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Inside North Korea
13 days
China - Trip code KO

Inside North Korea

North Korea is one of the most isolated places on earth and one of the last bastions of Communism. We explore the outstanding natural beauty of its Kumgang Mountains, admire the flamboyant architecture of its socialist capital Pyongyang and stand on the border separating South Korea's peninsula during this fantastic trip through North Korea. This exciting adventure tour offers an unusual insight into the country's political and ideological heritage.

Trip highlights

  • Pyongyang - Explore the capital, admire the socialist architecture and visit the Mansudae Monument, a tribute to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
  • Wonsan - Discover the beautiful scenery in this little visited region
  • Panmunjom - Stand at the world's most fortified border
  • Beijing - Visit Tiananmen Square and the incredible Forbidden City
Accommodation grade:
Our standard, mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service, often with other amenities such as a restaurant, bar, garden or swimming pool. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en suite facilities.
Trip pace:
Full on
Full on paced trips are for travellers who like their holidays packed with activities and experiences, moving on quickly from place to place with lots of early starts and long, busy days. Some may find them tiring, but others get a buzz from packing their precious holiday-time as chock-a-block full of new experiences as possible!
Group Size:
10 - 16
Maximum group size ranges from between 6 to 20 people, depending on the type of trip, the transport and accommodation used and activities included. We rarely have groups that are smaller than five or six people and the average is 12 people plus an Explore leader.


Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.

Day 1 - Join tour Beijing

Arrive Beijing, check into hotel.

Accommodation: Xiao Xiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: None
Day 2 - Cross Tiananmen Square and visit the Forbidden City. Board the overnight train to Pyongyang

This morning we'll explore the Chinese capital, the political and cultural centre of the country. Beijing has mostly been the capital since the days of Kublai Khan, and is a more dominant factor in people's lives today than ever before. All clocks in China are set by Beijing time. Today we visit the Forbidden City, the one-time home of the Ming and the Manchu (Qing) emperors, a treasure trove of eastern wares. The recent history of China is similar to that of North Korea in that the Chinese followed the Communist ideology of a freedom fighter who became the dominant leader. The influence of Mao in China remains strong today, with his imposing portrait located above the southern gate of the Forbidden City, overlooking Tiananmen Square. In the afternoon we'll board the overnight train to Pyongyang.

Accommodation: Overnight Train: Beijing/Pyongyang

Simple Overnight Train
Meals Provided: Breakfast
Day 3 - Arrive in Pyongyang and visit the Arch of Triumph

This evening we arrive in to Pyongyang, the unique showpiece of North Korea. We are now in a country where every aspect of life is dominated by the State and the ideology of Kim Il Sung, the Great Leader. To live in Pyongyang is considered an honour to the citizens of North Korea, who require permits to enter, or leave the city. Our exploration of the city starts with a visit to the impressive Arch of Triumph, built to commemorate the triumphant return of President Kim Il Sung.

Please note that when in North Korea the order of sightseeing may be changed once in the country. We will try and interact with locals wherever possible, you may wish to bring some photos of your home, hometown or even recent holidays as they are a great way of making a connection with the people we meet during the tour.

Accommodation: Yanggakdo International Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast & Dinner
Day 4 - Sightseeing in Pyongyang and drive to Kaesong

Today we will see the Grand People's Study House - the huge library that is situated in Kim II Sung square, the Korean Central Art Gallery and Foreign Book Store.

After lunch we depart Pyongyang along the deserted roads to reach the ancient capital at Kaesong. Kaesong was once the most important city on the peninsular being the first unified capital, and remaining so for nearly 400 years. It remained in South Korea at the outbreak of hostilities of the 1950-53 war and therefore was protected from the bombing that destroyed almost every ancient monument in the North. Here we visit the Koryo Museum with its historical buildings, and the twin tombs of King Kongmin and his wife who ruled Korea in the 14th century. Our night is spent at a local style hotel, sleeping in the traditional manner on a mattress on a heated floor.

Accommodation: Minsok Folk Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 5 - Visit the DMZ and return to Pyongyang

We drive south to Panmunjon, which is the last frontier in the Cold War. Lying along the 38th Parallel, this is one of the most tense and fortified borders in the world, where over a million soldiers are on constant guard. Our Military guide shows us around areas where the armistice agreement was signed in 1953 and talks freely of the North Korean perspective of the current situation. This almost serene setting, where soldiers from the North and South stand almost side by side, is an acute reminder of the tragic division of the peninsula.

Retracing our footsteps along the near empty road we return to Pyongyang, taking in Mangyongdae - the birth place of Kim II Sung, which is visited by hundreds of Koreans every day to see where the first thoughts of liberation were founded.

