Kumano Kodo Complete self-guided walking 11 days

The full Kumano Kodo experience

Highlights

  • Village to village walking on enchanting sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail
  • Bathe in the thermal waters at hot-spring inns on at least 5 nights
  • Enjoy wonderful views over the valleys, mountains and the Pacific Ocean
  • See the Grand Shrines at Hongu and Nachi, along with Nachi-taki waterfall
  • Stay at an authentic Shukubo pilgrims lodging on Mount Koya
  • Explore Kii-Katsuura's lively fishing port where you can join the tuna auction in the early morning
The Kii Peninsula points south away from Kyoto and Osaka and is one of the most remote and mystical areas of Japan, despite its proximity to these great cities. On the Kii Peninsula are the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, pilgrimage destinations for successive emperors and their families from Kyoto since the 11th century. There were several pilgrimage trails including the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). Our walk focuses on both the Nakahechi-do and Kohechi-do, weaving through forested mountains and small villages first towards the Hongu Taisha Shrine, then to the Grand Shrine in Nachi, and finally to the mountain-top temple complex of Mount Koya.
The Kii Peninsula points south away from Kyoto and Osaka and is one of the most remote and mystical areas of Japan, despite its proximity to these great cities. On the Kii Peninsula are the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, pilgrimage destinations for successive emperors and their families from Kyoto since the 11th century. There were several pilgrimage trails including the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). Our walk focuses on both the Nakahechi-do and Kohechi-do, weaving through forested mountains and small villages first towards the Hongu Taisha Shrine, then to the Grand Shrine in Nachi, and finally to the mountain-top temple complex of Mount Koya.

Please ask for information about our tour extensions to the mountain-top temple town of Mount Koya with its monastery lodgings, or the peaceful, agricultural community of Asuka at a charming Japanese inn or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.

This tour features two nights in the picturesque hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen part-way along the trail. We offer two optional hikes for this extra day in addition to unique cultural experiences, such as walking with a Yamabushi ascetic monk, create your own traditional Japanese paper or undertaking a spiritual meditation session.

This tour offers more advanced hiking. Please see here for trips best suited to families.

 

Read about luggage options here.

 

 Downloadable PDF itinerary

What′s included

  • 10 nights at Japanese inns along the Kumano Kodo trail
  • 10 breakfasts, at least 3 lunches and 10 dinners
  • Round-trip train tickets from Kyoto or Osaka
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions
  • Topographical maps
  • Local support by telephone and at our Kumano Kodo branch

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for bus journeys on Days 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 11
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Day 1 Arrive in Kii-Tanabe and enjoy local farming activities

Travel by morning train to the seaside town of Kii-Tanabe and travel by bus to the inn, where you can leave your luggage before being transferred to a mountainside Mikan orange orchard to pick fruit or vegetables, depending on weather and seasonality. After gathering and tasting various types of Mikan oranges, head onwards to the lodge where you spend the night. Later in the afternoon stroll or cycle around Kamiakizu, perhaps visiting the local farmers market, which sells a whole array of fresh fruit and other local produce. Enjoy dinner made with vegetables grown on-site.

Accommodation: Japanese farmstay
Meals: Dinner

Day 2 Hike from Takijiri to Chikatsuyu

Board a local bus outside Kii-Tanabe station and travel forty minutes to Takijiri. This is where your walk on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route begins. From Takijiri the path climbs steadily to the ridge-top village of Takahara, and takes around two hours. From here you follow the trail as it winds through small settlements and peaceful countryside. You pass several Oji shrines before finally descending to the village of Chikatsuyu. The paths are clearly defined, and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the climbs easier. Arrive in Chikatsuyu or the small hamlet of Nonaka just beyond the main village in time to relax before dinner at a family-run Minshuku guest-house.
 
Walking distance: 14.5km / 9.3 miles
Elevation gain: 850m / 2,775 feet of ascent and 520m / 1,700 feet of descent
Time required: About 6 - 7 hours

There are two shorter alternatives of 4.5 hours (12km / 7 miles) and 2.5 hours (6.5km / 3 miles) extending the local buses. You can choose which option you prefer on the day - there is no need to decide in advance.
 
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
 

Typical Accommodation

Minshuku Chikatsuyu

In the quaint village of Chikatsuyu, this Minshuku has its own riverside thermal baths, and some of the freshest and tastiest food you will enjoy in Japan!

