Highlights include : The April 2012 tour coinciding with the 100th Birthday celebrations of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung;New visits to beautiful Kumgang, the “Diamond Mountains”, open to tourists for the first time since 2008;New visits to several pristine remote DRPK mountain ranges for intrepid travelers.
Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. (APTL), http://www.northkorea1on1.com, announces its 2012 group tour packages to North Korea (the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea or the DPRK).
Highlights include :
The April 2012 tour coinciding with the 100th Birthday celebrations of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung;
New visits to beautiful Kumgang, the “Diamond Mountains”, open to tourists for the first time since 2008;
New visits to several pristine remote DRPK mountain ranges for intrepid travelers.
New for 2012 will be the following:
*An April tour that will visit the DPRK during celebrations marking the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the eternal President and founder of the DPRK. Not-yet-announced festivities have been in planning for several years and are expected to include an extra spectacular Arirang mass performance. These unique synchronized acrobatic displays are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest mass performance in the world, featuring over 100,000 performers in the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, the largest stadium in the world, seating over 150,000 people. The name Arirang refers to a Korean folk song about two separated lovers trying to reunite, a reference to the continued division of North and South Korea. The North Koreans believe that the highly synchronized, mass aspect of the performances reflects their national philosophy of the individual being subordinate to the group.
*An optional 3-4 day post-tours to Mt. Kuwol, Sariwon, Sinchon, Wonsan, and Kumgang. Known as the “Diamond Mountains,” Kumgang has been closed to tourists from the North since 1998 and to all tourists since 2008. APTL is able to take tourists to this area of Kumgang using the historic Kumgangsan Hotel in the resort development complex. Previously groups from the North only visited the fringes of Kumgang and overnighted in Wonsan.
*A new series of tours for intrepid travelers exploring North Koreas famous scenic mountains. Scheduled from June through September, these special tours include the difficult-to-visit dramatic and historic sites of Mt. Paektu, Mt. Chilbo, Hamhung, Wonsan, and Kumgang. Passengers will travel via charter flights from Pyongyang to the less accessible areas of the DPRK. These more adventurous itineraries will be in addition to the APTL’s “standard” offerings of monthly departures from April through November with various pre- and post- tours in China and South Korea.
The North Koreans have reconfirmed that Americans (and nationalities other than South Korean citizens), may tour the DPRK for extended visits. This is unlike past years, when Americans could only visit for 5 days at a time. In addition, North Korea has reconfirmed that these visits may come throughout the year, not just during the annual Arirang mass performance period in the fall. Unfortunately, the ban on Americans taking the train in or out of the DPRK to China is still in effect (other nationalities, however, are allowed to take the train), resulting in slightly higher costs for Americans.
All travelers to North Korea must travel in a group – even if it is a “group of one”. Normally it is best and more economical to have at least two travelers together so that they can share the costs. All APTL DPRK tours from August through September include the Arirang synchronized mass performance.
Regarding Asia Pacific Travel’s 2012 tours, although the tours are very similar to 2011, this year most of the “standard” North Korea portions are scheduled on a Saturday to Saturday basis, i.e., 8 days-7 nights in the DPRK. This format takes advantage of the Air Koryo flights that are less expensive than the Air China flights on other days of the week. The overall tour lengths range from 6 days to 17 days, with prices projected from $2,297 to $4,675. These prices are $100-200 less expensive than 2009 prices, due to careful pruning. This goes for the Single Supplement charges that are $60-70 less than 2009 as well.
Each of the DPRK tour departures from April through November has 5 variations, from the comprehensive 17 day “A” “Korea in Depth” package that includes a pre-tour to Seoul for 3 nights and Beijing for 2 nights, plus a post- tour to Shenyang for 1 night, Dandong for 2 nights, and ending in Beijing for 1 night; to the very economical “F” “North Korea on a Budget” variation that only includes 6 days and 5 nights in the DPRK, with no pre- or post- options.
The “standard” tours all visit Pyongyang, Myohyang, Kaesong and Panmunjom, and Nampo during their actual 6 days in the DPRK. Although these tours are listed as 8 days-7 nights, the “usable” time is really only 6 days plus an evening, as the flight from Beijing arrives in the late afternoon on Day 1 and the departure flight from Pyongyang leaves at 9 a.m. on Day 8. For those with more time and interest, Asia Pacific Travel offers several post-tour options for participants (in addition to the Shenyang-Dandong-Beijing option with tours “A” and “C”). In 2012 it is possible to add 3-4 day post-tours to Mt. Kuwol, Sariwon, Sinchon, Wonsan, and Kumgang on to a “standard” tour.
Asia Pacific Travel’s North Korean tours are based on over 16 years’ experience working with the DPRK. Mr. Keats is a noted North Korea expert and an experienced tour leader who has visited North Korea over 25 times since 1995. He escorts almost all of APTL’s North Korean travel programs with 10 or more participants. In 2010 he was been recognized by “Condé Nast Traveler” magazine as their South and North Korea Travel Specialist. He is a member of the National Committee on North Korea, which is based in Washington, DC, The Korea Society in New York, and the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch in Seoul.
Asia Pacific Travel specializes in upscale custom individual travel to all parts of East Asia, and offers custom private tours for individuals and small groups throughout the year. Since 1995 Asia Pacific Travel has been the only U.S. travel company dealing directly with the DPRK state-run travel company, the Korea International Travel Company.