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Overview

Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims with a trip along Kumano Kodo. See the natural wonders and historical vestiges that fill this UNESCO-heritage route, stopping to soak in onsens and visit incredible sacred shrines. Gain insight into a 1000-year old culture while staying in traditional inns and mingling with locals.

Trip Highlights

Kumano Kodo Highlights

Venture through a UNESCO heritage trail

Join local pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo, learning about deep-rooted religious beliefs and ancient cultures.

Soak in historic hot springs

Soothe the body and soul at Yunomine, a 2000-year-old onsen, and Kawayu, a unique geothermal hot spring.

Hike to remarkable shrines

Travel into the forest to see Kumano Hongu Taisha and explore Hayatama Taisha, dedicated to the gods who discovered Japan.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Tanabe

Shin-Osaka Sta. / Kyoto Sta. to Kii-Tanabe Sta.: 2-2.5 h Kii-Tanabe Sta. to Yunomine Onsen Bus Stop: 1 h 50 min

Upon arrival to Kii-Tanabe Station, our guide will provide a welcome and escort to the tourist information center for a brief orientation on Kumano Kodo –, its history and a more detailed explanation of its pilgrimage trails.

Feel free to stop by one of the local restaurants before catching the bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest and most historical hot spring resorts in Japan discovered almost 2,000 years ago. It is said that ancient pilgrims frequented this place for cleansing before praying at Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Accommodation will to be in one of the traditional inns that surround Tsuboyu, a small enclosed hot spring built along the river. It was said that its waters healed and revived one of Japan’s legendary warriors when he went to Yunomine to seek refuge.

Overnight in Yunomine Onsen

2

Yunomine Onsen – Kawayu Onsen

Yunomine Onsen Bus Stop to Hosshinmon-oji Bus Stop: 30 min Hongu Taisha-mae Bus Stop to Kawayu Onsen Bus Stop: 10 min

After an early breakfast, get on the bus to Hosshinmon-oji, the starting point of the trail that leads to Kumano Hongu Taisha. This 7-kilometer road passes through a mixture of forested paths and small farm villages and promises stunning views from a couple of observation points.

End the hike at Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three grand shrines in Kumano Kodo dedicated to the worship of the forests in Hongu. It is also the head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines spread out in the country.

Descend from the shrine’s stone steps and walk to Oyunohara, the site of the largest torii gate in Japan and the original location of Hongu Taisha.

Catch the bus to Kawayu Onsen, a one-of-a-kind hot spring that has its geothermal waters stored beneath the cool Ota River.

In this hot spring resort, ready-to-use outdoor onsen baths are prepared for guests, but it’s quite an experience to dig a separate bath and witness the rush of onsen waters from the ground. During the colder months of December, January, and February, a 600-sqm hot spring bath called Sennin-buro (bath for a thousand people) is built along the river.

Overnight in Kawayu Onsen

Trekking information (approximation):

Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha: 6.9 km; 3 h

Elevation change (approximation):

Hosshinmon-oji: at 314 m

Kumano Hongu Taisha: at 93 m

3

Kawayu Onsen – Katsuura

Kawayu Onsen to Hitari Bus Stop: 25 min Shingu to Katsuura: 15-40 min (bus/train)

After breakfast, start the day early for the cruise along Kumano-gawa River on a traditional boat. For over a millennium, pilgrims have been crossing this river to visit Hayatama Taisha in Shingu. The 90-minute boat ride features the other side of Kumano Kodo, which can be refreshing after a day of hiking through the mountains.

While in Shingu, visit Hayatama Taisha, another Kumano Sanzan grand shrine dedicated to one of the gods that was believed to have discovered Japan.

Within walking distance from the shrine are Kamikura-jinja Shrine and Gotobiki-wa Rock which can be visited before catching the train or bus from Shingu Station to Katsuura, a small yet popular fishing village in the Pacific Ocean.

Note: The boat pilgrimage is available from March to November (10:00, 1.5 h). Guests are requested to arrive 30 minutes earlier for the orientation.

Overnight in Katsuura

4

Departure from Katsuura

Kii-Katsuura Station to Daimonzaka Chushajo-mae Bus Stop: 20 min Taki-mae Bus Stop to Kii-Katsuura Station: approx. 25 mins (bus)

Before leaving Kumano Kodo, travel to Daimon-zaka and walk along the 600-meter long cobblestone staircase situated at the foot of Mt. Nachi.

Along the road is a small shop called Daimon-zaka Chaya, where traditional Heian clothes can be rented. Right at the entrance to the slope is a pair of 800-year-old cedar trees called “Meoto-sugi.”

Emerge from the slope and take the stairs to Kumano Nachi Taisha situated halfway through the mountains (350 meters above sea level). This shrine is one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Japan, with its religious foundation originating from the ancient worship of Nachi Falls, the tallest waterfall in the country.

Get on a local bus to Kii-Katsuura Station for the train to the next destination.

Trekking information (approximation):

Daimon-zaka entrance to Mt. Nachi parking lot: 900 m; 25 min

Mt. Nachi parking lot to Nachi Taisha Shrine: 400 m; 10 min

Nachi Taisha to viewing point for Nachi Falls: 900 m; 15 min

Viewing point to Taki-mae Bus Stop: 300 m; 5 min

Elevation change (approximation):

Entrance to Daimon-zaka: at 100 m

Mt. Nachi parking lot: at 250 m

Nachi Taisha Shrine: at 390 m

Viewing point: at 210 m

Taki-mae Bus Stop: at 215 m

Important Information

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Train tickets from Kyoto to Kii-Tanabe on Day 1 and from Kii-Katsuura to Toba (Mie) or Shin-Osaka on Day 4 (reserved seats, ordinary class)
  • Orientation on Day 1
  • Luggage forwarding service on Days 2 and 3 (1 piece of luggage per person)
  • Self-guide app and customized travel documentation

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • Guide services, entrance fees, and some transportation fees (i.e. local city buses, etc.)
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Personal expenses (e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature)
  • Travel insurance (please see below)
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above

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