Hotels of the
DPRK: Local
Guesthouses

Some accommodations for domestic travelers in the DPRK

The stability of the pyramid seldom depends on its pinnacle, and yet it is precisely the pinnacle that attracts our attention. – Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky

On Instagram, posts of Pyongyang’s giant Ryugyong Hotel invariably receive more likes than images containing any non-pyramidal counterparts. As in the photo above, the heights of the pinnacle often divert our attention from the teeming world below. In the photo above, there is only one operational hotel. That hotel is the West Pyongyang Guesthouse, hiding away in the pink building at left, not the 105-level titan towering in the background.

Like the nearby Bonghwasan Guesthouse, the West Pyongyang Guesthouse (서평양려관) is only for local Koreans visiting the Korean capital. (Don’t worry, there is ample choice for foreigners looking to experience different hotels and each one is an experience in and of itself.) Unlike Korea’s well-known hotels, most of which have their own distinct architecture or have distinct hotel grounds, the West Pyongyang Guesthouse is relatively indistinguishable from the surrounding buildings of the Moranbong District. It very may well be a converted residential block, a practice used to create at least one other accommodations in the country. Outside of having a restaurant (see below), we do not know anything about the guesthouse itself.

While Koreans can also stay at large hotels frequented by foreigners, small scale accommodations like the West Pyongyang Guesthouse exist throughout the country. Once such accommodations exists in the eastern harbor town of Tongchon, located between Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang. Called simply ‘guesthouse’, this six-story accommodation has an accompanying restaurant. A sign over the door reads ‘Provide Service for the People’. Small painting on the flanks of the awning of the lobby entrance depict the local attraction Changsokjong, a prominent seaside geological formation of columnar basalt. There is also a rooftop viewing platform, presumably to view the nearby sea.

Another common type of local accommodation are sanatoriums (료양소) located in rural areas. Often near scenic lakes or mountains, hot springs, or remote seaside, these basic facilities provide a quiet escape for relaxation, hiking, picnics, fishing, boating, campfires, and late-night singing accompanied by alcohol. Some facilities also provide medical care or treatments.

Korea has an extensive network of sanatoriums dating back to the early years of the foundation of the Republic. Below is one such facility located near Sokwang Temple near Wonsan.

Hotels of the DPRK is a blog posting dedicated to the fascinating world of accommodations in North Korea. Check out #hotelsofnorthkorea and #hotelsofdprk on Instagram.

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