Perhaps the first red flag should have been the ordeal of getting on the bus. Seokguram Grotto is a 15 minute drive from Bulguksa and you can take the public bus to get there. Or at least that’s true in theory. The day we went was the Sunday of a holiday weekend and traffic was absolutely horrendous. It’s a tiny winding two-lane road up the mountain and it was backed up the whole way just waiting for cars to attempt to park, or turn around. We stood at the bus stop and saw the bus coming. It took an hour to get to where it could pick us up, and then was uncomfortably full (but I got a seat, thank goodness). Then it took an hour to drive up to Seokguram. I took a nice little nap on the way.
So we get in and buy our tickets (4000 Won) and then walk up this pretty mountain path.
Then we got to the end of the line. It was a pretty massive line. I went to the bathroom and bought postcards while we were waiting. Eventually you get to some stairs to take you to the grotto which is built into the mountainside.
The line up to the grotto took an hour. Let’s recap. That’s a total of 3 hours to get a look at this thing. Inside is a large Buddha statue. Here’s a picture – oh, wait, NO, you can’t take pictures inside. Also, due to the big line we were ushered through quickly. So that’s a 3 hour wait to look at a somewhat interesting statue for about 1 minute. You come out the other side, and I could see how you’d get into the grotto itself (also, the public viewing area is walled off from the grotto by glass) but it’s all gated up.
At least the view is nice.
But you can’t even sit down.
The only redeeming quality of our visit to Seokguram Grotto was the hike back down to Bulguksa Temple. It’s only a couple of kilometers on foot, but it’s quite steep.
However, it is a nice hike through a shady forest path.
My advice would be to skip Seokguram Grotto – just look up a picture online, it’ll be more impressive. It’s definitely not worth the wait – I wish I hadn’t wasted 3 hours on it…