Rock gardens are popular in the UK, and it’s not just the fact that they look pretty.
They’re also the perfect place to sit back, relax and read, or maybe get a bit of exercise, writes John McTaggart in New Scientist.
Rock gardens, or ‘zen gardens’, are also a great way to reconnect with nature, he explains.
“You can spend an afternoon enjoying a rock garden and getting out of your comfort zone and seeing the landscape.”
In fact, one of the most popular rock gardens in the world is in North Korea.
The garden is called Zen Garden, and the only way to visit it is by taking a tour.
For a small fee, you can visit the garden at the Kanggye Island in North Hamgyong Province, where visitors can climb up a steep cliff, soak up the sun and climb up to the top.
“When you climb up the cliff, you’ll see a lot of rocks that are the same height as the cliff,” says John McTracie, who has been visiting the garden with his wife for nearly a year.
“And it’s all very natural and easy to see.
You can look at it from a different perspective and you can go down and have a look.”
You can also walk up the rock to a place called the ‘rock garden’, but there’s a catch, says John: “If you don’t want to take the tour, you have to bring your own guide, which is a little bit tricky.”
You’ve been warned.
John McTeague/New Scientist The rock garden at Kanggyu Island, in North Korean waters.
You can take the ‘Rock Garden’ tour for a small cost, which comes with an accompanying guide.
But there are some risks.
You’ll need to be accompanied by a guide, and you’ll need your own water and food.
You also need to get permission from the Korean government before you can explore.
But the rock garden isn’t the only rock garden in the area.
There’s also the rock quarry, which John describes as “a beautiful place to be”, and “a really good spot for kids to come and see the rocks”.
John says: “I’m always very careful with the children, and I don’t have any problems with them, as long as they’re not out of control.”
The rock quarry at Kangkye Island, which has a rocky bottom.
The quarry at North Korean rock quarry.
The rock quarry in the Kangkyes rock garden.
“If you can’t see the whole thing from a certain angle, it’s a really good place for a child to get away and see what the world looks like from a distance,” John says.
The Rock Garden Tour, which you can book online or in person, takes a little over an hour, but it’s the best way to see the area and see where the best places to visit are.
John says you can also take a guided tour of the rocks by foot, but you need to pay for it, which can get expensive.
“If we can do that for £1 a person, we could probably get by without it, but there are people who have to pay a lot more than that to do that, because of the costs of the tour,” he says.
The Rock Garden is open to all, but if you’re not keen on walking up to Kanggyecheon, you could also try going on a guided hike up the mountains.
You’re unlikely to have a good time, but maybe you’ll find some interesting stuff.
You can see the rock gardens from afar on a small island just off the coast of North Korea, and John says he’s never been more excited to see a rock.
There’s even a rock and boulder puzzle game to try if you want to explore a bit further.
John’s favourite part of the rock gardening tour is when he goes on a hike with his partner, Julie, and their children.
They go up the rocky cliff to a rock where they sit and talk for about 20 minutes, before climbing up to an elevated viewing platform, where they take a quick look around.
“We get quite excited when we see that we’ve discovered something amazing,” John explains.
They’ve found some cool things.
And it’ll probably be worth the extra time you spent in North Koreans rock garden to see what you can find.
“People in the DPRK love their rock gardens, and so when you get there, you’re going to find it is a really interesting place to spend your time,” says Julie.
“There are so many interesting things that you can discover.”