North Korea

One of the most secretive, regimented, & closed-off countries on earth, it still makes for a fascinating visit. Here we discuss the details of how to get there -- still tour groups only -- & what you'll find.

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Latest Activity: Nov 2, 2021

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A trip to Pyyongyang

Here's a look at visiting North Korea's relatively manicured capital from the UK newspaper The Guardian - it's from three years ago, but it's unlikely much has changed since then.Continue

Started by María José Jul 23, 2021.

on our blog: Communist Disneyland in an uncertain state

North Korea is like the urban legend of the Japanese soldier still fighting WWII out on some…Continue

Started by Tripatini Nov 22, 2012.

The Chinese won't go there? 3 Replies reports that the number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea has dropped substantially. I think I know why. What do you think?

Started by Northeast News. Last reply by Ed Wetschler Oct 7, 2011.

Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. Announces its 2012 North Korea Tours

Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. Announces its 2012 North Korea ToursHighlights include:The April 2012 tour coinciding with the 100th Birthday celebrations of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung;New visits…Continue

Tags: Performance, Mass, Kim, Il, Kumgang

Started by Marian Goldberg Aug 25, 2011.

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Comment by Ed Wetschler on April 30, 2012 at 2:00pm

New tour to North Korea:    Also scroll down this page for links to J. Thalia Cunningham's reports from North Korea.  

Comment by Marian Goldberg on August 25, 2011 at 8:52am

I visited North Korea in August 2010, almost a year ago.  It was an eye opening experience that made me wish I had visited the former Soviet Union back in the day.  It reaffirmed the notion that people are people anywhere in the world and governments are governments wherever you go, and you cannot stereotype a people because of their government. I recommend traveling to North Korea in a group, because you are always with TWO guides (minders) whether you are a “group” of one or group of 20. This is because the guides not only “watch out for” (or just watch) you, they also watch each other!  When you are in a larger group, they can’t be as attentive, which is a good thing, because it means that they don’t notice as much when you take photos out of the bus window.  Plus, I found our personal group to be quite interesting, and we still email each other.  We had a field engineer, who was a former marine; a retired newspaper publisher and his wife; a university professor of East Asian Studies, who was formerly head of North Korean relations for the State Department (He spoke Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, which was quite helpful); a graduate student in International Relations; a staff member at Homeland Security, the head of the mid-West Chapter of the Council on Foreign Relations, a gynecologist, an attorney, and others of course.

We had the chance to tour not just within Pyongyang but also out in the mountains, where the water was so clear, I could fill my water bottle from the running stream.  Fortunately, we were there on a Sunday, which is the day that the North Korean people get off from work. (Yes, who knew they’d get a day off!) They had come by rickety public buses to have picnics in the mountains with co-workers and family.  We climbed the mountain and weren’t much bothered by the soldiers at all.  However, the people themselves were such a delight. They were so happy to see us! They all wanted to take photos with us – especially to have our photos with their children!  They could not speak much English, but we understood each other by expressions and actions.  We would never have had this experience if we had just stayed in Pyongyang.  I have to say that having an opportunity to interact with the people – even with the guides -- was my favorite part of the trip.  I also sat next to one of the flight attendants on the flight from Pyongyang back to Beijing. She was only 19 years old and was very curious.  She said to me, “Your country and my country are not friends.”  You could hear the longing and sadness in her voice. She also recalled to me how the Japanese had been very mean to them.  They were still living in the shadows of World War II, maybe even unaware of how the world has changed since then – let alone of the rise of communism and its collapse over twenty years ago.   Of course we saw a lot of “robotic tourist sites”, such as the library, a token Buddhist Temple, and Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jun Il’s gift houses (bomb shelters?), but meeting the people was the highlight.  Plus, to see that the people are not really starving (not anymore) was very worthwhile.

Regarding the sites they wanted us to see, I have to say that the Mass Performance was very well done, and a great spectacle. Additionally, having been to the DMZ on the South Korean side, I actually preferred the North’s introduction to the same place. They even let us take photos with the North Korean soldiers!  That was forbidden on the South side!