Accommodation: Yanggakdo International Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 6 - In Pyongyang

This morning we will ascend the 150m high Juche Tower, a symbol of the country's guiding ideology, Juche. This is based on a self reliance and the principle that each individual is master of their own destiny, and has held the country together for 50 years, outliving many other forms of communism. We also make the obligatory trip to the Mansudae Monument, a huge bronze tribute to Kim II Sung and Kim Jong Il where its compulsory to lay flowers as a mark of respect, and we will visit the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun whihc is the mausoleum of North Korean Leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Later we drive to Moranbong Park where there is the opportunity to take a stroll in the park and the unique chance to mix with the locals enjoying their day off. We also take the Metro, with its immaculate marble clad stations. Here kitsch chandeliers light enormous mosaics depicting heroic citizens from all walks of life stretching the length of the platforms on both sides.

Accommodation: Yanggakdo International Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 7 - Drive across the country to Lake Suijung

Today's drive sees us cross the breadth of the country to the port city of Wonsan. After lunch and a visit to a co-operative farm we continue south to Lake Sijung. We stay in a small motel on the edge of the lake. The mud of Lake Sijung is reputed to have great medicinal properties and there's the opportunity to test this with an optional mud bath and massage.

Accommodation: Lake Sijung Guesthouse(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 8 - Explore the Kumgang Mountains

Leaving our idyllic location, we head into the heart of the Kumgang mountains, to an area only recently opened up to tourism in North Korea. Although geographically in the north, this region was leased from the government by the South Korean Hyundai corporation and was visited by tourists from the south. With the abrupt end of this arrangement, once again this destination is only accessible to tourists from the north. There is the opportunity for some gentle walks in the region before heading back to Wonsan where we spend the night.

Accommodation: Dongmyong Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 9 - Visit to the Father Liberation War museum

Leaving Wonsan we return to Pyongyang. The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War museum (opened in 1953 and rebuilt in 2013) is not to be missed; its fascinating to hear the DRPK's side of the story. Exhibits include a massive collection of war memorabilia, a chilling reminder of the brutality of the 'forgotten war'. We'll also take a walk in the sculpture park of monuments to the war, which was unveiled in 1993 to mark the 40th anniversary of its end. The main statue is titled 'Victory' and is an impressive sculpture of a Korean soldier and a red flag. We then end our day with a visit to the captured US spy ship Pueblo.

Accommodation: Yanggakdo International Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Day 10 - Train to Dandong

This morning we take the train from Pyongyang through the countryside to the border town of Sinuiju on the banks of the Yalu River. The Yalu River bridge was bombed by the Americans during the Korean war and provides a stark reminder of the turbulent history of the Korean peninsula. We cross the river to the Chinese Town of Dandong where we alight the train.

Accommodation: Dandong Sunny Resort Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast
Day 11 - Visit the Great Wall at tiger Mountain and take a boat trip past the Broken Bridge

This morning we will visit Tiger Mountain and the eastern tip of the Great Wall which was constructed during the Ming dynasty. Later we will take a relaxing boat ride on the Yalu river, enjoying lovely scenery and passing the site of the famous Broken Bridge which was bombed by the Americans in 1950.

In the evening we fly to Beijing.

Accommodation: Xiao Xiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast
Day 12 - In Beijing

The final day is left free to explore. You can take advantage of optional excursions to the Summer Palace or the Beijing Opera, or perhaps visit the Hutons and make some last minute purchases in the bustling stores and markets.

Accommodation: Xiao Xiang Hotel(or similar)

Standard Hotel
Single room available
Meals Provided: Breakfast
Day 13 - Tour ends Beijing

Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.

Meals Provided: Breakfast

Why book this trip

An ideal tour for someone who wants to get off the beaten track in one of the least visited countries in the world. As well as having the opportunity to admire the socialist architecture of Pyongyang and the ancient city of Kaesong, we drive out to the far east of the country and have the opportunity to walk in the stunning Kumgang Mountains.

What's included?

Included meals
  • Breakfast: 12
  • Lunch: 6
  • Dinner: 7
  • Bus
  • Flight
  • Train
Trip staff
  • Explore Tour Leader
  • Driver(s)
  • Local Guide(s)
  • 11 nights standard hotel
  • 1 nights simple overnight train
Award Winning Explore Leaders
Read more
Price Guarantee Promise
Read more
Airport Transfers
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FairFX currency card
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Trip information

Country information



China has primarily a temperate climate, with a wide spectrum of extremes due to its huge area. Summer months are hot and rainy though in the south the climate is tropical and we can experience rain at any time of the year, often falling in sharp tropical rain-storms which are heavy but short lived. Winter is colder and drier, temperatures in Beijing can be as low as -12c.

