Temples and Trails of Shikoku

A small-group guided walking tour to Sacred Mount Koya & The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail

Temples and Trails of Shikoku

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Tour details

Temples and Trails of Shikoku
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 655

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: 13 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: May to November
  • Type:Guided tour with an expert bilingual guide
  • Price: USD 5,210(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)

Please choose your preferred month to see available departures.

  • Stay in monastery lodgings in the temple town of Mount Koya
  • Walk on the loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail
  • Walk across a bridge of vines in the remote Iya Valley
  • Eat wonderful local food in the Hirome Ichiba Market in Kochi city
  • Bathe in natural thermal waters at historic Dogo Onsen
  • Visit the beautiful hill-top castle in Matsuyama

The fourth-largest of Japan's islands, Shikoku is home to the 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail. Fascinating aspects of this deeply spiritual route include how little is known of its origins, and its mysterious connection with Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. Pilgrims have walked the trails for 1200 years and even today we will see pilgrims in their distinctive attire and white cloaks throughout the island. The full pilgrimage route encircles Shikoku and connects 88 Buddhist temples, covering more than a thousand kilometers. Pilgrims, known in Japanese as Ohenro, traditionally did the journey from temple to temple on foot over many weeks. 

Our tour selects the best of the walking trails through lovely landscapes. We visit all four of Shikoku's prefectures - Tokushima in the east, Kagawa in the north, Ehime in the west, and Kochi in the south. Each region has its own distinctive character, foods and scenery. In addition to the pilgrimage trail, our journey includes the remote Iya Valley, deep in the heart of Shikoku. We begin our journey with a stay on Mount Koya, the hilltop temple complex on Honshu established by Kobo Daishi, and an important location for Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage devotees. Public transport in the rural areas of Shikoku is limited and we will travel mainly by private chartered vehicle, but we will still enjoy walking along the ancient route from temple to temple through countryside and forest. We will stay in traditional country inns enjoying regional cuisine prepared from local ingredients from the island, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy the exceptional hospitality of our hosts.

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What is included


Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
12 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns
Daily breakfast and 9 dinners
All transportation between tour locations
Entrance to museums, temples, and other sights on the group's itinerary
Forwarding of 1 item of luggage with daily luggage transfer on a portion of the trip
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 your guide and other group members at the hotel in Osaka in the evening. There will be a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Welcome dinner

We travel by train along the scenic Nankai Railway Line to Mount Koya, a bowl-shaped valley filled with cedars high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Mount Koya is the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, founded in 9th century by the monk Kobo Daishi, father of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Pilgrims on the Shikoku 88 Temple route traditionally visit Mount Koya to pray and ask Kobo Daishi to bless their journey; we will follow the tradition.


We stay in one of the elegant temples and dine on authentic shojin ryori Buddhist vegetarian cuisine We walk through Okunoin Cemetery and see Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum.


Accommodation: Shukubo (temple lodging)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

We travel by private vehicle this morning to the port Wakayama for the ferry to Tokushima Prefecture, the old Awa province, located in Eastern Shikoku. We will walk through quiet suburban neighbourhoods and visit the first three temples on the pilgrimage route – some of the prettiest on the whole island.


The first temple, Ryozen-ji or Vulture Mountain Temple, was built in 8th century. Next comes Gokuraku-ji, or Celestial Temple, where Kobo Daishi completed 37 days of esoteric ritual at the age of 42. The atmospheric Konsen-ji, or Golden Fountain Temple, is home to a blood-red pagoda and bridge.


After the walk, we will take a private vehicle to our shukubo temple lodging for the evening.


Walking distance: 6 km / 3.7 mi

Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent


Accommodation: Shukubo (temple lodging)

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Today we will travel by private vehicle to Temple 11 Fujiidera, Temple of the Wisteria Well, situated at the foot of Mount Shosan-ji and surrounded by three mountains. We will walk a challenging trail known as henro korogashi through forests and over three peaks, one of the finest walks on the whole pilgrimage. The route takes us to an elevation of 900 metres (almost 3,000 feet), the highest point on the whole of our tour. Completing the three ascents is highly rewarding, and our goal, Shosan-ji Temple, is a dramatic temple with spectacular valley views.


For those preferring a shorter walk, the vehicle will deliver you halfway along the trail to meet the rest of the group.


The accommodation tonight is a small and comfortable Japanese inn nearby serving lovely meals.


Walking distance: 11.9 km / 7.4 mi

Elevation gain: 1,230m / 4,035 ft of ascent and 560 m / 1,870 ft of descent

Time required: 5 hours


Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Our private vehicle journey this morning brings us to Temple 20, Kakurin-ji, or Crane Forest Temple, on the 550 metre summit of Washigao. The temple’s sando, or main approach, is surrounded by tall pine and hinoki cypress trees. Under an edict of Emperor Kanmu, Kobo Daishi founded Kakurin-ji Temple in 799.


From here we head up to Temple 21, Tairyu-ji, temple of the Mystical Dragon, close to the mountain peak of the same name at 618 metres. Kobo Daishi practised ascetic training here at the age of 19 and founded the temple in 793.


Our walk ends with a cable car ride offering breath-taking views over a cedar forest and out towards the sea. We continue by vehicle to the central mountains. Tonight’s accommodation is in the wonderful hot spring location of Iya Onsen, deep in a hidden valley.


