Kumano to Koya self-guided walking 5 days

A new challenge on the ancient Kumano Kodo trail, from Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine to Mount Koya

Highlights

  • Village to village walking on rural sections of the Kumano Kodo Kohechi pilgrimage trail
  • Stay at an authentic Shukubo pilgrims lodging on Mount Koya
  • Bathe in the thermal waters at two hot-spring Onsen inns
  • Enjoy wonderful views over valleys and mountains each day
  • Experience the warmth of local hospitality at a family-run Minshuku guesthouse
  • Excellent Japanese cuisine, freshly-prepared with local ingredients
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. Long a place of pilgrimage, the Kii Peninsula is the site of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan). From the 11th century, successive emperors and their families made the long and difficult pilgrimage from Kyoto to Kumano. Several pilgrimage trails were established, among them the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). The Kumano Kodo Kohechi trail is the shortest route between the mountain-top Buddhist temple complex of Mount Koya and the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine, spiritual centre of the Kii Peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage area, the Kohechi trail covers some of the most strenuous Kumano Kodo sections over a total distance of 70km / 44 miles. Our walk visits the most scenic parts, from the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine in the south all the way through to atmospheric Mount Koya, passing through rural forest trails and scenic villages. The trail offers local overnight stays in traditional hot-spring Onsen Ryokan, an intimate Minshuku farm stay and an atmospheric Shukubo pilgrim's lodging featuring traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine Shojin Ryori.
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. Long a place of pilgrimage, the Kii Peninsula is the site of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan). From the 11th century, successive emperors and their families made the long and difficult pilgrimage from Kyoto to Kumano. Several pilgrimage trails were established, among them the Nakahechi-do, Kohechi-do and Ohechi-do, collectively known as the Kumano Kodo ('Old Road of Kumano'). The Kumano Kodo Kohechi trail is the shortest route between the mountain-top Buddhist temple complex of Mount Koya and the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine, spiritual centre of the Kii Peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage area, the Kohechi trail covers some of the most strenuous Kumano Kodo sections over a total distance of 70km / 44 miles. Our walk visits the most scenic parts, from the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine in the south all the way through to atmospheric Mount Koya, passing through rural forest trails and scenic villages. The trail offers local overnight stays in traditional hot-spring Onsen Ryokan, an intimate Minshuku farm stay and an atmospheric Shukubo pilgrim's lodging featuring traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine Shojin Ryori.

Our self-guided Kumano to Koya tour begins with an early-morning train journey from Osaka or Kyoto. If you are coming from further afield, or prefer a more leisurely start, we recommend adding an overnight stay near the start of the trail in the picturesque hot-spring village of Yunomine Onsen or nearby Kawayu Onsen.

Please ask for information about our tour extensions - you might like to add a second night at the pilgrims lodgings in the mountain-top temple town of Mount Koya at the end of our Kumano to Koya self-guided walk, or to extend your trip with a stay in the peaceful, agricultural community of Asuka at a charming Japanese guesthouse or with a local family for a unique homestay experience.

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

  • 4 nights at Japanese inns along the Kumano Kodo Kohechi trail
  • 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 4 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
  • Pay locally for bus journeys on Days 1, 2 and 5
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Day 1 Hike from Yagio to Totsukawa Onsen

From Osaka or Kyoto, head south by train to Kii-Tanabe and onwards by bus to Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, spiritual centre of the Kii Peninsula and the start of the Kohechi trail. Take a short pre-booked and pre-paid taxi ride to Yagio where your walk on this ancient route begins. Follow 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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