August 15 – 22/23 (Thurs – Thurs/Fri)
7 nights in DPRK
This trip needs 10 to run and is limited to 16 pax so book early to avoid disappointment. We are still waiting for confirmation on the type of bikes used - we will either be using Giant Hunter 2.0 mountain bikes or bikes made in the DPRK in a factory that is a joint venture with a Chinese company. We will update as soon as we know more.
Please note that the itinerary may differ slightly to what is below but your tour leader will do their best to ensure that as much is covered as possible and will also add in extras when there is time such as a visit to a local bar or a funfair. We visit the DPRK regularly and know all the best places to go to make your trip even more unique. We will make the most of your time in the DPRK to guarantee the experience of a lifetime.
Weds 14th August
4PM - group assembles in the Koryo Tours office for a pre-tour briefing which will last approximately 1 hour and is designed so that you will get the best out of your tour. Please be punctual - you can even come early, pay any outstanding tour fees and browse our art gallery and merchandise.
Thurs 15th August
AM: This morning we will meet outside the Koryo office (time to be confirmed) and together head to Beijing Airport Terminal 2 for our flight Beijing to Pyongyang (1.5 hrs) - the showcase capital of the DPRK with a population of approximately 2 million.
PM: Upon arrival in Pyongyang (approximately 5pm - DPRK is one hour ahead of China), we proceed through immigration and customs and meet our guides who will accompany us during our stay. On our way to the hotel we will have a brief orientation of Pyongyang city. We expect to be able to attend the mass games performance after dinner. You will also likely have more than one opportunity to see the performance if you wish - this will be confirmed on the spot in Pyongyang.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang (one of the deluxe-class hotels in the country located on an island in the Taedong River which flows through the middle of the city)
Fri 16th August
AM: Our first full day in Pyongyang sees a tour of some of its highlights. First up is the Fountain Park where locals come to take pictures in front of the beautiful fountains, we can also buy a bouquet of flowers here (EUR 4) to lay down at our next stop which is the Mansudae Grand Monument - statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Kim Il Sung's statue has been here since 1972 but Kim Jong Il's was added just in 2012 on the occasion of Kim Il Sung's 100th birthday. This is a very important place for Koreans and visitors are required to follow the local custom and bow in front of the statues after laying down a bouquet of flowers. After looking around the area we go deep underground for a ride on the Pyongyang Metro - the deepest underground system in the world. We start at Puhung (Rehabilitation) Station, then take the train to the next station Yonggwang (Glory). Here we get off to take pictures of this beautiful station before getting back on the train and going through 3 stops and getting off at the fourth which is Kaeson (Triumphant Return). A total of 6 stations. We then visit the Arch of Triumph – similar to the French version but bigger. Important in Korean history as the first place Kim Il Sung gave a speech to the Korean people after the surrender of the Japanese. Next we look around the newly-opened Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Korean War Museum). Built in 1953 right after the end of the Korean War on July 27th, this museum was renovated throughout 2012 and we will be one of the first groups to visit. Doubled in size it is also the site of the USS Pueblo - the US spy ship which was captured in 1968. This was moored on the Taedong River until December 2012 when it mysteriously disappeared.
PM: After a well-deserved lunch we check out of the hotel and visit the Foreign Languages bookstore - read up on what you are seeing here and buy your gifts and night time reading - from where we walk to Kim Il Sung Square - Pyongyang’s largest square in the heart of the city. There used to be portraits of Marx and Lenin on display here but they were taken down in early 2012. This is where the military parades pass through - you can see the podium on which the leaders stand to view these incredible displays although they don't happen as often as the western media make out - not even an annual event. After walking in the square we cross the river to East Pyongyang to visit the 150m Juche Tower where we get an explanation of the country's guiding Juche philosophy often translated as 'self-reliance'. Take the lift to the top for stunning views over Pyongyang (costs EUR 5). Next we visit the Party Foundation Monument - an iconic sculpture of a hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush commemorating 50 years of the Workers' Party rule. We then take a 2.5 hr drive south to Kaesong, an historical city near the DMZ which avoided being destroyed in the Korean War. There is a service station halfway where we will stop for a rest. This is a popular place for tourists to take photos of themselves standing in the middle of this very empty highway! After arriving in Kaesong we check into our hotel. Before having dinner we will go for a walk in the old city and dinner is back at the hotel. For anyone wanting to supplement their meal you will have the opportunity to sample Korea's famous delicacy - 'sweetmeat soup' AKA dog meat (costs EUR 5).
