North Korea: A Hidden World
North Korea: A Hidden World is a truly unique journey: one that links the remote Northern Chinese cities of Harbin, Shenyang and Dandong with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by train. It is an adventure that dares to be different. Indeed, in a world of flattened travel perspectives, North Korea is the last frontier in the search for the remarkable. Our 14-day tour opens a fascinating window on North Eastern China and the enthralling ‘Hermit Kingdom’ and its people.
The tour begins in Harbin where we explore this unique Russian enclave in China which also boasts a Siberian tiger park with over 500 of these majestic cats. We then take the new bullet train that connects Harbin with Shenyang. Once a rusting old industrial city, Shenyang is now a gleaming metropolis that is home to the ancient Imperial Palace. From here it is a short train ride to one of the most extraordinary cities in China, Dandong – gateway to the DPRK. Here we have the unbelievable experience of seeing North Korea from the Great Wall of China! The adventure then continues as we cross into North Korea: this surreal experience is like arriving in another part of the world in a time capsule. ‘Mysterious’ and ‘secretive’ are adjectives that only scratch the surface when trying to describe the DPRK. Yet despite all the negative publicity that surrounds the country, tourists are arriving in ever-increasing numbers to one of the safest countries in the world. The people are proud of their Korean culture and treat visitors with great warmth and humour, which once again reminds us of the common bond of humanity. The country is full of a dizzying array of highlights from the time we board the train in Dandong for the thrilling journey to Pyongyang. These include the amazing Friendship Exhibition in the mountains of Myoyang, the famous American spy ship USS Pueblo, Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum and the extraordinary 38th Parallel and Demilitarised Zone. We invite you to join us on this inimitable travel experience!
Tour Fitness Level: Moderate
- Stroll down Central Street, of ‘The Moscow of the East’, Harbin
- See the largest Siberian Tiger park in the world
- Enjoy the Snow Ice hall sculptures on sun island
- Ride the new super-fast bullet train from Harbin to Shenyang
- Visit the UNESCO Imperial Palace in Shenyang
- Enjoy the vista of North Korea from the eastern end of the Great Wall of China
- Walk across the Broken Bridge which once linked China to North Korea
- Ride on one of the world’s most secret trains K27, Dandong to Pyongyang
- Step back in time as you cross the Yalu River from China to mysterious North Korea
- See the countryside of North Korea from the train; a fascinating glimpse of the country
- Experience an amazing circus show, North Korean style
- Wander through the world’s most astonishing war museum
- Step on board the USS Pueblo, the captured American spy ship
- Enjoy a picnic in a park surrounded by families from Pyongyang
- Visit the amazing International Friendship Exhibition complex in the mountains of Myohyang
- Watch talented children playing complex Mozart and Chopin violin and piano renditions at the Children’s Palace
- Visit the world’s most tense and militarised border, the 38th Parallel, from the North Korean side
- Experience an astonishing visit to the mausoleum that houses the bodies of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il
- All flights between Australia and Beijing/Pyongyang and Australia
- All accommodation (twin-share)
- All transfers
- All trains from Harbin to Pyongyang (twin-share)
- All meals as specified
- Travel Directors tour leader throughout
- Expert local guides throughout
- All entrance fees for specified sightseeing
- All ticketable air taxes (NB. may be subject to change)
- All visas and courier fees
- All tips and gratuities
Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 per person paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.
16/09/2020 Australia – Singapore
Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Singapore. On arrival we connect with the flight to Beijing.
17/09/2020 Singapore – Beijing – Harbin (LD)
Depart Singapore Singapore Airlines SQ 800, 01.10
Arrive Beijing 07.15
Depart Beijing China Southern CZ 6268, 10.45
Arrive Harbin 12.45
This morning we head to Harbin’s Sun Island on the north bank of the Songhua River, which flows 1,434 kilometres from the Changbai Mountains on the China/North Korea border through China’s north-eastern Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. This gorgeous area, surrounded by blue water, boasts crystal lakes, wooden rockeries, a kaleidoscope of flowers and exotic buildings. Covering 3,800 hectares, Sun Island is divided into several sections, including an animal park, a centre garden and the amazing Sun Gate, which is composed of five white elliptic arches and four small gates flanking an imposing central structure. The Snow Art Hall is the largest of its kind in the world, which allows us to marvel at the fantastic ice architecture, even in summer!
18/09/2020 Harbin (BLD)
Known as the ‘Moscow of the East’, Harbin has always been regarded as a unique and exotic city. Today we explore Harbin on foot as we enter perhaps the most interesting area of the city, simply known as ‘Central Street’. This long pedestrianised corridor of European architecture was built by the Russians more than 110 years ago, and it is this fusion with Russian history that attracts people form all over the world.
19/09/2020 Harbin – Shenyang (BLD)
After breakfast, we visit the Siberian Tiger Park in the north-west of Harbin; covering an area of 1,440,000 square metres, it is the largest natural park for wild Siberian tigers in the world. It was built in 1996 to protect the severely endangered species and is now home to 500 purebred Siberian tigers as well as white tigers, Bengali tigers, lynx, leopards and black pumas. Later we head to the railway station and board our bullet train for Shenyang, which completes the 600km journey in less than three hours.
Depart Harbin Train G50, 13.30
Arrive Shenyang 15.23
On arrival at the central rail station, we transfer to our hotel.