Time difference to GMT



3 Pin Flat


Mainly Buddhist



Budgeting and packing

Optional activities

The following excursions and/or activities are usually available and may be arranged locally. Estimated costs are provided below for guidance only, are on a per person basis unless shown otherwise, and may depend on the number of participants. Prices quoted are correct as of the date these tour notes were originally issued but may change at any time due to currency fluctuations. Please note: These activities are booked and paid for direct with the supplier and do not form part of your Explore holiday contract.

Beijing - Summer Palace £5.00(plus £12 for private transfer); Acrobat show £24.00; Opera £16.00; Hutong Tour including lunch £20.00, Birds Nest tour £10.00. please note that it may not be possible to do all these optionals.


Bring some warmer clothing for cooler evenings, lighter clothing for the day. Please note that smart attire is needed for the visit to Kim II Sung and Kim Jong Il's mausoleum. Men are required to wear a shirt and tie. On rare occasions foreigners are allowed to visit the Memorial Palace; for this, shirt and tie for men and dress or skirt for women are required.


Comfortable walking shoes, and trainers and sandals for relaxing.



Luggage: On tour

One main piece of lockable baggage and a daysac. Remember you are expected to handle your own
luggage so don't overload yourself.


A water bottle, sunscreen and a torch.


Explore leader
At your discretion you might also consider tipping your Tour Leader in appreciation of the efficiency and service you receive.
Local crew
Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognised part of life in this region of the world. Some local staff will look to members of the group for personal recognition of particular services provided. Accordingly, you should allow €40 for tipping. Your tour leader will account to you for any organised tipping.

In order to make things easier for you, the Tour Leaders may organise a group's tips kitty and if this is the case, they will account for it throughout the tour.
Country Information


Food and drink

The costs for meals may vary depending upon location, type of restaurant and number of courses eaten and so the prices given are an average guide. Local restaurants located off the beaten track may be less expensive, whereas an upmarket restaurant located in the centre of a major city may charge more.

Lunch price
Dinner price
£6.00 - 10.00
Beer price
Water price
Foreign Exchange
Local currency
Recommended Currency For Exchange
Either EUR, USD or GBP.
Where To Exchange
In all towns - your Tour Leader will advise you on arrival. When changing money ask for a receipt so you can change Yuan back into your own currency when leaving China.
ATM Availability
All major towns.
Credit Card Acceptance
Most major restaurants and stores.
Travellers Cheques
Travellers cheques can be changed in Hong Kong and at the Bank of China in all major cities but only during bank opening hours. Please note this is very time consuming and is not recommended.

Transport, Accommodation & Meals

Transport Information

Bus, Flight, Train

Essential Information

FCO Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice click here.

For more information from Explore about travel advice, click here

Under 18 immigration guidance

Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.

Price Guarantee

Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions

Visa and Passport Information

China: A visa is required by all nationalities. A double entry visa should be arranged in advance of travel.

In order to apply for your Chinese visa you will need to submit supporting documents from our local supplier confirming your itinerary and travel arrangements, which we will obtain on your behalf. So that we can provide this for you, and to ensure all local arrangements are in place, we require a copy of your passport no later than 8 weeks before you are due to start your trip. Once we have your passport copy we shall process and pass on the documents you require 6-8 weeks before your trip, please be mindful of this when applying for your visa. If you require the supporting documents earlier than this, please contact Explore so we can arrange this.

Passengers wishing to extend their stay in China should be aware that current visa regulations only allow foreigners to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Please consider this when planning your trip.
North Korea: North Korean visas will be issued at the Embassy in Beijing at the start of your holiday. Your tour leader will co-ordinate this on your behalf.

In order for Explore to arrange the necessary North Korea visas please return the following to us as soon as possible, and no later than 8 weeks before your tour departs the UK.
1. A filled in copy of the personal and passport information form, sent out in your confirmation pack
2. Clear, colour passport copy - this must be a colour copy, black and white copies cannot be accepted
3. Clear, colour passport photos x2
Please also take 2 passport photographs with you, and 50 Euros for your application fee.

Please note that we are unable to accept bookings from US passport holders at this time. Currently US passport holders are barred from using train services inside and across the borders of North Korea and it is not possible to offer amendments to the itinerary in place of train services.

You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.

If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.

Booking conditions

Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.


Find out more about Trip Transfer Terms and Conditions before you book.

Booking a land only package with Explore

Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information. 

You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.

Joining Tour Abroad

Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will now receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The transfers will be from the Explore designated airport or train station to the joining point of your tour, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.  

Free transfers are not available for Self-Guided, Polar, Tailormade or Tours for Churches customers.

If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.  

For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here


It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.

Flight information

Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.

Flight Information

You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.


Booking a flight inclusive package with Explore

We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.

On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.



Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Travellers may wish to take immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Dates, prices and booking

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