Day 3 Hike from Chikatsuyu and Nonaka to Hongu

From Chikatsuyu, the trail continues through the mountains to Hongu. The trail passes through small villages and forest trails over the Kii Mountains to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. 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 the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride brings you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot-spring villages in Japan, or 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: 24km / 14.9 miles
Elevation gain: 820m / 2,700 feet of ascent and 1140m / 3,740 feet of descent
Time required: About 8 - 9 hours, requiring an early start!

We offer two shorter alternatives of 7 hours (15km / 9 miles) or of 2 hours (7km / 4 miles), using a local bus from Chikatsuyu to shorten the walk.
 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
 

Typical Accommodation

Yoshinoya

In the hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen, Yoshinoya has its own hot-spring baths and an outdoor 'rotenburo' bath to enjoy after a day's hiking.

Day 4 The Akagigoe and Dainichigoe trails

Spend a leisurely second night in the picturesque hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen part-way along the trail. On this extra day we offer two different optional walks on new sections of the trail, which can be combined if you wish. We also offer unique cultural experiences, such as walking with a Yamabushi ascetic monk, making your own traditional Japanese Washi paper or undertaking a spiritual meditation session.
 
Walking distance: 8.8km / 5.4 miles (plus 7km / 4 miles from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu)
Elevation gain: 610m / 2,015 feet of ascent and 585m / 1,920 feet of descent
Time required: 3-4 hours (plus 2 hours from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu)

Today's shorter optional walk is 1.5 hours (2.8km / 1.7 miles) on the Dainichigoe trail between Yunomine Onsen and Hongu. You can walk both ways, or ride one way by bus. Or combine the Dainichigoe trail with the Akagigoe trail for a satisfying full-day hike.

 
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 Hike from Ukegawa to Koguchi

Before or after breakfast, take time to explore the atmospheric village where you spent the night. Today’s journey 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 today’s hike should take you about 4 hours. A warm welcome and good food await you at a tiny inn run by a charming retired couple, or alternatively at the engaging lodge created from a former school building. Explore along the river and have a swim if the weather is warm.
 
Walking distance: 12.4 km / 7.7 miles
Elevation gain: 520m / 1,705 feet of ascent and 500m / 1,640 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 hours
 
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse) or Japanese Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
 

Typical Accommodation

MomofukuMomofuku

A tiny and extremely friendly inn with just three rooms for guests in remote village of Koguchi.

Featured in our video is Mr Hideaki Nakazawa, the wonderful innkeeper of ‘’Momofuku’’ inn along the ancient Kumano Kodo trail. Here he shares his passion for hospitality through Japanese cuisine.

Day 6 Hike from Koguchi to Nachi-san

Hike from Koguchi up to the Ogumotorigoe Pass with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It then descends to Nachi-san, the location of Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano and Nachi-taki waterfall. Take a local bus for the twenty-minute ride to the port town of Kii-Katsuura with wonderful views over the island-studded bay, where you will stay tonight. Enjoy dinner and breakfast served by your hosts at your accommodation.
 
Walking distance: 15.1 km / 9.3 miles
Elevation gain: 980m / 3,215 feet of ascent and 920m / 3,020 feet of descent
Time required: About 6 - 7 hours
 
Accommodation: Japanese-style Onsen Hotel
Meals: Dinner, Breakfast

Typical Accommodation

Urashima

Urashima is a comfortable Onsen hotel, located on its own secluded edge of the peninsula in Kii-Katsuura bay. A night here enables you to join the tuna auction at the port on your final morning.

Day 7 Hike from Yagio to Totsukawa Onsen

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. From here, travel by bus to Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, spiritual centre of the Kii-Peninsula and the start of the Kohechi trail.

From here, travel to the Kohechi trail. Your first walk on the ancient route begins at Yagio on a wonderful forested trail over Hatenashi-toge Pass, with excellent valley views, fascinating cultural monuments (including a miniature Kannon statue pilgrimage) and picturesque villages. A brief bus ride avoids a short final stretch on a busier road at the very end of the walk. Finish the day with a relaxing thermal bath at your inn for tonight in Totsukawa Onsen.

