Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (2024)

When you decide to book a Korea DMZ tour, it can be challenging to determine which one to choose as there are many different options, each with different inclusions and by different tour providers. To help you decide which one to book, we have compiled a detailed overview of the places visited on each tour of the DMZ so you can choose the option that suits you best. Also, some DMZ tours from Seoul include hotel pickup and drop-off, while others require you to travel to a meeting point and return to a central drop-off point, so it is important to consider these aspects before booking your tour.

Following our own recent visit to the DMZ, we can confirm its profound impact. We personally found that visiting the DMZ offered us unique insights into the Korean War and its lasting effects on the country. As a result, we highly recommend visiting the DMZ as an essential experience for those looking to deepen their own knowledge of Korean history and culture.

This article compares the currently available tours to help you choose the best DMZ tour to suit your interests.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

#1 PICK

DMZ Paju Half Day Tour Options

  • Half-day (6-7 hour) tours of the DMZ include visits to Imjingak Peace Park, the Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel, and Dora Observatory.
  • Pick-up and drop-off options include City Hall Station, Hongik University Station, Dongdaemun Station or Myeongdong Station.
  • Choose this tour option if you want a shorter visit to the DMZ and to start your tour not too early in the day.
  • Don't choose this tour option if you want more time to explore the Imjingak Park area.

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#2 PICK

DMZ Paju Full Day Tour Options

  • These full-day tours (up to 9 hours) include visits to Imjingak Peace Park, Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory.
  • Pick-up and drop-off options include City Hall Station, Hongik University Station, Dongdaemon Station or Myeongdong Station.
  • Add-on options include the DMZ Gondola, the traditional Korean boat trip, Majang Lake Suspension Bridge, Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, strawberry picking or Paju Ice Valley (during winter)
  • Choose this tour option if you want more time to explore the Imjingak Park area and other local attractions

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#3 PICK

Private DMZ Paju Full Day Tour Options

  • A private half- or full-day tour of the DMZ includes a visit to Imjingak Peace Park, the Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel, and Dora Observatory, plus add-ons you agree toupfront with your private guide.
  • Pick-up and drop off is direct from and to your hotel
  • Choose a private tour if you want the convenience of hotel pick up and drop off and the flexibility to choose your own itinerary

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How DMZ Tours Work

The main DMZ location that you can visit from Seoul is near the city of Paju, which is a one-hour drive north of Seoul.

When considering the various Korean DMZ tour options, a key point to understand is that the section from Imjingak Park, which includes a visit to the Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory, is a military-run tour. Your tour bus from Seoul first drives you to Imjingak Park. At your scheduled time, you will board a military bus to visit the Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory, both beyond the fence inside the DMZ. Your tour guide also boards the military bus and continues to guide you throughout this section of the tour.

The military bus first drives across the bridge over the Imjin River. You then go through the security checkpoint, where you must show your passport. You then visit the Third Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and the local shop, where you can purchase souvenirs, food, and drinks. You then return to Imjingak Park, where you hop off the military bus.

Be aware that the military tour inside the DMZ can be cancelled at short notice, usually due to North Korean actions. Check your tour cancellation conditions before booking. If the military-run tour section is cancelled, your tour operator will usually substitute it with other activities around the Paju area rather than cancelling the whole tour.

After you return from the military-led DMZ tour, you can either do more activities in Imjingak Park, board your original tour bus to return to Seoul, or visit other nearby attractions. Your visit to Imjingak Park is, therefore, based on when your guide has booked your military-run section of the DMZ tour.

The Joint Security Area (JSA) is on North Korea’s border. Separate tours to the JSA have previously been available. However, following Private Travis’s unauthorised crossing into North Korea on 19 July 2023, JSA tours are not currently available, and we do not know whether they will ever recommence.

Departure and Return from Seoul to the DMZ

Before booking your DMZ tour from Seoul, carefully consider where you are staying and ensure you choose an option with easy access to your pick-up and drop-off location. Typical DMZ tour pick-up locations include Myeongdong Station, Dongdaemun Station, and Hongik University Station. Carefully read your tour instructions to ensure you go to the correct station exit location for the pick-up.

