Uncover the secrets of North Korea

Travel is all about eye and mind opening experiences, and there are few more so than a trip to North Korea. Take the unique chance to uncover this mysterious country for yourself and discover that behind the communist propaganda and Soviet-style architecture lies a country full of beautiful landscapes and a whole host of incredible sights and experiences. This journey begins and ends in Beijing, and in between you’ll Travel around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its capital of Pyongyang and surrounding sights like Pyongsong and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Visit a range of monuments and museums dedicated to the leaders of the country, and learn about the history of this truly fascinating place thanks to the North Korean guides who will join you on this journey.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Beijing, China
Finish
Beijing, China
Countries
China, North Korea
Style
Original
Code
CJSKC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 10, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • North Korea is a country that’s shrouded in mystery and doesn’t open its borders widely to the rest of the world. This is a unique foreign travel experience that allows you access to this fascinating country.

  • Even though the media usually depicts North Korea as a concrete state with communist flags everywhere, there are parts of the country that are bursting with picturesque landscapes and waterfalls. North of Pyongyang is a spectacular region to explore.

  • The overnight train journey from Pyongyang to Beijing is the perfect way to see the guarded landscape of North Korea, as well as rubbing shoulders with the locals.

  • A visit to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea is an eye-opening part of this trip. Learn about the history of the Korean War and the on-going tension between the two countries.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip adheres to some of North Korea’s strict rules and traditions, so it’s important to be open-minded and respectful. This is a great way to embrace a culture that’s not easily accessible to the rest of the world.

  • Contact with local people is possible, it’s allowed and is legal - both for you to talk to locals and for them to talk to you. Although, it can prove difficult for several reasons: the main one being the language barrier (foreign languages are not widely spoken in DPRK). Other reasons include the fact that people are generally very wary of foreigners and are also shy, conservative and careful of drawing unwanted attention. You’re free to attempt a dialogue with a local, but don’t be surprised if they’re not interested in talking to you. However, it can be extremely rewarding when you do manage to make some human contact. Your guides will also help make it possible.

  • There’s a long, overnight train ride back to Beijing, which can take around 14 hours. Even though you won’t be staying in first class, the beds are still comfortable with sheets provided. This is an ideal opportunity to rub shoulders with the locals and learn more about the area.

  • Tourists are not allowed to travel around freely. At all times, other than in the hotel, you’ll be accompanied by two guides and a driver regardless of how many people there are in your group. Please remember this is not a policy set by the travel company, but by higher powers and the rules are inflexible.