Walking distance: 8.8km / 5.5 miles
Elevation gain: 985m / 3,230 feet of ascent and 935m / 3,070 feet of descent
Time required: About 4-5 hours

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Dinner
 
Typical Accommodation
Kosenkaku Yoshinoya Ryokan
Kosenkaku Yoshinoya is a characterful, traditional inn with fine service, excellent local food and relaxing Onsen baths; the outdoor Rotemburo baths offer lovely views over the local river. The inn offers packed snack lunches for the following day on the trail.

Day 8 Hike from Nishinaka to Miuraguchi

Heading onwards from Totsukawa Onsen to Nishinaka by local bus, the section of the Kohechi trail to Miuraguchi offers some of the best views of the Kumano valley over the Miura-toge Pass and continues to the scenic, peaceful village of Miuraguchi or ‘Gateway to Miura’ where you stay tonight in an intimate Minshuku family-run guesthouse on a small farm.

Walking distance: 11km / 6.8 miles from Nishinaka to Miuraguchi
Elevation gain: 855m / 2,805 feet of ascent and 755m / 2,475 feet of descent
Time required: 5 hours
 
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
 
Typical Accommodation
Minshuku Mandokoro
In the small village of Miuraguchi, Mandokoro has over 300 years of history, with a wonderfully characterful, homely feel. The innkeeper Ikuko-san typifies the warm hospitality common in the Kumano region. She prepares delicious home-cooked meals made using vegetables grown nearby by her son. The inn offers packed snack lunches for the following day on the trail.

Day 9 Hike from Miuraguchi to Nosegawa Onsen

After breakfast you leave Miuraguchi. The trail continues north along one of the most rural and challenging hikes in the Kumano region over the Obako-toge Pass to another scenic rural village called Omata. The hot-spring village of Nosegawa Onsen is your destination for tonight and is a short scenic riverside walk onwards from Omata. Your inn will pick you up from Omata if you prefer not to walk the last section to Nosegawa Onsen.
 
Walking distance: 13.7km / 8.5 miles from Miuraguchi to Nosegawa Onsen
Elevation gain: 1,150m / 3,770 feet of ascent and 850m / 2,790 feet of descent
Time required: 6-7 hours

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
 
Typical Accommodation
Onsen Hotel Nosegawa
Nosegawa provides a comfortable stay with large relaxing Onsen baths, spacious rooms and delicious, locally-sourced meals. The inn offers packed snack lunches for the following day on the trail.

Day 10 Hike from Nosegawa Onsen to Mount Koya

Leave Nosegawa Onsen this morning and begin todays hike from the boundary between Nosegawa and Koya - it is also possible to walk the full distance from Nosegawa Onsen if you prefer a longer hike with some strenuous paved sections. On the final leg of the Kohechi trail to Mount Koya there are magical valley views as you traverse the peak Mizu-ga-mine. Arriving at the mountain-top temple town at the end of the walk delivers a great sense of achievement. Spiritual Mount Koya is a fitting reward for completing the pilgrimage route.
 
Walking distance: 7.3km / 4.5 miles from Nosegawa Onsen to Mount Koya (with an optional additional paved section of 9.2km / 5.7 miles)
Elevation gain: 325m / 1,065 feet of ascent and 465m / 1,525 feet of descent
Time required: 3 hours (6-7 hours including the optional additional section)
 
Accommodation: Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
 
Typical Accommodation
Saizenin Shukubo
With a grand history, this Buddhist monastery is where the priest Shinran  stayed in the 12th century, carving his famous wooden statue of Amida Buddha. It has a beautiful rock and moss garden by one of Japan’s most famous garden designers, Mirei Shigemori.  Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita wrote his last books while staying here too. The Shukubo provides wonderful meals in the Shojin Ryori Buddhist vegan style, and offers the opportunity to participate in the the moving O-tsutome chanting ceremony early in the morning.

Day 11 Hike on the Choishi-michi trail, then travel to Osaka or Kyoto

On your final day, you have chance to explore more of Mount Koya, visiting the atmospheric Okunoin cemetery with thousands of graves and memorials to feudal lords and other past luminaries, and other monuments. Or undertake our optional, challenging hike on the Choishi Michi trail, the atmospheric original approach to Mount Koya lined with stone markers. Finally board the scenic Nankai railway line towards Osaka and Kyoto.

Walking distance: 15.5km / 10 miles
Elevation gain: 1,225m / 4,020 feet of ascent; 650m / 2,130 feet of descent
Time required: About 5 hours of optional walking
 
Meals: Breakfast