Depart on a modern train from either Kyoto or Osaka to begin your self-guided tour of the peaceful and picturesque Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Renewed for its scenic splendor and impressive monuments, the route has been trodden by emperors and their families since the 11th century.
On arrival, weave your way through a myriad of forested mountains, sublime shrines and quaint villages during your 3- or 4-day walking route in Kuamno Kodo. Walk on paved paths predominantly and explore well-maintained mountain trails that require adequate gear and a reasonable level of fitness.
Relax and revitalize in the evenings at ryokan, traditional inns with soothing hot springs, or minshuku, family run guests houses. Meals mentioned in the itinerary are included in the price of the tour.
In order to make your hikes less strenuous, forward your baggage from the accommodation you depart from to the accommodation you’ll be arriving at after completion of the trail. Use this efficient and secure forwarding service to lessen the strain during your energetic hike. Each accommodation supplies essential items to ensure you feel clean and comfortable throughout the trail.
Upon booking, receive a detailed day-by-day itinerary that details which meals are included and offers information of the walking trails. Please see the Itinerary section below for a sample schedule.
Please provide your pre-tour accommodation to the tour operator at the time of booking so the tour operator can send you your detailed tour information and rail tickets.
Day 1: Kyoto or Osaka – Kii-Tanabe – Takijiri – Takahara (D)
Starting from the Kyoto railway station, travel by train through Osaka to the mystical Kii Peninsula, located approximately 3 hours away. The train hugs the coast until reaching the small town of Kii-Tanabe, arriving just after midday.
In Kii-Tanabe you board a local bus (own expense) for the 40-minute journey inland to Takijiri where you start your walk on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Pilgrimage route.
Your first 2.8-mile (4.5-km) walk takes only about 2 hours, but includes a fairly long climb with a 1,200-foot (370-meter) ascent. From Takijiri, the path climbs steadily up to the small mountaintop village of Takahara, whose name means ‘high field.’
Stay at a lovely ryokan with both Japanese and western-style rooms, all with spectacular views over the valley and mountains beyond. Enjoy a wonderful home-cooked dinner with local ingredients and soak in the bath filled with thermal water from nearby Wataze Onsen.
Overnight: ryokan in Takahara
Day 2: Takahara – Chikatsuyu (B, D)
After your Japanese breakfast, depart Takahara, climbing through the village and continuing on an undulating trail past several shrines before descending to the village of Chikatsuyu. The 6.5-mile (10-km) paths on this 4- to 5-hour walk are clearly defined, and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the climbs easier. Along the way, stop for lunch (own expense).
When you arrive in Chikatsuyu, there’s time to relax before dinner at your guesthouse.
Overnight: minshuku in Chikatsuyu
Day 3: Chikatsuyu – Shingu – Kyoto or Osaka (B)
Leave Chikatsuyu after breakfast and ride the bus directly to Shingu. If there’s time, you can visit the Hayatama Grand Shrine (Kumano Hayatama Taisha) — one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano — just 15 minutes on foot from Shingu station. The tourist office, located directly in front of Shingu station, and where the bus arrives, can supply maps and advice.
See the giant 1,000-year-old Nagi tree within the shrine precinct and learn about the 'Nagi dolls' made from its seeds — believed to bring a happy married life to couples. The Kamikura Shrine on Mount Gongen, a little further on, is also well worth a visit (all entry fees at own expense).
After seeing the sights of Shingu, board the train for Kyoto or Osaka. The rail journey takes around 5 hours, arriving at your destination in the evening.
Day 1 and 2: See above
Day 3: Chikatsuyu – Hongu – Yunomine (B, D)
Fuel up with breakfast before leaving Chikatsuyu early in the morning to follow the 15-mile (24-km) path through the mountains to Hongu. The arduous trail passes through small villages and forests over the Kii Mountains to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano. At the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi — the ‘other world' to which spirits traveled in Japanese mythology.
The time required for the 2,700-foot (820-meter) elevation gain and 3,740-foot (1,140-foot) descent is approximately 8 to 9 hours. However, you can shorten the walk by choosing from two alternative hikes (2 or 7 hours). If you choose to do this, you'll hop on local buses (additional expense) to arrive at your destination.
From the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride (own expense) brings you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot spring villages in Japan.
Explore the atmospheric village and settle in to your accommodation, a ryokan with a wonderful outdoor bath where you can relax with a soak before or after your delicious, multi-course dinner.
If you sent luggage ahead to Yunomine Onsen, it will be waiting for you at your inn when you arrive. Your hosts will assist you to send it onward tomorrow morning to wherever you are staying after the Kumano Kodo.
Overnight: ryokan in Yunomine Onsen
Day 4: Yunomine – Shingu – Kyoto or Osaka (B)
Before or after breakfast, take time to explore Yunomine and then travel by bus to Shingu on a 1-hour ride.
After seeing the sights of Shingu (see prior descriptions), board the train for your return journey to Kyoto or Osaka. The trip takes around 5 hours, arriving at your destination in the evening.