Trek ancient trails in the tranquil countryside of Japan.

Stray onto the beaten track with an eight-day trekking adventure on some of the ancient pilgrim routes in Japan. The Koya-san and Kumano Kodo treks take you deep through the wilderness and into the mountainous landscapes of Honshu, as well as provide insight into the strong connection with past and present pilgrims hiking these historic routes. Along the way, stop by peaceful temples and tranquil monasteries, soak in traditional onsen and discover the cultural hubs of Kyoto and Osaka. This small-group adventure will give you both a physical and cultural workout around the best of enchanting Japan.


Start
Kyoto, Japan
Finish
Osaka, Japan
Destination
Japan
Style
Original
Theme
Walking & Trekking
Code
CJXK
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Explore Kyoto on a couple of nearby hikes for a different perspective on the life and culture in this notable city, as well as visiting some sites of natural and religious significance.

  • Experience two of the main religions in Japan – Buddhism and Shintoism – by following the footsteps of ancient pilgrims on their quest for faith along the Koya-san and Kumano Kodo trails.

  • Discover two of the major cultural hubs of Japan on foot, walking the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto and strolling through the Dotombori district in Osaka.

  • Join in on the morning prayers and share a traditional shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) meal during an overnight temple stay in Koya-san, deep in mountainous Wakayama prefecture.

  • Soak in an ancient onsen after a day of trekking in Yunomine – there's no better way in Japan to relax and rejuvenate, as well as understand local cultures, than in the natural mineral waters of a hot spring.

Is this trip right for you?

  • The active nature of this trip means that the fitter you are, the more you will be able to enjoy it. It is expected that travellers joining this trip will have had some experience hiking before joining this tour. On some hikes you will need to be able to carry your overnight pack on the trail because we will forward your luggage to the next destination. Hiking distances vary from 3-15km per day with no more elevation change than 60-900m on one hike.

  • The hikes on the Koya-san trail and Kumano Kodo include sections rather than the whole trail, which gives you an experience of the trails without needing to commit to multiple days of strenuous trek-king.

  • In some destinations you may be staying in a ryokan – which is a Japanese-style inn with shared facilities. It’s a great taste of tradition, but not everyone finds futon mattresses on tatami mat flooring, small bathrooms and proximity to other guests as comfortable as more Western-style hotels and beds. Read more about ryokans in our ‘Accommodation’ section of the Essential Trip Information.

Itinerary

Konnichiwa! Welcome to Kyoto, Japan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. If you have some free time, step out onto the streets for your first taste of this beautiful city. Originally founded as Heian-kyo – ‘tranquility and peace capital’ – in AD794, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years before the emperor and government relocated to Tokyo. Because of this, Kyoto is rich in history, with over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens. After the meeting tonight, perhaps head out for your first taste of traditional Japanese food. As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the centre of Japanese culinary tradition, so you’re sure to have a delicious meal wherever you go.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Get active this morning with a walk to the eighth century Shimogamo Shrine – located right at the intersection of the Kamo-gamo and Takano rivers. The shrine is dedicated to the god of harvest and holds many rites around purification and agricultural produce, and this visit will provide you an introduction to Shintoism – an indigenous belief system connecting ancient past and present Japanese culture together. Continue onwards to renowned Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion, to see Japanese garden design at its best and learn about the key principles of Japanese Zen. Afterwards, take a short but steep hike up behind Ginkaku-ji for some scenic views over Kyoto. On your way back to the hotel, walk along Philosopher’s Path, lined with cherry blossom trees, and if there’s time, stop by two other Zen temples. Today’s introduction to the importance of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese culture will inform some aspects of your hiking trails in the days to come, so listen up!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kyoto - Shimogamo Shrine
  • Kyoto - Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi)
  • Kyoto - Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Mt. Daimonji-yama hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today's walk is around 15km for a total of about 8 hours (with many stops).
Leave your accommodation after breakfast and take a train (approximately 2.5 hours) to Kudoyama Station in the Koya-san district, ready for your forest trek. Koya-san is the name given to a monastic complex in the Koya-Ryujin Quasi-National Park, and is one of Japan’s most sacred sites. Begin your 11-kilometre trek on the Koya-san Choishi Michi trail, passing by stone signposts (choishi), which stand every few hundred metres to help the original pilgrims find their way. After approximately 4.5 hours, you’ll reach Daimon Gate – a two-storey crimson gate that marks the entrance to Koya-san. Being the centre of Shingon Buddhism, Koya-san is steeped in centuries of history, and you’ll be able to learn about its role as an active spiritual centre this afternoon. Tonight you will stay in traditional shukubo (temple stay) accommodation, and enjoy a shiojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) meal provided by your hosts.
Accommodation
  • Temple Stay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Koya-san - Koya-san Choishi Michi trail
  • Koya-san - Okuno-in Mausoleum walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today you'll hike around 11 kilometres (approximately 4.5 hours). Your luggage will be forwarded this morning from Kyoto to Yunomine, so you'll need to prepare a small overnight backpack which you’ll carry on your hike today.
This morning, you’ll have the chance to participate in the monastery’s morning prayers, before making tracks to Yunomine Onsen by local bus. This 4.5-hour journey weaves through the Koya-san and Kumano Kodo mountains, so you’ll definitely want a window seat. Yunomine is an ancient onsen town that forms part of the Kumano Kodo trail – of which you will be trekking in the coming days. Yunomine Onsen has such a long history that one of its onsen baths, Tsuboyu, is designated as a World Heritage-listed site. Historically, pilgrims would perform purification rituals in the hot spring water as part of the religious process of their pilgrimage. Today you’ll also get to visit Kumano Hongu Taisha – one of the three grand Shinto shrines on the Kumano Kodo.
Accommodation
  • Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kumano Kodo - Kumano Hongū Taisha
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Embrace an early start as you’ll hike part of the historic Kumano Kodo today. The Kumano Kodo is one of only two World Heritage-listed pilgrimage routes in the world, the other being the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago) in Spain. This morning, transfer to Ukegawa by bus (a short 15-minute ride), then begin hiking this pilgrimage route to Koguchi. The first 5 kilometres are a gradual uphill to Hyakken-gura, then it’s an undulating trail to the Sakura-toge Pass for around 3.5 kilometres. After this, it will mostly be downhill until you reach Koguchi. Today’s trails are surrounded by natural forest, full of cedar and cypress trees, and upon reaching the Hyakken-gura peak, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the mountainous terrain of Wakayama.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse/Ryokan (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kumano Kudo - Hiking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today’s hiking distance is approximately 13 kilometres and will take about 6 hours, with elevation change of about 400 metres. This morning, your luggage will be transferred to tonight's accommodation, so you'll only need to carry a day pack with you on the hike today.
New day; new trail – get ready for another full-day hike on the sacred Kumano Kodo. For around the first 3 hours, it’s a steep uphill climb, rising to over 800 metres. After reaching the Echizen-toge Pass, follow the ridge of the forest for another couple of kilometres until you reach the highest point at Funami-jaya teahouse (868 metres). Continue mostly downhill for approximately 4.5 kilometres to Nachi Taisha – another of the three Kumano shrines, and probably the most photographed because of the nearby waterfalls that cascade in the background. Enjoy the peaceful scenery and sense of accomplishment before transferring by taxi to Kii Katsuura for a relaxing night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kumano Kudo - Hiking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today’s hiking distance is approximately 15 kilometres on mountain trails and will take about 7-8 hours.

