Backpacking in North Korea

Backpacking in North Korea is not your typical travel experience, as the country remains one of the most secretive and least accessible destinations in the world. The unique and attention-grabbing fact is that North Korea is the only country where tourists are required to be accompanied by guides at all times, restricting their exploration. This strict control over tourism is a reflection of the country’s isolated political situation and its desire to carefully control the narrative presented to outsiders.

Despite the restrictions, backpacking has become an intriguing and remarkably growing trend in North Korea in recent years. This has largely been facilitated by the government’s gradual opening up to tourism, allowing travelers to witness the country’s fascinating culture, landscapes, and the everyday lives of its people. Backpackers are keen to venture beyond the well-curated facade and explore the untapped beauty of this isolated nation.

However, backpacking in North Korea requires careful planning and adherence to numerous regulations. For instance, backpackers must obtain a special visa called the “DPRK tourist visa,” which is only granted through approved tour operators. Additionally, there are strict rules against taking certain photographs or engaging in any behavior that is deemed disrespectful towards the regime. Such regulations may seem daunting, but they are necessary to ensure the security and smooth functioning of tourism in the country.

In recent years, the number of backpackers visiting North Korea has seen a steady increase, with visitors from various countries seeking a glimpse into this unique nation. Surprisingly, statistics reveal that the majority of these backpackers are young and adventurous individuals who are increasingly attracted to the mysteries and challenges that North Korea represents. The desire to explore the uncharted territories and uncover the realities behind the country’s notorious reputation is a compelling reason for backpackers to embark on this journey.

Although backpacking in North Korea may not be for the faint-hearted, it offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a highly controlled and enigmatic destination. The history, politics, and culture of North Korea are shrouded in mystery and intrigue, making it an appealing choice for those seeking a truly unconventional backpacking experience. By adhering to the strict regulations and approaching the journey with an open mind, backpackers can gain a deeper understanding of this complex nation and its people.

As backpacking in North Korea continues to gain attention and interest, it serves as a reminder of the power of travel to foster understanding and bridge gaps between different cultures. It challenges preconceived notions and encourages dialogue, while also highlighting the importance of responsible and respectful tourism. Backpacking in North Korea may not be accessible to all travelers, but for those willing to venture into the unknown, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore a country shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Backpacking in North Korea
Backpacking in North Korea

Is Backpacking in North Korea Safe and Possible for Tourists?

Backpacking in North Korea, a unique travel experience, raises queries about safety and feasibility. Exploring this captivating destination unveils a rich cultural heritage and untouched landscapes. Are you curious to know if backpacking in North Korea is a viable option and suitable for tourists? In the following sections, we will delve into the safety precautions, entry regulations, and incredible attractions that make backpacking in North Korea an enticing proposition for intrepid adventurers.

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Backpacking in North Korea

Backpacking in North Korea might not be the typical destination for most travelers, but for adventure seekers looking to explore a unique and secluded country, it can be an intriguing option. Despite its closed-off reputation, North Korea has slowly started to open its doors to tourism, allowing backpackers to experience a lesser-known side of Asia.

Visa Requirements

Before embarking on a backpacking trip to North Korea, it is essential to understand the strict visa requirements that must be met. Travelers can only visit the country through organized tours, and obtaining a visa can be a lengthy and complicated process. It is advisable to contact a specialized tour operator who can guide you through the visa application and organize the necessary permits.

Guided Tours

As mentioned before, backpackers cannot explore North Korea independently. All visitors are required to join organized group tours accompanied by government-approved guides. These guides will be with you at all times and will ensure that you adhere to the country’s strict rules and regulations. Although this may restrict some freedom, it ensures your safety and allows you to gain insights into the local culture and history.

Highlights and Points of Interest

Despite its relative seclusion, North Korea offers several fascinating sights and experiences for backpackers. The capital city of Pyongyang is often the main focus of many tours, where you can visit iconic landmarks such as the Juche Tower, the imposing Mansu Hill Grand Monument, and the historic Kim Il Sung Square.

Another notable destination is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea. Visiting the DMZ provides a unique opportunity to understand the political tensions that exist on the Korean Peninsula.

For nature enthusiasts, the breathtaking Mount Kumgang offers excellent hiking trails and stunning scenic views. While visiting the mountain, you can also witness the local flora and fauna, including rare species such as the red-crowned crane.

Important Considerations

Backpacking in North Korea requires travelers to have an open mind and respect for the local customs and regulations. The country has strict rules regarding photography, public behavior, and interactions with locals, so it is crucial to familiarize yourself with these guidelines before visiting.

Additionally, it is essential to be aware of the ongoing political situation and potential travel restrictions. Keeping up-to-date with travel advisories from your country’s foreign office or embassy is highly recommended to ensure a safe and informed journey.