OVERNIGHT: Minsok Folk Hotel, Kaesong (beautiful courtyard hotel with Li dynasty housing where guests sleep on heated floors in traditional Korean style; basic - sporadic hot water and frequent power cuts but a great experience as you are living literally next door to the local inhabitants)
Please note that the area around Kaesong is considered to be a malarial area by the WHO, however, provided tourists take proper precautions (use good mosquito repellant and mosquito nets – these are provided in the hotel we use) there is very little risk of contracting the disease from the places that we visit. The WHO state that there is no need to take malaria prophylaxis when visiting and in any case, this is not recommended for visits of less than 1-2 weeks. We have never had any cases of our tourists contracting the disease. However, please be warned that most travelers to an area with malaria are deferred from donating blood for 1 year after their return so this may affect you if you are a regular blood donor.
Sat 17th August
AM: This morning after breakfast we visit Janam Hill where there is a statue of President Kim Il Sung and great views over the old part of the city. We also visit Kaesong Koryo Museum which is an old Confucian University to learn about the history of the area. The stamp shop here is excellent too. After this we take a short drive (approx 20 mins) to Panmunjom/DMZ where North and South Korea continue their decades old face-off. It is possible to go into one of the huts that straddle the demarcation line and actually cross over into South Korea! This is one of the few places you can take pictures of - and even with - members of the DPRK military. Lunch will be in a restaurant in the DMZ
PM: After lunch we return to Pyongyang where we visit the Mangyongde Schoolchildren's Palace - - a centre of extra-curricular activities for gifted children - for a tour of the classrooms with children demonstrating their talents including music, art, taekwondo and speech-making. As a finale we get to see an impressive performance by the students. After this we visit Mangyongdae Native House - the native birthplace of North Korean President Kim Il Sung . If time allows then we walk up the hill (past the mosaic of Kim Il Sung as a child thinking of leaving to fight against the Japanese occupation of his country) to the pavilion overlooking the Taedong River. Dinner is at a local restaurant.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Sun 18th August
AM: Today is dress-up day as our first visit is to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun where North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state. Opened 3 years after the death of President Kim Il Sung in 1994, the building used to be his offices. In 2011 it closed after the death of Kim Jong Il but re-opened at the end of 2012. This is a place of utmost importance for Koreans and tourists should behave accordingly. Men should wear a shirt and tie, women should dress smartly. The entire visit takes around 1.5 hrs and you are not allowed to take your camera in but after visiting the rooms inside we come back out to take photos from the square in front of the impressive building. After this visit we return to the hotel to prepare for cycling in afternoon. Lunch will be a BBQ at Mt Ryonggak.
PM: After lunch we drive to the Youth Hero Highway which leads to Nampo. This 10-lane highway was built by student shock brigades during the Arduous March in the late 90's. It is along this that we begin our first cycling of the tour. We plan to go approximately 25km and the route is fairly flat. After finishing we load the bikes back on the buses and drive on to the Dragon River Hot Spa guesthouse - a complex of guesthouses where each room has a private bath which can be filled with water direct from the hot springs - said to have many medicinal benefits. It is here that we can experience the famous Nampo petrol clam BBQ (costs EUR 5 per person but you can still watch for free if you don't want to have any of the clams).
OVERNIGHT: Dragon River Hot Spa Hotel, Nampo
Mon 19th August
AM: After breakfast we drive approximately 45 minutes to the West Sea Barrage - an 8km long dam separating the Taedong river from the West Sea of Korea. Regarded as a great feat of engineering, the project was personally overseen by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. We then cross the barrage and drive south to start our first ride of the day cycling from the border of Unryul and Samchon counties to Dalchon hot springs village (approx 7km). We then get back on the bus to drive through Sinchon town and continue our cycling for approximately 10km from the bridge which crosses Jaeryong River to Sokdang Bridge (approx 10km). We then have a picnic lunch in the Mt Kuwol area.
