Kumano Ancient Trail

A small-group guided walking tour with five hikes of 2-6 hours of village-to-village walking on the Kumano Kodo Trail

Kumano Ancient Trail

Number of travellers

Start date


Tour details

Kumano Ancient Trail
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 280

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: 9 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: April to November
  • Type:Guided tour with an expert bilingual guide
  • Price: USD 3,395(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)

Please choose your preferred month to see available departures.



  • From imperial Kyoto, head through the Kumano mountains to the Pacific Ocean fishing port of Kii-Katsuura
  • Village to village walking on enchanting sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail
  • Bathe in an outdoor hot-spring bath beside the Pacific Ocean
  • Ride a traditional boat on the Kumano River
  • See the Three Grand Shrines at Hongu, Shingu and Nachi
  • Enjoy an exclusive Shamisen musical performance in a lovely traditional setting on the Kumano Kodo trail

The Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail, is a pilgrimage route to Kumano, part of the mountainous Kii Peninsula which stretches south from the Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. The well-maintained trail threads its way through deep valleys, mountains and small villages to offer a wonderfully-varied hike over four days. Stay at comfortable family-run inns with excellent food, soak in natural hot springs, and visit the shrines along the way.

The pilgrimage routes to the three great Kumano Shrines – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Hayatama Taisha – were popularized during and after the Heian Period (794-1185), when the Imperial family and nobility began to seek salvation in sangaku shinko (a belief in the supernatural power of mountains), rather than through common religious practices. Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239) made no fewer than thirty pilgrimages to Kumano, recording his thoughts and feelings in the Kumano poems. Our journey begins in the modern city of Kyoto, and we travel south by train along the coast, and spend four days hiking the Nakahechi, one of the Kumano Kodo trails, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a day mid-way to relax, with a gentle ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine. We cross the Kii Peninsula on foot to its eastern coast, and the fishing town of Katsuura, with two nights at a hot-spring hotel and a further optional day of hiking. We finish by travelling on to Kyoto by train. On small-group guided tours with Oku Japan, your guide takes care of luggage arrangements for you.

We are the only company with a local branch on the Kumano Kodo trail: See our Kumano Kodo branch

Download PDF itinerary

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What is included


Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
8 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns
Daily breakfast 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 2 occasions
Traditional boat ride on the Kumano River
Exclusive shamisen musical performance




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










Meet at the tour hotel in central Kyoto in the evening. There will be a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel

Meals: Welcome dinner

We travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri, at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by emperors. The Kii Peninsula, which extends south from Nara and Osaka, has long been considered sacred in Japan, the entrance to the land of Yomi, the mythical afterworld. It is also the site of the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano.


We continue with a 2-hour hike to the small hilltop village of Takahara, where we spend the night. Our accommodation is a delightful traditional Japanese ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording spectacular views over the surrounding mountains. There are hot spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally sourced ingredients.


Walking distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 mi

Elevation gain: 370 m / 1,200 ft ascent and 175 m / 575 ft descent

Time required: about 2 hours


Accommodation: Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path we pass small jizo bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. There are also the sites of old cha-ya (茶屋/tea houses), which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century. We descend to the village of Chikatsuyu and our accommodation for tonight.


We stay in the friendly guest house run by local couple Mr. and Mrs. Kinoshita. A former company worker in the coastal town of Tanabe, Kinoshita-san moved to his home village to set up the popular guesthouse. Next door they have their own natural hot spring baths. In the evening, the dinner menu might include their delicious takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯/flavoured rice dish steamed with vegetables), freshly-caught fish, and tempura.


After dinner, a local shamisen music group will treat us to a private performance in the lovely setting of our Chikatsuyu branch office. Enjoy this rare opportunity for a close-up experience of Japanese musical tradition.


Walking distance: 11.3 km / 7 mi 

Elevation gain: 350 m / 1,150 ft of ascent and 360 m / 1,180 ft of descent 

Time required: 4 hours

Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Today we hike two scenic sections of the Kumano Kodo trail, passing ridge-top villages and oji shrines. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines to refresh themselves and compose poems. From Chikatsuyu we walk first to Kobiro, then take a local bus to Hoshinmon-oji. From Hoshinmon-oji we descend to Hongu Grand Shrine. The symbol of the shrine is the mythological three-legged raven, representing Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama shrines – the same motif as the one used by the Japan Football Association. In mythology, the three-legged crow was sent to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from Kumano to the Yamato Plain.


After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen, famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal-clear river.


Walking distance: 12.9 km / 8 mi

Elevation gain: 321 m / 1,055 ft of ascent and 360 m / 1,180 ft descent

Time required: 4 hours

Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat to take us on a gentle one-and-a-half-hour ride along the Kumano River to Hayatama Grand Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. Afterwards, we will travel back by bus to Yunomine Onsen for another night at our hot spring inn. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

We transfer by local bus to Koguchi and hike the final section of the trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean, and then decscend to Nachi Falls and Nachi Grand Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano.


From there we take a short bus ride to the fishing port of Katsuura and to our hotel.


Walking distance: 14.5 km / 9 mi

Elevation gain: 980 m / 3,215 ft of ascent and 920 m / 3,020 ft of descent

Time required: 6 hours


Accommodation: Onsen hotel (hot spring hotel)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Today there is an optional hike along a different section of the Kumano Kodo. This is a coastal part of the Ise-ji route, which has some lovely views over the Pacific Ocean, pretty villages, and the oldest paved section on the entire Kumano Kodo network, with stone blocks dating back eight hundred years.


Alternatively, you can choose to relax and try the various hot spring baths in your hotel. You can also explore the town, with its excellent seafood, old-fashioned Japanese shopping arcade, and a few interesting backstreets.


Optional walk

Walking distance: 6.4 km / 4.1 mi

Elevation gain: 546 m / 1,790 ft of ascent and 539 m / 1,768 ft of descent

Time required: 3 hours

Accommodation: Onsen hotel (hot spring hotel)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a centrally located Western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel

Meals: Breakfast, farewell dinner

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan.


Meals: Breakfast

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