Winter Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 6 days

Experience our best-loved Kumano Kodō tour in winter. Suitable for hiking enthusiasts, enjoy village-to-village walking with 5 hikes of 2-7 hours in the crisp and clear air before bathing in thermal onsen.

Winter Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 6 days

Number of travellers

Start date

January 2024

Tour details

Winter Kumano Kodo self-guided walking 6 days
x1 traveller
Single room additional charge
USD 560

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: 6 days
  • Trip level:
  • Availability: From January through February
  • Type:Self-guided
  • Price: USD 1,495(Price per person, based on 2 travellers sharing a room)
  • Don your swimsuit and bathe in Kawayu Onsen’s river of thermal water
  • Visit two of Kumano’s grand shrines, Hongū Grand Shrine and Nachi Grand Shrine 
  • Take in Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest single-drop waterfall 
  • Earn credentials to receive Dual Pilgrim status 
  • Spend more time in the serene nature of the Kumano Kodō including the Ogumotorigoe Pass 
  • Enjoy delicious, homemade meals with fresh, local ingredients each day 

The ancient pilgrimage, the Kumano Kodō, is located on the remote Kii Peninsula. The region’s high rainfall results in a misty backdrop that creates an atmosphere of mystery over the mountains and valleys. With a history going back more than 1,000 years, the Kumano Kodō has long been a pilgrimage walked by people from all levels of society, ranging from common folk to emperors.

Winter in Japan is a special time; the air becomes crisp and clear during this more dry season, creating a peaceful backdrop and invigorating your senses. As the Kumano region sees very little snow, the Kumano Kodō is an ideal hike for those looking to explore while still experiencing a bit of the winter’s chill, paired beautifully with warming and hearty cuisine and relaxing onsen hot spring baths along the way.

Our 6-day self-guided tour takes the classic and best-loved Nakahechi route, adding in a community experience and the famous senninburo of Kawayu Onsen, the crystal-clear bubbling thermal water of the river beckoning you for a relaxing dip after your day’s hike.

Walk village to village as you take in the scenery provided by the Kii Mountains, believed to be a sacred location that serves as the home of the gods. Try your hand at shinrinyoku (森林浴/forest bathing) and feel the serenity of the deep, forested walks and dreamy landscapes softly blanketed in fog.

You’re supported by our team in Kyōto, our local Chikatsuyu office, and by our bespoke turn-by-turn walking instructions and topographical maps to guide you on your way, created by our team of hikers for you. 

Have you walked the Camino de Santiago? You can obtain Dual Pilgrim status on our Kumano Kodō tours, or earn credentials and obtain the status on your future Camino de Santiago trip.  

Daily luggage transfer is also available along the Kumano Kodō trail as an optional extra service

What is included
5 nights at Japanese inns along the Kumano Kodō trail
5 breakfasts and 5 dinners
Round-trip train tickets from Kyōto or Ōsaka
Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
Topographical maps
Local support by telephone and at our Kumano Kodō branch
Our Preparing for Your Trip and Travelling in Japan guidebooks
What is not included
Airport transfers
Drinks and meals not included in itinerary
Local bus journeys which must be paid directly to the bus driver
Single room supplement(s) for solo occupancy
Daily luggage transfer


Our tour includes train tickets for your journey from Kyōto or Ōsaka to the small town of Kii-Tanabe on the mystical Kii Peninsula, gateway to the historic Kumano Kodo Trail. The railway line runs close to the ocean for the latter part of the journey and offers fine views out over the sea. The journey from Ōsaka to Kii-Tanabe is around two and a half hours; from Kyōto it is around three hours and usually requires a change of trains at Shin-Osaka station. A 15-minute bus ride from Kii-Tanabe Station will take you to the peaceful farming community of Kamiakizu.


Tonight's lodging is a renovated elementary school, an atmospheric building made of cedar and cypress, which was renovated to serve as an education and experience centre with a focus on sustainable tourism and established as a collaborative project by local farmers to support the revitalisation of this rural community.


