North Korea has always intrigued the world, with the nation capturing collective imaginations throughout history with its solitary and secretive practices. Now, an assortment of new images offer an intriguing look into the country’s tourism sector by showcasing its hotels as never seen before.

Created by author James Scullin and photographer Nicole Reed, Hotels of Pyongyang is a new book of images and essays that explores North Korea’s tourism sector. Scullin, a former tour guide, was able to use his connections in the country to secure visas and state permission to visit ten hotels that currently cater to tourists, as well as the three decade long work in progress - the spaceship shaped Ryugyong Hotel. “I chose to do hotels as the centrepiece for the project as access to the hotels is not really a political matter (unlike most other things), meaning the project was possible without excessive red tape. Also, no matter how many tourists are in North Korea, and the number is often small, the hotels are still maintained. This leaves the hotels of well-preserved Soviet artefacts unique to Pyongyang

Pothonggang Hotel
Pothonggang Hotel © Hotels of Pyongyang / Nicole Reed

The book showcases unique brutalist structures and architecture as well as vintage interiors on display in many of the unchanged hotels in the city. It also includes portraits of stoic, uniformed staff at the different hotels, and amenities such as swimming pools, bowling alleys and karaoke rooms. Accommodations featured include Pothonggang Hotel, Yanggakdo Hotel, Sosun Hotel and Rakrang Hotel.

Pothongang Hotel
A worker at a hotel poses for a portrait © Hotels of Pyongyang / Nicole Reed

“The main thing I learned from this experience is that creativity finds a way even in authoritarian countries like North Korea. With regards to clothing, behaviour and street life, North Korea is rather uniform. However, within these hotels, individuals have been given license to design dining halls, lobbies and karaoke rooms in a unique fashion. This is also from individuals who have not been particularly exposed to the rest of the world, meaning a lot of aesthetic is without influence,” James Scullin told Lonely Planet. 

Rakrang Hotel
Inside Rakrang Hotel © Hotels of Pyongyang / Nicole Reed

More information on Hotels of Pyongyang is available at the official website.

Read more: 

Hermit Kingdom travel primer: what to know before you visit North Korea
Pyongyang's architectural wonders

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