In feudal times people travelling between Kyoto and Tokyo would use the Nakasendo Trail – the road linking the two major cities through the central mountains. This trip will take you walking along forested paths, travelling between historic Juku post towns and getting a glimpse of what life was like in times gone by. You’ll then travel into the Oku-HIda mountains to explore the biodiversity of Kamikochi before arriving into iconic Takayama.
- Nakasendo Trail
- Villages of Magome, Tsumago and Narai
- Kamikochi wetlands
- Castle towns of Matsumoto and Takayama
- Bathe in thermal waters at hot-spring Ryokan on every evening
Click to view map
Day 1: Magome to Tsumago and Nagiso | 8.5km
We supply train tickets for your journey from Kyoto or from Tokyo to Nakatsugawa, including a ride on the world-famous Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagoya. At Nakatsugawa, board a local bus for the short journey to Magome. Walk over Magome Pass to Tsumago, one of the best-preserved and most evocative of the Nakasendo post towns. In the afternoon, you will be picked up and transferred to your Onsen inn for the evening, a short drive from the main village of Tsumago.
- Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Nagiso or Onsen Hotel close to Tsumago
- Walking for the day: 8.5km, 3h, ↑325m ↓430m
Day 2: Nagiso to Nojiri | 18.5km
The longest day on the trail is a beautiful and varied hike from Tsumago or Nagiso to Nojiri. The trail travels through small valleys and past forests of bamboo and Japanese cedar, through some of the most beautiful scenery on the tour. Continue by train to Kiso-Fukushima. Stay at a lovely hot-spring Ryokan set in a peaceful valley above the town. The Ryokan provides complimentary transfer from the station. The Ryokan has lovely indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths.
- Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Kiso-Fukushima
- Walking for the day: 18.5km, 6-7h, ↑725m ↓645m
Day 3: Kiso-Fukushima | 7km
A day to relax and explore the historic Kiso-Fukushima. Our optional walk today goes through a quiet scenic forest before taking in key areas of the town.
- Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Kiso-Fukushima
- Walking for the day (optional): 7km, 2-3h ↑635m ↓635m
Day 4: Yabuhara to Narai and Hirasawa | 9km
Today, travel by train for the short journey from Kiso-Fukushima to Yabuhara, the starting point for the hike over the Torii pass to Narai. Explore this evocative village before a short walk to Kiso-Hirasawa, a historic lacquerware town. From here, head on by train and bus to your inn for the evening, another traditional Onsen Ryokan.
- Accommodation: Asama Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) close to Matsumoto
- Walking for the day: 9km, 4h, ↑345m ↓270m (shorter option: 6km, 2-3h)
Day 5: Kamikochi Wetlands | 10km
Travel by bus to the biodiverse wetlands of Kamikochi; a popular site for nature hiking, featuring dramatic mountain and lake scenery. Head onwards to a secluded Onsen Ryokan village in Oku-Hida for the evening.
- Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn) in Oku Hida
- Walking for the day: 10km, 4h, mostly flat ( (shorter option: 3km, 1-2h)
Day 6: Oku-Hida and Takayama. Departure | 6km
One final hike in the mountains of Oku-Hida, providing stunning views out over the local range. Explore this town before heading onwards by bus to Takayama, which is well-known for its crafts, particularly yew-wood carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery and furniture. You may also wish to explore the ruins of Takayama castle and walk along the east-side temples. Book an extra night on your own or continue your journey in Japan.
- Accommodation: no overnight included
- Walking for the day (optional): 6km, 3-4h
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of locally owned hotels and traditional ryokans. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn with tatami mats and futon bedding. Dinners are served together, usually in the dining room and are multi-course meals. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms. Many ryokans have both en suite bathrooms (except for some older buildings) and communal hot spring style baths (segregated by gender). They are the classic Japanese experience.
Click to view example accommodations
- Fuki no Mori (Nagiso)
- Onyado Tsutaya (Kiso-Fukushima)
- Higashi Ishikawa Ryokan(Matsumoto)
- Ryokan Sansui (Oku Hida)
In the event of a particular hotel or guesthouse being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Five breakfasts and dinners are included. Most meals will be Japanese cuisine. Vegetarian options are available but limited. Strict vegetarian diets, vegan diets, or gluten-free diets will be difficult to accommodate due to the pervasiveness of the fish-based stock dashi and the use of soy sauce and miso in Japanese cuisine. Tips are not required in Japan.
Difficulty and terrain
This holiday is suitable for walkers who do regular walking or hiking and are comfortable walking for up to a full day with some climbing and descending. (read more about difficulty grades). Some of the walks can be optionally shortened (or completely skipped) using the excellent local public transportation system. Routes are well signposted in most parts. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
We can organise this walking tour from the beginning of May till late October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your holiday on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.
Please note that travel during Golden Week, O-Bon, or the End of Year holidays may incur supplements of up to 20%. We will only pass along to you the actual supplement charged to us by the accommodation, and we do not mark these up.
Click to view travel options
By train or bus
- Individual arrival train tickets from Kyoto or Tokyo to the Nakasendo Trail are included in your package. You have to make your own transfer arrangements to Kyoto/Tokyo and from Takayama.
Arrive in Tokyo:
There are regular trains from Haneda Airport and Narita Airport to Tokyo. For timetables and further information, visit Hyperdia or use the Omio planner above.
Arrive in Osaka:
There are regular trains from Kansai Airport to Kyoto. For timetables and further information, visit Hyperdia or use the Omio planner above.
Departure from Takayama:
There are no direct train services to Tokyo, the fastest route requires a train change in Nagoya from where there are regular Shinkansen trains to Tokyo. For timetables and further information, visit Hyperdia or use the Omio planner above.
- Accommodation for 5 nights in Japanese style inns. Japanese-style accommodation will usually be in tatami-mat rooms
- Meals as indicated in the Itinerary above (5 breakfasts and 5 dinners)
- Individual arrival train tickets from Kyoto or Tokyo to the trail and intermediate train journeys as described in the itinerary
- Topographical maps and walking Instructions
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare to and from Japan
- Airport transfers
- Lunches, drinks and snacks
- Luggage transfers
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Entrance fees to museums, temples etc.
- Local bus journeys on Days 1, 4, 5 and 6
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
Please note that daily luggage transfers are not available for this tour. The best way to deal with excess luggage is to send it ahead using Japan’s excellent Takkyubin Courier service. These services are secure, efficient and economical, typically around JPY2,000 (€12-13) per bag, per transfer. Luggage will not be able to be transferred to every hotel, so you will need to carry overnight essentials in your daypack for the intervening nights. Takkyubin can be arranged once you are in Japan, usually with help from the concierge of your hotel or guesthouse. Some smaller local hotels and inns may not offer the service, but they will direct you to the nearest location where the service is available, such as local convenience shops.
All inns provide cotton yukata gowns and slippers for you to wear after arrival for dining, relaxing in your room, exploring outside and sleeping. They also provide small towels, soap, shampoo and hairdryers. You don’t need a complete change of clothing for the evening, so it is possible to manage with just a medium daypack to carry overnight essentials.