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Woljeongsa Temple: Spend the night in a South Korean landmark

Kate Springer, CNNPublished 20th February 2018
(CNN) — This month's PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games has thrust South Korea's quiet Gangwon Province, northeast of Seoul, into the limelight.
Despite the current flurry of activity, the area is actually best known for its peaceful scenery, from snow-capped peaks to stunning waterfalls.
Best embodying this slower-paced way of life is the famous Woljeongsa Temple.
Located in a fir pine forest inside Odaesan National Park, the Goryeo Dynasty-era (918-1392 CE) Buddhist complex welcomes visitors from all over the world to join its temple stay programs.
"(The temples) have a culture of healing, where many ordinary people in the world can come here and heal their minds through meditation," Tai Woo Jeong Nyum, head monk of Woljeongsa Temple, tells CNN Travel.

About the temple

A peek inside Woljeongsa Temple.
A peek inside Woljeongsa Temple.
Dan Tham/CNN
Less than three hours away from Seoul by train, the temple is one of the most accessible -- and important -- sites of Korean Buddhism.
Established in 643 CE by a Silla Dynasty monk named Jajang, the Woljeongsa Temple was destroyed in the Korean War in the early 1950s, but later rebuilt to capture its original grandeur.
Woljeongsa is actually a complex made up of more than 60 temples, 22 pagodas and eight monasteries that are peppered about the mountains.
Surrounded by nature, it features traditional Buddhist architecture -- picture brightly colored motifs, winged roof eaves and spacious courtyards.
The monks here practice Jogye Buddhism, established in Korea more than 1,000 years ago, which emphasizes chamseon -- essentially meditation as a way to achieve inner peace.

A stay with monks

The temple stay program gives travelers a chance to learn about the monastic lifestyle.
The temple stay program gives travelers a chance to learn about the monastic lifestyle.
Today, the area is not just reserved for practicing monks, but travelers can stay in one of 15 guestrooms by booking on the temple's website.
The immersive program is aimed at those who are interested in learning about the monastic lifestyle, Buddhism and chamseon.
The experience promotes spiritual well-being through various activities, including tea with a monk, a workshop to craft traditional prayer beads and a walk through the dense fir pine forest.
"With the peaceful atmosphere of the mountain and the different views and scenery (that change with the seasons), Odae Mountain is a very peaceful place that makes every day feel like another new day," says head monk Tai Woo.
Whether you're keen to study Korean Buddhist theory or simply looking for a unique retreat, a temple stay is a chance to reset your mind, practice meditation, and soak up the mountain scenery.
Woljeongsa Temple, 374-8, Odaesan-ro, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do; +82 33-339-6800
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