Perfectly orchestrated, the thousands of performers sway to the sounds of traditional music. Looking at the individual gymnasts, you find that each move is precise, each step is well-rehearsed, and each act is performed proudly.
As a singular performance the choreography would be impressive, but as a whole…well there are few words that can describe that.
As one of the world’s most mysterious countries, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a total population of over 24 million. The dictatorship is frequently in the news, however there are very few people who have seen the workings of daily life. And with travel conditions being both restrictive and heavily selective, your trip will unveil only what the authorities want you to see.
Unlike travel in most of the world, destinations are selected for you, rather than of your own choosing. Visitors sign up for a tour and are led to sites that glorify the nation’s historic roots. While not exactly the most exciting of trips, the chance to experience such a closed off country is one that should not be missed.
Traveling in North Korea
Entering from China, tourists will arrive either by air or by rail. Meeting up with your guides, you will be taken to your accommodations, which will be located on an island at the center of Pyongyang. From there, stops will include an amusement park, the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, and a trip to Mount Myohyang.
Expect to be given a thorough history of North Korea, which will emphasize its past as a prosperous nation and the fearless guidance of its Great Leaders.
Credit: David Stanley
A well-timed trip will have you attending the Arirang Festival and North Korea’s mass games. Occurring annually between August and October, the highlight of the festival is a massive performance held at Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium. As the world’s largest stadium, the facility has a capacity of 150,000.
Rather than an athletic competition, the games are a series of gymnastic performances. As a backdrop, thousands of children are seated opposite the spectators, flipping cards that show massive images of North Korea’s culture and history. In the meantime, music will synchronize the movements of around 100,000 performers.
Leave whatever opinions you have of the highly-publicized nation at the door and take in a performance unlike any other. At the end of the 90 minutes, you’ll never look at a synchronized act the same way again.
With tickets available for purchase once you’ve arrived in Pyongyang, look to pay somewhere between $100 and $400US to get in. Rest assured that no seat is a bad seat. And with four performances a week, stubs will be readily available.
Credit: Joseph A Ferris III
When To Go
To get the most out of your trip to North Korea, catch the Mass Games, which occurs between August and October. Contacting a tour group will aid with the planning and timing of your travels.
Temperatures in Pyongyang during the mass games will range from lows of 45°F (7°C) to highs of 84°F (29°C). August is a particularly rainy month, with an estimated total precipitation of around 190mm.
Getting There & Around
After arriving in Beijing, you’ll have the option to either fly or take the train into Pyongyang. Flights leave twice a week while trains depart every couple of days.
- Four-night trip: $2,100-$2,500
- Meal: Included
- Beer: $0.60
- Keep your political opinions to yourself.
- Stay at your hotel if your guide isn’t around.
- Dress well for the duration of your stay.
- Expect to cross over from South Korea.
- Take pictures unless you have permission from your guides.
- Worry about safety. You’ll be well taken care of on your trip.
- Cell phones are banned throughout the nation.
- North Korea’s airline, Air Koryo, is the only 1-star airline in the world.
- Kim Il-Sung, North Korea’s first president, has been deemed the ‘Eternal President of the Republic’.
Feature Image Credit: Joseph A Ferris III