Tori gate Hongu
Start of the Kumano
Forests of the Kumano
forest shrine kimono
Japanese style room
japanese style dinner
yunomine hot springs
Nachi shrine

Hiking of the Kumano Kodo

Highlights of the Imperial Pilgrimage Routes of Japan

Trip Details

Location Kii Peninsula, Japan
Length 14 days
Grades Moderate, Strenuous
Accommodations Hotels, Ryokan, Small Inns
Group size 5 - 8
Apr 14, 2024 - Apr 27, 2024
May 05, 2024 - May 18, 2024
Oct 20, 2024 - Nov 02, 2024 Waitlist, please call
Land Cost
Single Supp Cost

Hiking Trip Summary

Extending out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Osaka and Kyoto, the southern mountainous region of the Kii Peninsula was once referred to as Kumano and regarded as a mystical “holy ground where gods dwell.” A region of spiritual and cultural significance, it was here at Gotobiki Rock that the three “spirits of nature”, or kami, were thought to have alighted from heaven to reside on earth. And, it was here that Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan and descendent of Amaterasu the sun goddess, is thought to have been guided through the mountains by the mythical three-legged crow of the Kumano on his quest to unite the country.

Over the centuries, the three Grand Shires of Hongu-Taisha, Hayatama-Taisha, and Nachi-Taisha were constructed to honor each of the kami and the Kumano faith evolved as an embracing of both a Shinto reverence for the sacred in nature and the arrival of Buddhist teaching. Imperial pilgrimages to the three grand shires, known collectively as the Kumano Sanzan, began in the 11th century. Starting in the ancient city of Kyoto, these journeys would often take 30 – 40 days and require an entourage of up to 800 people. 

While the popularity and accessibly of these pilgrimage routes have ebbed and flowed throughout the ages, today the Kumano Kodo (Kodo meaning “old ways”) is recognized as one of only two UNESCO World Heritage-listed pilgrimage routes. 

During this 14-day journey, beginning in Osaka and ending in Kyoto, we’ll experience the historical, cultural, and spiritual significance of the Kii Peninsula as we follow the old imperial ways to the sacred sites of the Kumano region. 

From Osaka, we’ll travel south to Mount Koya, the home of the Shingon (Pure Word) Sect of Esoteric Buddhism. After spending the night in one of the 117 temples in the area, we head south deeper into the Kii Mountains where we’ll hike the Nakahechi, one of the Kumano Kodo routes to the Three Grand Shrines. After visiting the village of Yoshino home to the Kimpusenji Temple, we’ll head out of the mountains to the ancient capital city of Nara, stopping en route to hike along historic Yamanobe-no-Michi. Our journey will end with a day spent in the cosmopolitan and truly fascinating city of Kyoto.

Along the way, we’ll immerse of selves in the Japanese way of travel, staying in old-world traditional Japanese inns called ryokan, bathing in hot spring onsens, and perfecting our chopstick skills as we enjoy classic Japanese cuisine. Join us for an unforgettable journey through this remote and mystical corner of Japan!



Show itinerary

Additional Information


If you wish to have your own room, there is a single room supplement fee of $950. Please let us know at the time of registration if you would like a single room. Single rooms are limited.

If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share,  a “forced” single" fee  of $600 will apply.


  • All accommodations
  • All meals
  • All group transfers from start to end of the tour as described in the itinerary, by private vehicle or train
  • Luggage transfers
  • Guides
  • Entries and activities as specified in the itinerary
  • Great hiking and happy memories!


Airfare, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.). 


The trip is vehicle-supported. This means most days you will need only carry a daypack with those items you will need during the day’s hike. Each day, our luggage will be transported ahead to our night's accommodation, with the exception of Day 2 when we will be staying at a Shukubo temple. We suggest a 30-liter pack or one large enough for those additional items you will need for our night at the temple.  We ask that each participant bring one medium size piece of luggage, preferably with wheels. Japanese inns tend to have narrow corridors and steps rather than elevators, so bear this in mind.


We will be staying at a range of accommodations during this trip, including hotels, temples, and ryokans. Some of our accommodations may be western-style while others will be more traditional Japanese inns called ryokans. When possible, we will “go Japanese” staying in Japanese-style rooms. These rooms are usually spacious and double occupancy with woven tatami mat floors, low tables, and futon beds with warm comforters. 

