It is a commonly misunderstood “fact” about North Korea that all tours are the same (we certainly feel ours are different) and that everyone who visits North Korea has to stay at the Yanggakdo Hotel, “the one on the island”. In fact there are not only numerous hotels in North Korea, but over the last 10 years there has been a real boom in deluxe offerings.
So, who is staying in these deluxe hotels? You could sum it up as locals and tourists, but much like Cuba there is a two-tiered currency system, with foreigners paying hard currency, and locals paying in Korean won. Sports teams traveling the country are a good example here.
Here’s our top picks of the best hotels in North Korea.
The Majon Deluxe Hotel
Finally completed in 2009 The Majon is one of the newer additions to the North Korean hotel scene. It is one of the two hotels on the beach around Hamhung, a city only opened to tourists around 2008.
The hotel has 108 rooms, banquet halls, the standard bar and pool room, an indoor swimming pool and some of the nicest beaches in North Korea.
How busy does it get? In the summer there are certainly hordes of North Koreans that head to the beach, but few Western tourists come to Hamhung, and fewer Chinese still. You will bump into NGO types here though.
The Hyangsan Hotel
I originally stayed at the Hyangsan in 2008, before it was renovated and made “deluxe”, which it was in 2010. Originally built in 1986, the refurbishments have been quite epic, and include rather slow internet. I managed to access Facebook here in 2013!
Staying here now is alas not all that cheap, at $200+ for a regular room, and over $1000 for a high-end room. Are they worth that? Is any hotel? That said, the rooms are certainly some of the best in the country.
The main reason to stay at the Hyangsan is to visit Mt Myohang, and of course the legendary International Friendship Exhibition.
The Emperor Hotel and Casino
The Emperor Hotel and Casino is not only an anomaly in this group, but for the whole of the DPRK, being the only foreign-owned hotel in the country.
The Emperor Hotel and Casino completed construction in 2000 at a cost of over $60 million dollars and is owned by the Hong Kong Emperor Group.
The hotel has a casino which has a minimum “buy in” of 500 euro, 150 rooms, restaurants, swimming pools, saunas, massage, and a private beach overlooking Changjin Bay.
Over the 20 years of its existence it has been closed a few times, and rumoured to have been closed on others. The problem here has been Chinese officials gambling money that wasn’t theirs! And there are many anecdotal stories about how debts have been settled here (ask about the Hummer Limos).
Staying here isn’t all that easy if you’re not Chinese or Russian, though, and it won’t be included in a normal hotel package.
The Kalma Hotel
Located on the beautiful east coast city of Wonsan, this is one of the newer deluxe players on the North Korean hotel scene. Unusually for somewhere like here, there’s a range of rooms to suit all budgets, and it is more than easy to stay here.
It is located on the Kalma Peninsula and has its own private beach, which like most beaches in North Korea is accessible for an extra fee.
It is also located a mere 30 minutes from the new Wonsan Airport, and, equally importantly, the Masik Ski Resort.
The Moranbong Hotel
This is one of the secret gems of the North Korean hotel scene, and could be described as a boutique hotel, as it only has 12 rooms and is hidden away in Pyongyang.
The hotel has a pool, fitness center and – probably most cool – a KTV built into a cave!
Masik Ski Resort
In January of 2014 North Korea opened its first ski resort, conveniently near the new airport in Wonsan.
Spoiler alert – you can ski here. The hotel has all the mod cons you’d expect from a new hotel development in North Korea, but even though it can be considered a deluxe hotel, guests can stay here as part of a tourist package.
The luxury hotel features 120 rooms and tourists can enjoy swimming, sauna, cafés, restaurants, bars, billiard tables, and, of course, karaoke!
How could any story about hotels in North Korea finish without mentioning the cruelly nicknamed hotel of doom?
Probably the most famous building in Pyongyang, it has 105 stories and was planned to have 7 revolving restaurants, but despite positive changes to how it looks, there’s still no sign of when the Ryugyong Hotel might open.
But there’s always hope! One day we might get to stay at the Ryugyong Hotel.
Explore the DPRK hotel scene yourself on one of our many tours!
If you’re interested in exploring the history of the Ryugyong in further detail, check out RyugyongHotel.net!.