Kumano Ancient Trail

The Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail, is a pilgrimage route to Kumano, part of the mountainous Kii Peninsula which stretches south from the Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. The well-maintained trail threads its way through deep valleys, mountains and small villages to offer a wonderfully-varied hike over four days. Stay at comfortable family-run inns with excellent food, soak in natural hot springs, and visit the shrines along the way.

Availability: April to November. Please enquire for departure dates.

Type and Level of Trip: Village to village hiking in the Kii Peninsula for 9 days. Strenuous - 4 or 5 days of walking from 2 to 7 hours on mountain trails.

Price Per Person: Starting from GBP2915. Includes transport, accommodation, English speaking tour guide, entrance fees, luggage forwarding, daily breakfast and dinner.

International flights, airport transfers, lunches and drinks are extra.

  • From imperial Kyoto, head through the Kumano mountains to the Pacific Ocean fishing port of Kii-Katsuura
  • Village to village walking on enchanting sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail
  • Bathe in an outdoor hot-spring bath beside the Pacific Ocean
  • . Ride a traditional boat on the Kumano River
  • See the Three Grand Shrines at Hongu, Shingu and Nachi
  • Enjoy an exclusive Shamisen musical performance in a lovely traditional setting on the Kumano Kodo trail
Kumano Ancient Trail at a glance
  • Day 1: Arrival in Kyoto
  • Day 2: Travel to the Kii Peninsula
  • Day 3: Hike Takahara to Chikatsuyu
  • Day 4: Hike Chikatsuyu to Hongu Grand Shrine
  • Day 5: Boat ride on the Kumano River
  • Day 6: Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall
  • Day 7: Optional coastal hiking or relax at a hot spring
  • Day 8: Transfer to Kyoto
  • Day 9: Departure or extend your Japan adventure
Kumano Ancient Trail Image 1

Day 1: Arrival in Kyoto

On arrival, we will arrange a private transfer to your hotel in Central Kyoto.  This evening, there will be a welcome dinner at a local restaurant where you will meet your tour leader and fellow travellers.

Overnight in Kyoto 

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 2

Day 2: Travel to the Kii Peninsula

Travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri, at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by Emperors. The Kii Peninsula, which extends south from Nara and Osaka, has long been considered sacred in Japan, the entrance to the land of Yomi, the mythical afterworld. It is also the site of the three sacred shrines of Kumano, the Kumano Sanzan. We continue with a 2-hour hike to the small hilltop village of Takahara, where we spend the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style Ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording spectacular views over the surrounding mountains. There are hot-spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.

Walking distance: 4.5 km / 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 370m/1,200 feet ascent, 175m/575 feet descent

Time:: about 2 hours

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 3

Day 3: Hike Takahara to Chikatsuyu

Starting from Takahara, continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path, we pass small jizo bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. There are also the sites of old cha-ya (tea houses), which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century. We descend to the village of Chikatsuyu and our accommodation for tonight. We stay in the friendly guest house run by local couple Mr and Mrs Kinoshita. A former company-worker in the coastal town of Tanabe, Kinoshita-san moved to his home village to set up the popular guesthouse. Next door they have their own natural hot-spring baths. In the evening the dinner menu might include their delicious ‘takikomi-gohan’ (rice steamed with vegetables), freshly-caught fish, and tempura. After dinner, a local Shamisen music group will treat us to a private performance in the lovely setting of our Chikatsuyu Branch. Enjoy this rare opportunity for a close-up experience of Japanese musical tradition.

Walking distance: 11.3km / 7 miles

Elevation gain: 350m/1,150 feet ascent, 360m/1,180 feet descent

Time required: 4 hours

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 4

Day 4: Hike Chikatsuyu to Hongu Grand Shrine

Today hike two scenic sections of the Kumano Kodo trail, passing ridge-top villages and oji shrines. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines to refresh themselves and compose poems. From Chikatsuyu we walk first to Kobiro, then take a local bus to Hoshinmon-oji. From Hoshinmon-oji we descend to Hongu Grand Shrine. The symbol of the shrine is the mythological three-legged raven, representing the Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama shrines – the same motif as the one used by the Japan Football Association. The three-legged crow was in mythology sent to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from Kumano to the Yamato Plain.

After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal clear river. We stay overnight in a comfortable Ryokan with its own hot spring bath or ‘rotemburo’.

Walking distance: 12.9km / 8 miles

Elevation gain: 321m/1,055 feet ascent; 360m/1,180 feet descent

Time required: 4 hours

 Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 5

Day 5: Boat ride on the Kumano River

We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat to take us on a gentle one and a half hour ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. Afterwards, we will travel back by bus to Yunomine Onsen for another night at our hot spring Ryokan. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 6

Day 6: Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall

We transfer by local bus to Koguchi and hike the final section of the trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean and then descend to Nachi-taki waterfall and Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine), one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’.
From there we take a short bus ride to the fishing port of Katsuura and to our hotel.

 Walking distance: 14.5km / 9 miles

Elevation gain: 980m/3,215 feet ascent; 920m/3,020 feet descent

Time required: 6 hours

Accommodation: Japanese-style Hot-spring Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 7

Day 7: Optional coastal hiking or relax at the onsen

Today there is an optional hike along a different section of the Kumano Kodo. This is a coastal part of the Iseji route, which has some lovely views over the Pacific ocean, pretty villages and the oldest paved section on the entire Kumano Kodo network, with stone blocks dating back eight hundred years. Alternatively, you can choose to relax and try the various hot spring baths in your hotel. You can also explore the town, with its excellent seafood, old-fashioned Japanese shopping arcade and a few interesting backstreets.

Walking distance: 6.4km / 4.1 miles

Elevation gain: 546m/1790 feet ascent; 539m/1768 feet descent

Time required: 3 hours

Accommodation: Japanese-style Hot-spring Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Kumano Ancient Trail Image 8

Day 8: Transfer to Kyoto

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a central western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.

 Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 9: Departure or extend your Japan adventure

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan.

Meals: Breakfast

Highlights

Accommodation