Japan Hiking Highlights: The Kumano Kodo and the Nakasendo Trail

From ancient pilgrimage to samurai trails: walk both the Kumano Kodō and Nakasendō Trail

Japan Hiking Highlights: The Kumano Kodo and the Nakasendo Trail

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Japan Hiking Highlights: The Kumano Kodo and the Nakasendo Trail
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 865

Solo supplements guarantee solo rooms at the hotels on your tour. At inns, you will share with another member of your departure of the same gender.


If you would like to do multiple tours in one trip or have a question about any of our tours, do not hesitate to contact us with the button below.

  • Duration: 11 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: Late March through November
  • Type:Guided tour with an expert bilingual guide
  • Price: USD 6,090(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)

Please choose your preferred month to see available departures.

  • Discover historic Kyōto, visiting Zen temples, strolling bamboo groves, and walking the atmospheric Gion district
  • Visit all three Grand Shrines of Kumano as you hike this UNESCO World Heritage route
  • Enjoy a lunch with a maiko, an apprentice geisha
  • Walk from village to village on the storied Nakasendō
  • Stay in traditional Japanese inns, enjoying hot springs bathing and exquisitely prepared Japanese food showcasing local produce
  • Travel by flat-bottomed boat along the Kumano River, following a route travelled by emperors a millennium ago
  • Visit an artisanal miso producer and enjoy a lunch featuring this traditionally aged seasoning
  • Leap forward in time with a visit to modern Tōkyō

It’s the tour you’ve asked us for – a combination of the must-see cities of Kyōto and Tōkyō, with highlights of Japan’s best-loved trails – the Kumano Kodō and the Nakasendō! Enjoy a combination of more relaxed hiking with cultural discovery, more included meals, and special experiences, as you walk the trail with one of our expert local guides.

Your adventure also offers a deeper discovery of the unique culture surrounding each. We’ve selected routes suitable for fit and active travellers, with none over 4 hours in duration, and, aside from one strenuous day to sample more advanced hiking, the route is accessible with moderate ascents and descents.

Sample the best of Japan's most famous hikes on an itinerary that combines the highlights of both routes with the must-visit cities of Kyōto and Tōkyō, with special features including:

  • Dining on an ekiben, or train station bentō lunch, as you travel through the mountains
  • Learning about the locally powerful governors of the Kiso Valley and visit one of the great checkpoints of the Nakasendō

In Kyōto, we walk along a stunning gorge and through the back lanes of the picturesque district of Arashiyama, famous for its bamboo grove, before the special treat of a lunch with a maiko, or apprentice geisha. The world of the geisha is notoriously difficult to enter. We’ll learn about the artistic training the maiko undergo and their strict regime as a geisha-in-training. We’ll then enjoy a walk in the Gion district – home to many teahouses where the geisha and maiko perform and live. Next, we travel south to the Kumano region, where we discover Kumano Kodō as we travel from coast to coast on the Kii peninsula.

This pilgrimage route, at over a millennium old, was followed first by emperors and later by Shinto and Buddhist pilgrims. Vermilion shrines and natural wooden temples, as well as stone jizo and torii are scattered through the green of the forest like so many gems that call to you from the centuries. It’s little wonder that the route is one of just two UNESCO-designated World Heritage routes of pilgrimage. If you’ve hiked the other, the Camino de Santiago, you might wish to explore its Japanese counterpart. We will dine on the freshest local ingredients in inns and onsen and enjoy the best way to end a day of great hiking – a natural hot spring bath!

We then continue to the Nakasendō Trail, where we enjoy village-to-village hiking along a historic route. The Nakasendō trail linked Kyōto to Tōkyō during Japan’s feudal period. It was the ‘road through the mountains’ travelled by feudal lords and their retinues, samurai, merchants, and travellers. Along the route were 69 ‘post towns’, where weary travellers could rest before continuing on the next leg. We hike between the most picturesque of these.

When we aren’t on the trail, we learn more about the local culture with visits to historical sights, and learn the stories of those that travelled these routes. We travel as the locals do, on foot, and by local transportation, allowing us to meet local people and learn about their lives. With no more than 13 travellers on each departure, you enjoy an intimate discovery of Japan, and stay in inns that would not be possible with a larger group.

After our hike on the Nakasendō, we travel onward to the castle town of Matsumoto. Here we explore this imposing delight before we enjoy a lunch with an artisanal miso producer. We then dive head-first into modernity, taking one of Japan’s Limited Express trains to Tōkyō and in doing so, leap from historic to modern Japan.

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What is included
Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
10 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns
Daily breakfast, 4 lunches, and 8 dinners
All transportation between tour locations
Entrance to museums, temples, and other sights on the group's itinerary
Forwarding of 1 item of luggage on 3 occasions
Special lunch with a geisha or apprentice geisha and accompanying performance
Traditional boat ride on the Kumano River
Visit to a traditional miso-maker
What is not included
Airport transfers
Drinks and meals not included in itinerary
Entrance fees to museums, temples, etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
Single room supplement for solo travellers at hotels

Tour itineraries are subject to change. We will inform you of any amendments as soon as we become aware of them.