We also visited a school that had a special after-school program in music and art. The kids – ages five and up -- gave us a phenomenal dance, music, and martial arts presentation. It made me wish I had brought my children and wish there was some kind of US school trip, which I believe could truly begin to foster international peace.


I traveled to the DPRK with Walter Keats of Asia Pacific Travel Ltd, which is an American company out of Chicago that actually has a direct license with the North Korean government to offer tours for Americans.

Comment by EnLinea Media on August 24, 2011 at 5:42pm

Don't miss the fascinating four-part North Korea series by J. Thalia Cunningham we just finished running in the Tripatini blog:


Part 1: North Korea Travel: Pyongyang Finally Starting to Open Up?

Part 2: North Korea Travel: Visit to Downtown Pyongyang

Part 3: North Korea Travel: Mass Games in Pyongyang

Part 4: North Korea Travel: Tips on How to Visit (and Also Catch the Mass G...

Comment by Political Tours on August 22, 2011 at 5:08pm


We are headed to North Korea this autumn led by former UK diplomat and Korean expert, Dr James Hoare. With pre-tour briefings in Beijing and access to areas rarely seen by foreigners, this should be a fascinating journey. Do get in touch with us if you want to know more or mail 


Also this autumn: Turkey - Erdogan & The Anatolian Tigers November 12-20 

Comment by Explore North Korea on March 10, 2011 at 9:38pm

We are North Korea Tour organizer based in Dandong of China just next to North Korea operate the tour to North Korea since 2000.We don't know how to introduce us to the tourists. Hope this will not break the rules here. But we really would like to help to answer the questions who would like to travel to this country.

We would like to answer all the questions from the tourists who would like to travel to North Korea here.

Comment by Lindsay on May 12, 2010 at 10:28am
Anyone else been? I went in September 2009 and it was the most interesting place I've traveled to so far. I've been blogging about it at
Comment by EnLinea Media on January 28, 2010 at 2:57pm
Big news on the NK travel front! Here's a press release we just received from the PR rep of Tripatini member Walter Keats of Asia Pacific Travel. Hopefully Walter will soon weigh in himself with some additional details.

Asia Pacific Travel Ltd Announces that North Korea Confirms American Travelers are Allowed to Visit Year-Round

Chicago, IL, January 27, 2010 … North Korea’s state-run travel company, the Korea International Travel Company, has confirmed to Walter L. Keats, CTC, CMP, President of Asia Pacific Travel Ltd (APTL) their decision to allow American tourists permission to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) all year long, just like other nationalities. Since 2005, American tourists have only been allowed to travel to the DPRK during the special Arirang synchronized gymnastics performance period in August to September.

The issues of whether to allow Americans to stay longer than the five day limit that is currently in place, and to travel on trains to and from China, are still being considered.

Mr. Keats is optimistic the other two policy changes will be implemented also. In accordance with this, APTL has already posted new itineraries on its web site,, taking advantage of these changed policies. Mr. Keats said that, “APTL tours for 2010 will offer a different and more extensive mix of long and short-stay study tours, from April through October.”

Mr. Keats acknowledges that the most important factor in this change in travel policy toward US citizens is the improved relations between the US and the DPRK, as evidenced by the visit last month of Ambassador Stephen Bosworth to Pyongyang. However, he also feels that the meeting he personally had with two DPRK officials at the DPRK UN Mission in New York in December 2009 may have been an additional positive influence.

Asia Pacific Travel's North Korean tours are based on over 15 years experience working with the DPRK. Mr. Keats is a North Korea expert and an experienced tour leader who has visited North Korea 19 times since 1995. He escorts almost all of APTL’s North Korean travel programs.

Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. is the only “officially recognized” American tour operator to North Korea with a Letter of Commission from the DPRK (

A further announcement about the final two possible policy changes for travel to the DPRK will be made immediately after the DPRK’s official determination.

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