Perhaps the world’s most insular, provocative and challenging country, North Korea is hardly the archetype of an alluring holiday destination. Yet more and more foreigners are signing up for tours of the socialist state. The reason? There’s simply nowhere else on Earth quite like it.
North Korea – or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – is a totalitarian socialist state with an elaborate cult of personality built around the Kim dynasty.
Its isolation and ideology means that independent travel is impossible. Instead, there are a number foreign agencies that offer tours of the country with government-approved guides, regaling sightseers with propaganda-skewed tales of local history, while steering them clear of interaction with the general public.
All approved tours begin and end in the country’s capital, Pyongyang. A city of more than 2.5 million inhabitants, the long working hours and strict curfew can often make it appear empty – yet there’s an abundance of socialist sites for the foreign visitor to enjoy.
Highlights include the flame-topped Juche Tower (a monument to the state’s socialist ideology), the Mansudae Grand Monument (bronze statues of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il) and USS Pueblo (an American ship captured in 1968 and now on permanent display).
Beyond the capital most excursions include visits to Myohyang-san (a mountain with a palace carved into it), Panmunjom (the tense military border between North and South Korea) and Mangyongdae (a North Korean village said to be the birthplace of Kim Il-sung).
And then there’s the food. Sharing a culinary heritage with South Korea, the North boasts a similar smorgasbord of delicacies, offering visitors an authentic taste of this most inauthentic of countries.
North Korea might not be the most easygoing destination, but if you can accept its tyrannical leadership and take everything you are told with a pinch of salt, there are plenty of incredible experiences to be had in the world’s most mysterious country.
When to Go
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit North Korea. Summer is mainly humid and muggy and winter in North Korea can be harsh. The most important thing to remember is that you may only visit when approved by the government agency. Be sure your visit is scheduled only during these times.
– Be aware of and follow the local rules and regulations
– Taking photos from busses is prohibited
– Cell phones, laptops and cameras with telephoto lenses are not permitted
– Taking photos is not allowed in the DMZ
– Avoid political bickering
-Do not try to venture out without your guide
– Visit the Diamond Mountain area
– Visit Arirang Festival in Pyongyang
– Rock climbing in Baekdu Mountain
-Trip to Crater Lake in Baekdu Mountain
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