Number 111, 113 and 116 public buses in Yeosu, South Korea, take you to Hyangiram Hermitage, perilously perched on a rock above the sea, for just 1100 won. But that’s not the best part. The half-hour bus ride winds past wildflowers, rice fields and windswept coastal cliffs in a picturesque part of Korea that is way off the tourist map.
Yeosu, in Korea’s south-western Jeollanam province, recently got connected by KTX bullet train thanks to its role as host of the International Expo in 2012. But for many years, the sleepy seaside town has evaded visitors because of its distance from Seoul, Busan and other major cities.
If you arrive in Yeosu by the Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll be able to get a direct bus to Hyangiram Hermitage (No. 111, 113 or 116). Whatever it is, get a window seat! After leaving Yeosu town proper via the Dolsan bridge, the bus reaches Dolsan island, where you can see rural Korea.
On the second leg of the journey, the bus takes you along a winding coastal road. Those prone to motion sickness might want to pop a pill – otherwise, enjoy the sea breeze and stunning scenery. The bus route hugs the coastline for a while, creating great photo opportunities if you set the shutter speed high enough.
The temple is not visible from the bus stop, so tell the driver you want to get off at Hyangiram (향일암) if you don’t know where to stop. From the bus stop, head into the village and walk uphill. On the way, watch the ajummas (aunties or married women) cleaning out the local seafood.
Hyangiram looks like it could resist an invasion from all the samurai in Japan. Fat people should give this trip a miss. Seriously.
The Buddhist shrine at the top is pretty simple, nothing spectacular if you’ve already seen one of Korea’s grand temples, such as in Gyeongju. Nonetheless, a quiet retreat from the city. Make the hike to the top for a view that will take your breath away.
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