Explore the historic and culturally significant hiking trails of lesser-known Kansai

Nara Ancient Capitals self-guided walking 5 days

Starting from USD1165 / 5 days

Nara Ancient Capitals self-guided walking 5 days

Mixed town roads (paved) and forest trails (unpaved) - the walks are typically moderate, but strenuous at times, with days of up to 5 hours of hiking



  • Walking along the historic Yamanobe-no-michi and Yagyu Kaido trails near Nara
  • Hike the cultural Asuka Monuments route and the forested nature trail to Tanzan Shrine
  • Marvel at the historic treasures of the ancient capital of Nara
  • See the beautiful terraced rice fields of Asuka-mura by bicycle
  • Relax in a friendly family homestay or a traditional Minshuku guesthouse for two nights in Asuka-mura
  • Stay in a lovely Machiya townhouse or enjoy the fine bathing an Onsen hot-spring Ryokan in Nara on two nights

The Kansai region, situated at the centre of Japan's main island of Honshu, is home to three historic capitals: Kyoto, Nara and the smaller, lesser-known Asuka. All three have rich and varied histories. Our tour includes scenic and culturally significant hiking trails, as well as overnight stays in small, traditional inns, with an option for a Machiya townhouse stay in Nara. The inns offer authentic Japanese meals and outstanding 'Omotenashi' service.

Learn about this historic area of Japan and discover its cultural heritage on these less familiar walks.

You can opt to upgrade to a wonderful Machiya Townhouse in Nara.

Machiya are beautiful wooden townhouses that have seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to younger craftsmen and designers realising the cultural significance of such majestic, typically historic buildings.

Experience the rural lifestyle of the Japanese countryside in Asuka.

In this peaceful agricultural community, you stay overnight in a charming Japanese guesthouse or can stay with a local family for an immersive farm-stay experience.


We happily welcome younger walkers on to our trips with an accompanying adult. We offer a 10% price reduction for children (6-11) and an 80% price reduction for infants (0-5).  Please contact us for specific hiking, meal or bedding enquiries. Please see here for other trips best suited to families.

What's Included

  • 4 nights at Japanese inns
  • 4 breakfasts and 4 dinners
  • Round-trip tickets from Kyoto or Osaka
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary, walking directions and Kansai guidebook
  • Topographical maps
  • Local support by telephone
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage between the inns in Asuka and Nara
  • Our Preparing for your trip and Travelling in Japan Guidebooks
  • Optional orientation at our Kyoto office

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for buses on each day and for rental bicycles



Itinerary Map
Day 1 - Arrive in Asuka

Head by train from Kyoto or Osaka to Asuka on the southern edge of the Yamato Plain. This peaceful agricultural community is an ideal location to experience the rural lifestyle of the Japanese countryside.

We recommend our Asuka Monuments Walk for your first day here. The walk gives a perfect introduction to the history and landmarks of the village.

Overnight at a Minshuku Japanese guesthouse or at a friendly family homestay.


Walking distance: 9km / 5.5 miles (plus optional Iwaido detour)

Elevation gain: 420m / 1375 feet of ascent / 425m / 1390 feet of descent (plus optional Iwaido detour)

Time required: About 4 hours of optional walking


Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse) or Japanese homestay

Meals: Dinner

Day 2 - Asuka Tanzan Shrine hike

On your second day in Asuka, there is the opportunity to explore the village further. For a more active day, follow our walking directions along the route to Tanzan Shrine - wind your way along the pretty roads of this agricultural community and then head up along a forest trail to the atmospheric shrine.

Overnight at a Minshuku Japanese guesthouse or friendly family homestay.


Walking distance: 13km / 8 miles

Elevation gain: 530m / 1,730 feet of ascent; 300m / 985 feet of descent

Time required: About 5 hours of optional walking


Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse) or Japanese homestay

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 - Hike the Yamanobe no Michi in Nara

This morning you can rent bicycles to visit Asuka's wonderful terraced rice fields. Afterwards, travel by train to Nara, Japan's first permanent capital. Established in 710 and then known as Heijo, Nara abounds in cultural heritage, with many historic treasures and easy access to wonderful nature.

Or make an earlier start from Asuka and hike the historic Yamanobe no Michi trail before arriving at your accommodation in Nara this evening.


Walking distance: 16km / 10 miles

Elevation gain: negligible ascent and descent

Time required: About 5 hours of optional walking


Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn) or Machiya Townhouse (optional upgrade)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 - Hike the Yagyu Kaido in Nara

Today there is a chance to undertake the Yagyu Kaido hike from Yagyu village back to Nara, following in the footsteps of warriors who took 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.


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 Machiya Townhouse (optional upgrade)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 - Sightseeing in Nara

Explore more of Nara before heading onwards by train. Spend the day visiting important cultural spots including Todai-ji and Horyu-ji temples, visit the carefully preserved Edo-period merchant district of Nara-machi, Isuien Garden.

The tour ends with your train journey back to Kyoto or Osaka. You can use our train tickets to board a morning train, or you can enjoy a full day in Nara and travel onwards in the late afternoon or early evening.


Meals: Breakfast




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