak at 745 meters. It isn’t the hike that will take your time, but the interesting pit stops you’ll take along the way.

 

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The autumn colours holds a serene picture in the mountains of Gyeongju

 

The first of the Unesco sites – Bulguksa Temple greets you at the bottom of the mountain, and is considered a national relic, dating back to 528 during the Silla Dynasty. Gyeongju was the capital at the time of the Silla Dynasty and you can see the evidence of its powerful history almost everywhere today (even on a hike up a mountain!).  Bulguksa is home to intricately designed temples, three story pagodas, golden Buddha statues, staircases and stunning gardens that will capture your attention as soon as you set foot inside this spiritual place. You will find many monks praying in the temples, and with a majestic lake at the front of the Temple complex you may find it a nice place to meditate as you realise the importance and peace within this ancient yet angelic spot. As the first site that greets you on your hike, Bulguksa Temple is reason number one why hiking Mount Tohamsan is one for the list.

 

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The beautiful staircases that have been left in their original form, is a testament to ancient architecture at the time.

 

With the first Unesco World Heritage site seen to, exit the same way and turn left up the mountain. This is the way to the next pit stop on your historic hike up Mount Toham, and with the first mile of the mountain being quite flat to Seokaram, you don’t have to worry about sweat marks or smelly odors as you visit the amazing artificial stone temple made of granite a third of the way up your hike.  Seokguram is known to have been built with Bulguksa Temple, taking 24 years to finish. According to history, Samgukyosa of the Goryeo Dynasty, that unified the country at the end of the Silla Dynasty, had Bulguksa built for his parents, and Seokguram built for the parents of his former life.

 

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No cameras allowed inside the temple, so mental images and exteriors will have to do.

 

The temple was made to restore the beautiful statues inside, including the bold Bonjon Statue seated on the stage, smiling at its visitors, as well as Bodhi Sattva and his disciples facing the sides of the temple. The temple is perfectly nestled in the east side of the mountain, and with a stunning view of the  sunrise, it’s a peaceful time to hike the mountain to witness its beauty for what it’s worth. Reason number two for hiking Mount Tohamsan!

 

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What looks like vast baron land beneath you, it adds to the majestic effect of the mountain.

“as I bounced off the crunching leaves underneath me not another sound was heard”

Once you have Bulguksa and Seokguram ticked off your Unesco bucket list, it’s time to get that blood pumping. Exit Seokguram and head right, further up the mountain. You will find various routes making your trip longer, harder, or a returning route back down to Bulguksa. I picked a route that took me down the other side of the mountain, which was my favourite part of the hike.

With no one around, it was a nice comparative to the previous hour I spent with swarms of busy bees and camera happy hordes of people – which is to be expected with such stunning scenes of Korean history. As I bounced off the crunching leaves underneath me not another sound was heard. With a windy path that was clearly not in business very often, it was an exciting challenge to get to the bottom, but one that I felt at ease with as the nature consumed my thoughts and had me in a majestic hold all the way to the end. The mountain has a spiritual significance that can’t be ignored. Even as I hiked through the trees and slid down it’s dirty paths I felt it’s calming nature and historic relevance captivating my mind. As my body was busy at work, my mind was peaceful – reason number three for hiking Mount Tohamsan.

 

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Nothing but mountains for miles.

It was an incredible hike. With more shrines buried in the mountain you’re never stuck for things to see if you decide to take a breather. I always prefer to take a new track, and so I didn’t come down the same way I hiked up, which is a popular route for most to take. I found it to be more of a stroll until I left Seokguram, but that is when you focus on the hike at hand rather than the temples tempting you.

However you want to experience Mount Tohamsan for yourself – walk from Bulguksa to Seokguram and be happy. Skip the temples and dominate the mountain from invigorating paths, or do all of the above. The beauty of the mountain and all is contains leaves something for everyone and won’t disappoint.

 

General Info:

Take bus 10 or 11 from Express Bus Terminal in Gyeongju and the bus will inform you when you reach Bulguksa, it’s a popular stop. The journey should take about 30 minutes  (bus stop outside the front entrance to the right).

Ticket booth to Bulguksa Temple is across the road from the bus stop, and tickets for both Bulguksa and Seokguram grotto cost 4000won. Admission times are between 7.00-17.30/18.00 (depending on the time of year)

If you have any questions, or you’re in the area and want to go for a hike, drop me a message and I’d be happy to help/accompany you!

28 thoughts on “Mount Tohamsan

  1. This really looks like a MUST DO experience! I love hiking and walking in nature, even more so such kind of places with an atmosphere so calm and with a nature so diverse. Any remarks about the local vegetation?

    1. It really is, and once you do it once you’re hooked! I can’t get enough of exploring these mountains and secret gems along the way. It’s a history lesson and hike all in one. The mountain itself is filled with needle trees and various colourful plants, I found myself stopping to take pictures even of these! One of my favourite parts of my hike was when I got to the end, as I took a route off the beaten track, I was greeted at the bottom of the mountain by miles of farmland. There were all sorts of vegetables grown all around, and I passed a huge crop of chili peppers as I left the area and stepped back into the real world. So beautiful!

  2. Hiking by myself is something I truly love. I find my best ideas come to me when I’m doing this! I lived in South Korea for 2.5 years and miss everything about it everyday. Thank you for taking me back there 🙂

    1. Wow! You must have had quite the experience here. I have always enjoyed hiking but I find it so therapeutic here, and thoroughly enjoy going off by myself and refreshing my mind in the mountains. You know that feeling! I’m glad you liked it, let me know if ever you come back for a visit 🙂

    1. Thank you Tania, it’s a beautiful place for many reasons. Adventures and outdoor activities are my favourite and you will find plenty to do here! 🙂

  3. Picture perfect! S korea is on my list for next year! i will look you up then if youre still around!

  4. What stunning pictures! I love it! I visited Cesky Krumlov last year and it had the same feel being UNESCO listed. I love history and seeing places that are protected and have heritage is just brilliant. Great post!

    1. Thank you! There is something about witnessing a historical artifact or ancient site in it’s natural state – out in the open and free to roam and explore at your own pace. It’s refreshing! I haven’t made it to the Czech Republic yet but I will definitely put Cesky Krumlov on the list when I do.

  5. Sounds like a great destination! I’ve never made it to this part of the world, but it has been on my list for a very long time!

    1. It’s a beautiful place with plenty variety, but what’s great about it is you don’t have to wait in line or pay admission fees to climb a mountain and take in the history of the place. It’s there for the taking in the fresh outdoors and feeds your body as well as your mind as you explore! 🙂

    1. You’ll find her here for sure – on the top of a mountain full of happiness and peace! It’s a great way to spend your time here and I can’t get enough of it. A thrilling experience for your body and mind 🙂

    1. I hadn’t been told about it until I went and visited Bulguksa for myself. When I saw the groups of ajimas with their brightly coloured coats and sun visors I had to check it out! It’s one I’d recommend for everyone, hikers and history buffs alike!

    1. Thanks Iain! South Korea should definitely be put on the list, however infinite it may be 🙂 thanks for commenting, I’ll be seeing you in South Korea my friend!

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