Myohyangsan - A view from our expert author

This stunning range of mountains is of great spiritual signicance for Koreans as an ancient centre of Buddhist learning and worship and the site of two vast underground museums.

Myohyangsan, or Mount Myohyang, is like a wet hand resting on a table, with four valleys running up between the fingers and thumb to the peaks on the knuckles. The River Myohyang runs along the fingertips towards the River Chongchun, and from the road tracing the river begin all the valley walks, some taking a morning, some all day. Myohyangsan features on many tours of the DPRK and is really not to be missed.

Detail of Pohyon Temple, Myohyangsan, North Korea by John Pavelka, WikipediaStunning detail inside Pohyon Temple in Myohyangsan – this historically holy temple was founded in 1042 © John Pavelka, Wikipedia

Flora and fauna

Wild goat, musk deer, hare, badger, racoon, wild boar and flying squirrels occupy these parts, and leopards and bears occasionally forage in the deciduous forests from the valleys beyond. The thick tree canopy, up to 1,000m, is structured by 200 species of trees, including Korean maple, many Asiatic oaks, pakdal, Aceraceae, Korean spindle tree, ash, agaric, Asian hazelnut, Chinese sumac, Japanese red pine and Asian white birch. Bark-climbing fern and a multitude of moss, lichen and bryophytes thrive in the humid microclimate, as do 460 species of herb, with medicinal poppy and aconitum.

Azalea, apricot and wild cherry blossom bombard the valley with colour in spring, and magnolia, clove tree and guinguecostatus take over in summer. Bluebird, grosbeak, Korean crested-lark, oriole, Korean scops owl, goldfinch, grey wagtail, woodpecker and cuckoo take in the scene from the skies and char, silver fish, rainbow trout, eel and Moroccan oxycephalus view from the streams. In 2009 UNESCO named Myohyangsan as a biosphere reserve, citing 30 endemic plant species, 16 globally threatened plant species, 12 endangered animal species and an array of medicinal herbs as all growing here.

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