For our All Koreas tours in 2020, we are starting with the Borderlands road trip of a lifetime. Although this tour is entirely in China, we take you through all the border towns, where North Koreans and Chinese Koreans and even South Koreans mingle freely! And we give you views into the DPRK that are impossible to see even when you’re in the country.
The trip starts in Dandong, the respectable city of Chinese-North Korean relations, before we work our way across two Chinese provinces, taking in Mt. Paektu (Mt. Changbai to the Chinese) and all major North Korean border crossings before finishing in Tumen, where the North Korean side of the river lies just a few metres away. On the way, we pass through towns where the less respectable underbelly of Chinese-North Korean relations is not far from the surface!
We’ll stop off along many checkpoints and scenic spots to give you the absolute best and safest opportunity to take photos of the DPRK… no rules apply! During our trip, we’ll also experience the slightly different side of China with the quirkiness of the locals and the eeriness of the towns.
This trip is one of the most interesting and adventurous ones we have ever offered, with a great amount of research going into where to go and what to do. While we have included as much as we can into the printed itinerary, the real adventure lies in the things we have yet to experience on the tour. This is not just a tour; it is travelling along the very front line of the modern DPRK and seeing how it relates to its closest neighbour and biggest ally.
You may join this North Korea Borderlands tour as a stand alone tour or you can combine other parts of our All Koreas tour to not only save on cash but to gain more experience on what the DPRK has to offer.
Meet your YPT guide at 3:30pm at the Beijing Zhong Gu Hotel near Beijing Railway Station found here. During this meeting, we’ll go through the tour’s itinerary, receive DPRK visas and tickets, as well as a great chance to meet your fellow travellers and to discuss any other questions you may have about the DPRK.
We depart Beijing Railway Station at 5:25pm on the overnight sleeper train to Dandong city, the border town city of China opposite to North Korea
Saturday 20th June
Morning arrival in Dandong and head out for breakfast
Visit the most easterly part of the Great Wall at Tiger Mountain – This is famous for the ‘one-metre hop’ as it is the narrowest point between China and the DPRK.
On the drive back from the Great Wall, we stop opposite the DPRK’s new Special Economic Zone Island that is being done in partnership with China. Your guide will give you a detailed explanation and give you a chance to take some pictures.
Lunch at an authentic Pyongyang restaurant – All the staff at the restaurant are North Korean, and they provide the traditional Korean hospitality with songs and dancing, giving you a taste of what’s to come inside North Korea itself!
Check out the Museum of the War to Resist America and Aid Korea – The museum is great for learning about the Korean War from the Chinese side. The museum has English captions everywhere.
Jump aboard a boat and travel down the Yalu River, the river that separates China and the DPRK. This will give you fantastic photo opportunities to take of North Korea and the destroyed original Friendship Bridge that was built by the Japanese and then destroyed by the Americans during the Korean War.
After disembarking from the boat, now is your chance to walk along the destroyed Friendship Bridge and see the Chinese propaganda.
Short drive to see the new Yalu River Bridge connecting China and North Korea, intended as a replacement for the Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge. Construction began in October 2011 and is mostly complete and connected but the project is stalled; North Korea has not built any roads connecting to its end of the bridge.
Stroll around the river front before heading to check out the views into North Korea, as well as some Korean souvenirs
For dinner, we’ll dig into Dandong’s famous BBQ dishes.
Drinks at a nearby bar most famous it’s imported beers.
Overnight at Dandong Dantie Hotel.
Sunday 21st June
After an early breakfast, our road trip begins as you travel down the Yalu River to Ji’an city for a look of Manpo city – a city of 110,000 with great picture opportunities!
During our drive, we will have a chance to pull over and check out any interesting things that pop up along the way.
Arrival in Ji’an city and lunch at a local restaurant.
Ji’an city used to be the capital of the Koguryo Dynasty, one of the first dynasties to rule over Korea. We’ll take a stroll around the city, hunting ruins of the past and walking around the main city square.
Visit the Ji’an Koguryo Dynasty Artifacts Museum.
We take a night to explore, hitting some great BBQ and having a few beers in an imported beers shop before checking out the riverfront.
Overnight in hotel.
Monday 22nd June
After breakfast, we’ll visit the next major/secret border crossing into DPRK located in Ji’an.
Everyone has heard of China’s great wall, but today we visit the Korean Wall, which marked the border between historic Korea and China.
We take a morning visit to the UNESCO site that is the capital city and holds the tombs of the ancient Koguryo Kingdom – a must-see for people interested in Korean history and culture! The site contains the archaeological remains of three cities and forty identified tombs of Koguryo imperial and noble families.
