Day 1 - Beijing
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.
Day 2 - Beijing - Pyongyang
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.
Day 3 - Pyongyang
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.
Day 4 - Kaesong - DMZ
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.
Day 5 - Pyongyang
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.
Day 6 - Pyongyang - Mt Myohyangsan
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.
Day 7 - Pyongyang to Beijing
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.
Day 8 - Beijing
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.
Day 9 - Beijing
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).
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money