Many tours return you to the same location where you were picked up. However, some tours drop everyone back at City Hall Station, a convenient central location from which to explore Seoul further.

Private DMZ tours usually include hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (4)

How to Find and Book Your Korea DMZ Tour

Our recommended option, which we use ourselves, is to search and book tours through one of the major Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). We usually prefer to book all of our tickets and tours for our trip through one OTA, as you have everything together and can manage all of your bookings using the one app on your phone. Our recommended OTAs for Korea are Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide and KKDay. If you have travelled previously, you most likely already have an account with one or more of them! Making it really easy to make your booking.

For Korean DMZ tours, each OTA offers mostly the same options. So select your preferred OTA, search, and book, and the job is done. Throughout this article, we have included links for each tour option using our recommended OTAs to make it easy for you to find and book your preferred DMZ Korea tour.

DMZ Tour Options

A common question is which is the best DMZ tour. There is no single answer to that question, as each tour has different inclusions and pick-up and drop-off locations. Overall, the DMZ tours available through our recommended OTAs are well regarded. You can read many reviews from recent customers to enable you to confidently book your preferred option.

A summary of the available DMZ tours is as follows. Further below in this article you can read a detailed overview of each tour inclusion to help you decide which tour to choose!

  • Basic Half-Day DMZ Tour. This 6-7 hour tour option is available through multiple tour operators, so you will see multiple booking options for each OTA. This tour includes pick-up and drop-off from three locations in Seoul, a short visit to Imjingak Park, and the military-run DMZ tour. Some tours include a meetup with a North Korean defector. Click here to check out and book a half day tour through Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide, or KKDay.
  • Full Day DMZ Tour Options. These tours run for up to 9 hours, and there are many full-day DMZ tour options. Each tour includes pick-up and drop-off from three locations in Seoul, a short visit to Imjingak Park, the military-run DMZ tour, and one add-on inclusion. Add-on inclusions for the full-day tours include the DMZ Gondola, a traditional Korean boat trip, Majang Lake Suspension Bridge, Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, strawberry picking or Paju Ice Valley (during winter). Click here to check out and book a full day DMZ tour through Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide, or KKDay.
  • Private DMZ Tour Options. Multiple operators offer a range of private DMZ Tours. These tours include pick-up and drop-off direct to your hotel, a visit to Imjingak Park, the military-run DMZ tour, and other inclusions that you agree upfront with your guide. Click here to check out and book a private DMZ tour through Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide, or KKDay.

Below is an overview of the main attractions in and around the DMZ near Paju. Click on the symbols on the map below to learn more about each attraction.

The Third Infiltration Tunnel

Over time, North Korea has made several attempts to dig tunnels under the DMZ to enable a surprise attack. Four tunnels have been discovered so far. However, there are believed to be many more that have yet to be found.

The Third Infiltration Tunnel was discovered in 1978 due to information provided by a North Korean defector. Subsequently, South Korea found and blocked the tunnel. You can tour the Third Tunnel, where you can descend and walk to one end. However, you are not allowed to take cameras or phones inside.

Before entering the Third Tunnel, you will first go through the DMZ Museum, where you will see many exhibits and displays about the Korean War

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Note that the Third Tunnel consists of two sections. The first section is a long, steep, smooth walkway that accesses the actual tunnel dug by North Korea, and the second section is the original tunnel.

When we visited the Third Tunnel, we found that the long steep tunnel is very difficult if you have a knee injury (like me), to the point where I re-aggravated old injuries just completing the descent, which caused me ongoing knee pain for several weeks. To re-ascend the steep tunnel is quite physically demanding. However, there are seats at two locations along the way to enable you to rest, so consider your fitness and mobility before choosing to descend.

