Japan Alps Winter 6 days: Nagano and Gifu

Self-guided winter tour through the Japan Alps, with snowshoeing, numerous Onsen hot springs and a local culinary experience

Highlights

  • Bathe in thermal waters at hot-spring Onsen lodging on every evening
  • Experience a full day of guided snowshoe walking to frozen waterfalls, forests and frozen lakes in a picturesque Alpine highland setting
  • Stay in exquisitely-preserved Japanese inns and enjoy delicous regional cuisine deep in Japan's Alpine region
  • Glimpse panoramic mountain views out over the soaring Japan Alps covered in snow
  • Visit the the engaging castle towns of Matsumoto, Hida-Furukawa and Takayama
  • Gain insight into the regional culture through a local culinary experience and Sake brewery visit in Hida
Lying at the heart of central Japan, Shinshu 信州 and Hida 飛騨 - the traditional names for Nagano and northern Gifu Prefectures - have flourished since ancient times as a cultural crossroads between east and west Japan. The region is also home to the Northern Alps, a range of 3,000-metre high mountains often called "the roof of Japan”, and an area of great scenic beauty, offering superb views, unspoiled natural landscapes and some of Japan's best Onsen hot springs.
Lying at the heart of central Japan, Shinshu 信州 and Hida 飛騨 - the traditional names for Nagano and northern Gifu Prefectures - have flourished since ancient times as a cultural crossroads between east and west Japan. The region is also home to the Northern Alps, a range of 3,000-metre high mountains often called "the roof of Japan”, and an area of great scenic beauty, offering superb views, unspoiled natural landscapes and some of Japan's best Onsen hot springs.

Explore the feudal castle town of Matsumoto, then head into the Oku-Hida mountains to discover the biodiverse highlands and secluded Onsen hot springs. Continue onwards to Hida-Furukawa and Takayama. An unforgetable winter experience.

 

Yudanaka Onsen Snow Monkeys

Choose a pre-tour 1-night extension to visit Yudanaka Onsen hot-spring village in northern Nagano. Here the famous Japanese macaque “snow monkeys” come to warm themselves in the outdoor hot-spring baths during the cold winters, enjoying the natural setting just like humans.
 
Please ask for information about our tour extensions: spend more time in the Hida region with our Takayama extension, visiting the UNESCO thatched-roof community of Shirakawa-go and the wonderful teahouses of Kanazawa; enjoy spectacular views of Mount Fuji from the Hakone hot-spring area and the rural village of Oshino Mura; be charmed by the peaceful agricultural community of Asuka while staying in a delightful small inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.

 
 
This tour offers optional snowshoeing. Please see here for trips best suited to families.

What′s included

  • 5 nights at Japanese Onsen accommodation
  • 5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 5 dinners
  • Train tickets from Tokyo or Nagoya to Matsumoto and train tickets ending in Takayama
  • Train tickets and pre-bookable bus tickets for intermediate journeys
  • Round-trip cable car tickets in Oku-Hida
  • Snowshoe walking experience in the Northern Alps highlands with a fully-trained local instructor
  • Local culinary experience in Hida-Furukawa, with lunch
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and local support by telephone
  • Our Preparing for your Trip and Travelling in Japan Guidebooks

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches not specified under What's Included
  • Pay locally for short bus journeys on Day 1 and 2 in Matsumoto

Day 1 Arrive in Matsumoto

Nestled between mountains in the heart of Japan, this feudal castle town serves as gateway to the Japan Alps and is home to one of Japan's best-preserved and most evocative castles. Spend the night at an Onsen Ryokan inn in the vicinity of Matsumoto.
 
We supply train tickets for your journey from Tokyo or from Nagoya to Matsumoto, with scenic views along the way. If arriving in Matsumoto earlier in the day, take the opportunity to visit Matsumoto Castle, the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and some of the back alleys and outlying areas of the town where much of its heritage from olden times can still be seen.
 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)  in the vicinity of Matsumoto

Meals: Dinner

Day 2 Travel into the Japan Alps

Enjoy the morning in Matsumoto, before travelling onwards by local train and bus up into the Northern Japan Alps, viewing panoramic winter landscapes along the way. This evening stay at a lovely hot-spring Ryokan inn set in a peaceful remote mountain village within the snow-covered region, surrounded by the area’s beautiful natural setting and backdrop of majestic mountains. The Ryokan has lovely indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths. The waters here have long been revered for their theraputic healing qualities. 
 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in the Japan Alps
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 Snowshoe walking in Norikura highlands

Explore pristine winter landscapes with a full day of guided snowshoe walking. The gentle scenic walk takes you through serene snow-covered forest before taking in views of impressive frozen waterfalls, frozen lakes, and grand vistas of the surrounding Alpine mountain range. Transportation from your inn, snowshoes, walking poles and lunch are provided.                                                                                                        

No previous experience is necessary to enjoy the snowshoe walk.

Walking distance: 6-7km / 3.7- 4.3 miles
Elevation gain: 98m/321 feet of ascent and 236m/774 feet of descent
Time: About 7 hours in total, including lunch and rest breaks

Relax and enjoy another evening at the same Onsen Ryokan inn in the mountain village.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in the Japan Alps
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day 4 Travel further into the Oku-Hida mountains

Travel by local bus further into the Oku-Hida mountains. Enroute, take the opportunity to visit a local Onsen town and Onsen museum within the valley. The town offers visitors several different thermal bathing opportunities. From here, continue onwards to a secluded Onsen Ryokan inn with an atmospheric traditional setting deep in the Oku-Hida region for your overnight stay.
 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Oku-Hida
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 Hotaka mountain range and Hida-Furukawa

Travel by morning bus to the Hotaka mountain range. Ride a cable car a thousand metres up into the mountains to a breathtaking viewpoint looking out over the surrounding Northern Alps. Here lies Japan's third-highest peak, Mount Okuhotaka. During times of heavy snow, visitors can experience walking along a 'snow corridor', a narrow pathway between soaring snow walls in a winter wonderland setting.
 
Head onwards via Takayama to the peaceful castle town of Hida-Furukawa, surrounded by mountains, for the night.
 
Explore this engaging town, known for its master woodworkers and carpenters using local timber and traditional carpentry techniques which do not use nails. Or discover one of the local Sake breweries and walk alongside the atmospheric townhouses and Setogawa canal.
 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Hida-Furukawa
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 Hida-Furukawa and transfer to Takayama

Spend the morning discovering secrets of the area's Japanese cuisine with a culinary experience at the home of a local resident in Hida-Furukawa. Learn how to prepare dishes unique to the region. Travel onwards by afternoon train to Takayama where the tour ends. If time allows, you may wish to explore Hida-Furukawa further before heading onwards by a later train.                                                                                                                  
 
As an alternative to the culinary experience, from January to early March we can instead request a morning local outdoor snow activity for you.

Meals: Breakfast