Known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’, North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive and closed off countries. Desperate for a reunified Korea, this incredible country is a living time capsule, stuck somewhere between the liberation from the Japanese in 1945 and the present day.
The local people live their lives wholeheartedly dedicated to their leaders, with pins of their portraits adorning every garment of clothing and their beaming portraits in every home and official building.
To venture through North Korea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Uncover a country slowly changing as the modern world around continues to progress – this hidden world is waiting for those curious enough to explore. Understand the socialist system and the nations unique Workers Party. Witness old soviet style dwellings amongst world class modern architecture that could rival that of the Middle East.
Learn about the Juche system and the power of one mind, discipline and unity that the country strives for.
Travel in Cherry Blossom season and experience one of the world’s most beautiful national phenomena in a country most people would not think cherry blossoms bloom. The natural beauty of North Korea with surprise you.
Paired with the birthday of Dear Leader, Kim Il Sung, experience one of the countries biggest celebrations (Day of the Sun) and the chance to witness a mass dance and other rarely seen activities.
Your mind will be blown as cultural myths about this country are busted and you explore spectacular landscapes so pristine and untouched beyond the stark city and learn of the movement towards a reunified Korea.
Welcome to China! On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Please note that you will need to arrive prior to 1pm to be in time for our pre tour briefing. At 3.30pm, meet in your hotel lobby where you will be transferred to attend our mandatory briefing at 4pm held in our partner office in Beijing. At this meeting, you will be handed your visas and your e-tickets. You will NOT be sent a copy of your e-tickets beforehand and a double entry visa for China is required. 144 visas ARE NOT accepted for travel going via DPRK.
Return to your hotel to drop off your paperwork and then get ready to head out and eat your way through Beijing! Join us as you meet your fellow travellers in a more relaxed environment as you head into local hutong homes, hidden breweries and restaurants known only by the locals. Return to your hotel. (D)
Overnight in Beijing
Make your own way to Beijing Capital Airport this morning for your flight to Pyongyang. Flying with Air Koryo is a great introduction to this country. Be sure to ask for a local newspaper as you board! No photos are allowed on the aircraft.
Upon arrival in Pyongyang, clear immigration and collect your luggage. You will be asked to hand over any mobile phones, laptops and books for inspection. Once you have collected these items, proceed to the arrivals hall where your guides will be waiting for you.
Your first glimpses of North Korea will be stunning rice paddies and small farmers villages. The skyline is dominated by the broadcasting tower where the countries TV stations are run.
Your first stop will be the Arch of Triumph. The 60m high arch was built to commemorate the Dear Leader’s triumphant return from defeating the Japanese and giving the people of North Korea a new life and more promising future.
Continue on to Kim Il Sung Square, the cities main square where the military parades takes place. At one end is the impressive People’s Study House and at the other, across the river, is the Juche Tower. Be sure to take note of the white marks on the ground for where the people stand to create the incredible formations at the military parades.
Walking through Pyongyang is a great way to witness the locals going about their daily life. As you walk through central Pyonyang, you will visit The Grand Theatre, an impressive structure seating 2500 people.
From here, transfer to your hotel for check in. Your hotel is located on its own islet and offers incredible views over both sides of Pyongyang. Sit down with your guides for a tour briefing where your guides will run through your program over the next week. Please take note that your guides may re-order the itinerary to better work around local events or weather.
Enjoy dinner in your hotel this evening. (D)
3 nights Yanggakdo Hotel or similar
This morning you will drive approx 3hrs towards South Korea, the destination today is the DMZ.
On arrival at Panmunjom, you will join with other travellers as you are escorted by military through the DMZ. Visit the significant sights including the location of where the armistice was signed and of course overlook Freedom House and the famed blue buildings. Wave to the tourists on the South Korea side from across the border.
From here, visit the Koryo Museum in the city of Kaesong which was one of the first universities in North Korea (Confucian University). You will also visit a stamp shop where a variety of books and colourful postage stamp collections depicting the people, feats and countryside of North Korea can be purchased.
Lunch today is in a local restaurant – there is the option for you to try dog soup, a local delicacy for those interested, but this must be advised at time of booking. A supplement of $11AUD is payable.
