Included as one of Korea’s “six celebrated mountains,” alongside Mt. Paektu, Mt. Myohyang, Mt. Kuwol, Mt. Chilbo and Mt. Jiri, Mt. Kumgang is without question up there as one of the most visually stunning and breathtaking mountain ranges on the Korean Peninsula.
Located only 68 kilometers away from the DMZ and border of South Korea, Mt. Kumgang is a fascinating spot to visit – not only for its natural beauty but for its fascinating historical ties to South Korea.
A slice of the South in the North
With the region being open to South Korean tourists from 1998 to 2008, an unfortunate incident involving a South Korean tourist being shot for allegedly wandering into a “military area” halted all tourism for South Koreans.
Prior to this, the surrounding resorts were built with the funding of South Korean firms and companies, including Hyundai, providing an architectural and design flair very different to the usual DPRK style found in the country. Hotels are fitted out with LG TVs, now out-of-use South Korean ATMs and Hite beer taps. These days, Mt. Kumgang hosts rare reunions for separated families from the North and South, with all other South Korean tourists banned from travel.
With recent local DPRK news stating that Marshal Kim Jong Un wants to give this region a full makeover, describing the South Korean facilities as ‘temporary buildings at construction sites,’ much like the recent tourism developments in Pyongyang, Wonsan and nearby Masikryong Ski Fields, it’s likely that Mt. Kumgang’s forgotten South Korean resorts will too have renovations and upgrades very soon.
Spectacular natural scenery
But history aside, Mt. Kumgang is truly one of the most awesome mountain ranges available in Korea. The mountain features multi-coloured autumnal foliage, dramatic granite rock formations where the mountains meet the sea, and waterfalls flowing into crystal-clear blue rock pools dotted throughout the mountain landscape.
The hike to the summit includes picturesque 360-degree views of Kuryong Falls below and takes approximately four hours, being a 4km walk up and 4km walk down. With the beginning hike being a scenic, easy stroll through the mountains, the final stretch proves to be quite a strenuous – but worthwhile – slog to the summit, with some very steep sections helped by some decent stairs and ladders to help hikers reach the top.
How to get to Mount Kumgang
Located 337 kilometers away from Pyongyang, getting to Mt. Kumgang via the Wonsan Highway is best broken up with a night in Wonsan – an equally fascinating and charming beachside city, as the roads are relatively undeveloped and can take quite some time (around 7 hours). While available as an independent extension, the most affordable (and dare we say fun) way to experience Mt. Kumgang is on our special, once-a-year group tour Party Foundation Day & Mt. Kumgang tour – taking in all the essential Pyongyang sites (and falling on a very special national holiday) as well as the DMZ, Kaesong and Wonsan cities.
With 2020’s Party Foundation Day & Mt. Kumgang tour taking place during the 75th Party Foundation Day, we expect this to be a very popular tour with a strong likelihood of a military parade taking place. Email us today to secure your spot while availability still lasts!