The only travel company operating tours inside the closely guarded borders of North Korea has just announced its schedule for the coming year - one that is very significant in the nation's history.
April 15, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, known variously as the Eternal President and the Great Leader, and there will be a series of large-scale celebrations and unique events throughout the year. And that will be in addition to the festivities that are held during national holidays in Pyongyang.
Koryo Tours' first visit of the year is scheduled for late January, coinciding with the Chinese New Year, and will involve taking a train to the North Korean capital from Beijing. The five-day tour will take in the key sights in Pyongyang, Mount Myohyang, as well as a visit to the industrial town of Kaesong, just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.
A unique visit has been scheduled for mid-February as the 16th of the month will be the 70th birthday of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The occasion will be marked with an international ice skating event, the Kimjongilia Flower Festival and mass dancing events that feature thousands of intricately choreographed dancers.
A short tour has also been arranged for April 14-17 for travelers to be in the North Korean capital on the day when the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birthday. The day will be celebrated in style and on a grand scale. It will run in parallel with a longer, five-night tour to the city over the same period that will also take in some of North Korea's sights outside Pyongyang.
Nick Bonner, founder of Koryo Tours, said visitors to the world's most unusual tourist destination will be able to mix with Pyongyang residents as they celebrate time away from work, joining them in bowling, at a local bar and spending time in city parks. They will also spend a night at a hit spa resort close to the west coast and visit farms and light industrial units.
The "Ultimate Mega Tour" to mark the Great Leader's anniversary will add a visit to the DMZ from the North, a trip on Pyongyang's underground system, time at the International Friendship Exhibition, an excursion so the port city of Nampo and the 8-km long West Sea Barrage and the stunning peaks of Mount Kumgang. It will also include a visit to Pujon County, an area deep in the interior of North Korea that only a handful of foreigners have ever seen.
Koryo Tours has a range of tours available for the remainder of 2011.