Walking distance: 7.1 km / 4.4 mi

Elevation gain: 460 m / 1,510 ft of ascent and 470 m / 1,540 ft of descent

Time required: 2.5 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

After breakfast, we board our private vehicle to visit the valley’s unique kazurabashi vine bridge stretching 45 metres across the Iya River and suspended 15 metres above the flowing water. It is said the bridge was made by refugees of the Heike Clan hiding in the area after their war defeat.


We head to Mount Tsurugi, the second highest peak in Shikoku with a height of 1,955 metres, or nearly 6,500 feet. The peak is a centre of Shugendo, a Japanese folk religion based on mountain worship. We will take a chairlift to the start of a walk which will bring us to within an hour of the summit. From there, wooden boardwalks will lead us to various viewpoints with panoramic views over the surrounding mountains.


We will return to our inn at Iya Onsen in the late afternoon for another soak in the thermal waters and our dinner of delightful local cuisine.


Walking distance: 4 km / 2.5 mi

Elevation gain: 330 m / 1,320 ft of ascent and 330 m / 1,320 ft of descent

Time required: 1.5 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Today we travel to Kochi City in Kochi Prefecture, formerly known as Tosa Province, the region of Shikoku most distant from Japan’s mainland. It is the largest of Shikoku’s prefectures but has the smallest population.


We will visit Katsurahama Rocks, a unique formation beside the sea, then enjoy lunch at Hirome Ichiba Market in Kochi city centre – a wonderful collection of over 60 shops with outstanding local produce. After lunch we will visit Temple 31, Chikurin-ji, the Bamboo Forest Temple, with its museum of temple treasures. The garden here was designed by the famous master monk of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism called Muso Souseki, and is famous throughout Japan for its beauty.


We will stay overnight in a comfortable hotel in Kochi City.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

This morning, we visit Kochi Castle and have a few hours free to stroll around the well-known Sunday market which has 300 years of history and 500 outdoor stalls. This amazing lively market stretches for over a kilometre (more than half a mile) from the entrance of Kochi Castle and offers local products at reasonable prices.


After lunch we travel to Ehime Prefecture, previously known as Iyo Province, and stop en route at the historic and beautiful town of Uchiko, which once flourished as a centre for traditional wax and paper.


Our accommodation tonight is a hotel in appealing Matsuyama City, not far from Japan’s oldest hot spring, Dogo Onsen, said to have 3,000 years history. We are based here for the next three nights. In the evening your tour guide will be on hand to offer suggestions for restaurants for dinner.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Our journey today starts with the journey by private vehicle to the Kumakogen Highlands in Central Ehime, near the border of Kochi Prefecture. We start our hike from Temple 44, Daiho-ji, Great Treasure Temple, a fitting halfway point on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage.


We enjoy a beautiful forest hike to Temple 45, Rock Cavern-Housed Temple, a fascinating location on the mountain with hundreds of jizo statues. The temple was one of the main sites where Kobo Daishi meditated after founding the temple in 805. A unique feature is the ladder up to a secluded cave where the monk would spend countless hours chanting. The coins attached to the cave wall show Kobo Daishi’s enduring influence.


After the walk, we return by private vehicle to Matsuyama City in the late afternoon.


Walking distance: 11.7 km / 7.3 mi

Elevation gain: 650 m / 2,130 ft of ascent and 580 m / 1,900 ft of descent

Time required: 4 hours


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

A relaxed day to explore Matsuyama City and Dogo Onsen by public transport. We will take a short ride on the tram/streetcar and enjoy a pleasant walk up to the iconic Matsuyama Castle on the hilltop which dominates the city.


In the afternoon, we will take the tram/streetcar again to visit Temple 51 Ishite-ji, Stone Hand Temple, with its unique legend. There are seven fascinating buildings at the temple and many of the temple treasures are designated important cultural assets.


Afterwards, we will visit the atmospheric town of Dogo, visiting Isaniwa Shrine and strolling through the old-fashioned main shopping arcades.


In the late afternoon, we will return to our hotel in Matsuyama City.


Accommodation: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

We travel by private vehicle to Temple 80, Awa Kokubun-ji, or Awa State Provincial Temple, in Kagawa Prefecture, also known as the old Sanuki Province. The well-preserved structures at the temple and its building exude age and atmosphere. We ascend to Temple 81, Shiromine-ji, or White Peak Temple, situated at the summit of Mount Shiromine.


We will then walk down to Temple 82, Negoro-ji, or Fragrant Root Temple, with its beautiful lanterns tucked away deep inside the heart of the complex. We will then head to Kotohira Spa by private vehicle, a small town in Kagawa famous for Konpirasan, the large Shinto shrine complex dedicated to sailors and seafaring.


Our accommodation tonight is a delightful hot spring inn in the town.


Walking distance: 13.5 km / 8.4 mi

Elevation gain: 655 m / 2,150 ft of ascent and 335 m / 1,100 ft of descent

Time required: 4.5 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, dinner

After breakfast, we will set out for our final walk on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage from Temple 87, Nagao-ji, or Long Slope Temple. We head to Temple 88, Okubo-ji, or Great Hollow Temple – Completion of the Vow. A wish made here will be fulfilled! This temple is located on a hidden mountain summit. The walk passes through lovely rural scenery before ascending Mount Nyotai to Okubo-ji Temple. We will share a great sense of achievement together and then travel by private vehicle back to our accommodation for another soak in the onsen spa and a delightful kaiseki meal to celebrate our final evening.


Walking distance: 12.3 km / 7.6 mi
Elevation gain: 774 m / 2,539 ft of ascent and 410 m / 1,345 ft of descent

Time required: 4.5 hours


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn)
Meals: Breakfast, farewell dinner

The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or on onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.


Meals: Breakfast

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