PM: After lunch we do some more cycling in this area - expect lots of hills - approximately 5-10 km - before getting back on the bus to return to Pyongyang for dinner.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Tues 20th August
AM: This morning we head to Pyongyang airport for our flight to Samjiyon Airport. Make sure you bring warmer clothes for this part of the trip as the higher elevation means cooler temperatures. Sunscreen is also a good idea. The flight takes around 1 hour and upon arrival we split into smaller minibuses for the drive to Mt Paekdu (around 1 hr). Mt Paekdu is the tallest mountain in Korea (2750m) and is regarded as sacred by both North and South Koreans as it was the birthplace of the mythical founder of the Korean nation - King Tangun (bizarrely, there is a mausoleum with his remains just outside Pyongyang). It is also important to North Koreans as it is where Kim Il Sung based himself when fighting against the Japanese before Liberation and Kim Jong Il was also allegedly born here. Upon arrival at the mountain, the buses will wait at the carpark and we take a hike to the top which takes around 45 minutes. Here we will have stunning views over the area and of the mirror-like Lake Chon - the highest crater lake in the world. We will spend around 1 hour in the area.
PM: After lunch, we unload the bikes and start our cycling from Mt Paekdu to the Paegaebong Hotel visiting the Secret Camp en route. This is the birthplace of Kim Jong Il and we visit the log cabin where he was born - you can even see the toys he played with as a child. The total length of the ride this afternoon is approx 50km and the hilly route takes us on a mix of terrains - mainly tarmac - through mountain areas and pine forests. This is quite simply one of the most stunning routes you will cycle - guaranteed to impress. Dinner is at the hotel. Make sure you reward yourself after the cycling by trying the local vodka kamchasul- this area is a big potato-growing region so they form the basis of many of the dishes and drinks.
OVERNIGHT: Paegaebong Hotel, Mt Paekdu (basic but comfortable, no 24 hr hot water and possible power cuts)
Weds 21st August
AM: After breakfast we cycle from the hotel to Rimyongsu Waterfall (approx 15km). The ride takes us through a lumberjacks' village where we pass by the local school - be sure to look out for the signs nailed to the trees outside the school which display english words, chemical formulae and mathematical equations - a retro learning aid! After looking around the waterfall we load the bikes back on the buses and drive to the Samjiyon Monuments - a statue of President Kim Il Sung and sculptures of the guerillas who fought against the Japanese built in 1949 to immortalise his revolutionary exploits in the area. We return to hotel for lunch.
PM: On our way to the airport for our flight back to Pyongyang we drop in at the Paekdu Regional Museum which gives information about the area. After checking back into the Yanggakdo Hotel we will go for a farewell dinner will be in the Taedonggang Diplomatic Club - a favourite hang-out of Pyongyang's expat population.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Thurs 22nd August
Today is departure day. For those flying out the flight departs Pyongyang at 10:30 and arrives in Beijing at approx 11:30am. End of tour (options into the city are taxi (make a note of the taxi number and get a receipt), airport bus or the airport/city train).
Those taking the train option depart Pyongyang station at 10:40. The journey to Sinuiju (border city) takes around 5 hours and lunch is served in the dining car for those who want it (EUR 5). The immigration/customs procedures on the DPRK side take between 1.5 to 2.5 hrs and there is no need to get off the train at any time. The international carriages then continue over the Friendship Bridge which spans the Yalu River (as you cross look to the left to see the bridge damaged in the Korean War) and on to Dandong, China. The immigration/customs procedures here are much quicker - around 30 minutes. Those doing the Dandong option alight here and the train (the carriages attach onto a Chinese domestic train) departs at 18:30 local time. Dinner can be eaten in the Chinese dining car (costs RMB 80).
OVERNIGHT: On train
Fri 23rd August
AM: The train arrives into Beijing Central Railway Station just after 08:30am - this is the end of the tour.
Please note that after the tour, we will send out a list of all the tour partcipants' email addresses so you can keep in touch, swap photos, etc. If you do not wish to be on this list then please let us know.
TOUR COST: EUR 2010
VISA FEE: EUR 50
PRE-TOUR MEETING: August 14th (Wednesday), 4PM, at our office in Beijing
Room upgrades available – please ask for more information.
TOUR FEE INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR FEE: