What can I do in North Korea?

What can I do in North Korea?

This is a follow-up to our piece on how to book an independent tour to North Korea.


Thursday January 01, 1970

If you opt for an independent tour to the DPRK you might be thinking “great, I can tailor an itinerary… but where do I start?”


Thursday January 01, 1970

The easy option is to think about what you’d like to focus on and contact us. Do you want to see factories? Schools? Monuments? Enjoy leisure activities? Would you like to see the “greatest hits” of the DPRK or head out to see the countryside? If you let us know we can give you suggestions and start designing an itinerary for you.


Thursday January 01, 1970

However, you’re probably still reading this as you’d like to know now! Answering the question in detail is a bit of a task but we’ll break it down and give a quick idea going by region/city.

Pyongyang

In Pyongyang there is so much to do, from visiting a catfish farm to a water park, visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun (The Mausoleum for the previous leaders) to one of several funfairs.

There are art galleries, art studios, film studios, all kinds of schools, coffee shops, bars, plenty of monuments and museums such as the Korean War Museum (complete with the captured USS Pueblo) or the Metro Museum.

You can ride the metro, watch a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, go to a cooking class, visit department stores and the famous Kwangbok supermarket where you can stock up on cheap local goods as neat souvenirs for friends, and even exchange foreign currencies into local DPRK won.

In April you can run in the Pyongyang Marathon. In September you can watch the awe-inspiring Mass Games. Twice a year there are trade fairs and every year they hold the International Film Festival.

Kaesong

Another of the prime stops for a DPRK tour, the main attraction here is actually just outside the city — the DMZ at Panmunjon. There are also plenty of historical sites such as the tomb of King Kongmin and the Koryo Museum, the schoolchildren’s palace and the folklore hotel.

You can also see one of the few remaining sections of old traditional housing in the country from Janam hill. Most of the old housing was destroyed during the war by US bombing. Kaesong was, for most of the war, part of South Korea so some buildings survive to this day.

Wonsan

 A YPT summer favourite, Wonsan is mostly about the beach. Try and visit on a Sunday when people have the day off and you can join the locals at the beach and relax.

There’s also a great art gallery with good pricing, a co-operative farm, the old Japanese-built steam train which carried President Kim Il Sung from Wonsan to Pyongyang after the war and the Songdowon Children’s camp.

On the way you can visit the Ulim Waterfall or Sinphyong Kumgang for a hike or just a picnic by the lake. During your time in Wonsan don’t miss the chance to have fresh seafood BBQ!

Kumgang

This is a mountainous area of great fame in
both Koreas. The primary attractions here are hiking and the natural spa as
well as the South-Korean-built hotels and restaurants. Visit Lake Sijung on the
way but be aware that the roads down the coast are pretty bumpy, even by local
standards.

Hamhung

Or you could head the other way from Wonsan and go north to Hamhung. The second largest city in the DPRK, Hamhung is rarely visited as it’s quite out of the way and doesn’t have so many options for tour groups.

Here you can stay at the Majon Beach resort where you can also swim and have BBQ clams or stay in the city at the Sinhungsan Hotel. You can visit the Grand Monuments, see the exterior of the largest theater in North Korea – the Hamhung Grand Theater and Central Square –visit the Hungnam Fertiliser factory, and take a trip to the house of Ri Song Gye (the first king of the Ri dynasty).

It’s also possible to take a 5-hour round trip to Pujon county to see the Stone River. While in Hamhung it’s also worth trying the potato version of the famed “cold noodles”,  a local twist on a Korean favourite.

Chongjin

Another favourite for many of our staff. There are two ways to Chongjin. The first is via domestic flight from Pyongyang, and the other is to go overland at the Namyang or Wonjong borders. It’s unfortunately not possible to drive from Pyongyang to Chongjin or vice versa as the road is in no condition for tourist buses.

So if you’d like to see North Hamgyong Province and other parts of the country you’ll need to take this flight. In Chongjin it’s possible to visit kindergartens, a foreign language academy to chat with the local students, see the electronic library, eat, shop, bathe or get a haircut at the Seamen’s Club as well as have a party with the local staff, ride a local trolley bus or even take a 15km run/cycle from the harbour to Ranam district (You don’t have to run the whole way!).

You can also see the local Revolutionary Museum or the local art gallery- another with excellent pricing.

Mt.
Chilbo

Here you can stay at the only homestay in North Korea. Try your hand at making traditional Korean foods, have a game of volleyball with the villagers or have a crack at Ssirum (Korean Traditional Wrestling). After dinner we have a beach bonfire and sing songs/ dance with the locals. It’s always a hit.

