Image by Tony Wheeler Getty Images

Paekdu, one of the most stunning sights on the Korean peninsula, straddles the Chinese-Korean border in the very far northeastern tip of DPRK. Apart from being the country's highest mountain at 2744m (9000ft), and an amazing geological phenomenon (an extinct volcano with a vast crater lake at its centre), it's also of huge mythical importance to Koreans.

The huge crater lake called Chonji ('Lake of Heaven') lies at the summit, surrounded by bare rocky crags. It is one of the deepest alpine lakes in the world, and although it's fed by two hot springs, it is also one of the coldest.

Paekdusan is sacred to all Koreans, because according to Korean mythology it is where the 'Son of the Lord of Heaven' descended to earth and the first Korean kingdom began.

North Korea's current history books also claim that the Dear Leader established his headquarters here in the 1920s and defeated the Japanese from there. Although no history books outside of North Korea claim the region was a battlefield during WWII, plenty of revolutionary and anti-imperialist slogans have been carved on the trees. Many more of these 'slogan-bearing trees' are being discovered every year, and most are so well preserved that you'd think they were carved yesterday.

Revisionist history aside, the real reason to visit Paekdusan is the natural beauty of the area-vast tracts of virgin forest, abundant wildlife, lonely granite crags, fresh springs, gushing streams and dramatic waterfalls - and, for those able to make the steep and treacherous climb, the astounding Jong-Il peak. It is only accessible from around late June to mid-September due to foul weather and can only be reached by charter flight.