North Korea after thirty years

By | Category: Travel destinations

North Korean landscape

There are few enough people who have holidayed in North Korea. There are even fewer that have visited it more than once. Just about Travel has only ever written one story about the destination and that was only because it began to promote itself as a guided tour destination a few years ago.

But one tour operator, Regent Holidays, which has a reputation for seeking unusual holiday destinations – its latest being Abkhazia and how many people know where that is – has just clocked up a thirty-two year relationship with the country.

the Mansudae Grand Monument

Today they organise about seventeen different tours of the country and have no shortage of takers. Each time North Korea appears in the news it stimulates interest and the telephones at Regent ring.

You might think that you would be limited to travelling to just the capital city, Pyongyang, but that isn’t the case. Over the years, Regent Holidays have built up a degree of trust with the government and, consequently, it has been allowed to provide tours to places that other, newer tour operators that haven’t built such a relationship,, may struggle to offer.

Mt Myoyang

Mt Myohyang – the second highest mountain in North Korea

Yes you will tour government sponsored destinations like the Mansudae Grand Monument where there are statues to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and the Fatherland War Liberation Museum which – for those with long memories – houses the USS Peublo which was captured in 1968. But you can also see Mounts Paekdu and Kumgang, home to a lot of Korean folklore and ski resorts, forests and beaches. Regent even organises trekking holidays in more remote parts of the country so you can see the differnt landscapes that you might not otherwise know exist.

Tours can alter because of celebrations being held that month and sometimes, events occur which not even Regent knows are happening and they are only told at the last moment. The agenda can then be altered at the last minute to take in these extra sights so just about every tour has more than appears in the original itinerary.

North Korea is still a highly closed country. Visiting on your own is difficult. Wandering away from your tour party is not recommended and suddenly taking an urge to investigate what is around that inviting corner is not what you should do. Occasionally even established tour companies can accidentally incur the displeasure of the authorities.

the country has sea landscapes to rival those in Vietnam and Thailand

You might think that a trip to North Korea was a one-off event but Regent says that on a June upcoming tour it has someone who has been there seven times already. It has dozens who have been there four or five times and, usually once a year, there is a tour for only those who have been there before. Why the appeal? Because on each trip, you see a little more of the real culture of the country and how everyday life is. And that gives bragging rights because I’d be prepared to bet that few people in your neighbourhood have been to North Korea before

If you are considering a holiday in North Korea, the advice from Carl Meadows, the North Korean expert at Regent, is not to leave it to the last minute because you won’t go. You need to book at least two months before the tour because it takes that long for the company to gain the necessary visas.

Images © KITC/Regent Holidays

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