It might be the world’s most visited war zone. It might not be so active these days luckily, but the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea (who have technically been at war since 1950 as they never signed a peace treaty) is a fascinating place to visit on a day tour from Seoul. If recent news is anything to go by, the DMZ is not always free from drama either, currently making this a dark tourism hotspot.
That should not be the main reason to visit however; the fact that this important regional and international conflict is still very much at the fore of global politics means you might never witness a more relevant standoff than this. With soldiers from either side guarding their respective sides of the border, a visit to the DMZ is a unique chance to see how each side deals with guarding their border separately. You can technically set foot in North Korea too at Panmunjeom, where the armistice was signed in 1953, although this area occasionally goes off limits so check before you book.
FROM: $46/per person
This is a popular and long-running tour that takes in many key symbols of the Korean War’s atrocities before exploring some of the post-1953 intrigues of the DMZ. After a hotel pickup, the tour heads to Freedom Bridge at Imjingak Park, across which prisoners of war returned to the south when freed from the north. At the DMZ you will visit the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, dug by soldiers from the north into the south, before heading to Dora Observatory where you can spy on a village used by the north for propaganda, but which seems more like an eerie installation at a creepy theme park. The tour lasts roughly six hours.
From $79/ per person
The full day DMZ tour runs roughly the same itinerary as the half day tour above, but with an extra three hours added on for dinner and a visit to the War Memorial of Korea. This is an important series of exhibitions that give more depth and insight into the conflict. There is time also to visit the DMZ Exhibition Hall at the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, which displays old weaponry from the war. Lunch, all entrance fees, transportation and hotel pickup are included in the price.
From $59/ per person
If the thought of tense international standoffs makes you hungry then this might be a solid option for you. The tour follows much the same route as the previously listed options but offers the Korean lunch without the visit to the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. There is minimal walking on this tour, but the pace is rather fast as even with seven hours, taking in all the sights means keeping things moving. Local guides have been well reviewed and all transport, lunch and entry fees are included in the price.