Village-to-village walking in Nara and the Kii Peninsula with four hikes of 2-7 hours
As Japan's first permanent capital shrouded in deep spirituality and history, Nara is a fitting start to the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Heading south, the Kii Peninsula points 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.
Our upgraded Kumano Kodo self-guided tour offers premium rooms at the inns and daily luggage transfer between each location along the Kumano Kodo trail, affording both a comfortable and rewarding hike on the Kii Peninsula.
We are the only company with a local branch on the Kumano Kodo trail. Learn more about how our resident staff support our guests in interacting with locals in the villages along the Kumano Kodo trail, and how we we foster relationships with, and contribute to the community by visiting our Our Kumano Kodo Branch page.
All our Kumano Kodo Trail Self-Guided Tours 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.
This tour offers more advanced, but generally optional hiking. Please see here for trips best suited to families.
Travel by train to Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan. Hike the Yagyu Kaido trail from Yagyu village towards Nara, following in the footsteps of warriors who walked this route to the sword-making village of Yagyu. The full hike is a challenging 20km, but we offer a shorter 12km option from Enjo-ji Temple, too. Both hikes end with a wonderful stroll through Nara Park, with its famous deer and temples.
Overnight at a premium Japanese inn in Nara this evening.
Walking distance: 11.7km / 7.3 miles
Elevation gain: 240m / 790 feet of ascent and 535m / 1755 feet of descent
Time required: About 5 hours of optional walking
Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn) or hotel
Heading onwards from Nara, the train hugs the coast 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 Nara to Kii-Tanabe is around two and half hours. From here, 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.
In the evening, stay at a lovely private residence nearby and enjoy a home-cooked dinner with local ingredients including the local delicacy; Kumano-gyu beef.
Walking distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m / 1,200 feet of ascent
Time required: About 2 hours
A longer hike of 6 hours (14.5km / 9.3 miles) may also be possible at certain times of year.
Accommodation: Private Japanese-style house
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
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
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. 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.