North Korea is an interesting holiday destination for most. And it’s not difficult to see why. The government currently adopts the political ideology of Juche which roughly translates to “self-reliance”. Its central tenet is that the nation must remain isolated and dependent only on the guidance and strength of their “Supreme Leader”.
Yet a morbid fascination with the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ spurs many travellers around the world to visit. In fact, this dictatorial nation surprisingly plays host to some 100,000 visitors a year — all of whom are looking to catch a glimpse of a country still trapped in Soviet-era politics. A trip here would grant immense bragging rights, but take note of two huge compromises: Singaporean travellers who have visited DPRK since March 2011 would not be eligible for the visa-waiver to the United States and entry is only by way of a guided tour. Here, we spotlight the different tours to North Korea that can take you into the Hermit Kingdom — from short day trips to culinary affairs giving you a taste of what North Koreans eat.
Singaporean-based agency Klook offers a simple way for travellers to discover activities, attractions and things to do on their trip. These activities are usually one-off and are suitable for visitors who already have an itinerary planned out. The day trip to North Korea from South Korea will bring you to the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ for short. This location is also one of the most iconic pictures in the press, as it was the backdrop for the Trump-Kim handshake — the first time an American leader has ever stepped into North Korean territory. On this express tour, you will gain some insight into Korean War history, visit The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge and see views of the country via the Dora Observatory.
Koryo Tours has experience running visits to this remote land since 1993, supporting people-to-people engagement and promoting responsible tourism. The group tours are one of the most popular ones with tourists, and rightfully so. They offer special event-based itineraries, including the Kim Il-Sung Birthday tour, the Victory Day tour and the May Day tour. These trips average from three to eight days, depending on the needs of the travellers.
Mention North Korean cuisine and Pyongyang Naengmyeon, or Pyongyang cold noodles, may just be the only dish that comes to mind. Young Pioneer Tours aims to dispell that with their Culinary Tour around Pyongyang. Guests will be able to sample and discover local-only spots and take part in cooking classes along the way.
If you’re looking for luxury, Uri Tours has your back. They specialise in safe and premium tours for a maximum of 12 visitors, with each group staying only at 5 or 6-star deluxe accommodations. This is in addition to them offering the most unique experiences in North Korea, such as the Bike Tour, the Surf tour and the Pyongyang Marathon tour. For guests who want a little more attention, private tours can be catered for as well.
The ‘Hermit Kingdom’ may not be a destination for everyone, and travellers to the exclusive nation may find it difficult to find friends or family members to travel with. Lupine Travel, a UK based company that hosts tours to far-flung nations, find that solo travellers make up 76 per cent of their tour demographic. Due to the nature of the tours that they host, most guests are able to get along fairly well, as they find themselves with the same hobby of travelling to unconventional areas of the world. For those with the luxury of time, try out their Atherton (Greater Manchester) to Pyongyang tour for a month-long journey across the seas.
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.