This is a challenging hike, known to locals as a 'body breaking slope'. If you are not up to the hike today, there's an option to take the local bus to Nachi Falls, explore that area by yourself and meet the group when they get there. Once you start the hike, it will be very difficult to turn back. Your luggage will be transferred to tonight's accommodation, so you'll only need to carry a day pack with you on the hike today.
In the morning, visit the local tuna market at Kii Katsuura, where tuna from the cool waters of the Pacific is traded daily, before you hop on a train and rest your legs for the long journey to Osaka (approximately 5 hours). You’ll hit Osaka around lunchtime, just in time to head on a walking tour with your leader to the famous Dotombori neighbourhood, which is the city’s most popular shopping, food and entertainment district. At night, this district is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanised signs, including the famous Glico Running Man and Kani Doraku crab. How about getting a group of your travel pals together for a night of food, drinks and possibly some karaoke!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Osaka - Dotombori District walking tour
  • Kii Katsuura - Tuna Market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart at any time of the day. Hotel check-out time is usually around 10 am, however if you have later onward connections, you will be able to store your luggage at the hotel reception during the day.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners

Transport

Train, Public bus, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (4 nights), Ryokan (1 night), Guesthouse/Ryokan (1 night), Temple Stay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Kyoto - Shimogamo Shrine
  • Kyoto - Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi)
  • Kyoto - Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)
  • Kyoto - Mt. Daimonji-yama hike
  • Koya-san - Koya-san Choishi Michi trail
  • Koya-san - Okuno-in Mausoleum walk
  • Kumano Kodo - Kumano Hongū Taisha
  • Kumano Kudo - Hiking
  • Osaka - Dotombori District walking tour
  • Kii Katsuura - Tuna Market

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. As this is an active hiking trip you will need to have an excellent level of fitness. Please read the itinerary carefully to make sure that you'll be able to make the most of the activities on this trip and enjoy an active adventure in Japan.
2. Your luggage will be forwarded to the next destination at different points of the trip, but you'll still need to be able carry a small day pack during the hiking.
3. Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional tour leader sources. As a result our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may be local Japanese or long term foreign residents in Japan.
4. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties.
5. We are currently unable to book pre or post tour accommodation at our start & finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through an online booking engine if you are planning to stay longer in Japan.
6. This trip does not include a Japan Rail Pass. If you are planning to travel in Japan before or after your trip you will need to purchase your own Japan Rail Pass in advance or individual tickets in country.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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