Most accommodations will be “ensuite” with shower/bath and toilet facilities in the room; others will have shared facilities on the floor. Some ryokan may have baths or showers in the room, but most will have an onsen or o-furo (Japanese-style bath). Most accommodations will provide yukata, simple cotton robes, used for wear to the onsen, and meals. Meals at the ryokans may be served at low tables with seating on pillows on the floor. Slippers are generally provided at the entrance of the accommodation for use everywhere, except for in tatami rooms. You might like to bring your own (probably more comfortable!) slippers.

Rooms are double/twin occupancy unless a single is requested. Single rooms cannot always be guaranteed in temples and ryokan, but we will endeavor to secure these where possible. 

Japanese Baths: Japanese baths (o-furo) and natural hot springs (onsen) offer a unique and wonderful cultural experience if sometimes a challenge for the unprepared! 
A centuries-old tradition, there is a three-step process to taking a Japanese bath. Communal o-furo and onsen will have a changing room, a shower room, and the bath or hot spring. All clothing and belongings are left in individual baskets or lockers in the changing room. Showering with soap and thoroughly rinsing is done before entering the bath “au naturel” to relax. Baths are always separated into men’s and women’s areas. 

Most, but not all, of our accommodations have their own onsen, hot spring bath. There are 4 nights on this trip where accommodations may have shared bathing and toilet facilities; Days 2, 4 & 5, and Day 8. This is not uncommon in traditional inns in Japan. The onsens and shared toilets facilities are spotless, of course, have cubicles, and are adjacent to the rooms across a corridor.

Meals: The Japanese diet is quite different from ours. Most meals, including traditional Japanese breakfasts, consist of rice, miso soup, tofu, fish, and an amazing array of small dishes of pickled vegetables, and vegetables in broth. Sashimi, raw fish, or sushi may be served as well as other meat dishes.  Western-style breakfasts may be available at some of our accommodations. Delicious Japanese food is definitely a highlight of this tour. Brush up on your chopstick skills! Some meals will be in tatami mat rooms with low tables, again traditional in Japan.


Osaka’s Kansai International Airport is most convenient to the start and end of the trip. It is also possible to fly in and out of Tokyo, you need only allow for additional travel time.


The group will meet at about 6:00 pm on Day 1 at our hotel in central Osaka. 


The trip will end after breakfast at our hotel in Kyoto on the last day of the trip, Day 14. Rail transfer to Kansai International Airport from Kyoto is easy and direct, taking about 70 minutes. Access is more or less directly from the train platform into the airport.


Our Hiking the Kumano Kodo trip is a relatively new trip, and we are happy to be working in collaboration with Bob Hefill, a professional freelance translator and founder of Hike Japan. Bob has been organizing and running trips in Japan since 2003 and is eager to infuse our trip with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for Japan and its culture. For those interested in joining us on this trip, don't forget to bring along your flexibility, good humor, and love of adventure and discovery!


This trip is as much a cultural experience as it is a hiking and walking trip. It would be a fabulous experience for any fit, active traveler, but especially for those who have hiked or walked in other parts of the world but have yet to travel to Japan. While the hiking routes may not feel as extensive or remote, nor the landscapes as expansive as those in the Rockies or European Alps, the cultural aspect adds an intriguing and captivating dimension. Very basic things, like eating and sleeping, can be quite different in Japan. Breakfast might look very much like dinner, and getting up and down off a futon on a tatami mat floor can be an interesting new exercise. The Japanese are generally extremely polite and respectful. Certain social etiquettes require more mindful attention than others, such as bathing at hot springs, and less inhibition. An openness and willingness to try new things is an essential and rewarding part of this journey.


Many things! The tour is designed to provide some great hiking experiences as well as insights into Japanese history and culture. The itinerary highlights some of the most interesting and rewarding sections of the Kumano imperial pilgrimage routes, with visits to many of the most important sacred sites in the Kii Peninsula. The other destinations we’ll visit - Yoshino, Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto, are all significant in gaining a good understanding of pilgrimage routes in this part of Japan and how Japanese culture developed in the Yamato area around Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto. We’ll gain insights into Japanese culture other visitors rarely have. Highly experienced guides, carefully chosen lodgings, some with onsen - wonderful natural hot spring baths, and delicious Japanese food, all contribute to making this tour truly special.


Please contact us for a more detailed itinerary, for more information, or to register

Reserving This Trip

A deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.

The balance is due 90 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.

As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment and no later than 30 days prior to your trip start, you will receive trip rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.

Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.

Reserve Your Spot

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