Mount Paektu



At 9,022 ft/2,750 m, this is the tallest mountain on the Korean peninsula. In Korean mythology, it is the birthplace of the Korean people, so it is considered sacred. North Koreans also believe it is the birthplace of Kim Jong Il (he was actually born in Siberia). Paektu straddles the border with China and holds the world's highest crater lake, Lake Chon (known as Tianchi to the Chinese). At 7,185 ft/2,190 m, the lake is crystal clear and surrounded by rocky peaks—truly one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth. Paektu is accessible to foreigners only by a specially chartered plane, landing at the nearby Samjiyon airport. A train does run to the area from Pyongyang, but this is only for the use of Koreans. In addition to the mountain, the main attraction of the Paektusan area is the "secret camp" from where it is claimed Kim Il Sung led his guerilla army to victory against the Japanese in the 1940s. It's possible to visit the reconstructed camp, see the boyhood home of the young "Dear Leader," including his toys. Try to see the numerous "slogan trees" upon which the guerillas reportedly carved slogans stating their dedication and loyalty to Kim Il Sung. Staying at least one night in this area is essential. Hotels are available in the town of Samjiyon. 250 mi/400 km northeast of Pyongyang.

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