Other than that you can, of course, take plenty of great hikes, go swimming or boating in the sea along the coast and visit the Kaeshim temple as well as see lots of curious rock formations.

Kyongsong
County

Not much to do here, but it’s sometimes
used as an option to break up the drive back from Chilbosan. There are several
spas that are well regarded in the country for their medicinal qualities and a
revolutionary site. It’s also possible, at times, to take a walk in the county
but this can depend on activities in the area.

Hoeryong
City

On the smaller sides of cities that are
open to tourists, Hoeryong has a population estimate of almost 135,000. You can
visit the Statue to Mother Kim Jong Suk, her home and the revolutionary museum.
You can also visit the Kim Ki Song Middle school and help the local students
have an opportunity to practice English with actual foreigners.

Onsong

This town is near the border and only
really has two sites: the awe-inspiring Wangjaesan Grand Monument (my personal
favourite monument in the country) and the Wangjaesan Guesthouse where we
sometimes have lunch on the way out through Namyang border. 

Rason
SEZ

 As the only SEZ in North Korea, this zone has a few major pluses going for it, the main one being it’s the only area in the country where you can visit a private market.

You can also go to the bank and get local currency, which you can use in shops throughout the SEZ. It’s also got a great foreign language academy where you can teach an impromptu class or just chat with the students. Rason is also famous for its textile factories, which are well worth a visit.

In summer the beach is great and there is a microbrewery producing Czech-style beer that was set up by an actual Czech. The art gallery here has by far the best prices in the country.

Sinuiju

This city sits right on the border opposite
Dandong in China and as such is convenient not only to add to your tour, but
you can also just opt for a day tour to Sinuiju. Here you can see the North
Pyongan Provincial Revolutionary Museum, the locally-famed Pomhyangi Cosmetics
Factory, the city square and monuments as well as the art gallery, the local
folklore and Amnok Parks and see the most famous kindergarten show in the
country at Bonbu Kindergarten.

Mt
Myohyang

Myohyang is another famed mountain region in North Korea; asides from great scenic views and hiking areas, the region also houses one of the DPRK’s quirkier sites – the International Friendship Exhibition. These giant halls are built into the mountains themselves and house gifts given to the leaders from all around the world.

It’s also possible to see the Largest Buddhist temple in the DPRK Pohyon temple and to drop in at Ryongmun Cavern to see the fabulous rock formations.

Haeju

This town is another of the lesser-visited
ones in the country. The main attractions here are the Sokdamgugok scenic
valleys, the Sohyon Confucian academy, the Kyenam stock farm and the Puyong
Pavilion. You can also visit nearby Mt Kuwol for a hike or to see Woljong
Temple or go to Mt Suyang to see the Suyangsan waterfall. Accommodation in
Haeju is at the Haeju hotel which sits right on the central square.

Nampo

Nampo is a key port town and, as such, is directly administered by the central government rather than the provincial government. Here you can visit factories such as the famed Chollima Steelworks, the Taean Friendship glass factory or the Kangso Mineral Water Bottling plant.

There are also the famed Kangso Tombs nearby, the West Sea Barrage and the Pyongyang Golf course. Accommodation can be had at budget rates in the Hangu Harbour Hotel or (well worth the standard price) the Nampho Hot Spa Hotel with a mineral spa in each room.

Sariwon

Usually just a stop on the way back from
Kaesong, you can walk in the local folklore park and climb the pavilion to look
over the city. It is also possible to stay in the March 8th Hotel
here, but with so little to do, it’s not a very common overnight stay.

Anju
and Huichon cities

Very little is possible to do in these
areas, though the Ryongmun Cavern is near Huichon and the Taegak Youth Dam is
by Anju. They are possible overnight stays and we hope to be opening up more
sites to tourists very soon.

Masikryong
Ski Resort

 A surprisingly decent ski resort, it does pretty much what it says on the tin – you can go skiing there and snowboarding.

In the summer it’s also possible to go hiking and overnight stays inside the resort are charged at standard rates, as opposed to the higher rates in winter.

The resort also features a swimming pool and small gym as well as internet access (USD 5 per thirty minutes). There are also some great restaurants in the resort that are better than the hotel meals, though these are extra charge.

It’s also possible to tailor your tour based around interests, such as aviation, culinary experiences, ideology, the economy, art, history and so much more. Just contact us and we’ll do our absolute best to give you the best North Korea Tour experience.

If you’re interested in taking an independent tour to North Korea, check out our independent tour page here.
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