Itinerary

Nimen Hao! Welcome to Beijing, China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places that provide great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. This adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm, where you’ll collect your Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) visas and flight tickets. After the welcome meeting the evening is free to explore the city. Get acquainted with your fellow travellers over some street food, witness one of the famous acrobatic shows, or try a bowl of authentic Chinese dumplings at a local restaurant.
Notes: Please ensure you obtain a double entry visa for China before arriving in Beijing and departing for DPRK.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The morning is free to do as you please. This afternoon meet your driver in the hotel lobby and transfer to Beijing Airport. After a short flight to Pyongyang Airport (approximately 2 hours) with Air China, you'll meet the two North Korean guides who will accompany the group during your time in North Korea. The contrast to Beijing's busy street life will be apparent when you venture out of the airport.
Notes: For flights between China and the DPRK your total baggage allowance is 20kg plus one carry-on bag. Please note that at customs all electronics will be checked – all your photos on your devices will be checked, kindles will be checked. Please do not bring with you: books on North Korea, guide books, lonely planet about DPRK or the Korean situation, any Bibles or religious books/materials (this includes crucifixes etc.), American or South Korean flags or clothes prominently showing these, books or magazines/newspapers from South Korea or in the Korean language, clothes with political or obscene slogans (they will ask us to translate for them), or any magazines with political articles. Any magazines you read or see in North Korea should be handled with care, especially if they have the Leaders image on it.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, head out into Pyongyang for a city tour. Begin with a visit to the Mansudae Grand Monument. This is the largest statue in the country, with two giant effigies of President Kim Il-sung and Leader Kim Jong-il. Despite being interesting, this visiting the site is compulsory for all visitors to Pyongyang, and flowers are rested at the feet of the immortalised leaders. Continue on to take a ride on the city’s metro – with an average depth of 110 metres the North Korean capital boasts the deepest metro system in the world. The Soviet-inspired system serves 17 stations, with rumours that the track runs much longer to stop at hidden government bases and nuclear bunkers. The two stations that are regularly open to visitors are elaborately decorated with murals to covey the glory of the country’s history and leaders, while patriotic music fills the air between announcements. After lunch, move onto the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. A museum guide will accompany you and provide depth and insight into the Korean War from a local’s perspective. You’ll also visit the USS Pueblo, the controversial US warship captured by the North Koreans in 1968. Afterwards, choose to take a bike ride around the city, visiting the 170 metre high Juche Tower and the Monument to Party Foundation – a structure dedicated to the Communist Party and socialist principles of North Korea.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pyongyang - Arch of Triumph
  • Pyongyang - Mansudae Grand Monument
  • Pyongyang - Victorious War Museum
  • Pyongyang - Juche Tower
  • Pyongyang - City Bike Tour
  • Pyongyang - USS Pueblo
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This morning, travel 168 kilometres south (approximately 2.5 hours) to the border with South Korea and one of the most fascinating places in the country, the demilitarised zone (DMZ). First, check in to the to the traditional Minsok Folk Hotel, which consists of 20 traditional Korean yeogwan (small, well-equipped en suite rooms), all off small courtyards and featuring a charming stream running through it. There’s no electricity during the day, but there’s usually light in the evening and hot water. This accommodation is basic, but it will allow you to experience a traditional overnight stay, where you will sleep on the heated floor with the rice-husk pillows. Head out to the DMZ, where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, thereby pausing the Korean War. This morning, travel through the abandoned village of Panmunjom on your way to the 38th parallel north (the border between North and South Korea prior to the Korean War). After touring the DMZ, step back in time and visit the Koryo Museum in Kaesong, which is an ancient Confucian University that houses over 1000 artefacts from the Koryo period. For lunch in Kaesong City, enjoy a traditional meal of the Koryo elites, pansanggi – several small bowls filled with kimchi, fish, and other assorted foods. Later, visit the burial mounds of the Tomb of King Kongmin (Hyonjongrung Royal Tomb), the 14th-century mausoleum of the 31st King of the Koryo Dynasty. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kaesong - Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
  • Kaesong - Koryo Museum
  • Kaesong - Tomb of King Kongmin
  • Kaesong - Pansanggi Lunch
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Breakfast in the hotel, then take a morning walking tour around Kaesong city. Head up to Janam Hill, where you can look out across the city, much like the giant statue of President Kim Il-sung here does. Return to the capital (approximately 2.5 hours), passing under the Monument of the Three Charters for the National Reunification. This is also known as the Arch of Reunification and consists of two large female statues crossing the Reunification Highway. One represents the North, the other the South, and they hold between them a map of reunified Korea. After lunch, get an insight into the personality cult that surrounds the former President with a visit to Mangyongdae Native House, where Kim Il-sung was born and raised. While this small, simple cottage might seem an odd choice to visit, the North Koreans who flock to it consider it a holy site. Next, visit the Taekwondo Holy Hall and learn about one of the founders of the martial art, General Choi Hong Hi. Learn a bit of ‘the way of hand and foot’ in a class, then enjoy a skilful demonstration.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kaesong - Walking Tour
  • Pyongyang - Arch of Reunification
  • Pyongyang - Mangyongdae Native House
  • Pyongyang - Taekwondo Class & Demonstration
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This morning head out of the capital and drive to Mount Myohyang (Myohyangsan), which is around two hours north of Pyongyang and one of the six notable mountains in the country. Visit the 11th-century Pyohon Temple, which is a great example of traditional Buddhist architecture. Continue on to the International Friendship Exhibition House, which displays the ‘rare and precious gifts’ given by countries around the world to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. You too can leave a gift in the name of diplomacy, if you desire. After lunch, head out to explore the North Pyongan province, which is bursting with idyllic landscapes and waterfalls. Hike along a trekking route of the Manphok Valley. Manphok means ‘valley of ten thousands falls’ in Korean and, unsurprisingly, the walk passes numerous beautiful waterfalls. Head back to Pyongyang after your walk, take a stroll along the bank of the River Taedong, then head out for a farewell dinner with the group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Mt Myohyang - Day Trip
  • Mt Myohyang - International Friendship Exhibition
  • Mt Myohyangsan - Pohyon Temple
  • Mt Myohyang - Manphok Valley hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today will be your last day in Pyongyang. In the morning, board the train and depart Pyongyang at 10:10 am. Pass through Sinuiju – DPRK Customs, and arrive in Dandong, the city on the Chinese side of the border (approximately 6-7 hours). After being stamped back into China (double entry China visa required), disembark the train and walk through Chinese customs with your luggage. Board the overnight train to Beijing, which should take around 14 hours to the Chinese capital.
Notes: This section of the trip will be unaccompanied, as you will bid farewell to your local North Korean guides in Pyongyang. However, the Intrepid host will remain with the group until the morning of Day 9.
Some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet for the overnight train. Safe, hot drinking water is always available. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). Basic bathroom facilities with toilets and washbasins are situated at the end of each carriage. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's best to bring an emergency supply. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Food is available on the train, but it's a good idea to stock up on snacks for the trip.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