Head out of Ji’an City to begin our drive to the town of Linjiang.
Lunch at a small yet very interesting village and continue driving on.
Arrive in Linjiang – this city looks scarily like Las Vegas from a distance but is nothing like Vegas on arrival.
Explore another border crossing in Linjiang. This is one of the significant industrial borders between the two countries, and particularly interesting.
Visit the statue of Chen Yun, one of the founders of People’s China, as well as visiting his former residence. He was one of the very few Chinese politicians to avoid being purged despite finding Chairman Mao slightly too left and Deng Xiao Ping slightly too right. Chen Yun sadly passed away of old age in 1995.
We’ll hop on a raft boat from which we can take a closer look at rural life on the North Korean side from military training facilities to local fishermen and villagers going about their lives a mere stone’s throw away.
Stroll down Linjiang’s famous street food market street to try all manner of local delights including BBQ’d bat, stinky tofu and chicken foetus for the experimental eaters among us! More palatable foods also available too!
Visit to an infamous underground club with cabaret-style shows including magic, dance, and much more!
Overnight in hotel.
Tuesday 23rd June
We’ll begin our long morning drive toward Changbai with a few stops along the way for some views of the incredible scenery.
Stop off at the shops where we can buy more DPRK goods and souvenirs.
Take our bus to the Changbai–Hyesan International Bridge which serves as one of the major border posts between the DPRK and China and offers excellent overlooking views of Hyesan City in the DPRK.
We enjoy some authentic Korean/Chinese lunch in the country.
Arrive in Changbai Village and check into the hotel – this is Changbai Korean autonomous county, which is the only Korean autonomous zone in China outside Yanbian.
We’ll head back out to take a walking tour along the newly renovated riverfront board walk and climb up a viewing platform to give us a better glance at unseen parts of North Korea. Some of the best views into Manpo in the otherwise inaccessible Chagang Province of North Korea.
Take a night stroll around the city for some local food and to explore some local drinking holes.
Overnight in a strangely Renaissance-themed hotel that overlooks straight out on Korea!
Wednesday 24th June
Wake up early and Drive to Baihe which is the entrance to Mount Changbai National Park. This is the Chinese side of Mount Paektu – the most sacred mountain in the DPRK.
We’ll have a full day of adventurous hiking up Mount Changbai to see the very famous and magnificent Heaven Lake – this is the iconic volcanic lake seen in very many paintings from the DPRK with the leaders. We recommend bringing suitable hiking boots!
Lunch at the summit of the mountain.
Make our way back down the mountain.
Jump on a shuttle bus and explore more beautiful scenery such as Changbai waterfall, lakes, hot springs (with optional hot spring-cooked boiled eggs!), and the mystical dense forest that surrounds the valleys below the mountain.
Board the bus again and head back to Baihe,
Head out for dinner for your choice of unique Chinese local dishes or Baihe’s only pizza restaurant for those craving a taste of home.
Overnight at hotel.
Thursday 25th June
Up early for our five-hour drive to our final Borderlands stop: Tumen City
Along the way, we’ll have a quick stop in Longjing city to sample some Korean delicacies such as raw beef, Chinese-Korean kimchi and other delicious Korean dishes!
We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant in Tumen City before checking out the last Chinese/DPRK border point on our itinerary – the same border crossing those joining All Koreas part 2 tour will use to enter North Korea on the following day. This border was first opened to western tourists by YPT in 2012.
Explore the nearby parkland area which surrounds the border crossing – this is a perfect opportunity to approach the river bank for some fantastic close-up shots of the DPRK!
Shop at the stands nearby for some very rare DPRK memorabilia that is not always available in the country.
Climb up a small hill to get even better views in Namyang city in North Korea.
Check into hotel in Tumen to join up with the new group members and then go out for beers, soju or a last taste of Chinese baijiu to celebrate the end of the Borderlands road trip!
Outdoor BBQ dinner on the riverfront, overlooking into the DPRK.
Overnight in Tumen City
Friday 26th June
End of All Koreas Part 1 tour. YPT can offer accommodation, or ongoing transportation to help you get to your final destination. Please get in touch for more details.
• Twin share room accommodation. If you would like your own room for the duration of the tour, the cost is 200 euro extra.
• Meals, and some drinks (unless otherwise noted in the itinerary).
• Transportation in Air Conditioned van/bus from Beijing-Tumen.
• Western YPT guide.
• Entrance fees (unless otherwise specified).