Koryo Tours

– specialists in travel to North Korea, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and the Russian far east   

UPDATE: the company keeps broadening their portfolio, now, new for 2018, also offerening a smashing package for Kazakhstan. Another exotic side-line, Magadan and the far east of Russia, has been running for a while too, as have their usually twice-a-year trips to Turkmenistan. (They also have tours to Mongolia, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan).
Primarily, however, Koryo Tours are THE specialists in organizing tours to North Korea and making all the necessary arrangements (visas, etc.). They have some 20 years' experience and in that time have built up good relationships with the country's tourism sector (yes, it does exist) like no other. They have pioneered tours to new destinations within the country, and have been involved in all manner of associated activities to do with the DPRK too, such as film-making, charity schemes, sports events, etc. They are based in Beijing, China, from where the only scheduled flights to North Korea depart, as well as the only overnight train link.
The company is British owned, and the main people in it are Brits, but they have become more international in recent years too, with Chinese, North American and Scandinavian staff having joined them over the years.
I've personally used Koryo Tours twice, first for one of their longer tours of North Korea in 2005, and again for one of their sidelines, a tour to Turkmenistan in 2010. Both trips were exceptionally memorable. I also know many other people who have used Koryo Tours and have hardly ever heard any complaints (and what complaints I have heard were about little things like delays at pick-up in Ashgabat or such easily tolerable things – never anything major). Quite a few people have gone back for return trips to North Korea with Koryo Tours – and I would very much like to do another such trip myself before long as well, in particular I'd also love to go on one of their Magadan tours! I wouldn't think twice about using Koryo Tours again!
If the extreme in "exotic travel" is your kind of thing, then this has to be amongst the ultimate choices this planet has to offer.
Check out Koryo Tours' many tour programmes on their main website. Their Turkmenistan tour pages are here, Kazakhstan here, and Magadan/Russia here. (External links, open in new windows!) 

IMPORTANT: if you decide to book something with them, do mention that you saw this page here on dark-tourism.com (here's why)!
You'll see that in addition to their regular group tours they also arrange individual tours. One more word about that: even if you're like me and would normally avoid travelling as part of an organized group, when it comes to travel to the DPRK it's an altogether different story. Here, you may actually enjoy group travel more than individual travel. For one thing, you can't move about in North Korea just on your own anyway – you'll always have to have at least the two North Korean guides with you that the rules stipulate. In a group, this feels much less like you're being watched all the time. And given the type of personalities you get on these tours it will be more interesting too. Just think about it – showing even an interest in going there requires a kind of personality that has to be a long way from your usual beach-and-sunbathing boring package-holidaymaker type of person. Indeed, I am still in touch with a number of people I met on my trips with Koryo Tours.
One thing that also sets Koryo Tours apart from their (few!) competitors is that their group tours are regularly accompanied by one of their own staff – who know the ins and outs of North Korean travel and are an invaluable extra asset. They are also brilliant in putting things into perspective – in a country where you are constantly bombarded with the party-line propaganda! – and point out little new details and developments. They sure know their stuff!
These are also especially interesting times in North Korea – what with the new "leader", the doubled cult of personality surrounding the previous two Kims, the nuclear tests and missile launches making disturbed headlines all over the world, new mass games in the making, etc.
It's still a privilege being able to see the inside of this weird country with your own eyes. So do go … while you can. That said, though: it has to be repeated that travel to North Korea is obviously not for everyone. You have to tolerate a lot of pre-given conditions and lack of personal choices and observe certain rules of behaviour. But if your curiosity about visiting the world's most secretive and enigmatic country outweighs such drawbacks, then Koryo Tours should be your first port of call for enquiries (direct link here).
Their tours to other countries, etc. have a similar character but just don't run as often/regularly. But their Magadan and Kazakhstan packages are pretty unique and full of things most dark tourists will delight in. Do check them out if you're interested in any of these places!

© dark-tourism.com, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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