First foreign group goes on camping and hiking trip to North Korea
A British travel company has led the first camping and hiking trip into North Korea, opening the tourism market to the world's most secretive country.
A British travel company has led the first camping and hiking trip into North Korea, opening the tourism market to the world’s most secretive country.
Ten travelers spent nine nights in North Korea, with the highlight the “pretty testing” hiking on the slopes of Mount Myohyang and Mount Kumgang, according to Sarah Davies, of Beijing-based Koryo Tours.
“This was the first time a camping trip has been allowed to go into North Korea,” she said. “When we first asked the tourism authorities, they thought camping was an unusual idea because there were plenty of hotels in these areas anyway, but they didn’t stand in our way.”
Hiking and camping are not popular hobbies in North Korea and there is little infrastructure in place at present. The hikers had to clear their own camp sites each night and gather wood for fires.
“That part of North Korea has such beautiful scenery that so few people know about,” Ms Davies said.
The group walked around 20 miles each day and saw some of the North’s most secluded natural sights, including Kumgang Waterfall and Lake Sam Il Po.
Koryo Tours was set up in 1993 by Nick Bonner, who is originally from Cheshire, and is one of the very few outside companies that is permitted to enter the country with foreign visitors.
“We are always trying to push the envelope in terms of what we can do in the form of responsible tourism in North Korea,” he told The Telegraph. “We don’t just want to do the run-of-the-mill stuff of the sights in Pyongyang or the Demilitarised Zone.”
There have in recent years been indications that North Korea is gradually opening up to the concept of tourism, particularly as it is a good source of hard currency, and Koryo Tours added a cycling tour to its portfolio last year.
Foreign runners have also taken part in the most recent Pyongyang Marathon, while tourists are also able to take on North Korean fighters in the traditional martial art of Taekwondo.
“Little changes take time and we are not sure whether the political changes mean that North Korea will become more accessible, but it is one of the most amazing travel experiences in the world, whether or not you agree with its government,” Mr Bonner said.