Kumano Ancient Trail

Kumano Ancient Trail

A small-group guided walking tour with five hikes of 2-6 hours of village-to-village walking on the Kumano Kodo Trail

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour


  • From imperial Kyoto, head through the Kumano mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the Pacific Ocean fishing port of Kii-Katsuura 
  • Accommodation in old hot spring villages 
  • Boat ride through the Doro-kyo Gorge 
  • Enjoy an exclusive Shamisen musical performance in a lovely traditional setting on the Kumano Kodo trail

Follow the Emperor’s footsteps, and join our small-group guided tour to discover the highlights of the World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. You will walk 2 to 6 hours a day on the mountainous Kii Peninsula, located South of Kyoto and Osaka. The ancient trail crosses through deep valleys, mountains and small villages, and has been walked since the 8th century. On the way, you will stop at local inns, offering fresh local food and delightful hot spring baths.


  • Day
  • 1
Meet in Kyoto
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Welcome Dinner

Meet at the tour hotel in central Kyoto in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Day
  • 2
Travel to the Kii Peninsula
  • Walking 4.5 km
  • World Heritage site 370m ascent, 175m descent
  • Walking about 2 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Ryokan (Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We travel south along the coast by train to Tanabe (about 3 hours), then transfer by local bus (about 40 minutes) to Takijiri, at the beginning of the Nakahechi, part of the network of ancient pilgrimage trails known as the Kumano Kodo, or Kumano Ancient Trail. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo became popular from the 11th century as a place of pilgrimage from Kyoto by Emperors. The Kii Peninsula, which extends south from Nara and Osaka, has long been considered sacred
in Japan, the entrance to the land of Yomi, the mythical afterworld. It is also the site of the three sacred shrines of Kumano, the Kumano Sanzan. We continue with a 2-hour hike to the small hilltop village of Takahara, where we spend the night. Our accommodation is a delightful Japanese-style Ryokan built by local craftsmen in wood with rooms affording spectacular
views over the surrounding mountains. There are hot spring baths and the sumptuous evening meal is made with organic locally-sourced ingredients.

  • Day
  • 3
Hike Takahara to Chikatsuyu
  • Walking 11.3km 
  • World Heritage site 350m ascent, 360m descent
  • Walking 4 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Starting from Takahara, we continue eastwards along the Nakahechi pilgrimage trail. Along the path we pass small jizo bodhisattva statues, placed there by locals to protect travellers. There are also the sites of old cha-ya (tea houses), which provided rest to pilgrims right up until the early 20th century. We descend to the village of Chikatsuyu and our accommodation for tonight. We stay in the friendly guest house run by local couple Mr and Mrs Kinoshita. A former company-worker in the coastal town of Tanabe, Kinoshita-san moved to his home village to set up the popular guesthouse.

Next door they have their own natural hot spring baths. In the evening the dinner menu might include their delicious akikomi-gohan (rice steamed with vegetables), freshly-caught fish, and tempura. After dinner, a local Shamisen music group will treat us to a private performance in the lovely setting of our Chikatsuyu Branch. Enjoy this rare opportunity for a close-up experience of Japanese musical tradition.

  • Day
  • 4
Hike Chikatsuyu to Hongu Grand Shrine
  • Walking 12.9km 
  • World Heritage site 321m ascent, 360m descent
  • Walking 4 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Onsen Ryokan (Hot spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Today we hike two scenic sections of the Kumano Kodo trail, passing ridge-top villages and oji shrines. Nobles would rest at these sub-shrines to refresh themselves and compose poems. From Chikatsuyu we walk first to Kobiro, then take a local bus to Hoshinmon-oji. From Hoshinmon-oji we descend to Hongu Grand Shrine. The symbol of the shrine is the mythological three-legged raven, representing the Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama shrines – the same motif as the one used by the Japan Football Association. The three-legged crow was in mythology sent to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from Kumano to the Yamato Plain. After visiting the shrine, we transfer by local bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan, or to Kawayu Onsen famous for the thermal water bubbling to the surface of the crystal-clear river. We stay overnight in a comfortable Ryokan with its own hot spring bath or ‘rotemburo’.

  • Day
  • 5
Boat ride on the Kumano River
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Onsen Ryokan (Hot spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We transfer by local bus to the Kumano River. We board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat to take us on a gentle one-and-a-half-hour ride along the Kumano River to the Hayatama Taisha Shrine, just as Imperial pilgrims did in olden times. Afterwards, we will travel back by bus to Yunomine Onsen for another night at our hot spring Ryokan. There will be time to soak in one of the natural hot spring baths before dinner.

  • Day
  • 6
Hike to Nachi Grand Shrine and waterfall
  • Walking 14.5km
  • World Heritage site 980m ascent, 920m descent
  • Walking 6 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Japanese-style Hot spring Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We transfer by local bus to Koguchi and hike the final section of the trail over the Ogumotorigoe Pass, to glimpse the Pacific Ocean and then descend to Nachi-taki waterfall and Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine), one of the three “Grand Shrines of Kumano”.
From there we take a short bus ride to the fishing port of Katsuura and to our hotel.

  • Day
  • 7
Optional coastal hiking or relax at the Onsen hot spring
  • WalkingOptional walk
  • Walking 6.4km
  • World Heritage site 546m ascent, 539m descent
  • Walking 3 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Japanese-style Hot spring Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Today there is an optional hike along a different section of the Kumano Kodo. This is a coastal part of the Iseji route, which has some lovely views over the Pacific Ocean, pretty villages and the oldest paved section on the entire Kumano Kodo network, with stone blocks dating back eight hundred years. Alternatively, you can choose to relax and try the various hot spring baths
in your hotel. You can also explore the town, with its excellent seafood, old-fashioned Japanese shopping arcade and a few interesting backstreets.

  • Day
  • 8
Transfer to Kyoto
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

We leave the Kii Peninsula this morning, travelling on the coastal rail line to Kyoto. Our final tour night is at a central western-style hotel in the city and we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with our guide.


  • Day
  • 9
Tour ends
  • Meal Breakfast

On our final day, we will say farewell in Kyoto after breakfast at the tour hotel. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for your journey to the airport or onward travel in Japan.



Tour Length 

9 days


From $5,665 per person, twin share

Type and Level of Trip

Village-to-village hiking in the sacred Kii Peninsula for 9 days
Strenuous – 4 or 5 days of walking from 2 to 7 hours per day on mountain trails

What is Included
  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
  • 8 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan and Minshuku)
  • Due to the rural nature of this tour, some properties will only have Japanese-style bedding and shared facilities
  • Daily breakfast & 8 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group’s itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage on 2 occasions
What’s Not Included
  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
  • A single room supplement is required for solo travellers at hotels
  • When the group stays at Japanese-style properties you might be asked to share a room with another group member of the same gender

05 OCT 2020 

21 OCT 2020 

04 NOV 2020 

11 NOV 2020 

11 APR 2021 

05 MAY 2021 

17 MAY 2021 

20 OCT 2021 

10 NOV 2021 

Important Due to the rural nature of this tour, slight alterations of the itinerary are possible.

< 2020s30s40s50s60s70+

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour