Situated atop the massive Mount Paektu sits Lake Chon (천지) (otherwise known as Heaven Lake) surrounded by bare rocky Craigs. Lake Chon is the deepest crater lake in the world and also one of the oldest created by a massive volcanic eruption in 946.
Lake Chon Location
Lake Chon is located at the top of Mount Paektu and sits at an elevation of 2,189 Meters. The lake gets as deep as 384 meters and has a total area of 9.82 km2.
The Lake is half in China due to its position along the border. In Chinese, the lake is called “Tianchi” which like the Korean Name translates into Heaven lake.
The lake is the source of both the Amnok and Tumen river which flow for 803 and 521 Kilometers respectively. These two rivers from the de-facto Sino – Korean border as they flow along with it for most of its length.
Lake Chon History
Tangun, the mythological first king of the Koreans, was said to have left heaven to rule Earth from atop Mount Paektu and the Lake.
In the Offical DPRK state version of history, General Kim Jong Il was said to be born at the Mount Paektu Secret Camp located nearby to the lake.
All three DPRK leaders have frequently visited lake Chon / Mount Paektu due to it’s an important place in the countries Lore / History. The most recent of which was in December 2019 when North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un visited the mountain on horseback. KCNA produced a documentary on the visit, which you can see below:
During the third 2018 Inter Korean summit, President Moon Jae In of South Korea and Kim Jong Un made a historic visit to Mount Paektu and Lake Chon.
Visting Lake Chon
This lake is one of the most remote sites in the DPRK.
Visiting here requires tourists to take a domestic flight from Pyongyang Airport to Samjiyon Airport, something we do every year on our Victory Day & Mt. Paektu Tour.
Check out the video of YPT visiting the Lake Chon and Mount Paektu Area below:
Upon reaching the summit of Mount Paektu in order to reach the lake there is a concrete path that will take you down to the lake.
There is also a cable car that can take you down to the Lake, but it is often not running. If it happens to be available during your visit you can pay the 2 Euro fee directly to the cable car for a less strenuous way down to the lake.
At the lake, swimming is not permitted due to the sacredness of it, but it is possible to wade around in the water.
In Korean lore, the water of the lake is considered sacred and beneficial to health and longevity as it contains special Ions. Local guides at Lake Chon say if you take a drink of a cup of water from the lake you will live for a hundred years.
The lake is best visited from the months of May – Late September as it is largely only accessible during this time period and it is frozen throughout most of the rest of the year.
It is also possible to visit Lake Chon from the Chinese side again, something that we again do every year on our DPRK Borderlands Tour.
Lake Chon Monster
For many years there have been rumours (from the Chinese side) that a monster resides in Lake Chon, known as the Lake Tianchi Monster.
On September 6th, 2007, a Chinese reporter shot a 20-minute video that purportedly showed images of a loch-ness monster-type creature roaming around in the lake, further adding fuel to the fire of rumours about a monster residing in the lake.
We can’t say we have ever seen the monster ourselves on countless visits to the lake, but who knows maybe you will catch a glimpse of the creature on your trip!
As of now Lake Chon might be closed, but as China slowly starts to reopen we really hope we will get to see it from the North Korean side in 2023.