North Korea — Things to Do
One of the best times to visit North Korea is between August and October for the Mass Games, an astonishing gymnastics and performance spectacle involving tens of thousands of visual artists showcasing intricately-choreographed routines. North Korea’s Wonsan area is known for its natural beauty and beaches, but a special request to include a visit to the usual itinerary may be needed. Your schedule must be set as part of your tour package before you arrive, and there’s little chance of any independent activities or on-a-whim visits.
Tours in North Korea can be taken for as few as four days or up to a full 10-day visit and are available through a number of operators, with Koryo Tours out of Beijing seemingly the most efficient. Days in Pyongyang are filled with visits to landmarks and monuments celebrating the achievements of the military dynasty, museums dedicated to the Korean War victory and trips to the reputed birthplace of the Great Leader on sacred Mangyongdae Mountain, just outside the city.
Kaesong, the ancient capital of Koryo (North Korea), is of particular interest to history buffs for its Manwoldae Palace, Koryo Museum, set in an ancient Confucian Academy, and a selection of Royal tombs of the Joseon period, some of which are accessible to tourists. The museum holds a number of priceless remnants of the arts of the time, although many more are housed in Pyongyang’s Korean Central History Museum. Adventure Korea as well as Koryo Tours offer Kaesong as an approved destination.
Sports facilities are relatively rare in North Korea, although Pyongyang has a shooting range to practice both pistol and rifle skills at a reasonable cost, and the Pyongyang Golf Course makes for a surreal experience back when you boast about playing a round or two in North Korea. Both are located off Chongchun Street and must be scheduled in advance.
For supreme natural beauty, the Kumgangsan Mountains close to the southern border in the Wonsan region are as good as it gets, with spectacular waterfalls, ancient monasteries, unusual rock formations, and lovely Samil Lagoon. Koryo Tours include Wonsan in its itineraries.