For over 1200 years the Kii mountain ranges were deemed a spiritual region inhabited by the gods. The sacred sites and mountain trails were influential in the development and exchange of Japanese culture and religion, in particular for its fusion of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. This evokes a deep connection between the environment, history, traditions and faith as we follow old pilgrimage routes past ancient shrines and through dense rainforest with its many streams, rivers and waterfalls.
4 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 4 dinners
Traditional 'ryokan' inns on a twin share basis
Transportation as listed in itinerary
Expert bilingual guide
Day 1 Join Kumano
Tonight we enjoy a lovely traditional dinner with our friendly hosts and run over the walking plans and highlights of the trip ahead. After dinner we can enjoy a natural hotspring bath-onsen-where we are staying, a treat that will become and morning and evening institution. Overnight: Yoshinoya Ryokan or similar.
Day 2 Hike in the northern mountains to Hongu shrine
After a traditional Japanese breakfast at the ryokan, we will start our walk from Yunomine Onsen along the Akagigoe trail of the Kumano Kodo, which will lead us along a ridge line to Funatama Shrine (approx 6km; 2hours). From there we will join the Nakahechi trail of the Kumano Kodo and walk in direction of the Kumano Hongu Shrine where we have sweeping views of terraced rice fields and tea plantations before arriving at the entrance of Hongu Shrine (approx 8km; 2 hours). We will explore the Kumano Hongu Shrine, as well as Oyunohara, an island in the Kumano River where the Hongu Shrine originally stood. You can admire Japan’s largest torii gate and wonderful views of the Kumano River. On our way to Oyunohara, we will be passing through the main part of Hongu Town where there is an opportunity to visit some souvenir shops. Lunch will be at a local restaurant in Hongu Town. After exploring Hongu, we will commence our walk along the Dainichigoe section of the Kumano Kodo trail, which will lead us from Hongu Town back to Yunomine Onsen (approx 3.5km; 1.5 hours). We will have dinner (Japanese food) at the ryokan in Yunomine. After dinner there is time to explore this picturesque little onsen village and even try the famous Tsubuyu Onsen, the only onsen that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Overnight: Yoshinoya Ryokan or similar.
Day 3 Hike to Koguchi, visit Nachi shrine and waterfall
Today we will have a very early start taking the bus from Kawayu Onsen around 7am. It will take us to Shingu City (arriving at 8:05). From Shingu we take the local train to Kii Katsura Station where we will catch a local bus in direction of Nachisan, our starting point for today’s hike. After about 15 min on the bus, we will get off at Daimonzaka, and the traditional access to the Nachi Waterfall, Nachi Shrine and Seigandoji Temple. We will walk up the ancient stone steps until we reach the waterfall (30min). Visit Nachi Taki, Japan’s highest waterfall. Then we will walk up to Nachi Shrine, the second of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines. Near the shrine is a Seigandoji, a Buddhist Temple of the esoteric Tendai Sect. This temple is the starting point for a 33 Temple Pilgrimage dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. It is also a center for Shugendo, an ancient tradition of mountain worship. Many yamabushi (mountain ascetics) still come here to worship and practice. We will have an early and quick lunch (around 11am) in the Nachi area (udon, soba noodles) before starting our hike. We will walk the Ogumotorigoe trail of the Kumano Kodo from Nachi Taisha to the settlement of Koguchi (14.5km; 6hours). After arriving in Koguchi, we will catch a local bus, and change busses a couple of times, to reach Kawayu Onsen. We will have dinner at the ryokan in Kawayu Onsen. After dinner there is time to experience the famous 1,000 people onsen in the Kawayu River. We need a swim suit to join the locals sitting in the river where the hot onsen water bubbles to the surface. Overnight: Midori Ryokan or similar.
Day 4 Yamabushi pilgrim trail
This morning we will catch a local bus to Hongu Town (8:14, arriving 8: 24) and from there another local bus to Totsukawa Village (9:07, arriving at 9:46 at Subaru Hotel). Totsukawa is a remote village. Today we will be walking the Kumano Sankei Michi Koheji path from Totsukawa Onsen to near Hongu Town. This was one of the many paths where yamabushi, or mountain ascetics trained themselves. Along the path are 33 stone images of the Buddhist deity Kannon Bosatsu. This trail is 15km; approx 5 hours. We will have a bento (lunch box) for today’s lunch along the trail. Cross Hatenashi Mountain Peak (over 1,000 meters) and the old Hatenashi settlement with sweeping views over the surrounding area and across to the mountain ridge where the Okugake trail, another ascetic training trail for yamabushi, runs along. After reaching the end of the trail at Yakio, we will catch a bus or walk 30 min to the nearby Michi no eki (road station) where we can have a coffee and some traditional sweets before catching the bus back to Hongu and to Kawayu Onsen. Overnight: Midori Ryokan or similar.
Day 5 In Kumano, trip concludes
After a large and filling local breakfast and another soak we say goodbye to this great area and our hosts.