Lifting the Veil on North Korea

Universal Travel System offers tours this fall

By: J.L. Erickson

For agents seeking a rare travel opportunity to Asia for their clients, Universal Travel System is offering eight-day tours this fall that take in Beijing as well as the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based tour operator has led previous tours to the region in June 2002 and September 2005 and in August and September has obtained the rights to offer four departures for an eight-day, six-night adventure departing from Los Angeles via Asiana Airlines.

Travelers first stop in Beijing for two nights, where a city tour includes the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square, as well as free time to explore.

The next morning, the group will fly to Pyongyang North Korea’s capital and the political, economic and culture center of the country where travelers will stay at the 45-story Pyongyang Koryo Hotel, with its twin towers, several restaurants and bars.

Pyongyang was the capital of Koguryo, the first feudal state of Korea. While it was destroyed during the Korean War, the city has been rebuilt and modernized with more than 70 parks and recreation grounds, monuments, museums, cultural and art establishments.

Sightseeing in Pyongyang includes Mangyoungdae, the birthplace of late Communist leader Kim II Sung, and Mangyong Hill, the highest spot in the area. The tour also includes a visit to Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital famous for its ginseng, the 14th-century Sonjuk Bridge and the outer city walls, and the Koryo Songyumkwan Museum.

Travelers get a half-day tour of Panmunjom, as well as a tour of the trade port Nampo City. Activities also will include an evening at the DPRK National Circus Performance, performances by artists and dance ensembles and a trip to the Arirang Festival featuring thousands of gymnasts and dancers in choreographed programs and routines.

Land portion prices start at $3,960, sharing, and include all transfers, hotels, sightseeing tours, local taxes and service charges, an English-speaking guide, three meals a day in North Korea, airfare between Beijing and Pyongyang, and a professional tour manager.

Departures dates are Aug. 19, and Sept. 9, 23 and 30. More information is available by calling Universal Travel System