May 18 – 23/24 (Sat – Thurs/Fri)
5 nights in DPRK plus one on the train
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.
Fri 17th May
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.
Sat 18th May
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 4pm - 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 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.
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)
Sun 19th May
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. Next we take a short drive to the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery – superb individually crafted bronze busts of the anti-Japanese heroes including one of Kim Jong Suk - the mother of Kim Jong Il. The cemetery was designed to overlook the city, giving the martyrs a view of the re-building of their country. We then head back into the city to take a walk in 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 and the mass dances take place - 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. From here we walk to the Foreign Languages Bookshop - read up on what you are seeing here and buy your gifts and night time reading.
PM: After lunch we visit Moranbong Park otherwise known as Peony Hill. Located in the centre of Pyongyang this is a favourite place for locals and during the holiday periods it is not unusual to come across a group of Koreans dancing. Make sure to learn basic Korean - the guides can help - to meet and greet people and you might even get the opportunity to join in. During the week Koreans come here to study, enjoy nature and of course go on a romantic walk. Next we stop at the Fountain Park to buy flowers for our next visit which is Mansudae Grand Monument - statues of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il flanked by powerful sculptures telling the story of the anti-Japanese War, the rebuilding of the country and finally the Korean War. Kim Il Sung's statue has been here since 1972 but Kim Jong Il's was added in 2012 on the occasion of Kim Il Sung's 100th birthday. This is a very important place for Koreans and visitors are requested to follow the local custom and bow in front of the statues after placing down a bouquet of flowers. Before dinner we spend some time at the Golden Lane Bowling Centre where Pyongyangers go for their ten-pin fix. It also has some early 90s arcade games. Even if you do not play it is worth grabbing a seat and enjoy watching locals having some fun. It is one of the most popular places for boys and girls to meet or take their dates.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Mon 20th May
AM: This morning, after an early breakfast we take a 2.5 hr drive south to Kaesong, an historical city near the DMZ which avoided being destroyed in the Korean War as it was chosen as the place for armistice talks. 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 empty highway. Upon arrival in Kaesong 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. Next we head back into Kaesong and visit the Kaesong Koryo Museum, which is a beautiful old Confucian University, to learn about the history of the area. There is also a collection of steles and pavilions from around the area. The stamp shop here is excellent too. Lunch is a traditional pansanggi meal - something like Korean tapas. Up to 10 different dishes served in gold bowls. For anyone wanting to supplement their lunch you will have the opportunity to sample Korea's famous delicacy - 'sweetmeat soup' AKA dog meat (costs EUR 5).
PM: After lunch we take a short drive of approx 20 mins to the beautiful Tomb of King Kongmin - the twin-domed tomb of the 31st King of the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392 AD) and his wife which remained largely undamaged during the Korean War. Ask the guide to tell you the story of how the area got its name of “Oh dear hill”. After this we drive back to Pyongyang for dinner.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Tues 21st May
AM: After breakfast we visit the Railway Museum. This newly re-opened facility details the history of the DPRK railway and the involvement of the leaders in its development. See how the DPRK does the locomotion! Next stop are the War Victory Monuments. Built on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Korean War 27th July 1993 (in North Korea referred to as the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War and the end of the war as “Victory Day”) - it comprises of a series of monuments which North Korean’s see as key battles during the war. After looking around this area we drive to the outskirts of the city to 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. Next we go deep underground for a ride on the Pyongyang Metro - the deepest underground system in the world and the designs of the main stations are stunning with superb lighting and mosaics. We start at Puhung (Rehabilitation) Station, then take the train to the next station Yonggwang (Glory). Here we get off to take pictures 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. A great chance to have interaction with the locals if you are prepared to learn basic greetings in Korean - and if you meet students get them to greet you in English!
PM: After lunch we visit the Pyongyang National Gift Palace - new for Koryo tourists. See gifts given to DPRK’s leaders from Koreans around the world, from the sublime to the even more sublime. Next stop is the Pyongyang 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. In addition to the function of the building the architecture is quite remarkable. After the performance we drive along 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. After approximately 1.5 hrs we arrive at our final destination for the day - 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. Time permitting, 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
Weds 22nd May
AM: After breakfast we take a 45 min drive to the Nampo West Sea Barrage - an 8km long dam separating the Taedong river from the West Sea of Korea. It stops Pyongyang being flooded by preventing tidal surges as well as providing more agricultural land. Regarded as a great feat of engineering, the project was personally overseen by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. On our way back to Pyongyang we will stop in at the Chongsan-ri co-operative farm for a chance to see how farming works in the DPRK at this model farm of socialist rural construction. President Kim Il Sung created the Chongsan-ri Spirit and method - combining Juche with farming - and this farm makes sure you are aware of his many visits and instances of ‘on the spot guidance’. Visits to the kindergarten and a farmer’s home are possible. Lunch will be back in Pyongyang.
PM: After lunch we visit the Korean Central Art Gallery, located on Kim Il Sung Square, which includes exhibits of ancient paintings from the Koguryo Dynasty up to modern day socialist realism. We then head to the nearby Grand People’s Study House which is an enormous library/place of study (originally designed for the people who had missed an education due to the war) and has a great view over Kim Il Sung Square. We will tour the lecture rooms (complete with tables designed by Kim Il Sung to aid study) and hopefully get to see a few classes. Supposedly stocked with over 3 million books. Afterwards we cross the river to visit the 150m Juche Tower, the highest stone monument in the world (topped with a flickering red torch). We are given 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). Our last tourist spot of the day is the nearby Party Foundation Monument - an iconic sculpture of a hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush commemorating 50 years of the Workers' Party rule. Great view to the Mansudae Grand Monument and on to the Ryugyong hotel. Before dinner we drop in at the Paradise Department Store and micro-brewery to sample some local beer.
OVERNIGHT: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang
Thurs 23rd May
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 24th May
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 1490
VISA FEE: EUR 50
PRE-TOUR MEETING: May 17th (Friday), 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: