"Your arrangements were absolutely impeccable - everything happened exactly as it was supposed to."
Long a crucial city, Pyongyang has been contested over the centuries by myriad warring kingdoms and empires, from the Tang Chinese to Koryo, the glorious dynasty from which Korea takes its name. After suffering untold devastation during the Korean War, Pyongyang was rebuilt into the city it is today - a stark, centrally-planned urban enclave based on Soviet-era design principles. At last count, the city was home to approximately 3 million, and is the political and economic center of North Korea.
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Our co-founder Jay Tindall says his visits to North Korea were the most surreal experiences of his life, and very different to what the western media had led him to expect!
If you are visiting during August or September, attend the Mass Games, a larger-than-life extravaganza featuring 100,000 performers in synchronized gymnastics, acrobatics, dance, folk songs, and more. With choreographed stories about the country's educational system, military might, cooperative farms and other aspects of societal life, it is nothing less than a comprehensive celebration of North Korean nationalism. The spectacle is performed for two months in the May Day Stadium, the largest in the world with a capacity of 150,000.
Kim Il Sung Square
Visit the vast Kim Il Sung Square, located in the center of the city and Pyongyang's largest open plaza. It is here that you will begin to get a sense of the grandness of the city's architecture and its devotion to the "Great Leader" and founder of the DPRK.
Korean Art Gallery
Explore the fascinating Korean Art Gallery, located on the square, which chronicles Korean life across the centuries, from reproductions of ancient tomb paintings to 20th-century socialist-realism paintings created to further the goals of the socialist state.
Directly across the Taedong River from Kim Il Sung Square is the landmark Juche Tower. The tapering, four-sided, 560-foot (171 meter) tall monument is built of one stone for each day of Kim Il Sung’s life, and is topped with a giant red flame, illuminated at night. Supposedly based on the Washington Monument, which stands at 555 feet, or 169 meters – the Juche Tower is taller by merely a few feet. Take the elevator to the top for striking, 360-degree views over Pyongyang.
Mansudae Grand Monument
Stand in awe of the Mansudae Grand Monument, a 65-foot (19 meter) tall bronze statue of Kim Il Sung with right arm outstretched, pointing the way, perhaps, to the perfect socialist future. On any given day you will see ordinary North Koreans bowing in front of the statue, while on holidays thousands of citizens will visit the monument to present flowers and pay their respects. You will be asked to place a bouquet of flowers as well.
Take a stroll through the lovely Morabong Park, one of the city's most attractive green spaces. If it's a weekend or a holiday, you will see many North Koreans picnicking and enjoying their day off.
Party Foundation Monument
Visit another of Pyongyang's grand monuments to the state, the imposing Party Foundation Monument, comprising three 160-foot (49-meter) tall sculptures of fists gripping a hammer, sickle and writing brush – symbolizing workers, farmers and intellectuals – and the tools that make up the emblem of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.
Mansudae Art Studio
Visit the Mansudae Art Studio, the foremost art production center in Pyongyang, where most of the sculptures, paintings and monuments seen around the city are made by government-employed artists, who work full-time and are directly supervised by the state. Tour the studio and talk with an artist about his life and work.
Tour Pyongyang's Schoolchildren's Palace – an after-school center for arts, science, computer, and athletic activities, attended by more than 10,000 students. Witness an electrifying musical and dance performance by the highly trained young students in the Palace's 2,000-seat auditorium.
Board the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy intelligence ship captured by the North Koreans in 1968. Officially, it's never been decommissioned by the Americans, although North Korea has proudly displayed it as a trophy ever since its capture, turning it into a museum that has, over the past four and a half decades, become one of the most popular attractions in the country.
Visit the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, entering through its ornate lobby of marble and chandeliers and, of course, a giant painting of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Have a privately guided tour with the head of the hospital, who will take you among its 13 floors of pre- and neo-natal care for a unique opportunity to meet ordinary Korean women and chat with them about their lives and families.
Kim Il Sung Mausoleum
Visit the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, more commonly known as the mausoleum of Kim Il Sung, for a surreal experience of the people's reverence for the Great Leader; indeed, bowing to his image is a strict requirement. After a rigorous entry procedure, an elaborate procession leads you through enormous palatial halls until finally you approach the transparent sarcophagus in which The Great Leader's body lies embalmed.
Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery
See the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery, the crown of the peak of Mount Taesong. Climb the flight of 300 steps to the top of the cemetery, where more than 200 fighters from the resistance against the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century, as well as the Korean War, are interred and memorialized with bronze busts.
Changgwan Health Complex
Visit the Changgwan Health Complex for a glimpse of one of Pyongyang's main fitness and recreation centers, straight out of the 1950s. Swimming is a favorite activity, with both indoor and outdoor pools filled with old and young alike, while the barbershop, beauty parlor and gym are also busy with local residents.
Have lunch at the upscale Ongryu Restaurant, famous for its naengmyoen, delicious homemade cold noodles and bindaedeok, or green-bean pancakes. The pancakes, a traditional North Korean staple, are made from kneading green bean flour with vegetables, meat and leeks, then fried, and are considered both savory and salutary to one's health. The carpark is likely to be full of Mercedes sedans and BMW's, and the other diners are probably top North Korean government officials.
