Mt Baektusan North korea tours

Mountains and Waters of North Korea
Mt. Paektu and Mt. Kumgang

TOUR OVERVIEW

Join this unconventional tour to the DPRK to enjoy some of Korea’s most celebrated natural sights, many of which are rarely visited by Western tourists. This tour takes its name from a genre of traditional Korean landscape painting known as “Sansuhwa” (산수화; 山水畵), literally “Paintings of Mountains and Waters.” In traditional Korean philosophy, mountains symbolise “Yang” (양;陽), in other words what is still and constant, like the bones of a living being. Water symbolises “Um” (음;陰), or “Yin” in Chinese, that which is moving and changing, such as the blood flowing in our veins or through our minds and thoughts. Both Um and Yang are needed for perfect balance, and neither can exist without the other. Some of the most popular and famous landscapes depicted in these deeply symbolic works of art are actual mountains, waterfalls and lakes located in present day North Korea. On this trip we will have the privilege of experiencing these unique and mysterious landscapes directly for ourselves.

As with all our tours, this tour seeks to not only deliver you an unforgettable travel experience, but also guides you on an educational journey through Korean history and culture. You will be accompanied by two Korean guides, as well as one of our expert Western guides with an academic background in Korean Studies and fluent Korean language ability. Korean nature, especially its mountains, have for long been important symbols in Korean art, nationalism, mythology and ideology. As we savour the beautiful scenery, we’ll also have many opportunities to learn about its significance starting from ancient times through until its present day function in socialist propaganda.

This tour suits anyone interested in learning more about Korea and the DPRK, and especially those who enjoy beautiful and unique natural landscapes, landscape photography, and those who have already visited the DPRK before and want to experience something different than a standard itinerary. The walking and hiking will only be moderately strenuous and there will be many opportunities to rest, so excellent physical condition is not required. However, everyone joining should bring good shoes and be ready to walk up some steep hills on the hiking courses.

Tour Highlights

  • Experience a tour of the DPRK that focuses exclusively on its most treasured areas of natural beauty: Paektu Mountain and Lake Chon, and Kumgang Mountains and its coastal beauty
  • Explore and experience the sites of Pyongyang
  • Private round-trip charter flight from Pyongyang to the Paektu Mountain region (included)
  • Learn about the significance of symbols of nature in DPRK propaganda

ITINERARY DETAILS

Please note that minor changes in itinerary may apply for reasons beyond the control of Tongil Tours.

SATURDAY

PYONGYANG

DAY 0 – FRIDAY – Beijing-Dandong train extension travellers
4 PM – Meet Tongil Tours staff at Beijing Railway Station and get ready for the interesting and leisurely Beijing-Dandong overnighter. Be sure to stock up on snacks, water, and food for Friday night meal. Cafe and snacks available on board, though more expensive.

5:30 PM – Train departs. Dinner and drinks on train. Overnight aboard the train (sleeper bunks).

7 AM Saturday – Arrival in Dandong, transfer to Dandong-Pyongyang international train.

Arrive in Pyongyang in the afternoon, and begin Saturday itinerary…

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DAY 1 – SATURDAY – Beijing-Pyongyang plane travellers
10 AM (Beijing time) – Assemble at Koryo Air flight counter in Beijing International Airport Terminal 2 before taking Air Koryo flight JS 152 to Pyongyang at 12:55 PM. A Tongil Tours staff member will be ready to meet participants and deliver tickets and visas, and give a briefing session.

12:55 PM – (Beijing time) – Estimated flight take off time. Flight time – approx. two hours.

3:30 PM – Estimated time of arrival in Pyongyang. Upon arrival, meet our Korean guides at Sunan International Airport. Head into Pyongyang and beging Saturday itinerary…

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DAY 1 – SATURDAY – Dandong departure travellers
8 AM – Meet Tongil Tours staff and fellow travellers joining group from Beijing extension train at Dandong Railway Station. Pre-briefing Dandong departure travellers. DPRK visas and train tickets distributed at this time.

10 AM – China exit procedures in Dandong, followed by DPRK entry procedures in Sinuiju.

Arrive in Pyongyang in the afternoon, and begin Saturday itinerary…

SATURDAY PYONGYANG ITINERARY

Mansu Hill Grand Monument
The largest and most famous pair of bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il that can be found in each of North Korea’s major cities. They are situated on a hill in the centre of Pyongyang offering magnificent views of the city. The statues are 22 metres high and flanked on both sides by elaborate sculptures, one depicting Korea’s struggle for independence against Japanese colonialism, the other dealing with socialist revolution.

