Uncharted Backpacker

Wonderful Pyongyang – A Rare Look into North Korea’s Capital

Pyongyang, North Korea

When the sunrises in Pyongyang you are awoken to the eerie morning wake up call. The bleak and empty streets then quickly fill with an ensemble of people wearing 1950’s style clothing and military outfits. No where on this planet will you bare witness to a scene so frozen in time. Looking beyond the streets from your hotel window the colourful skyline emerges from the dense morning fog only to be replaced by a fiery burning orange sun brilliantly situated right over Juche Tower. When the morning call comes to an end the streets are full of life. This is Pyongyang, North Korea.

Getting to North Korea

There is a couple of option to get to Pyongyang. The simplest way is to fly either from Beijing or Shanghai. The flights are super retro and are an experience in and of themselves. Beijing has more flights per day, but in order to get a ticket you must go through a North Korean registered company. Air China and Koryo Air serves these routes.


Soldiers waiting to enter Mansu Hill, Pyongyang

The next option is to take the train from Beijing. Security is much more tight on this route and you will be searched much more thoroughly, but its a great way to see more of North Korea’s stunning countryside and remote villages.


Pyongyang skyline from the Koryo Hotel

North Korea Visa

Before you arrive to North Korea you will be given your North Korean Visa by your guide. It’s a serrate passport with all your info and picture inside. This is your Identity while you are in North Korea.

Arriving to Immigration you hand your new North Korean Identity to receive your visa. The visa will not be stamped into your own passport, but into the North Korean Identity instead. Unfortunately, when you leave the country you will have to give up your identity card.


My North Korean Visa

Sights in Pyongyang

Juche Tower

Climbing to the top of Juche Tower you are provided with the best views over Pyongyang. Located on the banks of the Taedong River, Juche Tower is 170 m / 557 ft monument dedicated to Juche ideology, seeing how colourful the city really is from here is eye-opening.

Pyongyang Metro

The real draw to taking the Pyongyang metro is the beautifully decorated metro stops. Each stop has its own theme and the walls are covered in murals of workers/leaders. The Pyongyang Metro reaches 120 m / 394 ft. below ground making it the deepest metro in the world. It is said its depth was created in case of an attack in which the locals can retreat to safety underground.

Victorious War Museum

This is Pyongyang’s greatest museum. The Victorious War Museum is home to American tanks, planes, trucks and even a spy ship called the USS Pueblo all taken from the Korean War. Coming here and seeing North Korean’s take on the war is what most travelers to this nation sought out for.


Victorious War Museum. Pyongyang

Mansu Hill

Some would say Mansu Hill in Pyongyang is the soul of the city. Here North Koreans come to lay flowers and bow in respect to their leaders. The Mansudae Grand Monuments two enormous 22 m high bronze statues of North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il must be photographed in full frame, its up to you but laying flowers here will earn you much respect with the locals here.


The Great Leaders at Mansu Hill

Chollima Statue

The Chollima Horse Statue can be easily missed, but it is located just of the main square at Mansu Hill. The speeding horse symbol can be seen all over North Korea, so seeing the original makes for a quick detour!


Chollima Statue, Pyongyang

Korean Revolution Museum

Kim Il-sung and the Korean revolutionary movement are the main draws to coming to this museum. When it is open you can see items and descriptions of these. The statues and murals in the park outside are also very interesting.


Korean Revolution Museum

Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang

Probably the most photographed part of North Korea, the Kim Il-sung Square is the epicentre for all military parades and mass demonstrations commence. The square is massive and very photogenic, come here at sunset for stunning photos!


Kim Il-sung Square, Pyongyang

Arch of Triumph

One of the first sights you will see when arriving into Pyongyang from the airport, this 60 m Arc of Triumph was built to commemorate the Korean resistance to the Japanese invasion.


Arch of Triumph

Train Station, Pyongyang

Serving to most larger destinations within North Korea, this is also the international train stop for those heading to Moscow or Beijing. Interesting sight during the early morning when trains arrive!


Train Station, Pyongyang

Science and Technology Centre

The brand new Science and Technology Museum is a fun place to interact with North Korean Students. Here games are created to enhance the fun in science. There are also great explanations into North Korea’s nuclear, and power programs.


Science and Technology Centre

Ryugyong Hotel

The unfinished Ryugyong can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Pyongyang. Dubbed the Rocket Hotel, it cannot actually be visited and is best left out of conversation with locals. Good views can be had from Juche Monument.


Ryugyong Hotel

Arch of Reunification

Located on the outskirts of Pyongyang the Arch of Reunification was created to symbolize a unified Korea. Leaving Pyongyang, you will drive under its arches.


Arch of Reunification

Monument to Party Founding

This great piece of Communist art work is beautifully located in a part encircled by colourful apartment blocks. Photographing the area is well worth coming to visit this monument.


Monument to Party Founding

Ryomyong Street

The brand new high rises of Ryomyong are built in what some would say modern North Korean architecture. The street is bright, clean and makes for a great night walk to admire this new area of town.


Ryomyong Street

Kwangbok Supermarket

This busy and full supermarket is one of the few that you are allowed to wonder freely. Picking up some North Korean Whiskey or North Korean sweets is fun as the selection is massive! No photography here though.

Pyongyang Olympic Shooting Range

Here you get your go at shooting a number of North Korean Handguns. Beware as North Korean’s are ferociously competitive and if you decide to make bets be prepared to pay up when you loose!

North Korea Souvenirs at the Foreign Languages Bookshop

Located just around the corner from Kim Il-sung Square the Foreign Languages Bookshop is your one shop stop to pick up North Korean books in English as well as postcards, flags, pins and my personal favourite, North Korean Propaganda Posters. The propaganda posters are done by the university here in Pyongyang, the quality is high and all come with an official stamp from the government. These are the exact same posters that are used around the country. The posters are also hand painted making each one a one of a kind souvenir.


Some of my North Korean Souvenirs

Bicycle Ride Through Pyongyang

Riding from Science street to Kim Il Sung Square and ending two kilometres east from there is the designated bicycle rout for travellers in Pyongyang. Apart from the lovely trail that follows the Taedong River you will see residential and commercial parts of Pyongyang.


While riding many times I had smiling military men riding along with me ion their way to work. Seeing locals faces as I rode past them was half the fun! I highly recommend the bicycle ride through Pyongyang.

North Korean BBQ in Pyongyang

Who would have known that North Korea actually has some really scrumptious cuisine! The ubiquitous cold noodles are served alongside the standards Korean BBQ fare that we are all acquainted to. Be prepared that if you are going to be having North Korean BBQ in Pyongyang, you most likely will be given countless shots of Soju, a Korean rice wine which has the alcohol content of something medical like.


North Korean BBQ

Uri Tours

There are quite a few companies out there to choose from when going to North Korea. Luckily I chose Uri Tours. Uri is the pioneer in unique travel to North Korea. They try to give you more experiences than just sightseeing. Check out my article on Learning how to Surf in North Korea!



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Stephen Gollan

Stephen Gollan

Uncharted Backpacker is a glimpse at the past eleven years of globetrotting I have done. Now at over ninety countries I share my travel knowledge for you so you too can travel the world and see what wonders it has to offer.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi Stephen
    Congratulations on your North Korean jaunt and for reliving the experience with us. it is probably the most insightful travelogue I’ve read about North Korea in recent times.

    I notice you’ve criss-crissed 70 countries and I’m sure you’ve been to India already. In case, you haven’t, here’s an invite to visit us, the sprititual land and an exciting place to be in these times.

    Manish Kumar

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