Dive Deeper into South Korean Buddhist Culture with a Temple Stay

Roaming the open grounds of a sacred temple during an afternoon offers a short respite from the chaos of everyday life. But for a more grounding, immersive experience, consider a Korean temple stay.

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About temple stays in South Korea

Many Buddhist temples in South Korea offer these cultural programs, where participants experience the life of Buddhist monks by engaging in daily monastic activities. This includes Temple Stays where you can spend one or more nights in a Korean Buddhist temple.

All temple stay programs differ slightly, but typically run for a weekend or a quick overnight, (longer if requested). You can attend solo, with a small group of friends, and, at certain times of the year, with children during family stays. 

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The information below is an example of how programming may look, using a recent stay at Magoksa Temple as a guide. This 1000-year-old temple is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is situated in the Taehwasan Mountain range in Gongju, a location believed to have powerful pungsu (feng shui).

Magoksa

Magoksa0

041-841-6221

Copy and paste phone numbers into Naver Maps to get directions

Hangul Address

충남 공주시 사곡면 마곡사로 966

(Listing information provided by the South of Seoul app)

Before any temple visit, it’s important to read up on basic etiquette

What to expect during your temple stay

Upon arrival at a Korean temple stay, you will be given temple clothing to wear during the duration of your stay. It is expected to wear this uniform for all activities, including meals, ceremonies while hiking on temple grounds, and additional programming. This is followed by a brief orientation explaining what is expected during your stay and the proper cultural nuances of temple life. You will then be guided to your accommodations, a simple room within the temple buildings with two blankets – one for sleeping on and one for covering – and a small pillow.  

Sample programming for a weekend temple stay

The daily schedule for monks begins with a wake-up at 4:00 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. 

*Note all programming is optional. You are not required to participate, but it’s highly recommended for the full experience. All meals are vegetarian and included in the temple stay pricing. 

Friday: 

  • Arrive by 5 p.m. for welcome and orientation
  • 5:30-6 p.m.: Dinner
  • 6:30 p.m.: Evening ceremony followed by meditation

Saturday:

  • 4:30 a.m.: Morning ceremony
  • 5-6 a.m.: Meditation
  • 6:30-7 a.m.: Breakfast
  • 9:30-11:30 a.m.: Accompany a monk on a hike, or tour of the grounds
  • 11:30 a.m.: Lunch
  • 12-1:30 p.m.: Free time. 
  • 1:30 p.m.: Cultural activity, lantern making, creating a Buddhist rosary, etc. 
  • 3-5:30 p.m.: Free time
  • 5:30 p.m.: Dinner
  • 6:30-7:30 p.m.: Evening ceremony and meditation

Sunday: 

  • 4:30 a.m.: Morning ceremony
  • 5-6 a.m.: Meditation
  • 6:30-7 a.m.: Breakfast
  • 7-9:30 a.m.: Free time
  • 9:30-10:30 a.m.: Tea ceremony. Sip tea while conversing with a monk. This allows for an open dialogue to ask any questions you may have. You will also create a beaded bracelet.  
  • 11:30 a.m.: Lunch
  • 12 p.m.: Check Out 

What to bring to a temple stay  

  • A light layer of clothes that can be changed for under the temple clothing (only one set of temple clothing is provided).
  • Extra pad/pillow and blankets if you require more padding for sleeping. 
  • Extra socks: Inside temple buildings, you must wear socks.
  • Slip-on footwear for ease of taking on and off to enter buildings.
  • Hiking shoes.
  • Towel and all toiletries.
  • 220 plug for your smart phone. 
  • Snacks if needed.
  • Padlock for your room (optional). 

What NOT to bring to a Temple Stay  

  • Alcohol or tobacco.
  • Meat snacks. 
  • Revealing clothing. 

Where to find a temple stay

A list of temples that allow foreign visitors exists here

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