Moranbong Park
Also known as Moran Hill Park, this peaceful hill is the biggest park in Pyongyang, and is popular with the locals, especially on the weekends. With various hills, trees, flowers and Korean pavilions, it is common to see Koreans taking their wedding pictures and baby pictures here. Others come to draw the scenery or bring music to which they sing and dance.

Dinner.

Dinner
Local micro-brewery for local beer (€2/pint)

Overnight in Sosan Hotel.

wonsan DPRK North Korea Tours

SUNDAY

NATIONAL DAY/ KANGWON PROVINCE

AM – Breakfast in the hotel

Shinpyong
After breakfast we head towards Wonsan city. The drive is between three and four hours and we will stop at Shinpyong rest stop along the way. It is said that Kim Il Sung went there before it was developed, and ordered the rest stop to be built there for the beautiful scenery. Enjoy the mountains and lake, and stop by the giftshop or the coffeeshop/bar.

Ullim Falls
Designated as one of “the eight sights of the Songun Era,” this place is very well known in Korea. We will stop by to take in the sight before reaching Wonsan city.

Lunch

Wonsan, Jangdok Islet and Pier
After lunch in Wonsan, we will take a walk along to pier to Jangdok Islet. Jangdok Islet is an island in Wonsan Bay with a small lighthouse. Walk up the long, snaking pier and rub shoulders with local fisherpeople, and see the stalls selling freshly caught seafood. Good views of Wonsan Bay.

Songdowon Beach
Perhaps the most famous seaside bathing spot in North Korea, and it is becoming more and more normal for local tourists to come here for weekend trips. Perfect place for a relaxing swim, or a drink in the outside cafeteria. Dive from the diving platforms and mix with local swimmers at the pier and on the beach.

Dinner

We will stop by our hotel before taking a walk to a local restaurant to taste the famous seafood caught fresh in the area.

Overnight at Tongmyong Hotel.

MONDAY

SCENIC VIEWS AND BUDDHIST RELICS IN KUMGANG MOUNTAINS

Breakfast in hotel.

Shingyesa Buddhist Temple in Kumgang Mountains
Founded in 519 by the Silla Kingdom, who adopted Buddhism as their state religion, Shingyesa became famous for its scenic location nestled among the mountains, and grew into one of the major temples in the region. Destroyed by American bombing during the Korean War, it was rebuilt during the 2000s through the joint efforts of North and South Korean Buddhist associations.

Lunch

Inner Kumgang Mountain
The Kumgang Mountains are home to many unique and beautiful sights. On this tour we will explore Korean natural sights still unspoiled by mass tourism. After lunch, we will drive to Inner Kumgang which is home to several historical Buddhist temples. We will visit Phyohun temple built in 670, see the picturesque Podok Hermitage perched on a steep cliff, and stop by the Myogilsang Buddhist stone relief, which is the biggest in the country. The rest of the afternoon is spent in the area taking in various scenic spots in this part of the Kumgang Mountains.

Overnight at the Family Hotel
This hotel is an attraction in itself as it was built by South Koreans in the late 90s for South Korean tourists who were allowed to travel here between 1998 and 2008. Now that all tourism from the South to the North is suspended, the hotel is mostly used by Chinese and local tourists.

TUESDAY

SEA KUMGANG AND HIKING IN KUMGANG MOUNTAINS

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Revolutionary Museum
Lunch breakfast, we drive to Sea Kumgang, where the Kumgang Mountains meet the sea. The first stop here is the Revolutionary Museum. Here we will learn about the Anti-Japanese struggles of Kim Il Sung, his wife Kim Jong Suk and Kim Jong Il, from the North Korean perspective.

Kumgang Beach and Kumgang Spa
Take a short swim or just enjoy the scenery. Before lunch there will be a chance to enjoy the natural hot springs and learn about their many health benefits.

Lunch

Kuryong Waterfalls and Sangpaldam
This hike offers breath-taking views of some of the most beautiful scenery in all of the Korean peninsula. Follow the river as it courses its way through lush granite mountains. The path forks; follow a gentle slope to Kuryong Falls, or take the more strenuous path to Sangpaldam for wonderful views of a river flowing into eight separate pools before running off into the Kuryong Falls, all hedged by tall granite peaks.

