Exploring North Korea

This unique opportunity to explore the areas of North Korea that have only just opened to international tourism in the last few years is absolutely unmissable. Most visitors to North Korea say their experiences were the most surreal experiences of their life.

Cross the border from China into the northern provinces of the DPRK and discover the land of Juche philosophy. Visit revolutionary sites and monuments to the country’s illustrious leaders, explore an ancient Buddhist temple and plunge into the stunning mountainous scenery for a chance to see rural life and even stay with a local family. Chat in English with school children, be treated to traditional performances and enjoy authentic North Korean dishes. Enter the middle ground of Rason’s Special Economic Zone to see foreign trade ships and to pick up souvenirs in the only market open to foreign tourists before heading back to China with a new impression of the DPRK. 

Highlights: 

Hike in mountains and enjoy views and vistas that were previously inaccessible. 

Cook, eat, laugh and stay with a local family in the DPRK’s only homestay. 

Explore a Buddhist temple to catch a rare glimpse of North Korea’s ancient history. 

Go bargain-hunting for unique souvenirs in the only market open to tourists in North Korea. 

Itinerary:

Day 1 Hoeryong

The adventure begins at Tumen in China, the crossing point into the DPRK. Walk across the footbridge, through immigration and into Namyang in North Korea. From here, take a drive through the small and beautiful Onsong Country to reach Wanjae and its monument to Kim Il Sung and his Juche philosophy. Finally, head to Hoeryong, a city only open to international visitors since 2013 and the birthplace of Kim Jong Il’s mother, Kim Jong Suk. Bed down for the night after some local food and entertainment at the Hoeryong Hotel.

Day 2 Chong Jin

Explore Hoeryong and visit the park and monument erected in honor of Kim Jong Suk. There’s the chance to take a tour of a local school and talk with students enthusiastic to practice their English. In the afternoon, drive to the DPRK’s third-largest city, Chongjin, on the coast. Explore this important industrial port city: see the statue of Kim Il Sung and the revolutionary museum. Check out the DPRK’s intranet system at the library and be treated to a traditional performance by the children at the Steelworks Kindergarten before checking into the Chongjin Tourist Hotel. In the evening, there’s dinner at the hotel followed by drinks and billiards with the locals at the Chongjin Seaman’s Club.

Day 3 Mount Chilbo

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before heading up into the stunning Chilbo mountain range, a protected nature reserve previously so inaccessible that even Kim Il Sung never ventured there. Take a hike and picnic amidst the gorgeous scenery and then it’s down to the coastal area to enjoy swimming or sailing in the crystal waters. In the evening, meet the local families who open their homes to host visitors for the night; this is the only homestay in all of the DPRK and an amazing opportunity to live, cook and share with the locals. Enjoy a traditional dinner and play games in the village before a peaceful and unique night’s sleep.

Day 4 Kyongsong

Continue exploring the inner and outer areas of Mount Chilbo with some relaxed hiking; experience the seldom glimpsed vistas from the mountain viewpoints and visit a rare example of ancient North Korean history, a Buddhist temple before lunch at the Outer Chilbo Hotel. In the afternoon, take a drive down to the natural spas of Kyongsong, stopping off at Kyongsong Fort on the way. Enjoy the benefits of the waters at Kyongsong and visit the house where the Kim family once stayed before getting a well-earned night’s sleep at the simple but comfortable Kyongsong Hot Spa Guesthouse.

Day 5 Rason

In the morning, head back to Chongjin via the revolutionary sites at Jipsam and Yombun, to see the production lines of a foodstuffs factory in action; try the foods and be entertained by the award-winning musicians of the factory band. In the afternoon, head into the Special Economic Zone of Rason in the northeast. Get your bearings in the city and see the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and share dinner and drinks in town before calling it a night at the Namsan Hotel.

Day 6 Rason

The first stop of the day is at the Golden Triangle Bank, the only place in the DPRK where foreign currency can be exchanged, for a talk about what makes the area an SEZ. See some local art at the gallery and the Kimilsungia flowers at the local hothouse, before sitting down to a lunch overlooking the city’s stadium. In the afternoon, explore the city’s coveted warm water port, where Chinese and Russian ships dock for trading, take a tour of a local school and spend time chatting in English with the students. Before heading back to the hotel, take a relaxing stroll in the pretty Hae’an seaside park.

Day 7 Rason

Start the day with a charming performance from the children at the local kindergarten, and then stock up on souvenirs and postcards from the gift shop and the local market; this is the only North Korean market open to international shoppers and a great place to shop and barter with the locals and pick up unique mementos. After lunch, take a tour around some local shoe and textile factories to see the production process.

Day 8 China

For your last morning in Rason, you’ll head to the coast to see the birds and seals on Pipha Island nature reserve. Explore the faded grandeur of the impressive Emperor Hotel - one of the only two casinos in the DPRK, a seafood processing plant and a revolutionary site. After lunch, it’s time to begin the two-hour drive back to the border and return through into China to check in for the last night at your hotel.

Day 9 Departure

This is the final day of an unforgettable and unique adventure in the unexplored areas of the DPRK, and from here, you’ll be transported to the airport and assisted with check-in for your onward travel, or return journey back home.

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