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Travel Guide Budget and Itinerary for Gyeongju, Korea

Gyeongju was the former capital of ancient Korea's Silla Kingdom, ruling around 2/3 of the country during its heyday. It was a prosperous kingdom for almost 1000 years and reached its peak from the 7th to 9th century. With these bits of information, I decided to spend a few nights in this ancient city. I was also looking for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the big city (I stayed in Busan for a few days).



Guide

I visited Tongdosa and Beomeosa in Busan before boarding the bus bound for Gyeongju. I didn't have a ticket yet, but the buses were frequent so I wasn't in a hurry to return. I arrived at night and had no idea how to get to my accommodation other than the address I had. I decided to just take a taxi because I just didn't want to walk anymore. I took the first one that agreed to take me.

We got lost for a few minutes because the driver didn't know where my hostel was even if he was using his GPS. He decided to take me to the police station, which proved to be a good idea. I was about to pay him but he said I didn't have to because he was unable to take me to my destination. It was a good start to my trip to Gyeongju. The policemen were nice enough to show me a map and directions of how to reach Guest House Santa.

Things to Do

Burial Mounds




One of the things you'll notice while exploring the city are the small hills within its confines. These are burial mounds of those that lived during the Silla Kingdom. Some of these are for royalty while others are unknown. One mound is open where you can see displays of relics from a bygone era. This area is a part of UNESCO's World Heritage List under Gyeongju Historic Areas.

This was close to where I was staying, I just walked to here and then went to Cheomseongdae afterwards.

Entrance Fee: KRW3000

Cheomseongdae




This observatory's name translates into "star gazing." It is one of the oldest surviving observatories in Asia. It dates back to the 7th century during the reign of the Silla Kingdom. It's not impressive upon first glance, it stands just over 9m high. But think of all the centuries and kingdoms it has outlived and you'll be impressed. This is a part of UNESCO's World Heritage List under Gyeongju Historic Areas.

This destination is a short walk form the burial mounds.

Entrance Fee: Free

Wolji Pond





This destination was part of the ancient Silla Kingdom's palace complex that dates back to 674. This attraction has a display of the relics dug up from its area. I went in the morning and was surprised that nobody else was there. I found out that most visitors go at night when the structures inside are lit up. This is a part of UNESCO's World Heritage List under Gyeongju Historic Areas.

This attraction is near the observatory, I just walked to here during my stay in Gyeongju.

Entrance Fee: KRW3000




Bulguksa Temple








This UNESCO-listed destination is a head temple of Korean Buddhism's Jogye Order. The temple has undergone numerous renovations over the centuries. The complex is huge with a number of beautiful Buddhist structures throughout. It is also a popular tourist destination, meaning that it can get crowded here in the morning.

Entrance Fee: KRW5000

How to go: From Gyeongju Station or Intercity Bus Terminal, board buses 10 or 11 to the temple.

Seokguram




This is another UNESCO-listed destination you can visit while in Gyeongju. I hiked all the way to here from Bulguksa. The trail was easy, it was autumn so the weather was just right with a bit of autumn foliage in some parts of the mountain. This destination is a national treasure of Korea and is an ideal example of Buddhist sculpture. It's a very small attraction with not much to see. You'll have to look through a glass enclosure to see the grotto. You can't take pictures inside. It was underwhelming since I've seen bigger and more majestic grottoes in different parts of China. You can skip this one, if you're not really interested in Buddhist relics.

Entrance Fee: KRW5000

How to go: You can take bus 10 or 11 to Bulguksa from the Intercity Bus Terminal. From Bulguksa, I hiked to Seokguram and it took around an hour one way. I took the bus going back down from the grotto.

Yangdong Village





This traditional visit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a good half day trip from Gyeongju City. It was founded by Son So and has a history that dates back to the 15th century. The traditional homes blend in with the beautiful natural setting. Get a glimpse of how Koreans used to live while exploring this village.

Entrance Fee: KRW4000

How to go: From Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, board bus 203 to go to the village directly.

Seongdong Market


Octopus tentacles on display!


Food galore



Seongdong is the largest traditional market in the city. I explored for a while to feel the daily hustle and bustle of locals buying food and other things they need. There's a bunch of seafood, apparel, food and others sold here, typical Asian market, reminded me of home. I bought some local snacks and tried some of the food sold at one of the stalls.

Getting Around

Gyeongju is a small city; the attractions are within walking distance to each other such as the burial mounds, the observatory, Wolji Pond and even the market. The only time I took the bus was when I went to Bulguksa, Seokguram and Yangdong Village and on my way back from these destinations. The city buses are convenient to use if you want to reach places faster. There are also many taxis to take you wherever you want to go.



How to Go to Gyeongju

From Busan

It's easy to go to Gyeongju; I was in already in Busan which was around an hour to this ancient city. The bus fare was KRW5400 one way. The station is already in the city center which was a convenient option for me.

From Seoul

The fastest and most expensive option is to take the KTX from Seoul Station to Singyeongju Station, fare is around KRW40000 and the trip takes around 2 hours. Once in Singyeongju Station, you'll have to board a bus to the city center. You can board buses 50, 60, 61, 70, 203 and 700. You can use your T-Money or Cash Bee card to pay the fare.

You also have the option to take the bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. The fare is around KRW20400 and takes just under 4 hours one way.

From Incheon Airport

There is a direct bus from Incheon Airport, if you don't want the hassle of going to Seoul first then taking the train or taking another bus. The bus takes approximately 5 hours to reach Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal. The fare is around KRW39000+++.

As a Day Trip

You can visit Gyeongju as a day trip from Busan.

  • Gyeongju UNESCO Sites Day Trip from Busan - This tour starts in Busan and takes you to Gyeongju's UNESCO Sites such as Yangdong Village, Bulguksa and Seokguram, it also includes a stop at Anapji (Wolji Pond).


Where to Go Next

Daegu



Daegu is an underrated destination that doesn't get as much attention as other cities in South Korea. It's a livable city near the mountains and has a couple of attractions. It can also serve as a base for day trips to Gayasan and Haeinsa. You can take the bus to Daegu for just KRW5600 one way.

Busan



This chill, coastal city is my favorite destination in South Korea. It's cheap and easy to go around and the attractions are noteworthy. You can take the bus from Gyeongju to here.

Seoul



The capital of South Korea is a sprawling city with plenty to see and do. It's very cosmopolitan and convenient to explore. You can go here directly from Gyeongju by bus or KTX.

Link to my first trip (2016): Seoul trip

Where to Stay

I spent a few days in Guest House Santa in the main pedestrian area of Gyeongju. Its location is convenient and within walking distance to many shops, restaurants and bus stops. It is also within walking distance to the burial mounds, observatory and Wolji Pond.

If you're looking for more options, you can check dates and availability.




Budget

*Everything's in Korean Won

40250 - Food and drinks
9000 - Miscellaneous
5000 - Entrance to Bulguksa
5000 - Entrance to Seokguram
6700 - Transportation
3000 - Entrance to burial mounds
3000 - Entrance to Wolji Pond
4000 - Entrance to Yangdong Folk Village
5600 - Bus to Daegu
25300 - 3 nights in Guest House Santa          

106850 - Total

You could reduce or increase your expenses depending on where you stay, how much and where you eat and if you plan to see the attractions within Gyeongju. Many tourists just go on a day trip here from either Busan or Seoul, but I decided to stay for a few days. I'd recommend to spend at least two full days to see the historic sites in the city and Bulguksa and/or Yangdong Village.




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