Introducing Kii Peninsula
The remote and mountainous Kii Peninsula (紀伊半島; Kii-hantō) is a far cry from central Kansai's bustling urban sprawl. Most of the attractions are found in Wakayama-ken, including the mountaintop temple complex of Kōya-san, one of Japan's most important Buddhist centres. To the south, the ancient pilgrimage trails of the Kumano Kodō converge on the town of Hongū, which is also home to several fine onsen.
Other Wakayama-ken attractions include the beachside onsen resort of Shirahama, on the west coast of the peninsula, and the rugged coastline of Shiono-misaki and Kii-Ōshima, at the southern tip of the peninsula.
The JR Kii main line (Kinokuni line) runs around the coast of the Kii-hantō, linking Shin-Osaka and Nagoya stations (some trains originate/terminate at Kyoto Station). Special Kuroshio and Nankii tokkyū trains can get you around the peninsula fairly quickly, but once you step off these express trains you're at the mercy of slow local trains and buses, so plan accordingly. Fortunately, area bus and train companies (with the exception of JR, or Japan Railways), have recently launched the Kansai Wakayama Pass (known as the W-PASS; see the boxed text). Of course, for most freedom of movement, a rental car is the best way to get around the area, and all of Japan's major car rental companies have branches at Kansai International Airport, which makes a good starting/finishing point for an exploration of the Kii Peninsula.