UNESCgo: South Korea’s World Heritage Sites, part 2: beyond Seoul

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Part 1 covered the UNESCO sites in the greater Seoul region.

Be careful not to trip over the history in Gyeongju in the southeast, known as the ‘museum without walls.’ Effectively the entire city is encompassed in the Gyeongju Historic Area UNESCO site (UNESCO listing, WHT 360-degree photo). This is THE Korean culture one-stop shop. Closest airports are Busan (Pusan) or Ulsan, both a hour bus ride away. Direct buses provide connections throughout the country, including Seoul. Rail to Busan is also an option, South Korea’s excellent rail network having many options at different price/speed classes of service.

Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (UNESCO listing, WHT 360-degree photo) are also in Gyeonju and it is inexcusable to miss them. The great Buddhist grottoes of the world are some of humanity’s most beautiful creations.

Hahoe and Yangdong Villages are a recent (2010) addition (UNESCO listing) and The Rapid Traveler has not visited them. Yangdong is close to Gyeongju, a 40-minute bus ride in the Pohang direction, so worth consideration if in the neighborhood. Hahoe is in the middle of the country near Andong, more off the typical tourist circuit.

Yangdong, Gyeongju, South Korea

Yangdong Village, photo by yeowatzup

Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (UNESCO listing) is one of the most dear sites in the world to The Rapid Traveler. The scenery and buildings are unremarkable, but the story of these 81,340 wooden printing blocks, created to fend off Mongol invaders, preserved to this day, is inspiring. Seeing the blocks resting on their shelves is deeply tranquil. When The Rapid Traveler visited they were making prints from a block and his print is one of his most prized travel records. Access is by bus from Daegu.


Haeinsa, photo by Tim Brown Architecture

Finally, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, South Korea’s honeymoon playground (UNESCO listing). Jeju is serviced by frequent flights and ferries from several ports. Jeju is far enough north that the weather has all four seasons, so plan accordingly.

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