One of our most exciting tours for 2020, this 11 night itinerary will be in North Korea for what we anticipate to be one of the most important dates of the year—15th August—the 75th anniversary of Korea’s Liberation from Japan.
We start the adventure with two full days in Pyongyang, taking in some of the must see sights and highlights before we head north for an overnight trip to the beautiful Mt. Myohyang region. Returning to the captivating capital enjoy a couple of further days in Pyongyang (which will coincide with Liberation Day—a date we expect to be marked by various celebrations and special events, which we will of course strive to attend). Departing Pyongyang on a chartered aircraft head north to Samjiyon and spend two nights in the Mt. Paektu region, where we enjoy, among other things, a full day trip to Mt. Paektu, the highest peak in all of Korea & Manchuria—anticipated to be the highlight of the tour. Departing the far north we return to Pyongyang and head south to Kaesong for two nights, where sightseeing will include a visit to the DMZ and Panmunjom. From Kaesong return to Pyongyang for final sightseeing before this fascinating tour sadly comes to an end.
This small-group tour will operate for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of just 16 persons. Please note that if demand sees fit we may operate this tour as two or more distinct separate groups, but no single party will be more than 16 persons.
This morning make your own way to Beijing Capital Airport, Terminal 2, to depart at approximately 1305 on the Air Koryo flight to Pyongyang (schedules TBC). The short flight will bring you into Pyongyang at approximately 1605 local time. On arrival meet with your Korean guides and driver. After passing through immigration and customs head into the city centre to visit the Benevolence Bar (or similar) for a drink or two (at your own expense), giving the opportunity to chat with your guides and get a quick insight into plans for the next few days. After a welcome dinner in the Arirang Restaurant transfer to the Koryo Hotel and here check in for a two night stay. (Snack On Flight/D)
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in the capital, starting at the exterior of the Pyongyang Grand Theatre, a landmark building in central Pyongyang. From here walk to Kim Il Sung Square, the heart of the city, before arriving at the Foreign Language Bookshop, a great spot to pick up a wide range of publications, postcards, souvenirs and the like. After a couple of hours on your feet pop into the Vienna Coffee Shop to relax over a drink (at your own expense). The last stop of the morning will be the Grand People’s Study House— the national library and a major centre of learning. The view from the balcony atop the Study House down onto Kim Il Sung Square affords a spectacular vista of central Pyongyang. After lunch in the Ansan Restaurant visit the Mansudae Art Studio, the state-run art complex which is believed to be the largest centre of art production in the world. From here head underground for a journey on the impressive Pyongyang Metro, travelling one stop from Puhung to Yonggwang (arguably the two most impressive stations) before rattling on for four stops to the newly refurbished Kaeson Station. At Kaeson surface beside the Arch of Triumph, 10 metres higher than its Parisian counterpart; for a small fee it is possible to ascend (by lift and then foot) to a viewing platform near the top of the arch—from where you will have a good view over north central Pyongyang, including a number of buildings such as the TV Tower & Kim Il Sung Stadium. From the Arch of Triumph head to Ryomyong New Town, the latest high-rise residential district in the city (where the tallest apartment block tops out at 82 storeys). Here enjoy a brief walk in the area before having dinner in a nearby restaurant. After a busy first day of sightseeing return to your hotel for dinner. (B/L/D)
After checking out of your hotel enjoy a visit this morning to the Fatherland Liberation War Museum and the USS Pueblo, an 850 ton US spy boat captured in 1968 by the Koreans off the coast of Wonsan. The very large museum dedicated to this devastating war has some truly fascinating displays and exhibits and we will visit just some of the highlights before it is time to move on. From Pyongyang head west along the Youth Hero Highway to Nampo, where we will have lunch in the Hanggu Hotel before driving to at the West Sea Barrage, a most impressive 8km long barrage built in the 1980s along the estuary of the Taedong River, near Nampo City. This immense building project is of great pride to the Korean people and you will likely enjoy a video in the visitors centre showing this massive undertaking. Spend the afternoon making the drive of approximately 200km to the beautiful Mt. Myohyang region (we will of course take in a toilet/refreshment stop en-route). On arrival in the mountains check into the Hyangsan Hotel for an overnight stay, and here also have dinner. (B/L/D)
After checking out of your hotel make the short drive to the impressive International Friendship Exhibition, a massive complex housing the many thousands of diverse gifts presented to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong ll & Kim Jong Un over the years. The buildings, built into the mountainside, are home to seemingly endless corridors and rooms lined with diverse gifts from all over the world – keep an eye out for the gifts from Regent Holidays! After spending the morning touring this fascinating site enjoy a barbecue lunch on the banks of the Myohyang Stream before visiting the picturesque Pohyon Temple, founded in 1042 yet sadly heavily damaged in the Korean War. Departing Mt, Myohyang spend the remainder of the afternoon returning to Pyongyang and the Koryo Hotel, where you will check in for a three night stay. Enjoy dinner this evening in your hotel. (B/L/D)
