Top 5 Things To See in North Korea

When I went to North Korea I wasn’t chasing famous sights at all, I just wanted to ‘feel’ the atmosphere in the country. Of course I wanted to see what was there but I never imagined I’d be drawing a list like this, however there are a lot of crazily impressive things to see across the DPRK so I though I’d share a few of them with you, with some obligatory pics of course. Check out my top 5 things to see in North Korea:

 

1)   The DMZ: Wow, just wow. This is the most heavily fortified border in the world and has been called ‘the scariest place on earth’ and I can see why. During my time in South Korea I had been lucky enough to see this from the other side too but the North’s perspective is a lot more intense. Watching the North Korean military line up in the old-school, socialist uniforms inches away from the US-backed South Koreans in all the new hi-tech gear is a sight to see. They don’t share a word with each other ever, even though the border is only 6 inches high. You could cut the tension with a knife. Unreal.

North Korea DMZ

North and South Korea soldiers manning the DMZ border

North and south korea border

Sneaking a peak at the South Korean border guards

2)   Juche Tower. The symbol of North Korea and perhaps of it’s political ideologies. When Kim Il Song drew up his Juche school of thought I’m sure he’d never thought it would be so far reaching. The tower is an impressive sight, you can take the elevator to the top and see of all of Pyongyang (5 Euro) which again is a great view. What’s perhaps even more interesting is the wall of plaques indicating who helped fund this icon of North Korean socialism and no matter what you think, I’m sure people from your country helped contribute to.

Juche Tower North Korea

Pyongyang City

Pyongyang with the Juche Tower and Pyongyang Stadium in sight

3)   The Worker’s Party Monument: One arm for farming, one for education and one for industry, this huge monument is walking distance from the Juche Tower. I’m not quite sure what it is about communism but my God they love a good old massive monument, and they don’t let us down here. Enjoy.

Workers party monument pyongyang

Workers party monument north korea

4)   Kim Il Song Square: The centre of Pyongyang and in fact the entire country. Wall to wall socialist propaganda and after the untimely death of the Dear Leader Kim Il Song an area for us to pay our respects to him, ahem, right. This is the scene of the numerous mass rallies held every month and when we hadn’t had permission from our minders to go there I attempted to go anyway. I stopped after he told me I could be shot. The tributes to Marx and Lenin are pretty interesting too.

Kim Il Song Square 

Kim Il Song Square North Korea

5)   Pyongyang Subway: It literally feels like a time machine, unreal. This was built over 50 years ago and hasn’t been updated since. Green suede seats, old shiny wooden carriages, marble stations with chandeliers and it’s all in great condition. I might have had a few strange looks wandering the subways of Pyongyang but it was definitely worth the awkwardness. Oh and I had 4 guards check my camera after they thought I had taken a photo of an undesirable (read: poor person).

subway in Pyongyang

Pyongyang Subway

Honourable mentions:

1)   Eating dog: All across the Korean peninsula they do this but I have never quite plucked up the courage, this can now be chalked off my list. It tasted pretty good,  very similar to lamb actually but after a couple of spoonfuls my brain couldn’t handle it and I had to admit defeat.

Eating Dog in Korea

Eating Dog in Korea

2)   Shooting chickens: There’s a run down shooting range range in Pyongyang where you pay $0.38 per bullet to shoot a rifle or pistol. I had a crack, 10 bullets, didn’t hit anything but still had a bit of fun. In the 3 column, beside the pistol and rifle column was an area where you had to pay $3.80 per bullet. Why so expensive? Because the targets are replaced by chickens and pheasants. Needless to say I didn’t waste my money.

shooting chickens in North Korea

3)   Pyongyang Stadium: The biggest stadium in the whole world with a capacity of 200,000 people! It hosts the annual mass games where over 100,000 people form a sort-of moving artwork. I have yet to see it but I most certainly will.

 pyongyang-stadium

4)   Kim Il Song’s Mausoleum: The Dear Leader is embalmed in a huge mausoleum just outside Pyongyang. At the time of writing it was closed as they work out what to do with Kim Il Song’s dead body but I’m sure they have something equally as morbid planned for him too.

Kim Il Sung mausoleum 

5)   Anti-Japan Martyr Cemetery: Before Kim Il Song went a bit mental he was a legitimate hero for the North and South Koreans, leading them to overcome Japan’s occupation. A lot of people died, lots of them pretty horrifically, so Kim Il Song commissioned identical bronze sculptures of each and everyone of them. If there were no pictures available he would have them modeled on their relatives, all adding to the most impressive cemetery I have ever visited.

 Anti japan cemetery north korea

10 amazing sights, some of which left my jaw on the ground for a good few minutes. I never expected to be so blown away by the sights in North Korea but I guess that’s the beauty of travel. I hope you guys get to experience these things one day too. Happy travels!

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48 thoughts on “Top 5 Things To See in North Korea

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  9. Hana at Shoestring Backpacking

    Tough to choose the top 5, huh?

    Pretty much everything you see (and do) in North Korea makes your jaw drop — for lots of very different reasons! ;-)

    I would add one biggie to this list: the sacred Mt Paekdu, way up north. It’s the highest crater lake in the world, and even to call it ‘breathtaking’ is an understatement.

    Tour groups don’t go up there too often as the area is only accessible 5 months of the year (from what I recall). But if you get a chance to go, then whatever it costs — just go!

    Easily the highlight of my trip last summer.

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