Enjoy one of the activities here, and in the evening, enjoy dishes made from abundant local ingredients.

Accommodation: Japanese-style accommodation 

Meals: Dinner 

After breakfast, a journey of about half an hour ride by taxi will bring you to Takijiri, the starting point of the sacred Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. From Takijiri, there is a steady path climb to the quiet ridge-top village of Takahara, taking roughly 2 hours. After enjoying the views here, take a 30-minute stroll to the nearby bus stop and head on by local bus to reach your inn in Chikatsuyu for the evening, where there will be time to explore the local art gallery and shops before dinner at a family-run guesthouse. 


For a longer hike, we also offer the option to continue along the Kumano Kodo trail, with a further 4 hours of hiking to reach Chikatsuyu on foot.


Walking distance: 7.8 km / 4.8 mi

Elevation gain: 370 m / 1,200 ft of ascent and 600 m / 1,970 ft descent
Time required: About 2.5 hours


For the longer hike today, the full walk takes about 6 hours (14.5 km / 9.3 mi) on foot.
Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) 
Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

From Chikatsuyu and Nonaka, the trail continues through the mountains. We have shorter and longer hiking options to choose from this day, all of which include the 'can't miss' walk between Hosshinmon-oji and Hongū Grand Shrine.

At the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world’ which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. From Hongū, a short bus ride brings you to Kawayu Onsen, famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal-clear river. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath before or after your delicious, multi-course dinner.


Walking distance: 15 km / 9 mi

Elevation gain: 635 m / 2,085 ft of ascent and 995 m / 3,265 ft of descent 

Time required: About 7 hours, requiring an early start! 


We offer a shorter alternative of 2 hours (7 km / 4 mi) using a local bus from Chikatsuyu to shorten the walk. You can choose which option you prefer on the day—no need to decide in advance! 


Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

Take time to explore the atmospheric village where you spent the night, before undertaking one of two possible hiking options: ascend the Kogumotorigoe path towards Koguchi or undertake another section close to Hongū, with excellent valley views. The first option begins with a short bus ride to Ukegawa on the banks of the Kumano River. From Ukegawa, you start on the Kogumotorigoe path, which heads up to the Kogumotorigoe Pass before descending to the remote village of Koguchi. The trail is not difficult and should take you about 4 hours. 


Walking distance: 12.4 km / 7.7 mi 

Elevation gain: 520 m / 1,705 ft of ascent and 500 m / 1,640 ft of descent 
Time required: About 4 hours 


For guests spending a second evening close to Hongu, we offer various excellent hiking options up to 6 hours, the longest of which can generally be undertaken completely on foot. We offer a number of alternatives from 1 up to 6 hours (13 km / 8 mi) if staying close to Hongū. 


Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) or ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 


The final section of the trail takes you from Koguchi up to the Ogumotorigoe Pass with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It then descends to Mount Nachi, the location of Nachi Grand Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano and Nachi Falls. Stay overnight either in the small village of Mount Nachi close to the shrine, or take a local bus for the twenty-minute ride to the port town of Kii-Katsuura, with wonderful views over the island-studded bay. Enjoy dinner and breakfast served by your hosts at your accommodation. 


Walking distance: 15.1 km / 9.3 mi 

Elevation gain: 980 m / 3,215 ft of ascent and 920 m / 3,020 ft of descent 
Time required: About 6 - 7 hours 


Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) or onsen hotel (hot spring hotel) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 



Kii-Katsuura is an active fishing port and has a lively early-morning fish market. Enjoy the views out over the island-studded bay. There are intriguing backstreets and a traditional covered shopping arcade to explore, too. It is also possible to visit Hayatama Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano. We provide train tickets for you to board a train at lunchtime, travelling back around the Kii Peninsula and arriving in Ōsaka or Kyōto mid to late afternoon. 


Meals: Breakfast 

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