Backpacking in North Korea provides adventurous travelers with a truly unique and off-the-beaten-path experience. Despite the challenges and restrictions, exploring this secluded country can offer a different perspective on the Korean Peninsula. Whether it’s immersing yourself in the buzzing streets of Pyongyang or witnessing the striking natural beauty of Mount Kumgang, North Korea has plenty to offer backpackers willing to venture into its enigmatic territory.

According to recent statistics, the number of backpackers visiting North Korea has been steadily increasing, with a 20% rise in tourist arrivals compared to the previous year. This growth reflects the growing curiosity and interest in exploring this fascinating and isolated nation.

Backpacking in North Korea FAQ

FAQ 1: Is it safe to go backpacking in North Korea?

While North Korea is not typically considered a safe travel destination due to its political tensions and strict regulations, it is possible to go backpacking there. However, it is crucial to be aware of the potential risks, including limited freedom of movement, restricted access to information, and possible surveillance.

FAQ 2: How can I obtain a visa for backpacking in North Korea?

Obtaining a visa for backpacking in North Korea is only possible through authorized tour operators, who will handle the visa application process on your behalf. It is essential to book a guided tour and comply with the regulations set by the North Korean authorities.

FAQ 3: What are some popular backpacking destinations in North Korea?

When backpacking in North Korea, popular destinations include Pyongyang, the capital city, where you can visit monuments like the Juche Tower and Mansudae Grand Monument. Other notable places to explore include the DMZ, Mount Kumgang, and the city of Kaesong.

FAQ 4: Is it allowed to take photos while backpacking in North Korea?

Yes, you are generally allowed to take photos during your backpacking trip in North Korea. However, it is crucial to follow the rules and restrictions set by your tour guide. Photography is often limited or prohibited in certain areas, including military installations or sensitive locations.

FAQ 5: What should I pack when backpacking in North Korea?

When backpacking in North Korea, it is advisable to pack essentials such as appropriate clothing for the season, toiletries, medication, a first aid kit, comfortable shoes, a power adapter, and some local currency. Remember to bring items for your personal entertainment since access to internet and communication may be limited.

FAQ 6: Can I use my mobile phone in North Korea?

Foreign mobile phones do not generally work in North Korea. However, you can rent a local SIM card upon arrival, which allows you to make international calls and access limited internet services. Additionally, be aware that your phone and other electronic devices might undergo inspection upon entry and exit.

FAQ 7: What is the best time to go backpacking in North Korea?

The best time to go backpacking in North Korea is during the spring (April to May) and the autumn (September to October) when the weather is mild. Summer can be hot and humid, while winter brings extremely cold temperatures, so plan accordingly and check for any seasonal events or celebrations.

FAQ 8: Can I interact with locals during my backpacking trip in North Korea?

Interacting with locals in North Korea is limited, as most of your interactions will be with your tour guide and the assigned staff. While it is possible to have some exchanges with locals, it is important to remember that conversations should remain within the limits of what is permitted by the authorities.

FAQ 9: What are the cultural norms I should be aware of in North Korea?

When backpacking in North Korea, it is important to be respectful of the local customs and cultural norms. Dress modestly, avoid criticizing the political system or leadership, and always follow your tour guide’s instructions. It is advisable to refrain from discussing sensitive topics such as politics or religion.

FAQ 10: Can I bring and use foreign currency in North Korea?

While it is possible to bring foreign currency to North Korea, it is recommended to exchange it for the local currency, called the North Korean won (KPW), upon arrival. Local currency is generally required for most transactions, including purchasing goods, paying for services, and tipping.


In conclusion, backpacking in North Korea offers a unique and eye-opening experience for adventurous travelers. Throughout this article, we have explored various aspects of backpacking in this secluded nation. Firstly, we discovered that North Korea provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in a distinct culture that is largely untouched by the outside world. The country’s strict regulations and controlled tourist routes may limit freedom, but they also ensure a safe and structured journey. Additionally, we discussed the captivating landmarks and sites that backpackers can visit, such as the grand Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and the picturesque Mount Kumgang. These places offer glimpses into the nation’s history and natural beauty.

Moreover, we examined the challenges and considerations that backpackers should keep in mind. North Korea’s political climate, human rights issues, and lack of internet connectivity all play a significant role in shaping the backpacking experience. It is crucial to respect the country’s rules and regulations and be mindful of the cultural differences. Furthermore, we highlighted the importance of booking a tour with a reputable travel agency and obtaining all necessary permits and visas. Despite the restrictions, backpacking in North Korea can be a rewarding and transformative experience for those who seek a deeper understanding of this enigmatic nation. By approaching the trip with an open mind, respect, and an appreciation for cultural differences, travelers can gain unique insights into one of the world’s most mysterious destinations.

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