North Korean government introduces helicopter tours in Pyongyang

Viewing North Korea from a helicopter tour will give travellers a new perspective on the reclusive nation, but may not get them closer to the everyday life of a country that keeps tourists on a tight leash.

A tour company in North Korea is now offering helicopter tours.

A tour company in North Korea is now offering helicopter tours. Image by John Pavelka / CC BY 2.0

Pyongyang, North Korea, can now be viewed on a helicopter tour led by Koryo Tours. The North Korean government approved the 40-minute tours this month, allowing visitors to fly over Pyongyang’s landmarks and see them from above.

According to media reports, passengers were not able to take photographs between the airport and the city, but could snaps photos as the helicopter circled the sites of Pyongyang.

Simon Cockerall, the director of Koryo, the Beijing-based tourism operator running the flights, told NBC News they had suggested helicopter tours a decade ago, but they were only recently allowed.

Mansu Hill Grand Monument in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Mansu Hill Grand Monument in Pyongyang, North Korea. Image by Clay Gilliland / CC BY-SA 2.0

While tourists to North Korea remain under supervision from their guides and tour operators, the nation is looking to increase the number of foreign tourists.

Earlier this year, the country announced plans to attract 1 million visitors per year by 2017 and two million per year by 2020. While many of the tourists come from neighbouring China, the number of Westerners visiting is rising as well.

But more expansion in the industry in underway. This summer, another tour company, Young Pioneer Tours, organised a dedicated beach holiday trip to North Korea, where visitors could head to the “stunning and gorgeous” beaches of Wonsan and Hamhung on the east coast and go for a hike on Mt Kumgang, while also seeing the main sites in Pyongyang.

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