Enjoy the full day sightseeing in Pyongyang. The itinerary for today is flexible, but scheduled at this time to include a walk in Moranbong (the main city park) and to take in the Monument to the Foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Pyongyang Cultural Exhibition Hall and the Juche Tower. The Juche Tower is a symbol of the Juche Idea (national self reliance, literally “Master of one’s self”) penned by Kim Il Sung. Those who wish can pay a small fee (5 Euros at current) and be whisked via a lift to the top of the tower for spectacular views over the city. We also expect to have dinner in the National Restaurant—one of our favourite options in Pyongyang. (B/L/D)
Today is an important national holiday, and as such we anticipate various special events and celebrations, and a general jovial atmosphere across the city. Celebrations / events in Korea are normally not known until the 11th hour, and we have thus today factored plenty of spare time / flexibility – allowing the group the best chance of seeing any events and getting the most out of the day. All meals will of course be included, and your guides will do their upmost to ensure you will see as much as is permitted on this special day. Local fees will be payable to attend any special events. At this time of year common events are mass dances in the main city squares, together with commemorative opera/circus performances.
Start the day with a visit to the awesome Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the former residence of Kim Il Sung, and now the Mausoleum for both Kim Il Sung & Kim Jong Il. You will here see the bodies of both leaders lying in state. The Mausoleum itself is followed by exhibits showcasing medals of honour bestowed upon the leaders. (Please note for this site you will be expected to dress reasonably smartly). Moving on head to Mt. Taesong to visit the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery, home to the graves of more than 200 of Korea’s leading resistance figures over the years of Japanese rule and the Korean war, including the wife and mother of Kim Il Sung. If the weather is clear you will from here be afforded good views over Pyongyang. Returning to central Pyongyang ascend Mansu Hill to visit the Mansudae Grand Monument, the centre pieces of which are the spectacular 20-metre tall bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Here, millions of Koreans visit annually to pay their respects to the leaders, and the group will be expected to lay a wreath of flowers at the foot of the monument before bowing in unison before it (flowers purchased locally for a small fee). You will also see the nearby Chollima Monument.
After a busy yet fascinating morning exploring the cult of personality in the DPR Korea return to your hotel for lunch and to change into more casual clothes. This afternoon will be far more light hearted, and start with a walk on Mirae Scientists' Street—another impressive and photogenic residential district, this one on the north bank of the Taedong River. Moving on, enjoy a visit to Munsu Water Park, which offers 15 hectares of swimming pools, water slides and such. Fees apply (payable locally) to use the facilities, but those who don’t wish to take the plunge at the water park (which will likely be packed with locals and a great spot for people watching), can instead opt for pampering themselves at the barbers, enjoy a massage or just relax in one of the numerous on site cafes or bars. Enjoy dinner this evening in the nearby Chongryu Hotpot Restaurant. (B/L/D)
Departing our hotel we drive to Pyongyang Sunan Airport this morning for a chartered flight to Samjiyon, home of Mt. Paektu, the ‘Sacred Mountain of The Revolution.’ This border region is of great spiritual symbolism to the Korean people, enhanced by the fact that it was the home of the Korean People’s Army during the war against the Japanese. Our aircraft is expected to be an Ilyushin IL-18D and the journey on this vintage aircraft is an experience in itself. Flight times are TBC, but we expect to depart/arrive at around 1030/1130. Arriving in Samjiyon we will transfer to our hotel, currently scheduled to be the Pegaebong Hotel. Here have lunch and check in for a two night stay. This afternoon’s itinerary is TBC closer to travel, but will take in a tour of the impressive and beautifully located Samjiyon Grand Monument at Lake Samji. We also anticipate seeing sites in Samjiyon Town itself (please see note below). (B/L/D)
IMPORTANT NOTE—SAMJIYON TOWN: At the time of writing (September 2019) Samjiyon Town is being completely rebuilt from the ground up—it is quite literally a building site. The vision for Samjiyon is for this small town to become a model settlement, with impressive buildings, infrastructure and facilities transforming what was a sleepy settlement into a glowing beacon of Korean socialism. Information at this time is thin—but by the time of this tour it is anticipated that new hotels will have opened and a number of sights in and around the town will have opened to visitors. We will attempt to provide updates in due course, but will of course strive to arrange the best possible itinerary in the area. This may mean that the hotel, meals and sightseeing on the 17th & 18th August may differ somewhat from the itinerary here.
