NORTH KOREA – Nampo day trip: SPA, hotsprings and other waterworks

A Nampo day trip or better an overnight trip is one that is on most North Korea itineraries for first timers. I did a Nampo day trip after my Kaesong day trip which saved a bit of driving up and down to Pyongyang. The first stop was at a cooperative farm halfway the deserted Hero Youth Highway towards Nampo. Nampo itself is a rural town we just drove through. Just outside Nampo is the west sea barrage (waterworks) where the Taedong river flows into the Korean Bay. This is the highlight of a Nampo day trip. Close to Nampo is the Nampo Ryonggang Spa House which can be reached through rural North Korea. It really gives an impression of the countryside. I highly recommend doing a Nampo day trip if you’re in North Korea.

Nampo day trip: The cooperative farm

On the way to Nampo from Pyongyang the first stop was at a cooperative farm called Chongsan-ri, about 30 minutes out of Pyongyang. If you’re not doing a full Nampo day trip you could opt to make a half day trip to only the cooperative farm. It’s a must see how farms are organized in North Korea.

First, we made a bow to the eternal president Kim Il-song at the nearby statue.


At a cooperative farm families live in groups each responsible for various tasks at the farm. The great leader Kim-Il Un guides them. At the Chongsan-ri farm about 1000 people live which are divided into a dozen or so groups each having around 10 families. The work is mainly done by hand so the production per head is not high. They farm various products, but the big fields are rice and various kinds of greens mainly cabbage. In the greenhouses they grow cucumbers, unions, and other vegetables. My visit was in autumn and at this farm most harvesting was already done. It would be great to see the farm during summertime when there is a lot of more work to do and see more of the rural life in North Korea.

Rural village & anti-aircraft cannons

After we visited the fields I asked if I could see and photograph a bit inside the village. The reason was to make some photos of the village but also because I spotted some anti-aircraft artillery at a hill just out of the village and wanted to get that on the background. I could take pictures, but they brought me to the other side of the village. The only people were at the end of the street probably waiting for me to leave. But luckily, I spotted a little girl coming out of a house probably on her way to school (read also my story about growing up in North Korea).

It’s great to learn about cooperative farming and to see how the people live on such a farm. If you visit North Korea, make sure you visit a cooperative farm as this is how many people live throughout the country. It was time for lunch, and I continued my Nampo day trip to the west sea barrage.

West sea barrage highlight of a Nampo day trip

The second stop of a Nampo day trip is the actual highlight: The Nampo west sea barrage. It’s an outstanding example of how mankind can change nature. It changed Nampo.

Nampo is a city on the west coast of North Korea where the Taedong River flows into the Korean Bay. From a small fishing village, it has grown over the years into an industrial city with its main activity shipbuilding. The city itself is a bit grey and many parts could use a bit of new paint. That’s just aesthetics though.


The west sea barrage or Nampo dam was constructed in the early 80’s in a time span of only 5 years. North Korea has put a lot of effort in the construction to show the western countries they were able to achieve this in such a short period of time. Finally, they managed. The west sea barrage was built so the water level in the Taedong river would rise. This made sure fresh water was available for better irrigation on the farmlands along the river. The barrage also allows bigger ships to move up and down the Taedong river and prevents flooding as water cannot flow back into the Taedong river anymore.

Next to the dam there is a visitor’s center showing a movie about the construction and other background information. You have a great view over the dam there as well. The dam is in total 8 kilometers long and there are a total of three passageways for ships. The visitors center is the only point to get out of the car and to look around. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to walk around the barrage itself but do ask your guides as the situation might change. After an hour at the place it was time to continue the Nampo day to the hot spring spa hotel.

SPA house with hot spring

The Ryonggang Hot Spring Spa House is in a small town called Onchon just outside of Nampo. The place is a resort with various villas and one common building where the restaurant and entertainment is located. As the place dates back from the Japanese occupation it all looks quite old including the bathtub (see photo). I did however take a great healthy bath in the very very hot water which is said to heal several skin conditions.

North Korean clams BBQ is delicious!

First course of the dinner was an early BBQ with clams. They are put on a metal plate and then gasoline is poured over the clams and set on fire. This is repeated several times until the clams are ready. Simply delicious together with some vodka! After the BBQ it was time for the spa bath filled with hot spring water before the actual dinner. Hot water was only available during a certain time. The next morning, I found out myself that hot water was indeed not always available, the morning shower was cold!


Typical dinner in North Korea

Fully relaxed I went to the restaurant for dinner by myself (yes!). The whole complex is surrounded by a wall and the entrance well-guarded by military personnel. Going the wrong way from the house to the dinner area is simply impossible 🙂 As I travelled alone my dinner was served also alone on a table normally able to fit 15 people. I kindly asked to move my plate and dinner to the same table as the guides so we could eat with all four together. They agreed. I made sure we had enough beer of course for all of us.

After dinner we went to the pitch-dark pool area as electricity was not working. We got from the property a lamp working on an old car battery to light the pool table. What an experience. I played a few games with the guides and talked about daily life before I headed to bed early evening.

The next day we drove back over the Hero Youth Highway to Pyongyang. This highway has five lanes but no traffic at all. This is really strange compared to when I travelled 2 weeks in Yunnan, China. Make sure to read my North Korea itinerary to see what I did more in this isolated country.

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Did you visit North Korea with a Nampo day trip too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Nampo day trip

Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.


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