The walk along the original tunnel to the blockade has a very low ceiling. Fortunately, they provided a helmet, which I was very grateful for as I banged my head quite a few times. For context, I am 177cm or 5’11” tall. For taller people, expect this tunnel section to be much more challenging!

The Third Tunnel monorail can also more easily transport visitors from the surface to the start of the actual tunnel and back. However, I have not found any DMZ tours that include this option.

After you exit the Third Tunnel, you can also take photos of the well-known DMZ sign and the Reunification Monument, as pictured below.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (6)
Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (7)

Dora Observatory

The Dora Observatory enables visitors to view North Korea. From this viewpoint, you can see Kijong-Dong, the ‘Peace Village’, a fake town with no residents. You may be interested in learning that you can see the fourth-tallest flagpole in the world in Kijong-Dong! From Dora Observatory, you can also see the city of Kaesung.

Unfortunately, when we visited the Dora Observatory, it was a rainy and foggy day, so we could not view North Korea from that location. So check the weather before booking your DMZ tour to choose the best weather day for your visit.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (8)

Imjingak Park

Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park (also known as Imjingak Resort) is the gateway to the DMZ in Paju. Built in 1972, it was a place for families divided between North and South Korea to reflect and pray for their families. Imjingak Resort is located on the southern side of the Imjin River. Before the Korean War, the Gyeongui Train Line ran from Seoul through Imjin to Pyeongyang in North Korea.

Imjingak Park is quite large and has additional amenities that international tourists are unlikely to visit. As a result, I have created a scaled-down map below that shows the main features for tourists.

You can visit the major Imjingak Park attractions in 1-2 hours. Most DMZ tours include a guided walk-through of the main attractions. If you choose to ride the DMZ Gondola, plan to take 2 hours for this experience. Most tours of the DMZ also include free time for visitors to explore Imjingak Park further.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (9)

Imjingak Tourist Information Center Building (No. 16 on the map, as it is a new addition)

The Imjingak Tourist Information Center Building is a new facility with many guest amenities, including food, drink, and souvenir options. From the rooftop, you can view over the Imjin River.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (10)

Imjingak Dokgae Bridge or Freedom Bridge (No. 2 on the map)

Imjingak Dokgae Bridge is a former railway bridge across the Imjin River called Freedom Bridge. It was used for returning Prisoners of War (POWs) from North Korea. Dokgae Bridge was badly damaged during the Korean War, so all that remains are the stone piers used to hold it.

The modern white rail bridge, which is situated parallel to Freedom Bridge, is used by the DMZ Peace Train, which travels from Seoul to Dorasan Station in the DMZ. Note that the DMZ Peace Train is not currently running.

A section of Dokgae Bridge has been reproduced with glass floors, showing the old train line. This leads to an observation point across the Imjin River, where you can see the remaining stone piers, including bullet holes, as a stark reminder of the conflict. When visiting the Dokgae Bridge exhibit, you cross the Civilian Control Line (CCL), one of only two locations in South Korea where you can cross the CCL without permission.

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Bridge of Freedom (No. 5 on the map)

Separate from Freedom Bridge (Dokgae Bridge), the Bridge of Freedom is a walkway across a pond shaped like the Korean Peninsula, which provides an alternative walking route to Freedom Bridge.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (12)

Steam Locomotive at Jangdan Station (No. 4 on the map)

Bombs derailed the steam locomotive on display at what used to be Jangdan Station during the Korean War. The locomotive shows evidence of over 1,000 bullet holes and other damage caused by the bombing.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (13)

Mangbaedan Altar (No. 6 on the map)

At the end of the Second World War and the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, Korea was divided into north and south. Five million Koreans migrated south from their homes in the north at that time. These refugees built a temporary altar at Imjingak every Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day held in September/October each year) to honour their ancestors and parents whom they left behind in North Korea. The Mangbaedan Altar was subsequently built in 1986.

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FOURB DMZ Cafe (No. 20 on the map)

The FOURB DMZ Cafe started as a traditional tavern where Koreans missing their homes in the North would drink Makgeolli. After being remodelled in 2019, it is a popular destination where you can sit, drink, and view the Imjin River and barbed wire fences through its large glass windows.