20/09/2020 Shenyang (BLD)
Today, we head to the Benxi Caves, said to have the world’s longest underground river that is navigable by boat. We board our boat for the tour through the caves, which are lit up with colored lights and signposted with the names of the various rock formations. In the afternoon we visit the beautiful Shenyang Imperial Palace, the only existing royal palace in China outside of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The main structure, built in 1625, covers an area of more than 60,000 square metres. Although smaller than the Forbidden City, over 300 rooms, formed around 20 courtyards more than constitute an imposing sight to behold. Within its walls, much is revealed about the early Qing Dynasty validating its UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site listing in 2004. After our tour here we visit the former residence of the Manchurian Warlords.
21/09/2020 Shenyang – Dandong (BLD)
An early start today as we head to Shenyang Railway station for our 220 km train journey to Dandong.
Depart Shenyang Train G7611, 08.53
Arrive Dandong 10.15
Situated on the banks of the Yalu River, this is the gateway to North Korea. Also called the Amrok or Amnok River, together with the Tumen River to its east, the Yalu forms the border between North Korea and China. Indeed, its strategic location makes it the prime port city and trade route for North Korea where the average import of goods is estimated to contribute 468 million dollars to the North Korean economy. Dandong is also home to the east end of the Great Wall of China and is believed to date back to the start of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC. Set in the Tiger Mountain, the Great Wall offers fantastic views of Sinuiju, the North Korean border city and the Yalu River that separates them. Dandong was heralded as the best tourist city of 2001 by the National Tourism Administration. From here, we travel to Broken Bridge, which once spanned the Yalu River connecting Dandong and Sinuiju. During the Korean War, from November of 1950 to February of 1951, American aircraft bombed the bridges that linked the two countries in an attempt to cut off Chinese aid. The bombing campaign left four arches of the bridge intact on the Chinese side. Consequently, it was referred to as Broken Bridge and became a tourist attraction and historic war monument in 1993. The end of the bridge is a mass of twisted metal and the supports for the bridge are still dotted along the North Korean shore.
22/09/2020 Depart Dandong (BD)
Depart Dandong Train K27, 07.25
Arrive Pyongyang 19.30
Early this morning we board the K27 Express for the thrilling journey to Pyongyang. Leaving Dandong, the train crosses the Yalu River Bridge, before passing through mountainous countryside to the DPRK. After a relaxed immigration procedure in Sinuiju the train makes its way into the heart of one of the world’s most remarkable travel destinations passing through typical rural countryside before arriving in the capital of North Korea.
23/09/2020 Pyongyang (BLD)
Located on the banks of the Taedong River, Pyongyang is a monumental and surprisingly beautiful city with a population of over three million and a rich history reaching back 5,000 years. The city boasts numerous traffic-free boulevards and avenues surrounded by parks and gardens. As we explore Pyongyang we see sights such as the Arch of Triumph, the Juche Tower, Moran Hill and the birthplace of Kim Il Sung. This afternoon we visit some stations on a metro system that many say rival Moscow and Paris for their beauty.
24/09/2020 Pyongyang – Myohyang (BLD)
After breakfast we drive two-hours to Myohyang, which is situated in the mountains of north-western DPRK. Mt Myohyang boasts a beautiful and pristine environment and is a very popular local tourism site. The area features over 2,500 species of plants, animals, birds and fish. We visit the amazing International Friendship Exhibition, which opened in 1978, and is regarded as one of the most extraordinary museums in the world. Gifts from Presidents and Prime Ministers from around the globe are on display. A visit here is like stepping back into the history of the 20th Century!
25/09/2020 Myohyang – Pyongyang (BLD)
The beautiful Pohyon Temple is one of the most famous in Korea, dating back to the 11th Century. After breakfast we explore the two storey Temple, also known as the ‘Pagoda of many treasures’. After lunch, we return to Pyongyang to visit the Korean War Museum, which is dedicated to the Korean War of 1950-1953. Exhibits include weapons, captured planes, tanks and magnificent dioramas.
26/09/2020 Pyongyang (BLD)
This morning we visit the captured American armed spy ship, the USS Pueblo. Constructed in 1932 and refitted as a military information-gathering ship in the US Pacific fleet, the Pueblo was captured in January 1968 with 80 sailors onboard. It caused a massive international incident, which pushed the US and North Korea to the brink of war. It ended eleven months later with the release of the sailors and an apology from the Americans. Today, this fascinating ship is moored on the banks of the Taedong River. This afternoon, we visit the Children’s Palace, which hosts classes for extra-curricular activities such as gymnastics, karate and various musical studies. It provides a wonderful insight into teaching methods in the DPRK.
27/09/2020 Pyongyang – Panmunjom – Pyongyang (BLD)
Today is a major highlight on the tour as we visit the 38th Parallel, the most heavily militarised border in the world and only 68 km from Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The tension is palpable as each side photographs the other across the line. Our visit provides a unique and rare perspective, as few westerners have ever viewed the extraordinary face-off from the north side. At one of the armistice halls, it is possible to walk around the conference table into South Korea!
28/09/2020 Pyongyang – Beijing – Singapore (B)
This morning we transfer to Pyongyang airport for our flight to Singapore via Beijing.
Depart Pyongyang Air Koryo JS 151, 08.20
Arrive Beijing 09.50
Depart Beijing Singapore Airlines SQ 807, 16.35
Arrive Singapore 23.00
29/09/2020 Singapore – Australia
On arrival in Singapore we connect with the flight to our chosen Australian capital.