Last year 2014 was the first time EVER that the Pyongyang Marathon, a bronze-level IAAF race, opened its doors to foreign amateur runners. Foreign professional runners were able to register, through an obscure government to government channel, but regular tourists were never accepted. That all changed last year, with over 200 everyday runners (including Americans) hitting the streets of Pyongyang (yes, without a minder). We’re looking forward to the second year of the Pyongyang Marathon, more inclusive than ever, and taking registration now.
2. CYCLING TOURS
In a country that only sees about 5,000 westerners per year, it comes to a surprise to many that you can bike in North Korea. On our biking tours, we cover over 40km of terrain from city to country. See our spring and fall North Korea Bike Tours for the full details. And we’re introducing day bike tours in Pyongyang too on most of our other tours. Just inquire about a particular tour, and we’ll let you know if a Pyongyang bike tour is an option.
3. 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF FOUNDATION DAY
Every October 10th, the DPRK celebrates the founding of the Worker’s Party of Korea known as the Party Foundation Day. 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Party Foundation Day. You can say all you want about the country, but one thing is for sure, they know how to celebrate. This October 10, 2015 will definitely be the biggest holiday event of the year in North Korea and we’re expecting fireworks, military parades, mass dances and more. October will definitely be one of the best times to visit the DPRK this year.
See our 3 tour options for October 2015:
Essential 4 Nights / Oct 7-12: starting at $1,695 | see Pyongyang and the DMZ
Classic 7 Nights with Cycling Option / Oct 7-15: starting at $2,050 | see Pyongyang, DMZ, Nampho and Myohyang + PY city bike tour
Ultimate 14 Nights with Cycling and Paekdu addition / Oct 7-22: starting at $3,875 | one of the most extensive tours we have culminating in a special trip to Mount Paekdu, the birthplace of Korea.
4. ALL NEW MASS GAMES
The Arirang Mass Games is a winner of a Guinness World Record for being the biggest event of its kind. It’s a performance of over 100,000 people, half of them in the bleachers holding colored cue cards in a dynamic scene-changing hour and half performance mixed with gymnastics, dance and more. The show ran consistently every year from August to October, but it was cancelled in 2014 and there has been no official news on if it will run again in 2015. However, Arirang Committee is planning a return of some kind, a new version of Arirang, likely to be debuted this 2015 Party Foundation Day.
5. NEW AND IMPROVED NAMPHO
Nampho was one of the first tourist destinations outside of Pyongyang to be open for foreigners. However, with focus on developing other parts of the country like the east coast, the west coast is badly in need of some TLC. On one of our scouting trips, we revisited Nampho and discovered that it’s going through a slow but deserved renaissance. Here is what Nampho has to offer:
- A quaint river boat cruise from the Nampho Port all the way to the West Sea
- Amazing seafood cooked 10 different ways
- A new outdoor water park (to be completed in summer 2015)
- A lot of history: the ancient Koguryo tombs lie in Nampho, now a UNESCO site
- Pyongyang golf course: no tee times, no waits
- Proximity to Pyongyang (less than 50 minutes drive)
Here are the 2015 tours that take you to Nampho:
Pyongyang Marathon Long Tour: April 10-16, starting at $2,050
Kim Il Sung Birthday - 10 Nighter: April 10-21, starting at $2,595
North Korea Cycling Tour: May 10-18 & Sept 6-14, starting at $2,195
Last Frontier Tour: West Coast Swing: June 5-13, starting at $2,050
Beer, Boats, Fishing and Guns Tour: June 21-28, starting at $2,050
Ultimate 14 Nights with Cycling and Paekdu addition: Oct 7-22, starting at $3,875
And as a bonus, in 2015, we have the NEW PYONGYANG AIRPORT to look forward to. The Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang services on average between 1-2 flights inbound and outbound flights daily. It’s nothing like JFK but the country is not completely sealed off as most believe. The Pyongyang airport has seen revisions. The old airport used to be a 2-story building with floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the runway (kind of like the fake Pyongyang airport scene from “The Interview”). Once they retired this building, they built the current temporary building pictured above, a much smaller building not known for its looks, but more for its utilitarian charm. Now, for most of 2014, the DPRK was working to complete a brand new Pyongyang airport. The airport is still under construction but we should be able to step into a new airport by spring of 2015. We’ll miss the old building, but we’re ready for the improved features of a new airport:
- Smoother runways
- Stepping onto a jetway rather than boarding an Air Koryo airbus
- More in-terminal cafe and gift shop options when waiting to board
- Shorter immigration/customs lines
- More importantly faster baggage claims.