- Trek through the mystical Kii Mountains
- Bathe in natural hot springs, or onsens
- Visit two Kumano grand shrines
- Spend a night in a peaceful Buddhist temple
|Day 1||Takijiri to Takahara||Takahara or Kurisugawa|
|Day 2||Takahara to Chikatsuyu||Chikatsuyu|
|Day 3||Chikatsuyu to Hongu Taisha shrine||Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen|
|Day 4||The Akagigoe and Dainichigoe trails||Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen|
|Day 5||Ukegawa to Koguchi||Koguchi|
|Day 6||Koguchi to Nachi Taisha shrine||Nachi-san or Kii-Katsuura|
Day 1: Walk from Takijiri to Takahara
Your tour starts with a train ride from Kyoto or Osaka to the small coastal town of Kii-Tanabe on the Kii Peninsula. Enjoy beautiful ocean views on your journey as you near Kii-Tanabe, the gateway to the Kumano Kodo trails. There you'll board a bus to Takijiri, where the Nakahechi Route of the Kumano Kodo begins. This imperial route is the one used by Japan's royal families from the 11th century onward.
Walk the path for 2.8 miles (4.5km) from Takijiri to the village of Takahara, climbing steadily up the mountain ridge for about two hours. Spend the night in a small hotel in Takahara with wonderful mountain views, or at a minshuku (a traditional family run bed and breakfast) in the nearby village of Kurisugawa. You'll enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal featuring local seasonal ingredients at either establishment.
Day 2: Hike from Takahara to Chikatsuyu
After breakfast, leave your lodgings and follow a winding trail through small villages in the tranquil countryside. You'll pass by several Oji shrines before reaching the village of Chikatsuyu nestled in the valley below. The 6.5-mile (10km) path is clearly defined and marked by flagstones along the way. You'll arrive in Chikatsuyu in time to rest your feet before dinner at a minshuku guesthouse, where you'll stay the night.
Day 3: Trek from Chikatsuyu to Hongu Taisha Shrine
Wake up early this morning for a long 8 to 9-hour hike through the mountain trails to Hongu Taisha, one of the three main shrines of the Kumano Kodo. This 14.9-mile (24km) trek is the longest of the trip, but can be modified to 9 miles or 4 miles by taking a bus part of the way. Along the trail, you'll pass through the small villages and forests of the Kii Mountains. These sacred mountains are said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the underworld in Shinto mythology. After exploring the massive shrine, take a short bus ride to the natural hot springs at Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath and a decadent multi-course meal at your ryokan (traditional inn).
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: The Akagi-goe and Dainichi-goe Trails
Today you'll do a loop walk beginning in Yunomine Onsen. Start on the rolling 5.4-mile (8.8km) Akagi-goe trail that connects the onsen to the gateway shrine at Hosshinmon-oji. Continue another 4 miles (7km) from there to the town of Hongu. Then the short but steep 1.7-mile (2.8km) Dainichi-goe trail will bring you from Hongu back to Yunomine Onsen.
You have the option of choosing just one of the trails or combining them for a satisfying full day hike. Along the way, you'll be treated to unique cultural experiences, like walking with a Yamabushi ascetic monk, making your own traditional Japanese washi paper, or participating in a spiritual meditation. Spend a second relaxing night in one of the hot spring villages.
Day 5: Walk the Kogumotori-goe Trail from Ukegawa to Koguchi
Take a short bus ride this morning to Ukegawa on the banks of the Kumano River. From there you'll set out on the Kogumotori-goe path, which will lead you over the river and through the forest to the remote village of Koguchi on the small Akagi-gawa River. Today's 7.7-mile (12.4km) trek is fairly easy and should take about four hours. You'll be greeted with a warm welcome and a hearty meal at your hotel for the night. Choose between a charming minshuku or a lodge located in a former school building. Later, explore the river banks and feel free to take a dip if the weather is nice!
Day 6: Hike from Koguchi to Nachi-san
Today you'll visit another one of the three grand Kumano shrines, Nachi Taisa. Start the morning with a challenging up-and-down hike from Koguchi along the Ogumotori-goe path, where you'll catch a stunning glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. The trail then descends to Nachi-san, where you'll find the shrine, along with the splendid orange Seiganto-ji Temple against a backdrop of the Nachi Falls. The hike will take about 6 to 7 hours and cover 9.3 miles (15.1km) of terrain. You can stay in Nachi-san overnight, or opt to take a short bus ride to the port town of Kii-Katsuura, where you'll enjoy dinner amid breathtaking views of the bay.
Days 7-11: No Longer Recommended
Due to safety concerns, days 7 - 11 of this self-guided hike are no longer offered. Check out the 6-day version of this itinerary for our recommended version of this trek!
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