1 Temple thrill Bulguksa Temple's ancient stones hide the secrets of thousands of years of Silla culture. The Silla dynasty (57BC to AD935) vanquished the kingdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje to unify the Korean peninsula, ushering in a cultural golden age. Set on the slopes of Mount Tohamsan, this temple was built in AD528 during the reign of King Beop-heung (AD514-540). Although most of the wooden buildings have been rebuilt, it's a thrill to stumble across the ancient stone bridges, stairways and pagodas that have survived the ravages of time. The wooden buildings were burned down during the Imjinwaeran war and were renovated count- less times throughout the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910) periods. Today, the temple is the sacred home of many of Gyeongju's cultural relics, including the Seokgatap and Dabotap stone pagodas ( www.bulguksa.or.kr ). 2 Serene setting Climb Mount Tohamsan at dawn to meditate at the tranquil Seokguram Grotto. Dating to the same period as the Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram is an artificial granite creation said to be the world's oldest Buddhist grotto. Inside, you're drawn to a striking statue of Buddha sitting on a lotus throne. It's surrounded by carved granite statues and bas reliefs of eight ancient Indian gods, four heavenly guardians, bodhisattvas and Buddha's disciples. In the past, this temple provided shelter for meditating monks. 3 Royal resting places Discover blue-blood secrets at the ancient resting places of Daereungwon Tomb Park, where Silla royalty were buried with their jewellery, household goods and other treasures in a similar style to that of Egypt's pharaohs. From the outside, these 23 tombs resemble round grassy mounds. The Cheonmachong tomb is open to the public and contains the only Silla painting in the country, of a flying horse. Painted on a saddle flap of white birch bark, the shamans believed this painting had magical qualities that would ease the journey to the afterlife. When Cheonma-chong was excavated, 11,500 artefacts, including a gold crown, were retrieved. Some of these are displayed at the tomb, and others can be found at the Gyeongju National Museum. 4 Rare relics The museum is a repository of Silla kingdom relics and a showcase of imperial life from a long-gone era. The main hall displays artefacts and earthenware, including many items from prehistoric times. The Art Hall has treasures such as golden crowns, silver and gold ornaments, belts and jewellery excavated from the many Silla tombs in the area. The Anapji Hall contains relics such as a pair of bronze dragon heads found at the Anapji palace pond. Gukeun Memorial Hall exhibits pottery and wooden and bronze artefacts belonging to private collector Lee Yang-seon. 5 Star gazers Asia's oldest astronomical observatory was constructed during the reign of Queen Seon-deok (632-647). Astronomers of the period used this bottle-shaped stone structure to observe the stars and to forecast weather patterns. It was built with 362 stones to represent the number of days that were then thought to constitute the lunar year. 6 Time out With five super-deluxe hotels, a convention centre, a casino, golf courses, shopping areas and dining facilities, the Bomun Lake Resort is the best place to find a comfortable bed. Although many of the hotels provide contemporary western-style amenities, some of the other facilities are housed in charming old Korean buildings. From April to January you'll find free performances of traditional Korean music at the Bomun Outdoor Performance Hall. Located in the resort is Gyeongju World, an amusement park with 3-D movies, swimming pools, slides, hot springs, sporting facilities and rides. The area bustles on the first Saturday in April, when runners from around the world arrive for the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon ( www.ktd.co.kr ). 7 Underwater tomb The best time to visit the underwater resting place of one of the great Silla kings is on December 31, during the Gyeongju King Munmu Sunrise Festival. Locals perform traditional kite-flying demonstrations and display a colourful range of local crafts, food and drink. The sound of giant drums and a brilliant display of fireworks provide a boisterous welcome for the new year. Legend has it that King Munmu promised his people that when he died, he would turn into a dragon to protect the Silla kingdom from Japanese invaders. Historians debate whether the remains of the king were scattered on the ocean or buried at the bottom of a small pool on one of the rocky islands near the shore ( www.tour2korea.com ). 8 Moonlight tours Tour Gyeongju's temples and pagodas under the cloak of darkness. Traditional dances, gentle music and moonlight tea ceremonies complete the mystical experience. Soak up more of the Silla magic by strolling through the fairyland of the Anapji pond gardens. Brightly illuminated pagodas cast reflections on a calm lake, and carefully positioned spotlights slice across the landscape. Built by King Munmu, the gardens were once part of his palace grounds. Thirty thousand treasures, including roof tiles, earthenware, metallic handicrafts and images of the Buddha, were excavated from the pond and are on display at the Gyeongju National Museum. 9 Travel in time A visit to the inhabited Joseon-dynasty Yangdong folk village reveals tiled roofs, low stone walls, elderly couples tending their vegetable gardens and traditional houses up to 500 years old. Founded by the Wolseong Son clan and Yeogang Yi clan, the village maintains the ambience of its cultural past and is a pleasure to explore ( www.gyeongju.co.kr ). 10 Traditional games Toss an arrow into a narrow jug in an exciting game of tuho. Be propelled into the air in a neoldduigi see-sawing competition. Wrestle your opponent in a ssireum match. Join an archery class or try your skill at yutnori, a traditional Korean board game played with wooden sticks. These are just some of the traditional pastimes you can find in the area, and you can participate at the Banwolseong Fortress from 10am to 5pm every day.