Mt Chilbo Homestay the 1hostel in North Korea? Not quite and the title is a little bit click-bait! But, in a country where you hotel options are almost exclusively staying at dreary Soviet-era hotels, a homestay is a welcome change of pace.
Combine this with the craziness of Chongjin, the sheer beauty of Mt Chilbo and just the feeling of being very off the beaten track in North Korea, then Mt Chilbo Homestay is one of those rare and very unique North Korean treats.
Traveling to the north-east of North Korea
Traveling to North Korea is always special, whether you are visiting the big cities, or even a day trip to Sinuiju. But it is when you hit the north-east of the country that things really get interesting.
There is a lot to see and do in the North-East too, from Mt Paektu, to Rason, Chongjin, and of course today’s case in point Mt Chilbo.
To read my guide to Rason click here
Getting here is not easy and usually requires either a charter flight to Samjiyon, or going overland via the aforementioned Rason. Suffice to say very few tourists make it out this far.
To read about Samjiyon click here.
If you do end up going to the Mt Chilbo Homestay, you will certainly also go to Chongjin, and boy this place is wild.
Traveling and eating in in Chongjin
When we first started traveling to North Korea Chongjin was out of bonds to foreign guests. The second biggest and most important city in North Korea, it is aside from Pyongyang the only other place to host consulates (Chinese and Russian).
To read about which countries have embassies in North Korea click here .
Chongjin is a really hard place to describe, a bit like the wild west, but with extra strict communist scrutiny! I have also had some of the best seafood ever here. I think here was the first time I ever tried sea-urchin, raw and straight from the sea!
But, when it comes to beauty, you gotta get to Chilbosan
Mt Chilbo Mountain
Separated into inner, outer and sea Chilbo it is not technically one of the 5 holy mountains of North Korea, although Kim Jong Il kinda said it was. It is on sea Chilbo that you get the chance to stay at the only homestay.
Mt Chilbo Homestay is made of up of about 20 homes and has a restaurant as well as a general store.
Daytime events include Korean wrestling, swimming in the sea, sunbathing and exploring the plush countryside. In many ways Mt Chilbo Homestay is unlike anything else you can try in North Korea.
Once the evening comes it is all about BBQ’s, bonfires and of course drinking Soju with your host family. Do not doubt a North Korean’s ability to knock back soju.
To read about Soju click here .
The accommodation at Mt Chilbo Homestay
This is a genuine homestay experience, so you will be staying with a North Korean family, again something simply impossible until this place was opened. The houses are immaculately kept, after all the Koreans want to make a good impression and you get the choice of a “proper bed”, or going local and doing the sleeping on the floor thing. When in Rome as they say.
The unprecedented level of interaction with Koreans at Mt Chilbo Homestay sis a truly unforgettable experience. You eat, drink and converse among our North Korean families.
Top tip? request to stay in house no 16, as this was inspected by Kim Jong-Il in 2004!