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Peace Bell (No. 7 on the map)

The Peace Bell was built in 2000 to pray for peace for the human race and national unification. It symbolizes the 21st century, having 21 stairs and weighing 21 tons.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (16)

Imjingak War Memorial (No. 19 on the map)

The Imjingak War Memorial is a well-tended park area with over 15 monuments to thank, remember, and enable visitors to reflect on the sacrifices made by the South Korean people and the United Nations forces in the Korean War.

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We personally found that the Imjingak War Memorial made us better understand the scale of the Korean War and the sacrifices made to enable South Korea to remain a free country.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (18)

National Memorial Hall for Abductees (No. 9 on the map)

You may not be aware that during the Korean War, over 80,000 South Korean soldiers were either captured by North Korea or China or were reported as Missing in Action (MIA). Less than 9,000 Prisoners of War (POW) were ever returned to South Korea. Over the years since the Korean War, many South Korean Prisoners of War have escaped to return to South Korea. Based on their testimonies, in 2023, South Korea estimated that over 500 POWs still survive in North Korea.

Following the Korean War, almost 4,000 South Korean civilians and potentially almost 1,000 Japanese have been abducted by North Korea. Most were subsequently released, however over 500 people have never been returned to South Korea.

The National Memorial Hall for Abductees was constructed to ensure that future generations will not forget each family’s pain resulting from the abduction of their family members. South Korea continues to advocate for the return of the abductees or the return of their remains.

Outside the National Memorial Hall for Abductees is the monument, “The Road to Return”, which demonstrates the South Korean determination for the abductees to return home. Inside, you can learn more about the individual stories of the abductees and see messages to them from their families

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Dorasan Station (south of No. 9 on the map)

The Dorasan Train Station is the northernmost train station in South Korea, built in the hope of reunification. You can pay a fee to visit the station.

DMZ Gondola and Gallery Greaves (No. 17 on the map, as it is a new addition)

The DMZ Gondola is a newly built attraction where you can ride a gondola across the Imjim River. When we visited, we went on the Gondola, and it was an enjoyable ride that provided some new perspectives on Imjingak Park. The Gondola activity is the second location where you can cross the Civilian Control Line (CCL) area without approval. However, Gallery Greaves is technically not inside the DMZ.

Click on these links to check out and book DMZ tour options which include the DMZ Gondola through Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide or KKDay.

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On the other side of the river, you can take a short walk to visit Gallery Greaves – note that the gallery consists of multiple buildings. The location used to be Camp Greaves, a United Nations-run military camp. After the military unit relocated, the camp was refurbished to become an art gallery and provide more history and memorabilia of the Korean War.

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At the DMZ Gondola terminus beside Gallery Greaves, there is a lovely cafe and rooftop observation deck where you can relax and take your time before returning to Imjingak Park on the gondola. Allow at least 2 hours for the experience.

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DMZ Live (No. 18 on the map, as it is a new addition)

The DMZ LIVE experience hall at Imjingak Resort allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty, wildlife, and historical significance of the DMZ through advanced digital technology, including VR.

The exhibit includes interactive zones like the DMZ 248km, Four Seasons, and a Secret Forest, designed to educate and engage visitors with the area’s unique ecosystem and cultural heritage. The second-floor media wall presents various themed videos to enhance further the understanding and appreciation of the DMZ’s landscape and significance.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (23)

Add on Experiences to Korean DMZ Tours

Several DMZ tours include additional experiences detailed below to help you decide whether you want to choose one of these tour options.

Gamaksan Suspension Bridge

The Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, also officially known as the Gloucester Heroes Bridge, is a significant landmark in Paju, South Korea. At over 220 meters long and 10 meters high, it was the longest suspension bridge in South Korea when it opened in March 2018.

