***Please note that this itinerary can start and end in Kyoto at no additional cost
Take a train from Osaka (or Kyoto) to Kii-Tanabe, the gateway to the Kumano Kodo Trail, on Day 1. Take a bus to the town of Takijiri and begin your self-guided trek with a short hike to Takahara. Trek past amazing Oji shrines on your way to Chikatsuyu on Day 2. Trek to Hongu on Day 3 to enjoy a well-deserved soak in a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring). On Day 4 take a bus to Shingu to discover the Hayatama Grand Shrine before catching your train back to Osaka (or Kyoto) where your trip will end.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Train Osaka - Kii-Tanabe & Hike from Takijiri to Takahara (D)
Begin your self-guided journey by taking the train from Osaka (or Kyoto) to the small town of Kii-Tanabe on the mystical Kii Peninsula, gateway to the historic Kumano Kodo Trail. The railway line runs close to the ocean for the latter part of the journey and offers magnificent views out over the sea. The journey from Osaka is around two and half hours. Board a local bus outside Kii-Tanabe station and travel forty minutes to Takijiri. This is where your walk on the Nakahechi portion of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route begins. From Takijiri the path climbs steadily to the ridge-top village of Takahara.
Tonight, depending on availability, you will stay in a small, Japanese-style hotel in the tiny village of Takahara or in a Japanese Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) in the nearby village of Kurisugawa. Both serve traditional, home-cooked dinners featuring local seasonal ingredients.
Walking distance: 4.5km / 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 370m / 1,200 feet of ascent
Time required: About 2 hours
Day 2: Hike from Takahara to Chikatsuyu (B/D)
After a Japanese breakfast you will leave your inn and follow the trail as it winds through small settlements and peaceful countryside. You will pass several beautiful Oji shrines before finally descending to the charming village of Chikatsuyu. The paths on today’s route are clearly defined and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the climbs easier. Arrive in Chikatsuyu with time to relax before dinner at a family-run Minshuku guest-house.
Walking distance: 10km / 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 480m / 1,575 feet of ascent and 520m / 1,700 feet of descent
Time required: About 4 - 5 hours
Day 3: Hike from Chikatsuyu to Hongu & Traditional Japanese Onsen (B/D)
Board a bus in Chikatsuyu today and then walk a gentle section of the trail from Hosshinmon-oji to the Kumano shrine at Hongu, one of the three ‘Grand Shrines of Kumano’. Located in the heart of these sacred mountains, Kumano was said to be the entrance to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world' which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. From the Kumano shrine at Hongu, a short bus ride will bring you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot spring onsen villages in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen hot spring, famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal clear river. Enjoy a relaxing soak in a Japanese bath before or after your well-deserved multi-course dinner.
Walking distance: 7km / 4 miles
Elevation gain: 120m / 395 feet of ascent and 360m / 1,180 feet of descent
Time required: About 2 hours
***If you prefer a more challenging day, we offer two longer alternatives of 7 hours (15km / 9 miles) or of 8-9 hours (24km / 14.9 miles), both with significant ascent and descent. You can choose which option you prefer on the day - no need to decide in advance!
Day 4: Hayatama Grand Shrine and Shingu & Train to Osaka (B)
Before or after breakfast, take time to explore the atmospheric village of Yunomine Onsen. From Yunomine Onsen, travel by bus to Shingu and visit the Kumano Hayatama Taisha, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, located only fifteen minutes on foot from Shingu station. Within the shrine precinct is a giant Nagi tree, about a thousand years old. 'Nagi dolls' made from the seeds of this tree are believed to bring about romantic encounters or a happy married life to couples. The Kamikura Shrine on Mount Gongen, a little further on, is also well worth a visit. People worship a large rock as a god here and the shrine is extremely atmospheric. After visiting the sights of Shingu, use your included train tickets to take the train onwards to Osaka or Kyoto. The journey takes around five hours, arriving in Osaka (or Kyoto) early to mid-evening.