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 parts of the Nakahechi-do, weaving through forested mountains and small villages towards the Grand Shrine of Hongu.
We are the only company with a local branch on the Kumano Kodo trail! Explore our Kumano Kodo branch here.
All our self-guided Kumano Kodo tours offer the opportunity to spend a leisurely second night in the picturesque hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen part-way along the trail. We offer two short optional walks 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. As an optional side trip, it is also possible to visit Hayatama Jinja in Shingu; the last of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano.
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.
Daily luggage transfer is available as an optional extra service - read about luggage options here
This tour offers more advanced hiking. Please see here for trips best suited to families.
Our tour includes train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or Osaka 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 Osaka to Kii-Tanabe is around two and half hours; from Kyoto it is around three hours and usually requires a change of trains at Shin-Osaka station. 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.
Stay tonight in a small, Japanese-style hotel in the tiny village of Takahara, or in a Japanese Minshuku in the nearby village of Kurisugawa. Both options serve good, home-cooked dinners featuring local seasonal ingredients.The small Japanese-style hotel in Takahara has both Japanese and western-style rooms, all with wonderful views over the valley and mountains.
Walking distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m / 1,200 feet of ascent
Time required: About 2 hours
Accommodation: Japanese-style Hotel in Takahara, or Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse) in Kurisugawa
After your Japanese breakfast you leave your inn and 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 in time to relax before dinner at a family-run Minshuku guest-house.
Walking distance: 10km / 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 480m / 1,575 feet of ascent and 520m / 1,700 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 - 5hours
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
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!
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. You can choose which option you prefer on the day - no need to decide in advance!
Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
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.
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 Nachi-san, the location of Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano and Nachi-taki waterfall. Stay overnight either in the small village of Nachi-san 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 miles
Elevation gain: 980m / 3,215 feet of ascent and 920m / 3,020 feet of descent
Time required: About 6 - 7 hours
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse) or Japanese-style Onsen 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 grands Shrines of Kumano. We provide train tickets for you to board a train at lunchtime, travelling back around the Kii Peninsula and arriving in Osaka or Kyoto mid to late afternoon.