Click on these links to check out and book DMZ tour options which include Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, through Klook, Viator, Get Your Guide or KKDay.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (24)

It is situated near the DMZ, making it a site of historical importance and a tribute to the 1st Battalion Gloucester Regiment of the British Army, which fought and made sacrifices during the Korean War. The bridge is easily accessible and offers visitors stunning scenery, including a wooden boardwalk across the canyon.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (25)

Majang Reservoir Suspension Bridge

The Majang Lake Suspension Bridge is a notable landmark in Paju, South Korea. Spanning 220 meters across Majang Lake, it was considered the longest of its kind upon its completion in 2017. The bridge is easily accessible and has amenities which include a restaurant and a small cafe.

Click on these links to check out and book DMZ tour options which include Majang Reservoir Suspension Bridge through Klook, Viator or Get Your Guide.

This towerless suspension bridge offers a scenic walk across Majang Lake. It’s particularly beautiful in the fall when the surrounding forests are at peak autumn colour, and it also offers a unique view in winter when the lake is frozen.

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Traditional Korean Boat Cruise

Take a short cruise on a traditional Korean Boat in the Imjin River. Access to this river was closed to the public for many years. However, this boat cruise was recently established and is a different option for experiencing the region and learning more about Korean War history.

Click on these links to check out and book DMZ tour options which include the traditional Korean Boat Cruise through Klook or Viator.

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024] | South Korea Travel Planning (27)

#1 PICK

DMZ Paju Half Day Tour Options

  • Half-day (6-7 hour) tours of the DMZ include visits to Imjingak Peace Park, the Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel, and Dora Observatory.
  • Pick-up and drop-off options include City Hall Station, Hongik University Station, Dongdaemun Station or Myeongdong Station.
  • Choose this tour option if you want a shorter visit to the DMZ and to start your tour not too early in the day.
  • Don't choose this tour option if you want more time to explore the Imjingak Park area.

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#2 PICK

DMZ Paju Full Day Tour Options

  • These full-day tours (up to 9 hours) include visits to Imjingak Peace Park, Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory.
  • Pick-up and drop-off options include City Hall Station, Hongik University Station, Dongdaemon Station or Myeongdong Station.
  • Add-on options include the DMZ Gondola, the traditional Korean boat trip, Majang Lake Suspension Bridge, Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, strawberry picking or Paju Ice Valley (during winter)
  • Choose this tour option if you want more time to explore the Imjingak Park area and other local attractions

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#3 PICK

Private DMZ Paju Full Day Tour Options

  • A private half- or full-day tour of the DMZ includes a visit to Imjingak Peace Park, the Bridge of Freedom, The Third Tunnel, and Dora Observatory, plus add-ons you agree toupfront with your private guide.
  • Pick-up and drop off is direct from and to your hotel
  • Choose a private tour if you want the convenience of hotel pick up and drop off and the flexibility to choose your own itinerary

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You may also like:

Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024]

How to Tour the DMZ from Seoul [2024]

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Anne Sutherland-Smith

Anne Sutherland-Smith is a seasoned travel writer and a passionate explorer of South Korea’s vibrant culture, history, and landscapes. With decades of travel experience, Anne deeply understands what makes Korea a unique and captivating destination for travelers worldwide. As the lead author for koreatravelplanning.com, Anne’s work is based on thorough research and firsthand experiences. Her insights are regularly sought after in the travel community, and she has been featured in various travel forums and publications. Her expertise extends to Korean destinations, transportation, cuisine and the latest trends in Seoul’s bustling city life.

Dedicated to providing reliable and practical travel advice, Anne ensures that every piece of content on koreatravelplanning.com is accurate, up-to-date, and useful for travelers at every stage of their journey. Her commitment to authenticity and her personal experiences traveling across Korea make her a trusted voice in the travel community.

Follow Anne’s adventures and get valuable Korea travel tips on koreatravelplanning.com and through her social media channels. Whether you’re planning your first trip to Korea or looking to explore deeper, Anne’s insights will be your invaluable guide.

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