The overnight train arrives into Beijing Central train station at approximately 08:30 am. You will be transferred back to your Beijing Hotel and the rest of the day is free time to either relax or further explore this fascinating city. There is plenty to do and see in Beijing, perhaps visit the 98 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour, pick up a bike for the day with Urban Adventures or wander around the famous Temple of Heaven Park. Of course, no trip to China is complete without visiting the Great Wall, so perhaps check out an Urban Adventure that takes you to this icon. Tonight why not get the group together for your final evening’s dinner – perhaps try some famous Peking Duck.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your North Korea Highlights trip comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time. Please ask your booking agent if you would like to arrange a departure transfer. As there's so much to see and do in China's capital, stay a couple of extra days is highly recommended. We'll be happy to help with booking extra accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Private Bus, Plane, Overnight Train

Accommodation

Hotel (6 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night), Traditional Korean Guesthouse (1 night)

Included activities

  • Pyongyang - Arch of Triumph
  • Pyongyang - Mansudae Grand Monument
  • Pyongyang - Victorious War Museum
  • Pyongyang - Juche Tower
  • Pyongyang - City Bike Tour
  • Pyongyang - USS Pueblo
  • Kaesong - Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
  • Kaesong - Koryo Museum
  • Kaesong - Tomb of King Kongmin
  • Kaesong - Pansanggi Lunch
  • Kaesong - Walking Tour
  • Pyongyang - Arch of Reunification
  • Pyongyang - Mangyongdae Native House
  • Pyongyang - Taekwondo Class & Demonstration
  • Mt Myohyang - Day Trip
  • Mt Myohyang - International Friendship Exhibition
  • Mt Myohyangsan - Pohyon Temple
  • Mt Myohyang - Manphok Valley hike

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in North Korea before your departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas of your itinerary. We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts
2. A Single Supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
3. US citizens can book this trip, however they are restricted from using the overnight train service from Pyongyang to Beijing. US Citizens must exit North Korea by plane only. If you or your client are of US Citizenship please get in contact with Intrepid and we can discuss the options with you.
4. A double entry Chinese Visa is required for this trip.
5. A North Korean Visa will be organised for you and is included in the trip cost. You will need to send us a copy of your passport and recent passport photo and by completing the Application form and Journalist Form given to you by your booking agent. The visas are issued separate to the passports and passports are not stamped at any time. The tour leader and guides retain possession of the visas at all times during the trip. We don’t require your actual passport for the visa at any time.
6. Please note the group are required to buy bouquets of flowers at certain monuments during the trip, approx. cost of a bouquet of flowers is 8 Euros, which can be split between the group
7. You will be required to wear formal business attire/smart casual on some visits to monuments. Please ensure you bring the necessary clothing.
8. This trip requires a minimum of 10 travellers to run.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.