My 10 Day Itinerary to North Korea

20th Sep 2013
Photo of My 10 Day Itinerary to North Korea 1/4 by Charu Mittal
Photo of My 10 Day Itinerary to North Korea 2/4 by Charu Mittal
Kumsusan Memorial Palace
Photo of My 10 Day Itinerary to North Korea 3/4 by Charu Mittal
Photo of My 10 Day Itinerary to North Korea 4/4 by Charu Mittal
Arch of Triumph

North Korea is a place that's seldom mentioned in connection with tourism. When I set out to plan this trip, there wasn't a lot of information available on the web either. However after being there, I can honestly say that this is a place perfect for the discerning traveller, looking for an unique experience. There is so much to see and explore. There's a bit of history, culture, nature, in short, everything. A visit to the country of North Korea can be a precarious experience. However the wide range of sightseeing activities makes taking a trip to North Korea worthwhile. Conventional holiday makers usually skip this country, so its free from crowds as well. 

Make sure you're well-prepared, and do your bookings through a reputed travel agency. They often have group tours, which makes it an even more enjoyable experience. Dress in conservative clothing, and make sure to reside in Pyongang, the capital city. It is the one with the most attractions as well.

North Korea is a strange place to visit for many reasons, an overload of propaganda being the number one. However you will come back feeling as though you have visited a very special place. And it is a special place, and a special experience. I think this is what travelling does, you get to see a new way of living if you keep your mind open to all experiences. Be friendly to your tour guides, they are your hosts for the duration of the trip. Make sure you're only doing what they're comfortable with. If they ask you to follow a certain dress code or not to take pictures, make sure you listen. You are here in someone else's country and it is imperative that you observe all rules and procedures. 

Precautions aside, North Korea is a beautiful country which has been really well maintained. Especially their roads and monuments. Their version of their history is quite different from what the rest of the world has been told and you must understand that this is something that is real for them. Don't disrespect them by contardicting what they're telling you. 

Its a simpler kind of a world, where people live in a kind of protective bubble, untouched by the outside world. It is a rapidly changing place that will offer you something different every time. 

What I took away from this experience is that there are different kinds of people and different kinds of lives all over the globe. The more we travel, the more we understand the world around us. It is difficult to imagine a place like North Korea whilst sitting in the comfort your own home. So go out and explore, unafraid. As long as you stick to the advice of your guides you will be fine. A memorable and unforgetable trip for sure. North Korea is a world unto itself, both ancient and contemporary, bound by time but forever timeless.

The capital city is close to most attractions and also the most westernised in terms of food and accommodation options. It was the first option for us to set up base camp here. There are wide isolated well maintained roads. Its like stepping back in time, and the whole thing is surreal. You are not allowed to interact with locals, but they will view you with wide-eyed curiosity so be prepared for the attention. They are not used to tourists, so be mindful of your behaviour. It is here that you witness first-hand the last stronghold of 20th century socialism on this insulated Asian peninsula.
Photo of Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
The Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang was built to commemorate the Korean resistance to Japan from 1925 to 1945. Built in 1982 on the Triumph Return Square at the foot of Moran Hill in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang, the monument was built to honour and glorify President Kim Il-sung's role in the military resistance for Korean independence. Inaugurated on the occasion of his 70th birthday, each of its 25,500 blocks of finely-dressed white granite represents a day of his life up to that point.
Photo of Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
Photo of Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
Comfortable and well-priced. Beautiful location, close to the Taedong river. This is where most tourists come to stay. It is on an island, which you are free to explore. However movement out of Pyongyang is restricted and controlled by the guides. If you opt for a tour, you will be following an itinerary. Much of our time was spent outside the hotel. We would only return at night to crash exhausted on our beds for which the hotel is perfect.
Photo of Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
The name of this place means mysterious and fragrant mountains. I'm not sure about mysterious, but it is definitely very beautiful and scenic. It has some nice trails for hiking and another place to visit here would be the Friendship exhibition. Its exhibits are presents received by North Korean leaders over the years. One building stores the presents given to Kim Il-sung, while a smaller one holds those given to the his son Kim Jong-Il.
Photo of Myohyangsan, North Pyongan, North Korea by Charu Mittal
Photo of Myohyangsan, North Pyongan, North Korea by Charu Mittal
Kaeson Funfair is a recently renovated Amusement park in Pyongyang city center, very popular among locals. Entrance is approx. 1 Euro p/p, each ride is between 1 and 3 Euros per person. Go here to see a bit of the local city culture. Its a fun place to visit. Bump cars, and lots of other spinning, make-u-sick-quick attractions. One was even called the ‘vomitinator’, a relatively new attraction that had some press coverage as one of the Kims enjoyed this ride sitting aside the British governor, a political boo boo I guess. At the fun fair we were again the main attraction as the locals found us visitors entertaining. Groups of school girls shamlessly snapped photos of the wild bunch of strange out of towners.
Photo of Kaeson, Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
This place serves as the mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, the founder and eternal president of North Korea, and for his son Kim Jong-il who succeeded him as the country's ruler. Foreign visitors can access the palace only on Thursdays and Sundays. They must be on an official government tour. Visiting this place really tells you about how much of a place Kim Il-sung occupied in the hearts of his people. It is a very solemn and beautifully built place and should feature in your itinerary for sure. In North Korea everything is about Kim 11-sung. He was a very important leader of the country, and is forever regarded as the President. His successors are regarded as generals. It is no wonder then, that at the Memorial Palace you will be made to go through a tiresome procedure before you can enter. And yes, they are very secretive about the place. But this is almost like a holy spot for them and must be treated as such. Bow to the statue like you're told to. It will be something you'll never be able to forget.
Photo of Kumsusan Memorial Palace, Pyongyang, North Korea by Charu Mittal
We had dinner here on our last night. Wonderful ambience and some good food. It was the perfect end to our trip. We tasted local delicacies, including Korean BBQ, bipbimbap, hot pot, and a local speciality called "Pyongyang cold noodles." It was also probably the best service I have had in the world. We usually had about three people waiting on us to make sure our glass of beer was filled to the top. You can see that these people are eager to make a good impression and they are a very hospitable group of people right from the guides to the servers at the restaurants.
Photo of Duck Barbecue Restaurant by Charu Mittal