North Korea Victory Day: The Itinerary

No point in posting the original itinerary, that was torn asunder due to the Victory Day festivities. The guides from Uri Tours and their local partners KISTC, did a fantastic job adjusting to the changing requirements from the authorities. Floods in the north scrapped a day trip as well. Much better than in 2010 we had flexibility to adjust the schedule so that we had a great experience each day. My biggest disappointment in 2010, not being able to visit Kim Il-Sung’s mausoleum, Kumsusan Memorial Palace, due to last-minute renovations, was rectified as we visited among dignitaries including Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and his entourage, his smile as plastic as any politician from a democracy.

North Korea Victory Day 104

When: July 26-30, 2013

Who: Group of about 10, varied by each person’s tour length

Where: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Transport: Air Koryo Beijing-Pyongyang, the [edited] primary air route for tourists

Sleep: Yanggakdo Hotel, Pyongyang (note: our planned overnight trip to Myohyangsan was canceled due to flooding in the north.)

North Korea Victory Day 558

Itinerary (Final):

July 26:

  • Noon flight Beijing-Pyongyang, two of us late arrivals joined the main group that arrived the day prior
  • Arch of Triumph, nice spot to sample central Pyongyang, lots of activity in the adjacent square, stadium, and Kaeson Youth Park (night only)
  • Mangyongdae Kim Il-Sung birthplace, hard to muster interest, especially for the second time

July 27:

  • Victory Day morning parade, all tour groups were shunted out of the city center to watch the parade on TV at restaurants
  • Post-parade ‘hardware’ viewing of the military equipment rolling out of the city, east of Kim Il-sung Square
  • Post-parade troop viewing of the troops rolling out of the city, near Mansudae Grand Monument
  • Pyongyang Orchestra performance
  • Arirang ‘Mass Games’ Performance

July 28:

  • Kumsusan Memorial Palace, viewing of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il
  • From here the main group went to Kaesong and the DMZ, since I had previously visited, I had a private van for the following:
  • Flower Exhibition, biannual
  • Nampo City: West Sea Barrage and beach
  • UNESCO-listed Complex of Koguryo Tombs

July 29:

July 30:

  • Morning flight to Beijing

North Korea Victory Day 384

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

Pingbacks

  • Pat+

    It’s refreshing to find a travel blog that goes beyond hotels and flights.

    One question/clarification-why are you stating that Beijing/Pyongyang is the only route approved for tourists? There are several others, including the (more or less seasonal) route from Kuala Lumpur to Pyongyang (which doesn’t require a Chinese visa) as well as other routes from China.

    Also, it’s my understanding that some groups were allowed to watch the ‘real’ parade, though I’ll have to check (I wasn’t there myself.)

    Can’t wait to read your next posts.

  • @Pat+ – you are right, I did some additional research and things have changed since 2010, I see the flights to other China cities, and the previously charter SE Asia flights also with a regular schedule. When I last went the only other regular flight was Vladivostok and they were not letting tourists that way. That said, during the holiday they were running 4 flights a day to Beijing and nothing else except I saw one Vladivostok, so Beijing still does seem the most reliable play, also with Air China as backup.

    For the parade the only groups that we heard getting real access were invited media and VIPs of various sorts, if other regular tourists got full access I will be really jealous!

  • john

    I have also heard of tourists going to north Korea by train from China

  • Mike Primo

    Currently, US passport holders are not permitted to enter or exit North Korea by train. Entry/Exit must be by air. Many other nationalities do not have this restriction.

  • @Mike Primo – thanks for chiming in. I should have laid that out in the post that train is an option for most nationalities. It is a long trip so I see some tours offer it one-way train, one-way air. At times I have heard that they have let US citizens in by train but required them to fly out, seems a situation always in flux. Some time ago I took the train within China up to the border at Dandong, Liaoning, it makes for an interesting stop.

  • Glenn (The Military Frequent Flyer)

    Interesting that you did a tour of the DMZ from the nK side. Have you taken the tour from the ROK side? Would be a great set of photos to view from both sides.

    Unfortunately, the only way that I would ever get to North Korea would be under very unfortunate circumstances.

  • @Glenn – I took the tour on the ROK side in 2004, pre me taking many photos. On the ROK side I did not get to do the weekly USO tour which I believe is still the only one that gets to the huts on the actual line. The various other tours have several options, I did one that included the main observation building and an interceptor tunnel. The drive up the DMZ the ROK side feels incredibly militarized, while on the DPRK side there is little evidence of military buildup on the main route. Both are very peaceful when in the DMZ. North Korea has the buildings where the armistace was signed. Some Korean War veterans have gone to North Korea on tours but I assume active duty would be an issue.

  • Pingback: The John Travolta of North Korea – Dancing on the Beach - Rapid Travel Chai()