Dinner

Mansu Hill Grand Monument Pyongyang

WEDNESDAY

Wonsan and return to Pyongyang

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Chongsokjong Rocks and Sijung Lake
On Wednesday morning we head towards Pyongyang, with the first stop being Sijung Lake on the way to Wonsan. The lake is right by the ocean, which has a lone iconic island. We will also stop by the Chongsokjong Rocks which are a row of eight-sided eroded basalt pillars protruding out of the ocean by the coastline. Although little known and rarely visited by foreigners, the rocks are very famous in Korea, and are registered as a Natural Monument. The sight is a popular image in Korean paintings and it is a fantastic spot for unique photographs.

Wonsan
We take a rest in Wonsan to eat lunch, with the possibility of a little walk in the city and a visit to an art gallery.

Lunch

Pyongyang / Arch of Triumph. One of Pyongyang’s most iconic monuments, the Arch of Triumph is larger than its Parisian predecessor at 60 m (197 ft) high and 50 m (164 ft) wide. Built to commemorate Kim Il Sung’s role in the Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism from 1925 to 1945, it was opened on his 70th birthday in 1982. It is built from white granite and decorated with various reliefs, inscriptions, and carvings. A fee of 20 Chinese RMB (3 Euro) applies for those who want to take the elevator to the top level.

Dinner

Depending on the time, we may stop by a local bar before or after dinner in Pyongyang.
Overnight at Sosan Hotel.

Mt Baektusan North korea tours

thursday

Mt. Paektu and Lake Chon

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Pyongyang International Airport
After breakfast we head to Pyongyang airport for a short flight to Samjiyon. Be sure to have some warm clothes handy as this area is much colder than the southern part of North Korea.

Mt. Paektu
After landing in Samjiyon, we will drive to the biggest highlight of this trip, Mt. Paektu. This is the highest mountain on the Korean peninsula (2744m), and is known in Korean mythology as the place where the Korean people’s ancestors first arrived when they travelled from heaven to earth. It is even more important for North Koreans as it is known as Kim Jong Il’s birth place. As the weather conditions are important for optimal views, the order of the itinerary items for Mt. Paektu may be changed around on site for the best experience.

Lake Chon
This beautiful lake is located in the crater on the summit of Mt. Paektu, which is still an active volcano (which last erupted in 1903). The lake is immensely famous in both parts of Korea and is often seen in pictures and paintings all over the peninsula. By the time we get here, we will be very used to see paintings and mosaics of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in front Lake Chon. The hike from the parking lot is not very strenuous and it takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, from which we will descend into the crater. Funicular ride to the top is also available if the power is running.

Lunch

Kim Jong Il’s birthplace and Secret Base
After a scenic drive along the Amrok River which divides Korea and China, we will arrive at the revolutionary historical site where Kim Il Sung had a base as an anti-Japanese fighter, and where Kim Jong Il is said to have been born.

Rimyongsu Falls and Chongbong Bivouac
Heading down from Mt. Paektu we will stop by these waterfalls directly connected to Lake Chon. With a Korean pavilion on top and a clear lake at the bottom, this is yet another of Korea’s beautiful spots that is often missed by foreign tourists to the country. Not far away is the Chongbong Bivouac where we will see another base used by Kim Il Sung’ guerilla forces.

Overnight at Pegaebong Hotel.
This Swiss style hotel is located close to Samjiyon about 90 minutes away from Mt. Paektu.

FRIDAY

Exploring Samjiyon and return to Pyongyang

AM – Breakfast at hotel

Samjiyon Revolutionary Museum
In this museum, located in the village of Samjiyon, we will learn more about the Korean guerilla struggle for independence waged on and around Mt. Paektu.

Samjiyon Village, Grand Monument and Lake Samji
We will drive around Samjiyon and stop at the Grand Monument where there is a statue of Kim Il Sung. Afterwards we will drive to the nearby Lake Samji for more sights and pictures.

Lunch

Samjiyon Schoolchildren’s Palace
Schoolchildren’s palaces are found around the country. These are specialised schools for talented children, offering high level classes in music, dance, sports, science etc. If possible at the time, we will see some of the children’s’ performances.

