Hokkaido - Japan's Wild Side
Welcome to the wilder side of Japan with this exquisite trip to Hokkaido.
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan's main islands and known for its wide open spaces and incredible natural features; primeval forests, tropical-blue caldera lakes, fields of alpine wildflowers and bubbling hot springs. That's not all, Hokkaido boasts fantastic seafood restaurants, a bustling capital city as well as a fascinating history. On this itinerary you'll take it all in as you traverse Hokkaido, visiting beautiful national parks, meeting local wildlife, spending time in the vibrant capital city of Sapporo and much much more.
Visit a corner of Japan that takes you far away from the beaten track and return home with incredible and unique memories of this special island.
Marvel at the diverse wildlife of Shiretoko National Park
Witness bears coming down to the waters edge to hunt and to play with their cubs
Travel on the world famous bullet train (Shinkansen)
This incredible itinerary covering the wilder aspects of stunning Hokkaido includes international flights, transfers, and accommodation.
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your holiday, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has travelled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip.
All of our trips are entirely bespoke and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
Today you board your overnight flight to Tokyo. When you wake up you'll be flying over Japan ready to start your adventure!
You will be greeted by our assistant at the airport who will help you join your transfer to your hotel. Once you arrive at the hotel you are free to relax or head out and explore! Why not restore yourself with a delicious bowl of ramen noodles.
Activity & Adventure
Your first stop is Kushiro National Park, famous for the Japanese emblem, the Red-crowned Crane. In the winter you can watch their elaborate mating dance. To get a closer look join a kayaking tour through the wetlands and enjoy peacefully paddling through nature.
This morning it is just a short drive to Lake Akan, the home of Hokkaido's Ainu culture. The Ainu are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido and still have a strong local culture. Around the lake you will find plenty of shops and restaurants where you can experience how different Hokkaido is to the rest of Japan. There is also a theatre in Ainu Kotan which offers shows multiple times a day so you can enjoy traditional song & dance.
It’s a bit of an earlier start today as you have a longer drive up to the wildest point of Hokkaido, Shiretoko National Park. Here you can really escape into the wilderness. Thick forests hide beautiful gorges and waterfalls, where bears roam. This afternoon you'll join a bear watching cruise. Your boat will take you along the coast where you'll see bears coming down to the waters edge to hunt and to play with their cubs. This evening you'll enjoy delicious local seafood from your hotel overlooking the sea.
Back out on the high seas this morning. This time you'll be heading further out from the coast in search of whales. The afternoon is at your leisure. Why not drive inland to the famous Shiretoko Five Lakes? There are a number of lovely walking trails around the lakes, so stretch your legs and escape into the greenery.
Activity & Adventure
Today you take a longer drive across Northern Hokkaido. Your destination is Sounkyo Gorge in the North of Daisetsuzan National Park. It's a scenic valley where you'll have the afternoon at leisure. I recommend walking to the Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls. Their names literally translate as Falling Star and Milky Way. You could also ride up the Mt Kurodake cable car for views of the gorge from above. You can alsogo for hikes on the mountain exploring the forests and peaks.
Sounkyo is also known for its famous Onsen Hot Spring Baths, so relax this evening in classic Japanese therapeutic hot spring waters.
It's a drive to the West side of the park to visit the highest peak, Mount Asahidake at 2291m.
In the afternoon I recommend you visit the Otokoyama Sake museum, here you can taste and learn about the delicious variations of Sake.
You will be accompanied up the cable car by your local nature guide today. Your guide will take you on a hike around the peak telling you about the local nature and wildlife and show you the best routes around the mountain.
In the evening once again relax in the onsen and enjoy the restorative effects of hot spring baths.
This morning you head south to the island's capital, Sapporo.
If you're travelling in Spring you will pass through fields and fields of lavender and flowers as you go through Furano, and the landscape turns from mountainous to lush fields as you reach the Western coast.
In Sapporo, once you have checked in to your hotel, head out to explore the city. Why not stop for a drink at the Asahi Brewery, you can even enjoy a short tour.
Today is a very full day as you start off with a tour of Sapporo. Your guide will take you through the city where you can explore Hokkaido Shrine in the verdant Maruyama Park. You'll also see the iconic clock tower and explore Nijo market.
In the afternoon you will drive 30 minutes to Ishikari on the coast. Here you will learn of one of Japan's most famous cuisines, Sushi!
You will meet a local sushi master, and with the freshest ingredients make your own sushi and sashimi. You will learn a range of styles and techniques, ready to wow everyone back home.
Once you are done you will enjoy a delicious meal of sushi, with a glass of sake on the side.
It's a short drive to the port town of Otaru on day 12. Famous in the 1800s as a major port, you can still see the Herring warehouses lining the canals, it is now a picturesque town that is a delightful contrast to Sapporo.
Spend your evening strolling the romantically lit canals of a bygone era.
Continue south with a stop off this morning at the Nikka whiskey distillery. Founded by Taketsuru Masataka, the father of Japanese whisky, it has stood since 1934. The site chosen for its rich peat and clear spring water, just like in Scotland where Taketsuru Masataka learnt his trade. You'll enjoy a tour here and a tasting.
Then drive onto your final stop on your Hokkaido adventure, Yunokawa Onsen. You have two nights here to really relax in the onsen pools and enjoy the surrounding natural area.
Today is at your leisure. You may wish to visit the city of Hakodate with its beautiful views over Motomachi Bay. Why not start with Asaichi Morning Market, a bustling fish market full of delicious samples to snack on as well as a few catch-your-own tanks! Hokkaido is famous for sweet and delicious musk melon.
Fort Goryokaku is a star shaped Western style citadel, built in the last years of the Edo Period for the defense of Hakodate. A few years later, the fort was the scene of a civil war battle between the defeated Shogunate and the forces of the Meiji government. The fort is now a public park, one of Hokkaido’s best cherry blossom spots (blooming in early May).
In the evening take the cable car to the top of Mt. Hakodate. Witness a night panorama that is considered one of the three most beautiful in Japan.
After returning your hire car it's time to board the bullet train to Tokyo. Remarkably the journey takes just over 4 hours. Once you arrive in Tokyo make your way to the hotel to check in. This evening why not enjoy a cocktail from a top floor bar for panoramic night views of the city.
This morning you will be met by your guide and taken on a tour of Tokyo's top sites. You will start with the Imperial Palace's immaculately manicured gardens. Beautiful no matter the season. Then you will visit the Asakusa district, home to Senso-ji temple and Nakamise street. Stop here for some souvenir and street food shopping. Finally you will finish at the Meiji Shrine. Set in beautiful parkland this shrine is still used daily by Tokyo residents for weddings and blessings for babies.
Fall down the rabbit hole today and enter wonderland at the TeamLab Borderless light installation experience. A one of a kind experience where you will venture through forests, under waterfalls and out into the universe. The experience lasts around 3 hours and involves not just walking but also climbing nets and trampolines. At the end stop in the teahouse for a memorable cup of tea.
Today is at your leisure so take advantage of Japan's fantastic public transportation to travel further afield to Nikko, Kamakura or Yokohama. You can use the included PASMO transport cards for any of the options.
Head into the mountains of Nikko to discover the natural wonders of Japan alongside world-heritage shrines and temples.
Today you will have a shared transfer to the airport for your flight home. Don't forget to show off all of your amazing photos when you arrive.