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North Korea for Your Next Vacation?


A Chinese tourist poses for a picture near a resort in North Korea's Kumgang Mountains. (2011)

A Chinese tourist poses for a picture near a resort in North Korea's Kumgang Mountains. (2011)

Are you tired of all the talk of seaside getaways and European travel packages? Are you looking for a different place to go for your next trip? A place some would describe as “off the beaten path”?

Well, a camping trip in North Korea might be just what you are looking for.

North Korea is known for being closed off from the rest of the world. For many years, it has kept foreigners from entering the country.

Mass rallies in North Korea, like this one pictured, are currently NOT part of a tourist package.

Mass rallies in North Korea, like this one pictured, are currently NOT part of a tourist package.

But earlier this year, everything changed.

North Korea lets foreigners go on camping trips in the picturesque mountains of Myohyang and Kumgang.

Koryo Tours is a touring company based in Beijing, China. The company says it can “take you to the most mysterious country on the planet.”

Koryo Tours organized the first 10-day camping trip to North Korea earlier this year. It claims this is the first time anyone has been given permission to set up a tent and stay in the mountains of North Korea.

The website for Koryo Tours reads, “This was as much a treat for the guides as they had never done this before either.”

Ten westerners went on the trip. They walked 79 kilometers during their three-day visit. That is about 28 kilometers a day! The tourists also visited places of interest in both mountains, such as Kumgang Waterfall and Lake Sam Il Po.

South Korean tourists look at the Diamond Mountain range in eastern North Korea near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

South Korean tourists look at the Diamond Mountain range in eastern North Korea near the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

The reason for the increase in tourism is simple -- money. More foreign tourists equal more money for North Korea.

The South Korean company Hyundai Asan first offered trips to the famed Mt. Kumgang. But Hyundai Asan suspended tours in the Mt. Kumgamg Tourist Region in 2008. North Korea used what was left behind to start its own tourism business in that area.

Koryo Tours is not alone in giving travelers one-of-a-kind camping trips to North Korea's mountains.

Uri Tours is a tour company based in the United States. It has announced plans for a 13-day trip to a number of mountains, including Mt. Kumgang and Mt. Myohyang. The company hopes to get at least seven tourists together later in the year.

The Japanese newspaper Chosun Shinbo says the North Korean government is trying to get more visitors by offering many tourism products.

The usual tourist trips include picking fruit at local farms and long train rides through the country. One North Korean tourist package offers travelers the chance to compete with North Korean athletes in the traditional martial arts of Taekwondo.

The chance to visit a country that has been closed for so long could be a huge draw for travelers seeking a very different kind of summer.

This report was produced with the help of the VOA Korean Service.

I’m Anna Matteo.

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