Following lunch, you will drive out of Kaesong and through the countryside to the lookout bunker over the DMZ which looks at the Concrete Wall separating North and South Korea. The North Korean’s believe there is a wall dividing the two Korea’s across the peninsula, 247km long, 5-8m high and 2m underground. From the South Korean side, the wall cannot be seen as it is slanted and overgrown with fauna. The North Korean’s believe they face a concrete wall. Have a look through the binoculars and decide for yourself what you believe you are seeing.
Heading back towards Pyongyang, stop at the Tomb of King Kongmin, the country’s only double tomb. As you return to the city, pass the impressive granite monument signifying reunification of the two Koreas.
This evening, weather and time permitting, walk on Mirae Scientists Street or take an evening cruise on Taedonggang Pleasure Boat. (B,L,D)
This morning following breakfast in your hotel, depart for the Grand People’s Study House. This is one of the most recognised buildings in Pyongyang and is also the largest library in the country. Spanning 10 storeys and over 100,000sqm, this impressive structure is bursting with over 30 million books and can accommodate over 10,000 people a day.
The library was opened as the ‘centre for the project of intellectualising the whole of society and a sanctuary of learning for the entire people’ and was built to honour Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday.
Be guided by a local guide through many of the rooms of this grand building. You will have some time explore the shelves and see what sorts of books you can discover! There are many lecture rooms, and you may have the chance to speak to the students in one if class is in. Head to the 6th floor balcony where you can set foot where the Leader has stood and take in impressive 180 degree views over the river and beyond.
Continuing on, you will have a stop at the Foreign Language Book Store where you can purchase books on the Leaders works and various North Korean folk stories and history.
If the weather is clear, head to Ryonggak Mountain for views over the city. A gentle walk is required here on a paved path. Weather dependent, you may either have a picnic lunch on the mountain top or venture back into town for a hotpot lunch. You certainly will not go hungry in North Korea!
Following lunch, with full bellies, it’s time to walk it off through beautiful parklands as you visit Mangyongdae Native House. This is the original home of the Dear Leader, Kim Il Sung. Learn of his families history and hard comings.
Continuing on you will visit Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s top artistic studio. It is tasked with designing all North Korea’s large monuments, as well as the portraits, statues, paintings, and murals featuring its leaders, which this studio alone has permission to produce. The artists here also create all kinds of other art and even produce works for the international market.
Now it’s time for some fun as you head onto Pyongyang’s mysterious yet beautiful metro system – the deepest in the world at 110m underground, it was also designed to double as a bunker. One of the most restricted transit ways in the world, the stations are incredibly beautiful with intricate mosaic designs, elaborate chandeliers and gilded statues. Each station has a theme of goals and achievements and revolutionary history to share with commuters. Jump on the metro and travel with the locals as you experience this underground world.
Resurface to street level and take a stroll along the Taedong River embankment in central Pyongyang and make your way towards the local bowling alley. Grab a ball, slip on some flat shoes and play a round of bowling alongside the locals!
Enjoy dinner this evening in a local restaurant. Return to your hotel. (B,L,D)
Leave Pyongyang behind as you exit the city towards the countries second largest city, the coastal town of Wonson. Pass farmers and fields, quaint houses and cows pulling rickety carts. Drive time approx 4hrs with breaks and a visit to the beautiful Ulim Waterfall.
Break for lunch before walking through the city and along the docks. Take a stroll along fishermans pier where you can see the locals fishing from a suspension bridge. Follow the path out to the lighthouse for great views looking back towards the city. (B,L,D)
Overnight Dongmyong Hotel or similar
Follow the coastal road from Wonson to Mt Kumgang. Pass fishing towns, deserted beaches with crystal water and local fisherman in their wooden boats bobbing in the water. The scenery will continue to change as you edge closer to the national park. Mt Kungang area was originally constructed by Mr Hyundai from South Korea and up until 2008, South Korean’s were able to holiday at this stunning location where the mountains meet the sea.
