The first thing you think about when considering the North Korea landscape is probably not the mountains in North Korea. But did you know that Korea is 80% Mountainous?
Whilst North Korea may not be famous for its mountains, did you know that North Korea is 80% mountainous?
Probably not, right?
Well, you can’t make this stuff up. Mountains in North Korea make up 80% of the North Korea landscape, and also help the North Korea scenery to look pretty impressive.
So let’s take a look at the main mountains in North Korea.
Major Mountains in North Korea
1. Paektu 9,019 feet
2. Mantapsan 7,234 feet
4. Mataesan 5,725 feet
5. Kumgangsan 5,374 feet
6. Maepongsan 5,177 feet
7. Opongsan 4,229 feet
8. Opongsan 4,147 feet
9. Chilbosan 3,619 feet
10. Kuwŏlsan 3,130 feet
Mountains in North Korea 1: Paektusan
Height: 9,019 feet
Name meaning: Ever white mountain/white head mountain
Mt. Paektu, otherwise known as Paektusan, Paekdusan, Paektu San, or Changbaishan, is the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula. It also arguably offers some of the most impressive North Korea scenery, and is the most famous and important North Korean mountain. Mt. Paektu borders China and attracts many tourists from the Chinese side on an annual basis. In Chinese, the mountain is called Changbaishan.
Paektusan is famous for the large lake crater in the middle at its peak, otherwise referred to as Heaven Lake.
Due to cold temperatures at the peak, you can only climb Mt. Paektu during the summer months. During the summer, the temperature at the peak can reach up to 18 degrees Celcius. During the winter, this can be as low as -48 degrees.
This mountain is a very sacred place for the North Korean people who hold Mt. Paektu as the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, and state Mt. Paektu to be the birthplace of the Korean people.
Mountains in North Korea 2: Chilbosan
Name Meaning: Mountain of 7 Treasures
Mt. Chilbo, or Chilbosan, is one of the least visited mountain ranges in North Korea. This is mainly due to the fact that it is hard to reach. But this impressive piece of North Korea scenery should not be overlooked!
Located in the North East of North Korea, the only way to reach Mt. Chilbo is via internal flight from Pyongyang to Orang airport.
It is divided into 3 areas; Inner, Outer, and Sea. Legend has it that there are 7 treasures buried within the Chilbo San mountain range, hence the name.
But with its fantastic landscape, rare rock formations and beach areas, it's definitely worth the trip!
Mt. Chilbo is also one of the few places where you can do a homestay with a local Korean family.
Mountains in North Korea 3: Myohyangsan
Height: 6,263 feet
Name Meaning: Mysterious Fragrant Mountain
Mt. Myohyang, or Myohyangsan, is the 3rd highest mountain in North Korea.
There are many hiking routes in this area, as well as various temples. It was listed as a UNESCO site in 2009 due to the cultural significance of Mt. Myohyang as a sacred place.
Paying a visit to Mt. Myohyang means you can also visit the International Friendship House. This is a building calved into the mountain which houses all international gifts gifted to the leaders of North Korea, and famously also features the basketball from Denis Rodman.
Mountains in North Korea 4: Kuwolsan
Height: Just below 1000
Name Meaning: September Mountain
The best time to visit Kuwolsan is in September. This is where this North Korean mountain gets its name.
During September and summer months, this is a popular tourist spot for local North Korean tourists.
This mountain range is surrounded by forest - much of which remains unexplored.
Another attraction in this area is the Mausoleum of King Kongukgwon. Inside this tomb are wall paintings dating back to early Korean life.
Mountains in North Korea 5: Kumgangsan
Height: 5 374 feet
Name Meaning: Diamond Mountain
The Mt. Kumgang area is not often visited by tourists, and therefore a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. You may not come across other tourists here, apart from local Korean tourists on holiday or locals from the Kumgangsan area enjoying their day off. It is not difficult to reach but is about an 8-hour drive from Pyongyang. The roads aren't in the best condition, but the North Korea scenery on offer on the way makes up for this!
Mt. Kumgang is situated in the south of North Korea, close to the DMZ north-south Korean border. It consists of many formations (over 12,000 in fact!) forming different ravines, cliffs, peaks and different stone formations. It also features lagoons and pillars.
In the Kumgangsan mountain area, there are various hikes. You can visit the national park which is a coniferous protected forest. To hike to the waterfall at the peak of the mountain it takes around 3 hours. On the way, the views are very rewarding. There are many rock pools and small lakes - but you are not allowed to enter them to swim due to it being a protected area.
“San” in Korean is the equivalent to the English “Mt.” or “Mountain”
So Paektusan = Mt. Paektu.
Want to spend some time outside of the city and visit some of these (or all of these!) beautiful mountains?
Look no further!
Head over to our tour page for information on tours heading to these fantastic destinations.