Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One of the world's most secretive
destinations just became a lot more accessible.
Big news for travelers hoping to see one of the world's
most secretive destinations: you can now tour the People's Democratic
Republic of North Korea from the sky.
The isolated nation unexpectedly opened
its airspace to sightseeing tours earlier this month.
Now, tourists hoping to
catch a glimpse of the expansive North Korean capital city can book a
helicopter tour over Pyongyang.
Simon Cockerell, a general manager at Koryo Tours, told the Daily Mail that
almost ten years ago he started asking the North Korean government's tourism
officers to consider allowing sightseeing helicopter tours of Pyongyang, but
they had never responded to his repeated requests.
However, since coming to
power in 2012, the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, has tried to draw more
visitors to North Korea.
In addition to allowing surf vacations, his
government recently decided to allow tour operators to take people into
Pyongyang airspace.
North Korea does not publish the number of tourists who visit the country,
but Reuters reports that an estimated 6,000 Westerners, many coming from tours
based in China, visit the country each year.
Western travel groups are now
offering the aerial sightseeing tours as an optional activity for tour members
visiting North Korea, with rates starting at $190.
The inaugural 30-40 minute helicopter tours take groups of sightseers for a
circuit over Pyongyang, flying along the Taedong River, and offering views of
the city's May Day stadium, science center, a monument honoring the ruling
Workers' Party, and the unfinished and futuristic-looking Ryugyong Hotel,
which has been under construction since 1987. Koryo Tours, which offers trips
in both a Soviet-era helicopter and an Antonov 24 Soviet propeller passenger
plane from the 1950s, recently released some aerial photos of the so-called
hermit nation.
Members of the recent Koryo Tour were allowed to take photographs and record
videos of the city, save for a few areas between the city and airport that
government minders deemed too sensitive to photograph.
While some critics argue that visiting North Korea lends tacit approval to
the country's dictatorship and ignores the government's well-documented
history of human rights abuses, others feel that engaging with the country's
citizens allows for open dialogue that could lead to cultural change.
Companies like Koryo Tours, Uri Tours, and Mountain Travel Sobek offer trips
into North Korea from Beijing.
Big news for travelers hoping to see one of the world's most
secretive destinations: you can now tour the People's Democratic Republic of
North Korea by helicopter.
Read more.

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