Gyeongju: The Pearl of South Korea

Last weekend I took a solo trip to a beautiful Korean city called Gyeongju.  It is located 40 km from the South Eastern coast of South Korea. It’s about a 2 hour KTX (bullet train) ride from Seoul.

Over the last year, I’ve traveled to dozens of cities in Korea, and I found Gyeongju to be the most representative of Korean culture.  It’s no surprise that several of the temples and landmarks are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

For a brief history lesson, Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, which ruled two thirds of the Peninsula (from 7th-9th Centuries).   Many cultural sites from this time period still remain today, which is why Gyeongju is the culture capital of the country.  You can find several ancient & famous temples, tombs, and landmarks scattered around the city.  

I was very surprised by the beauty and peacefulness that Gyeongju had to offer.  There are no high rise apartment complexes (contrary to all other cities in Korea), which preserves the historical beauty of the landscape.  Most all buildings that do exist have classic Korean architectural rooftops.  In addition, nearly all restaurants offertraditional Korean cuisines, with fresh BBQ and a large assortment of even fresher side dishes.

The people around Gyeongju are very friendly.  One woman stopped me on the street and invited me into her small restaurant (as seen in photo). I nodded in agreement, and she cooked me one of the most amazing meals of my life. She sat down with me and we spoke korean for about 20 minutes. I was so happy.



Gyeongju is my favorite city that I’ve been to in South Korea thus far, and I absolutely recommend a visit here during your time in Korea.  I mean, even the taxi cabs say “Gyeongju is Korea.” 

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Don’t miss out on these top 5 must-do things around Gyeongju! 

1. Anapji Pond

The Anapji Temple and pond was my favorite thing in Gyeongju.  This entire area was part of the palace complex of the ancient Silla Dynasty (57 BC-935 BC) constructed by King Munmu.  You must go here at night to see an incredible display of the temple reflection over the water.  The colors are mind blowingly vivid!  Seriously, this was one of the most beautiful scenes that I’ve ever seen.  The gates close at 9:30, so make sure to get there before then!


2. Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa is the biggest and most famous temple in South Korea. It’s a masterpiece.   The temple itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it contains seven national treasures of South Korea and two gilt-bronze statues of Buddha.  The entire temple complex is massive- you can walk around it for hours. What impressed me most was how clean and well-kept it was.  Bulguksa is such an impressive temple that you must see in Gyeongju!


3. Seokguram Grotto

This grotto became a world heritage site in 1995. After you hike up a steep mountain (Mount Tohamsan) for abot 10-20 minutes, you will enter a cave in the middle of the mountain.  Inside of the cave is an amazing Buddha made of stone.  It’s considered worldwide as one of the most significant Buddhist shrines.  You aren’t allowed to take photos and the Buddha is now behind a glass to protect it’s beauty.   You can’t miss this!

4. Gyeongju National Park

If you like to go hiking, then take a visit to the National Park.  There are several hiking trails that will take you into the mountains (from beginner to advanced).   The park also has many historic Silla sites that you can check out.  If the weather is nice, then go here to hang out and relax and take in the sweet Gyeongju atmosphere.


5. Tumali Park

Tumali park is so perfect that it looks like straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.  The park consists of three royal tombs, that are shaped like domes or mounds on planet earth.  The grass is super green and just magnificent.  This is the ultimate park to walk around and be amazed by the beauty that you see in front of your eyes.

I hope you enjoy the Peal of South Korea! If you have any additional questions, please contact me!

9 thoughts on “Gyeongju: The Pearl of South Korea

  1. Have to agree with you! It’s my favourite place in Korea too! Was fortunate enough to live there for 3 years and when I returned to Kimchi Land I got placed in Andong… but it’s nothing like Gyeongju.
    Great summary of some of the best spots in Gyeongju!

      1. You’re welcome – really enjoyed it! Lived there from October 2009 to October 2012 and then moved to Andong in February of this year.

        1. Wow that’s so cool!!I’ve been here for 1.5 years and I love it. I am going to travel around Asia for about 6 months, then I plan on coming back to Korea!

          1. That’s awesome man! When does your trip start?
            I’m also planning something similar from March…but I’m not coming back 🙂

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