Palgonsan is the biggest and most popular mountain just 20km northeast of Deagu to visit. It has beautiful hiking trails leading to it’s three peaks – Biribong, Dongbong and Seobong. The highest point of the mountain stands at 1,192 meters. The views of the landscape beyond the mountain are breathtaking any time of year and you’ll never find it without the company of curious visitors exploring all that there is on offer throughout the national park.The natural mountain park has renowned historical sites due to its cultural significance throughout Korean history, dating back thousands of years. Donghwasa, Pagyesa and Buinsa Temple are beautiful Buddhist monasteries nestled in the mountain that greet you on your hike, and the most famous point of the mountain is of course Gatbawi.
Gatbawi is a prominent 13ft stone Buddha that draws people from all over the country to its feet. The sophisticated stone carving of the 9th century Silla Dynasty received its name from the flat slab of rock (named ‘bawi’) on its head that looks like a traditional Korean hat (named ‘gat’).
The statue is standing tall at 850 meters above sea level with incredible views of the mountain park and it’s green outskirts far beyond your site. Legend has it that the Buddha statue will grant you one wish in your lifetime if it’s sincere, and many people travel to visit Gatbawi to make their wishes comes true.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can take a drive through the mountain park to visit the cultural sites such as Bangjja Brassware Museum, that is home to thousands of bronze artifacts and the first museum of its kind in Korea. There is a meditation center, beautiful buildings with information on Buddhism, art and the history of Korea that gives you a good taste of the country and what it represents.
The people working at Palgonsan Natural Park have truly made a conscious effort to keep the mountain alive, and to spread its significance to the people of Korea. The mountain has seen and heard from many important figure heads throughout history. Buinsa temple is connected with the life of Silla Queen Seodeok, as well as being the shelter for the woodblocks of the first Tripitaka Koreana carved during the Goryeo Period.
There were numerous Kings of the Silla Dynasty that made their mark on the mountain, including King Seol Chong who in fact created Silla’s writing system, and the Goryeo monk Yi Hwang who wrote the oldest remaining history book in Korea and other figures including calligraphers, poets and writers from the Joseon Dynasty.
The mountain park has copious amounts of trails and challenges, cultural sites and national treasures to keep you busy on a leisurely Sunday, or to get your blood racing to reach one of the peaks. With its importance throughout history that is very much still evident today, and the culture seeping from its roots, it makes for a noteworthy visit for all types.
You can follow Elaina on her adventures here.