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Pilgrimage to Korea with Chi Kwang Sunim

Pilgrimage to Korea with Chi Kwang Sunim

per person

The Buddha’s Birthday festival in Seoul, South Korea, is one of the highlights of our visit to this beautiful country. We will take part in temple celebrations, Buddha blessings and the washing of the baby Buddha. We’ll be awed by colourful lanterns, attend the grand Buddha’s Birthday parade, visit city temple sand enjoy a Buddha’s birthday celebration that you won’t forget.

Also called the ‘Festival of Lanterns’, it is a public holiday as well as a time of celebration for the 23% of the South Korean population who are Buddhist. A 1300-year-old tradition celebrating the life and enlightenment of Buddhism’s founder Gautama and lantern lighting brighten the hearts of the participants as well as brightening the world.

After the celebrations we will head south to Tongdosa where the ‘Buddha Temple’ of Korea houses the relics of the Buddha. Next, we will visit the ancient city of Gyeongju with its tombs, temples, rock carvings and pagodas. We will also visit Bulguksa, the oldest temple and Seokguram Grotto, the most famous Stone Buddha in Korea.Then on the way to Songgwangsa, we will visit Hadong in the Jiri Mountains to experience the heart of Korean tea culture as well as visiting a traditional market. We will then travel on to Songgwangsa where Ven. Chi Kwang Sunim lived for many years. Here we will retreat for a few days and experience the life of Korea’s monks and Seon (Zen Masters). Our last destination is the beautiful coastal city of Busan.







Return airfares not included  – we will advise


12 days, 11 nights


  • Attend the Lotus Lantern Festival and explore the traditional and new cultures of Seoul
  • Visit the significant temples of Jogye-sa,Unmunsa, Tongdosa, Seokguram and Bulguksa
  • Explore the ancient city of Gyeongju with its tombs, temples, rock carvings and pagodas
  • Experience a temple stay at Songgwangsa
  • Visit Jiri Mountain and the heart of the Korean tea tradition
  • Explore beautiful Busan city


Seoul – Tongdosa – Gyeongju – Unmunsa – Hadong – Songgwangsa – Busan, South Korea


Tour Leaders:


Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim

Ven.Chi Kwang Sunim is an ordained Zen Buddhist nun of 40 years. She spent 20 years in South Korean mountain monasteries, cultivating Seon (Zen) meditation in Songgwangsa, under the renowned master Kusan and later with other masters. She also studied sutras under her nun teacher, the venerated Bhikkhuni, Myongseong Sunim, the Proctor of Unmun Sa Temple. Since returning in 1998, Sunim has supported many Buddhist organisations as well as chairing some. She’s also known for her engagement with the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires in Kinglake and is still based there in her forest retreat as the leader of a small community. Along with an integrated Buddhist lifestyle, she enjoys biannual visits to Korea; visiting teachers, retreating & teachings young nuns.

Sharon Thrupp

Sharon Thrupp lived and worked in Dharamshala, home of the Dalai Lama, for the past 13 years. As a Buddhist, Sharon is passionate about leading pilgrimages to sacred sites in India and beyond. She has led many pilgrimages throughout India, Nepal and Japan including the Buddha’s Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Paths Japan. She is also involved in an Indian NGO which provides education and mentoring to underprivileged and marginalised school girls through the Indian Himalayan region. Sharon now lives back  Australia and regularly travels to India, Japan and other places of Pilgrimage.     In her spare time Sharon likes mindful creative writing, yoga and meditation.