Explore the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, a vast collection of artifacts dedicated to North Korea's version of the events of the Korean War. As the museum’s name indicates, the picture painted is rather different than the Western perception of the conflict, but the exhibits can give visitors a closer look at the North Korean historical perspective.
War Victory Monument Park
Stroll through the War Victory Monument Park, built in 1993 for the 40th anniversary of the DPRK's "victory" in the Korean War. With a host of giant bronze sculptures portraying different battles of the War, the park is dedicated to the "Korean People's Army and Korean people who defeated the U.S. imperialists and its allies during the Fatherland Liberation War".
Descend into the Pyongyang Metro, the deepest subway system in the world at roughly 360 feet (110 meters) below ground, and also one of the most beautiful, at least along the stops that Western tourists are shown. Take an extended ride on the Metro, which opened in 1973, and marvel at the pristine stations' high vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, elaborate mosaics and paintings, and marble platforms and concourses.
Arch of Triumph
Visit the Arch of Triumph in central Pyongyang. Erected in 1982 to commemorate Kim Il Sung's return to Korea in 1945, at just shy of 200 feet (61 meters) tall, it is the largest such triumphal arch in the world - purposely built to be larger than the one in Paris. Take the lift to the top for another stunning, panoramic vista over Pyongyang.
Paradise Department Store
Stop in the Paradise Department Store for a glimpse at the state of retail in North Korea, which lacks the consumer culture and materialism of the west, so it is worth a visit. You can purchase many interesting local products such as the bizarre "Korean Snake Alcohol", a potent libation with 40-60% alcohol content and a large dead snake in the bottle.
Step off the beaten tourist path and into one of the world’s most reclusive nations on this exciting 5-day North Korea journey. You’ll stop at all the must-see sites, from Pyongyang’s Kim II Sung Square, to the famous Demilitarized Zone, where you’ll stay in nearby Nampo Hot Springs hotel, and more.
Once a singular, unified country, North and South Korea are now vastly different cultures. This 17-day itinerary takes you on an extensive historical tour as you visit the DMZ and see where much of the conflict took place with your own eyes, explore an inactive volcanic island, and observe complete political devotion.
Watch as one of the world’s most hermetic nations unfolds before your eyes on this thrilling 5-day luxury journey into North Korea. You’ll stroll through Pyongyang’s famous Fountain Park, hop aboard a North Korean train, and visit famous temples.
Uncover a hidden nation on this riveting 8-day journey through North Korea. You’ll visit famous sites in Pyongyang like Kim Il Sung Square, hike the Mt. Paektu, make friends at during a comfortable homestay with a local family, take a roadtrip to Kaesong, and stay in luxury at Yanggakdo International Hotel.
Ski down the recently opened mountainside in North Korea on this 8-day luxury tour. Tour multiple town squares and impressive monuments dedicated to Kim II Sung to better understand an extremely politically devoted country. You will have a chance to play with local children and sample authentic cuisine as well.
Visit isolated North Korea on this exciting 8-day luxury journey through the country’s most popular spots. You’ll lay flowers at the feet of Kim Il Sung’s statue in Pyongyang, get an incredible view from Junche Tower, visit the Demilitarized Zone, and stay at the acclaimed Yanggakdo International Hotel.
One of the world’s most isolated cultures awaits you: North Korea. See history with your own eyes at Kim Il Sung’s tomb, visit culturally-important museums, and dine on North Korean cuisine in a folk village. This 6-day luxury itinerary takes you through North Korea’s historical and political past and present.
This large hotel in the center of Pyongyang is easily identified by its two soaring towers connected by an impressive atrium. The Koryo is ideally located within walking distance from the Tower of the Juche Idea and just across the river from Kim Il Sung Square. The rooms, though perhaps a little dated, are clean and well-equipped with soft beds and flat-screen HDTVs with Western news channels, while the bathrooms have hot running water, clean towels and toiletries. The hotel provides everything its guests could want, including a swimming pool with massage center, a well-stocked bookstore and a souvenir shop, which sells everything from stamps to fruit and even traditional Korean dresses. Guests will be kept entertained in any of the four bars on-site, which include a karaoke bar and, on the ground floor, a microbrewery; all the shops, bars and restaurants accept foreign Euros and US Dollars. Perhaps the highlight of this hotel is the revolving restaurant on the top floor of one of its towers, from which visitors can enjoy traditional Korean cuisine, accompanied by stunning views of the great city.
Yanggakdo International Hotel
Opened in 1995 and the second-tallest building in North Korea, the Yanggakdo is currently Pyongyang's only luxury hotel and one of the city's most noticeable landmarks. The hotel has over 1000 rooms as well as a panoramic revolving restaurant on its 47th floor. There are also 4 other restaurants serving Korean, Chinese & Japanese cuisine. Facilities include bowling alley, a pool room, a swimming pool, a barber shop, a casino and a massage club, and the hotel is adjacent to the Pyongyang International Cinema Hall.