Known for its impressive botanical garden, intricate Iemitsu mausoleum and ornate Toshogu Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Nikko National Park is an area of incredible natural beauty, with plenty to see and do. In addition to shrines and temples, the park is home to numerous lakes, elaborate bridges, excellent hiking trails and two stunning waterfalls—all set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery.
Particularly popular among hikers, nature lovers and those who appreciate Japanese architecture, Nikko National Park is easily accessible from Tokyo on a day trip, with most travelers visiting as part of an organized tour so as to reap the benefits of a local guide and the convenience of round-trip transportation from the city. For a fully immersive journey into the history of Japanese culture, a trip to the national park can be combined with a visit to Edo Wonderland, a colorful theme park of ancient villages featuring geishas, samurais and ninjas.
Insider’s Tip: Nikko National Park—the area around Lake Chuzenji in particular—is especially striking in autumn when tree leaves change from green to deep shades of red and orange. Mid to late October is the best time to see the full spectrum of colors around the lake.
Set about 75 miles (125 km) from Tokyo, the national park can be reached by train from the city in about two hours (get off at the Nikko or Tobu-Nikko station). While entrance to the park is free, there is a small charge to enter some of the shrines and temples. The various walking trails are suitable for both the novice and adventurous hiker.