Heading out this morning we will drive to Mt. Paektu. Arriving at the roadhead/checkpoint at the foot of Mt. Paektu, go through entry formalities (as this is right beside the Chinese border) before ascending to the crater rim of the mountain (a funicular normally operates but occasionally it is necessary to walk from the base of the funicular to the crater rim, taking approximately one hour). From here, those who wish can (time and weather permitting) press on up to the highest point in the Korean Peninsula, Janggun Peak, at 2750 metres in height (approximately 30 minutes walk each way from the crater rim), or head down the 2160 steps to the shore of Lake Chon. Those who are quick enough will have a chance to visit both the lake and the summit. (A cable car does run down to the lake, but it does not always function. If the funicular and cable car are operating those who wish to use these must pay on the spot – expect the cost to be around 15 Euro per person). Descending the mountain, we will find a pleasant spot to pause for a picnic lunch near the Chinese frontier before visiting the Paektu Secret Camps, from where the Army was based and Kim Il Sung headquartered from 1936 to 1943. This site is also the “official” birthplace of Kim Jong Il. Visit Rimyongsu Falls before returning to our hotel in the mid afternoon. This afternoon there should be a couple of hours free to relax in the hotel. Subject to local confirmation those who wish may, with a guide, be able to head out for a brief walking tour of Samjiyon. Dinner at the hotel. (B/L/D)
Checking out of our hotel return to Samjiyon Airport and fly back to Pyongyang. Schedules are TBC, but the flight (once more expected to be an Ilyushin IL-18D) is tentatively planned to depart/arrive at 1000/1100. On arriving back in Pyongyang immediately drive south to the small city of Sariwon, provincial capital of North Hwanghae, and here enjoy lunch at the March 8th Hotel. This afternoon visit the Sariwon Migok Co-Operative Farm, a model farm where your tour will likely take in a farmer’s home—as good a place as any to try and get a glimpse into and understanding of rural life in the country. In Sariwon also visit Folk Customs Street and enjoy a brief tour of the area before visiting the nearby Kyongam Pavilion. Should you wish, a short steep path leads from here to the Songun Pavilion—from where you will be afforded good views of the city and farmlands in the distance. Departing Sariwon head south to Kaesong, stopping en-route to visit the UNESCO world heritage listed Tomb of King Kongmin, one of the best preserved royal tombs in the country. Upon arrival in Kaesong check into the Janamsan Hotel for dinner and a two night stay. (B/L/D)
This morning pay a brief visit to Sonjuk Bridge before we head South to Panmunjom - the DMZ and border with South Korea. Upon arrival at Panmunjom, which is often the highlight of any visit to North Korea, we will meet with an army escort who will explain the background to the history of the DMZ, before moving on to the Armistice Talks’ Hall and the building (and attached small museum) where the Armistice was signed. From here head right down to see the border itself, where the group will be (local conditions permitting) escorted, possibly under the watchful eyes of South Korean soldiers, into one of the huts which straddle the North/South Korean border. Enjoy lunch at the Panmunjomkwan Restaurant inside the DMZ. This afternoon return to Kaesong and visit the Koryo History Museum before we drive to the Concrete Wall or “Wall of Division,” an 8 metre high concrete wall built by US forces along much of the southern perimeter of the DMZ from 1976 to 1979. A senior army guide will here likely explain the history of the wall and the current border tensions with the south. This evening enjoy dinner in a city restaurant near the hotel. (B/L/D)
Checking out of our hotel, depart Kaesong and spend the bulk of the morning driving to Pyongyang. On arrival back in the capital visit the Kwangbok Area Supermarket. This is the only “normal” Pyongyang supermarket that can be visited by tourists (and one of the only places in the country where one can obtain Korean currency at the “normal” exchange rate) - the best location to pick up some small souvenir items such as Korean made foodstuffs, cosmetics or clothing, for example. After lunch in the basement restaurant of the supermarket enjoy a very special visit to the Supreme Court of the DPR Korea, a sight extremely rarely visited by foreigners (at least of their own accord)! Before we get too confused by the local guides explanation of the DPRK’s complex legal & criminal system we will return to our hotel and here check in for our final night in the country. After checking in there will, time permitting, be a little free time for any final sightseeing, or the chance to take in any missed sights or shopping opportunities from earlier in the trip. This evening head out for a farewell dinner on the Taedonggang Boat Restaurant—a special evening with which to end the tour. (B/L/D)
This morning the group will be transferred to the airport to depart Pyongyang at approximately 0820 on the Air Koryo flight to Beijing. Upon your arrival in Beijing (scheduled for 0950, times TBC) tour arrangements end. (B)
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