Namsan – The Museum Without Walls.

 

As the capital of the Silla Dynasty that lasted almost a thousands years throughout Korea’s history, Gyeongju has many national treasures to see, which you can even incorporate into your exercise regime. This hike is one for the history buffs, families, those that don’t particularly like hiking but have a very persuasive other half, well you get it. It’s a beautiful way to spend an afternoon in Gyeongju and you don’t have to be an athlete or a hardcore hiker to discover the charming beauty and sacred significance of Namsan.

“all you need to feel consumed by the vibrant nature of your surroundings”

Not too far from the city center, and you can be sure to be back in time for a well deserved pint. A cultural hike, Namsan nicknamed the “Museum without Walls” is full of interesting ancient shrines, relics, and Buddha carvings along the way. It’s a huge area of importance as with so many nobles, royals and people of importance throughout the Silla Dynasty (57BC – 935AD) have been laid to rest here, honored and respected through the natural beauty of the mountain, overlooking the city and surrounding barren land.

 

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You will find yourself stopping to take in the view quite a few times

 

You will find many routes and paths to take you to the top of the 494meter tall mountain, but if you’re anything like me then you’ll go off the beaten path and make your own way. With thousands of trees surrounding your walk, and some 40 valleys scattered throughout the mountain, the whispers of the water that accompanies you is all you need to feel consumed by the vibrant nature of your surroundings.

 

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Wishes made all over the mountain.

 

No matter how captivating an ancient artifact may be, if you must pay, queue and finally look upon the piece from a distance behind a red rope it just takes away the magic of the moment. That’s what makes Namsan such a fascinating place to discover. As you have everything at your finger tips, in perfect solitude, through unspoiled nature and historic treasures. Imagine stumbling across this beautiful relic, dating back a thousand years, perched pretty between the trees overlooking the city in all it’s glory. You should take full advantage of this unique historic hike, and enjoy the scenery along the way.

 

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Maitreya Buddha carving, etched into an 8 meter tall stone overlooking the city.

 

About half way up the mountain you may come across a temple site with a souvenir shop – talk about your commute to work. Take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking surroundings and drive on. This route is the most popular, but is also full of steps rather than a rugged hike through the wilderness, so it’s up to your personal preference which way to go, but whatever you decide you won’t be disappointed. Plenty to ponder on while you make your way to the top, and plenty photo opportunities along the way.

 

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The view from the half way pitstop.

 

There are meant to be over 100 temples, 80 stone Buddha statues and 60 pagodas to stumble on as you also take in the beauty of the mountain itself. You won’t find all this in one hike, but you will find enough to feed your curiosity. At the west side of the mountain you’ll come across Najeong Well, the mythic birthplace of the founder of the Silla Dynasty – Kind Park Hyeokgeose.

 

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Impressive Buddha on a floating lotus

 

You can only imagine what the mountain has seen through the years. A historic site in the heart of Gyeongju, it is a true representative of the Silla Dynasty and therefore Korean history, culture and heritage.

 

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Came across a poor headless buddha on my travels.

 

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Enjoy it! It’s there for the taking – anytime of day free of charge. Take advantage of the beautiful nature around Gyeongju, and learn a bit of its past through one of the most sacred places of the city. You can’t say you explored Gyeongju without visiting Namsan, and you won’t want to.

Getting there: take bus 11 to Samneung Tombs from the bus terminal (about 10 minutes).

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