10 Reasons to visit North Korea

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It has been a source of some rather popular controversies, but is it really worthy of its notoriety? Let’s have a look at some of the best places in North Korea and why to visit.

I didn’t get time to visit all of these places but I have spoken to those that have and decided they are worthy of being on the list of reasons to visit.

1. The Pyongyang Marathon

Pyongyang Marathon commonly known as Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon is an annual marathon held each April in the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. The Marathon is categorised as an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race.

In 1981, the marathon was held for the first time for men, and in 1984, the women’s event was initiated. The race starts and finishes at the  Kim Il Sung Stadium and continues along the famous Taedong River passing some of North Korea best landmarks.

The Pyongyang Marathon is not only fun to watch but is also fun to participate in. Crowds consisting of women, children and elders gather and high five the contestants throughout the marathon. This event is also perfect for strong amateur runners wishing to take part, with a cut-off time of 4 hours. Do not worry, if you can’t make the 4 hours cut off time like my pal Tim, you can hop aboard the yellow sweeper bus or opt for the half marathon or 10km run.

north korea marathon
north korea marathon

2. The Arch of Triumph

The Arch of Triumph commemorates President Kim Il Sung’s return home after Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945. The Arch stands lit at night and offers and impressive view of Kaeson Evening Funfair which is also close by. Across the street from the Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang stands a large mural depicting the President’s speech upon returning to Korea after the country’s liberation. The top of the Arch of Triumph also offers great views of the Kim Il Sung Stadium where sporting events are held.

Arch of Triumph

3. USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

The USS Pueblo was a Banner-class environmental research ship which was used by the US Navy as an information gathering ship (spy ship). On 23rd January 1968, it was attacked and captured by North Korean forces, after which sensitive equipment fell into North Korean and USSR (Russian) hands. The incident is also known as the Pueblo Incident and as Pueblo Crisis. Pueblo is a tourist attraction in Pyongyang, North Korea since being moved to the Taedong River. Pueblo used to be anchored at the spot where it is believed the General Sherman incident took place in 1866. In late November 2012 Pueblo was moved from the Taedong river dock to a casement on the Botong river next to the new Fatherland War of Liberation Museum. The ship was renovated and made open to tourists with an accompanying video of the North Korean perspective in late July 2013. As of April 2015, the museum is moored and on display at the Pyongyang Victorious War Museum. Visitors are allowed to board the ship and see its secret code room and crew artefacts.

USS Pueblo (AGER-2)

4. The DMZ (De-militarized Zone)

Asia’s most dangerous front line and a strip of land just 4km wide and 250km long which separates North and South Korea, a place where anyone who visits must follow a strict set of guidelines and procedures. The soldiers wear dark glasses so their enemies can’t read their expressions. Known as the DMZ, this is the site where an armistice was signed to end the Korean War in 1953. Except a peace treaty was never officially signed and the two nations, North and South, are technically still at war.

The DMZ north korea

5. Juche Tower

The Juche Tower was built on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Kim Il Sung, by the River Taedong in 1982. The tower has a 20-meter long torch which can be seen glowing throughout the night. In front of it is a group of three people standing 30 meters high. Each person in the trio carries a symbol of the emblem of the Worker’s Party of Korea; a hammer, sickle and brush.

Juche Tower
Juche Tower

6. Paektu Mountain

I passed this one on the bus trip heading to the DMZ, so if you could get a  tour including the DMZ and the Paektu mountain you would be onto a winner.

Mount Paektu, Baekdu, or Changbai is an active volcano on the border between North Korea and China. At 2,744 m, it is the highest mountain of the Changbai and Baekdudaegan ranges. Mount Paektu is particularly interesting because it is relatively distant from a tectonic plate boundary.

Paektu Mountain

7. The Tomb of King Tongmyon

The reason that makes the tomb a remarkable and fascinating spot is the legend behind the King Tongmyon’s birth. According to the legend, the chambermaid of the queen became pregnant when she was struck by a bolt of lightning. Because of this, the king feared that this may be a supernatural event that could harm him and ordered the baby to be thrown into the pigsty. But, the baby survived. The baby was then thrown into a horse stable where he survived again. The king, therefore, realised that the child was a divinity so ordered the mother to bring him up. He was given the name Tongmyong (Eastern Light) considering the events which led to his birth. He then went to build his own kingdom after overcoming all obstacles and attempts made on his life. He then declared himself the king of Puyo.

The Tomb of King Tongmyon

8. Kumsusan Palace of the Sun

The Kumsusan Palace of Sun, also known as the Kumsusan Memorial Palace and often referred to as Sung Mausoleum, is the Mausoleum for Kim Il Sung, the founder and eternal president of DPR Korea and for the leader Kim Jong Il who succeeded him as the country’s ruler.

Inside the palace, Kim Il Sung’s embalmed body lies inside a clear glass sarcophagus. His head rests on a Korean-style pillow and he is covered by the flag of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Kim Jong Il is now on display in a room close to and very similar to his father’s. In the Mausoleum there is a big museum dedicated to achievements of the leaders displaying medals, honours, diplomas, pictures from different countries etc.

 9. The Tomb of King Kongmin

The Tomb of King Kongmin, more correctly known as the Hyonjongrung Royal Tomb, is a 14th-century mausoleum located in Haeson-ri, Kaepung County just outside of the city of Kaesong. It is one of the Royal Tombs of the Koryo Dynasty. The tomb in awe-inspiring and hauntingly beautiful. Nothing short of an amazing spectacle of nature and man-made structure.

The Tomb of King Kongmin

10.  To meet like-minded people

It is no secret to North Korea’s strict guideline, that must be followed, there for, the only way to explore North Korea is to be part of a tour. North Korea attracts a certainly kind of person, a person that is perhaps eager to find answers, a person who is eager to explore somewhere new or perhaps a person eager to explore somewhere different and out of their comfort zone. Either way, you must be part of a tour and you are very likely to encounter like-minded people. Perhaps I was lucky on this tour or perhaps North Korea attracts a certain kind of person.

If those from my tour were to go again, that alone would be my number one reason. Thank you to all those like-minded people, I met along my journey of North Korea and a big shout out to my favourite Anouk 😉  oh and Lucy. 🙂

north korea tour

If you have visited North Korea and you have some reasons to visit please share in the comments below

Get Free Blog Post Updates!

Never miss a beat – just enter your email address below and you'll get an email every time I publish a new post! Don't forget to check your mailbox or spam mail and confirm subscription

Subscribe!