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Tour Plan

Day 1
Arrive at Seoul International Airport
Welcome to Seoul! We will arrange to meet at the airport or at the hotel. Transfer to our hotel for the next 3 nights. No activities are planned so take the rest of the day to settle in or explore the local surrounds. Overnight: Seoul
Days 2-3
For the next two days we will join in with the Buddha’s Birthday celebrations, including lotus lantern making and the bathing of the Buddha ceremonies. We will also visit to Gyeongbok Palace, the Museum and National Gallery (in the Palace grounds) and wander through the cultural back streets of Seoul. We will go to the Jogye-sa Temple, headquarters of the largest Buddhist order in Korea, where some of the main celebrations are taking place. There will be a grand lantern parade through the city and colourful lotus lanterns covering the sky and you can make your own lantern. Displays, performances and celebrations will be held in temples and in the streets, so you will be able to join in the spirit of the two-day festivities. In the evening we will wander back to the hotel, when the city glows with candlelight. Stroll around and soak in the history of the palaces, streets and parks, the atmosphere of temples and chanting, the bright colours of lanterns and the extraordinary art and cultural world of this city. Overnight: Seoul
Day 4
Seoul–Tongdosa – Gyeongju
This morning we will take a fast train from Seoul to Taegu (2 hours), and then transfer to a mini bus to Tongdosa (approximately 1 hour). We will arrive in time to enjoy a traditional lunch at a restaurant in front of the main temple. After lunch, we will visit the Buddha Temple of Korea which houses the relics of the Buddha enshrined in a large stupa. There are many ancient buildings set in a peaceful landscape of a large river and pine trees. Tongdosa is the largest temple in Korea and is considered one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea. The ‘Buddha’ temple is famous for its lack of statues and is often called ‘the temple without a Buddha’. Instead the courtyards in the temple are structured around several pagodas and a large Buddhist altar facing an open window and the reliquary stupa. The legend holds that an eternal flame in the temple was supposedly kept alight or over 1300 years. In the afternoon we will leave for Gyeongju City. We will check into the hotel, rest and enjoy a dinner together then an evening walk in this beautiful ancient city or around the lake and gardens. Overnight: Gyeongju
Day 5
After breakfast, we will leave for a visit to Seokguram and the Bulguksa temple, which is the oldest temple and most famous Stone Buddha in Korea(UNESCO listed). Established in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, the Seokguram Grotto contains a monumental stone statue of the Buddha looking out to sea in the Bhumisparsha Mudra position. Surrounded with gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, all delicately sculpted in high and low stone relief, it’s said to be one of the greatest masterpieces of Buddhist art. Both Bulguksa (built in 774) and the Seokguram Grotto form a religious architectural complex of exceptional significance. Following a traditional lunch, we will spend the afternoon sightseeing in Gyeongju, including a visit to the city’s museum, one of the most famous in Korea and known as ‘the museum without walls’. Gyeongju is a beautiful ancient city with great historical value. It has more tombs, temples, rock carvings, pagodas, Buddhist statues and palace ruins, than any other place in South Korea. Most visitors are taken aback by the distinctive, low-lying urban centre, sculpted by astonishing and substantial round grassy tombs – called tumuli – as well as the traditional architecture, with colourful roofs set against a canvas of green rolling mountains. In the late afternoon we will return to the hotel for rest and dinner. Overnight: Gyeongju
Day 6
Today we will head to Unmunsa, located on the southernmost part of the Taebaek Mountains, one hour north of Busan. It was originally built in the 6th Century, and through the efforts of Myongseong Sunim grew to be the largest training centre for nuns in South Korea since the late 1960’s. Some of our many highlights will be to enjoy wonderful Korean temple food and a traditional coffee ceremony. You will get to meet nuns and Chi Kwang Sunim’s teacher, Venerable Myongseong Sunim. You can take a walk through the temple’s parklands and beautiful gardens and stroll down to the village.Later we will join chanting ceremony with the nuns. In the early evening we will return to our hotel in Gyeongju. Overnight: Gyeongju
Day 7
Gyeongju – Hadong –Songgwangsa
Today we will sadly leave Gyeongju for Songgwangsa. We will stop at Hadong village at the foot of Mt. Jirisan (approximately 3 hour’s drive). After arriving we will walk through Hwagaejangteo Market (the traditional market) and look around Sangyesa Temple, before enjoyinglunch nearby. We will visit the tea centre in the village as well as a plantation and taste good green tea, which Hadong is famous for. Hadong is also known for its stunning scenery and boasts a reputation for its peaceful, friendly, and rural atmosphere. We will leave mid-afternoon for Songgwangsa (1 1/2 hours). When we arrive at the temple, we will settle in to the accommodation, with the rest of the evening at your leisure. Overnight: Songgwangsa
Day 8-9
We will spend the next three days taking part in a retreat where Chi Kwang Sunim lived for 15 years. Songgwangsa is the Sangha of Korea’s three jewel monasteries (the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha) along with Tongdosa and Haeinsa. It has produced 16 national teachers, a large number of highly learned Buddhist monks and laity of high moral character. Songgwangsa has a number of national treasures including the Hall of National Teachers and its many portraits. From 1972 until the late 90’s, people from around the world came to learn about Korean Buddhism, under renowned Master Kusan, in the Bulil International Buddhist centre in SKS. It has a Buddhist seminary for training monastic studying sutra, two meditation halls, a Vinaya school and a few hermitages, including ‘Inwol Am’ (Moon’s Seal), that Chi Kwang built and lived in. Some of the activities will include:
  • Practicing Korean Zen meditation in the meditation hall
  • Visiting hermitages in the surrounding mountains and meeting hermits, including Chi Kwang’s hermitage
  • Making green tea and enjoying monastic stories whilst sharing tea
  • Meeting a Zen master
  • Eating temple food and joining in the temple services
Overnight: Songgwangsa
Day 10
Songgwangsa – Busan
Today we will leave Songgwangsa and head to Busan (two and a half hours drive). Spend the rest of the day relaxing in the hotel or visiting places near the hotel. Busanis a large port city in South Korea known for its beaches, mountains, temples and shopping. Overnight: Busan  
Day 11
Today you will have a day of leisure to wander around this beautiful city or you may like tovisit Bomosa temple and its hermitages(Chi Kwang lived in a hermitage here for a year). You can also visit Haeundae beach orthe Tongnae hot springs with their vast array of baths.There are also day tours that show you the highlights of the city. Overnight: Busan
Day 12
Tour Ends
The tour ends after breakfast. You can either depart from Busan International Airport or catch a fast train back to Seoul for your departure. We hope you enjoyed your pilgrimage and we hope to see you again soon.


  • Fully accompanied by Ven.Chi Kwang and Sharon Thrupp
  • Met as a group at Seoul Airport or Hotel if not travelling with group
  • 8 nights’ accommodation with complimentarybreakfast
  • 3 nights’ templestay (including all meals)at Songgwangsa
  • Transportation between locations – fast train Seoul to Taegu
  • Bus and driver for 5 days from Taegu to Busan
  • Welcome and farewell dinners in Seoul and Busan
  • Entrance fees and gifts (made on behalf of the group)
  • Price includes $300 per person as a donation for Seon Centre


  • International airfares
  • Visas
  • Lunch & dinner (where not specified in the itinerary)
  • Travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Occasional optional items not identified in itinerary description
  • Tipping and personal expenses
  • Personal donations
  • Bottled waterand other beverages not included with meals
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