Pyongyang
In the afternoon, we head back to Pyongyang the same way we came. Back in Pyongyang, we will stop by the famous Kim Il Sung Square, often seen in international news as the backdrop to North Korean military parades, and take a walk down the streets of central Pyongyang to the Foreign Language Bookstore. We will then visit a stamp exhibition hall where those who want can buy postcards to send to friends and family, before we have one of our favorite meals in the country and our farewell dinner;

Dinner
Duck BBQ dinner from the restaurant in the same building.

Overnight in Sosan Hotel.

SATURDAY

departure day

AM – Breakfast at hotel

For Pyongyang-Dandong train departures
10AM – Departure from Pyongyang Train Station.
5PM – Arrival in Dandong Station
(tour officially closes for Dandong only travellers)

For Pyongyang-Beijing plane departures
AM – After breakfast, we drive to Sunan airport for Air Koryo JS 251 Y back to Beijing.

10:30AM (Pyongyang time) – Estimated departure time. Flight time – approximately two hours.

12 noon – Estimated arrival time. (Beijing time, half an hour earlier than Pyongyang time)
(tour officially closes for air travellers at this time in Beijing Capital Airport, terminal 2.)

CONTINUED ITINERARY FOR BEIJING TRAIN TRAVELLERS:
Upon arrival in Dandong at 5pm Thursday, you will transfer to your Dandong-Bejing overnight train, on which you will have dinner, as well as breakfast the following morning before arrival in Beijing. Cafe car, snacks and water available on train.

7AM, Friday – Arrive in Beijing Station
(tour officially closes for Beijing travellers)

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE ITINERARY: Upon arrival in Pyongyang, as with all travel to the DPRK, availability of activities on the above itinerary are subject to seasonal availability, last minute changes on the DPRK side, and many other factors. 95% of the time the itinerary above will run, but some activities may not be on some itineraries and will be replaced with comparable substitutes. Changes in itinerary are sometimes last minute, and determined in the moment, solely by our DPRK guides. Although we do our best to make sure that the itinerary is kept, Tongil Tours will not be held responsible for changes in the itinerary that are beyond our control, and all travellers to the DPRK should maintain an attitude of flexibility at all times.

FURTHER DETAILS
Pre-departure email
Before departure, we will send out a pre-departure email with general information to note for the trip such as what to pack, and other important information.

Optional reading list
With all of our tours, we send our participants an optional reading list (consisting mostly of items either free for view on the internet, or that will be shared with participants) to assist travellers in contextualising their North Korea travel experience. This is sent to travellers after a booking has been finalised.

Optional academic briefing
As specialists in educational tourism to the DPRK, we firmly believe in delivering an experience that is not only fun, but also allows travellers to learn a little about the country. We can arrange for academic experts in North Korean studies to conduct a 90 minute academic seminar over Skype. Contact us for more information.

Included in the tour fee:

  • Transport to and from Dandong or Beijing to Pyongyang. See booking details for transport options and pricing
  • Private round-trip charter flight from Pyongyang to the Paektu Mountain region
  • Twin room lodging and accommodation in the DPRK (single supplement: €50/night)
  • Three meals a day in the DPRK (excluding optional meals in out of pocket restaurants)
  • All transportation in the DPRK
  • Local English-speaking DPRK guides
  • Korean-speaking Western academic guide from Tongil Tours
  • Most admission fees (see below)

Not included in the tour fee:

  • Round-trip airfare to Beijing or Dandong from home country
  • DPRK visa fees and handling €65
  • Beijing hotel accommodations
  • Chinese visa fees and processing (if necessary)
  • Travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance (required)
  • Gifts, souvenirs, snacks, hotel services, miscellaneous purchases
  • Extra drinks during meals (one complimentary beer and bottled water included with most meals)
  • Out of pocket expenses (see below)

Out of pocket expenses
These expenses are not included in the tour fee. It will be necessary to bring a little extra in cash – either Chinese yuan, Euros, or US dollars, into North Korea to pay for these expenses on the day. Prices are listed in euros, but may also be payed in USD or RMB. Note that prices are subject to change.

  • Tips for the guides and driver (in total from each traveller), €5 euro per night stayed
  • Arch of Triumph elevator ticket (for those wishing to see the view at the top), €2.5 euro
  • Juche Tower elevator ticket (for those wishing to see the view at the top), €5 euro
  • Micro-brewed beer (a pint) – €2 euro approx.
  • Possibility for a visit to a café, Italian, hamburger, or other special restaurant – €7- €14 euro approx.