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KUMANO KODO PILGRIMAGE WALK

Kii-Tanabe . Chikatsuyu-Oji .Yunomine Onsen . Kii-Katsuura

Similar to the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Japan's Kumano Kodo comprises pilgrimage routes that stretch into varying corners of the Kii Peninsula. The pilgrimage practice dates back more than 1,000 years and the routes have been walked by all levels of society, from commoners and artisans to aristocrats and retired emperors. 

 

Listed as UNESCO world site in 2004, the Kumano Kodo is a mythical holy ground where, for thousands of years, Japanese people have believed the gods resided. The name Kumano literally means “the place where deities live”. “Kodo” means “an old trail”,  and you will be surprised to see that a lot of the old paved roads and stone steps still remain today. The Kumano Kodo consists of 6 routes, but the most picturesque walking path is the Nakahechi route which passes by mountains, dense forests, rivers and waterfalls, quiet hamlets and bustling hot-spring towns famous for their rejuvenating waters.  Pilgrims also experience some coastal scenery; it is this contrast that makes the Kumano Kodo so distinctive.

This is a self-guided but fully documented and supported pilgrimage following the Nakahechi Trail. Hikers will enjoy village-to-village walking with 5 hikes of 2-7 hours. This route is eligible for Dual Pilgrim certification. 

Duration:
6 days / 5 nights
Price:
From $1499 per person sharing
 
Includes: 
Roundtrip train fare Kyoto/Osaka to Kii Tanabe trailhead
5 nights Japanese Inn accommodation - share facilities

5 breakfasts, 5 dinners

Detailed day-by-day itinerary and walking directions

Topographical maps

Local support 

Trip preparation guidelines 

Departures: 

Daily


 

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Day 1  Train from Kyoto or Osaka; Hike from Takijiri to Takahara

The package includes train tickets for your journey from either Kyoto or Osaka 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 fine views out over the sea. The journey 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, and takes around two hours. 

 

Stay tonight in a small, Japanese-style guesthouse in the tiny village of Takahara, or in the nearby village of Kurisugawa. Both serve delicious home-cooked dinners featuring local seasonal ingredients. 

 

Walking distance: 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 1,200 feet 

Time required: About 2 hours 

Accommodation: Japanese-style hotel in Takahara or minshuku (family-run guesthouse) in Kurisugawa 

Meals: Dinner 

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Day 2  Takahara to Chikatsuyu

After your Japanese breakfast, you leave your inn and follow the trail as it winds through small settlements and peaceful countryside. You pass several oji shrines before finally descending to the village of Chikatsuyu. The paths are clearly defined, and flagstones have been laid in some places to make the climbs easier. Arrive in Chikatsuyu in time to relax before dinner at a family-run guesthouse. 

 

Walking distance: 6.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,575 feet of ascent and 1,700 feet of descent 
Time required: About 4 - 5 hours 
Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) 
Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

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Day 3  Hike from Chikatsuyu and Nonaka to Hongu

From Chikatsuyu and Nonaka, the trail continues through the mountains. We have shorter and longer hiking options to choose from this day, all of which include the 'can't miss' walk between Hosshinmon-oji and Hongu Grand Shrine. At 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 Hongu, a short bus ride brings you to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest natural hot spring villages in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen, 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 delicious, multi-course dinner. 

 

Walking distance: 14.9 miles

Elevation gain: 2,700 feet of ascent and 3,740 feet of descent 

Time required: About 8 - 9 hours 

We offer two shorter alternatives of 7 hours (9 miles) or of 2 hours (4 miles), using a local bus from Chikatsuyu to shorten the walk. You can choose which option you prefer on the day—no need to decide in advance.

Accommodation: Onsen ryokan (hot spring inn) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

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Day 4 Optional paths

Take time to explore the atmospheric village where you spent the night, before undertaking one of two possible hiking options: ascend the Kogumotorigoe path towards Koguchi or undertake another section close to Hongu, with excellent valley views. The first option begins with a short bus ride to Ukegawa on the banks of the Kumano River. From Ukegawa, you start on the Kogumotorigoe path, which heads up to the Kogumotorigoe Pass before descending to the remote village of Koguchi. The trail is not difficult and should take you about 4 hours. 

 

Walking distance:  7.7 miles

Elevation gain: 1,705 feet of ascent and 1,640 feet of descent 
Time required: About 4 hours 

For guests spending a second evening close to Hongu, we offer various excellent hiking options up to 6 hours, the longest of which can generally be undertaken completely on foot. We offer a number of alternatives from 1 up to 6 hours if staying close to Hongu. 

Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) or ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

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Day 5 Hike from Koguchi to Mount Nachi

The final section of the trail takes you from Koguchi up to the Ogumotorigoe Pass with a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It then descends to Mount Nachi, the location of Nachi Grand Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano and Nachi Falls. Stay overnight either in the small village of Mount Nachi close to the shrine, or take a local bus for the twenty-minute ride to the port town of Kii-Katsuura, with wonderful views over the island-studded bay. Enjoy dinner and breakfast served by your hosts at your accommodation. 

 

Walking distance: 9.3 mi 

Elevation gain: 3,215 feet of ascent and 3,020 feet of descent 
Time required: About 6 - 7 hours 

Accommodation: Minshuku (family-run guesthouse) or onsen hotel (hot spring hotel) 

Meals: Breakfast, dinner 

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Day 6  Visit Kii Katsuura then depart for Osaka or Kyoto

Kii-Katsuura is an active fishing port and has a lively early-morning fish market. Enjoy the views out over the island-studded bay. There are intriguing backstreets and a traditional covered shopping arcade to explore, too. It is also possible to visit Hayatama Shrine, one of the three Grand Shrines of Kumano. We provide train tickets for you to board a train at lunchtime, travelling back around the Kii Peninsula and arriving in Osaka or Kyoto mid to late afternoon. 

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