Visit Samil Lagoon, a popular, tranquil place for locals in the summer to come for picnics and row out to the small pavilion in the centre. Towering boulders loom overhead amongst the pines and the quietness of the lagoon makes you feel a world away.
Following lunch, enjoy a hike on a sealed path through the national park to Nine Dragons Waterfall. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and soak in the untouched beauty. The colour and clarity of the water is impressive. The sheer mountainscape provides some shade for solace form the sun. The hike is approx 1.5hrs each way.
On your way back to your hotel, visit Singye Buddhist Temple. This temple was completely destroyed in the Korean War. It was restored in 2004 as part of an inter-Korea cultural project. (B,L,D)
Overnight Kumgangsan Hotel or similar
Today you will make your way back towards Pyongyang. Enroute, you will stop at Masikryong Ski Resort. Even though it is not ski season, this impressive resort is open to foreigners and locals in the winter, and is certainly worth seeing, perhaps for a return ski trip?
Lunch today will be in a local restaurant. The drive back to Pyongyang is approx 3hrs.
On arrival back into the city, you will visit a local supermarket. This is the only place in North Korea where foreigners can use local currency. With three stories of brimming shelves, walk amongst the locals as they purchase both local and foreign goods, shopping for clothes, furniture beauty products.
Then it is time to head with your guides to a local beer bar. Dinner this evening will be in your hotels revolving restaurant. (B,L,D)
2 nights Yanggakdo Hotel or similar
Today, being the Day of the Sun, your sightseeing may be a little out of order to make the most of the local celebrations and festivities.
This morning, visit Fountain Park which acts as a recreation and relaxation zone for the locals. It will be busy today being a public holiday!
From here, you will visit Mansudae Grand Monument. Larger than life, here stand the famed bronze statues of the Dear Leader, Kim Il Sung and the Great Leader, Kim Jong Il. Lay your fresh flowers at the feet of the leader and follow your guide for how to bow to the Leaders. Be blown away by the sheer size of these statues. Photos are certainly permitted but you must ensure both leaders are in the frame and none of their body parts are cropped. The bronze statues are the most respected site in any city – cars driving by slow down to 30km/hr as a sign of respect.
It is then time to visit Juche Tower. The tower built to support the Juche ideology which was introduced by the countries first leader Kim Il Sung. The torch at the top is always lit (by led lights) and at the base are three statues signifying the workers party (the only party in the North Korean Government). Juche, or self reliance, created by Dear Leader Kim Il Sung, is a revolutionary thought process. It means that man is the master of his destiny so as a nation who follows Juche, it elaborates to being a master of revolution, this means that being self reliant and a strong nation, the country can achieve true socialism.
Lunch today is in a local restaurant before continuing on to Moranbong Park where you will go for a stroll with your guides. This is a park where locals hangout for picnics and to relax with friends and family. Some remains of the former walls which formally surrounded Pyongyang can also be seen here. There will be lots of celebrations as the locals celebrate Dear Leader’s birthday.
The Monument to Party Foundation is up next. Erected in 1995, at a height of 50m, this monument conveys the proud history of the Workers’ Party of North Korea comprised of workers, farmers and intellectuals. The monument depicts the hammer, sickle and brush seized by a worker, a farmer and an intellectual. The round belt signifies the single-hearted unity of the Leader, Party and people.
Continue on to visit the Kimilsungia & Kimjongillia Flower Exhibition. This hall hosts the International Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia Festivals which focus exclusively on two flowers; the Kimilsungia and the Kimjongilia, named after the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il respectively. The latter was bred by an Indonesian botanist and the later by a Japanese one then presented as gifts to the DPRK.
Today is your chance to experience a mass dance as part of the Day of the Sun celebrations. There will be other rarely seen activities performed throughout the day as the nation celebrate the birthday of their first leader, Kim Il Sung. This experience will be unlike anything else.
Your farewell dinner this evening is a traditional duck BBQ dinner known locally as Bulgogi. (B,L,D)
Enjoy your last breakfast before transferring to the airport for your flight back to Beijing where services end on arrival. Bid farewell to your guides after what has been an incredible insight into a fascinating country and culture. (B)
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 70% of the tour cost per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.