Kumano Kodo and Koyasan Tour Overview

Since ancient times the “Kumano” has been considered a place of healing; a sacred, mystical abode of the gods.

On this tour, just over one week in length, walk the sacred Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail to the revered shrines of the Kumano and visit Koyasan; for over 1200 years the home of Shingon Buddhism. Both the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail and its shrines and Koyasan (or Mt Koya) are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage listing as “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. Koyasan and the Kumano Kodo are located on the Kii peninsula, the largest peninsula on the island of Honshu, not far from where we start our tour in Japan’s second largest city of Osaka.

After leaving Osaka, we travel by train high into the Kii mountain range to Koyasan, home of Shingon Buddhism and more than 100 Buddhist temples for over 1200 years. A highlight of the time we spend at Koyasan is an atmospheric night walk along a stone lantern lit path through Okunoin, Japan’s largest Buddhist cemetery.

From Koyasan, our private bus takes us to Takijiri oji where we commence our Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail passes through mountains and forests and alongside streams to the revered Kumano “Sanzen”; the three grand Shinto shrines of the Kumano. The trail is mainly through forest with magnificent views to mountain ranges and to the ocean. On occasions the trail passes through rural hamlets, rice paddies, orange groves and small tea plantations.

The Kumano Kodo is demanding and some will find it quite challenging. Over four and a half days we hike about 70 kilometres, with a number of steep ascents and descents. The first 40 kilometres takes two and half days as we walk into the mountains to the main shrine; Kumano Hongu Taisha. From there we walk a further two days to Nachi Taisha, the second of the grand Kumano shrines. Nachi Taisha is situated on a mountain slope with views to the Pacific, with the highest waterfall in Japan forming a spectacular backdrop. On the longer or more challenging days we offer options to reduce the amount of walking.

We stay in a variety of traditional Japanese accommodation along the walk, bathe in hot spring fed “onsens” and are treated to the meticulously prepared regional cuisine. At Koyasan we stay in a Buddhist temple and enjoy “Shojin Ryori” vegetarian meals. Along the walk we carry only a day pack and our luggage is shuttled each day to our accommodation.

The Kumano and Koyasan are both highly significant from a cultural and religious stand point, but it is not necessary to have any particular interest in the history of Japanese religions to enjoy these beautiful and still relatively rarely visited areas.

Kumano Kodo Map

Further information

About the Kumano Kodo

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About Koyasan

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Kumano Kodo Testimonials

  • The Kumano Kodo was everything I hoped for and more. Great Japanese food, lovely traditional accommodation and a relaxing Onsen at the end of every day. Carolyn and Alison were very supportive, knowledgeable, both speak fluent Japanese, complement each other and are a lot of fun. Having 2 guides is a definite asset for the varying levels of fitness in the group. The walk is challenging in parts, but the beauty and peacefulness make it well worth the effort.

    Leanne April 2016 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
  • The Kumano Kodo experience highlights totally different aspects of Japan. Whilst some sections of the walk were challenging, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular, the food was fabulous, & the hosts in the various locations were extremely accommodating. The temple experience in Koyasan is a definite must. The guides had good knowledge of the area & local customs.

    MV and Michael April 2016 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
  • The Kumano Kodo walk was one of the happiest of holidays. The scenery is spectacular and so tranquil. We were provided with daily briefings and every day was a new experience. The walk is challenging at times. Having two guides offers the flexibility for guests to walk at their own pace. I would highly recommend this guided walk.

    Gail November 2015 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
  • Walking the Kumano Kodo was one of the best holidays I have ever had.  The walk was certainly tough but the sights, the company and the great food and accommodation made every day worth the challenge.  Alison and Carolyn were wonderfully knowledgeable and accommodating guides.  Pre-trip and daily briefings provided all the information that I needed.  It was an immersion into Japanese culture combined with a physical challenge that I enjoyed enormously.  Alison and Carolyn love to share what they love about Japan and they are fun and engaging host(esses)!

    Bernadette November 2015 | Kumano Kodo Autumn Tour
  • We had an awesome time walking through spectacular landscapes culminating each night with an exquisite feast of locally grown food, and relaxing in the onsen. Thanks to our very caring and knowledgeable  guides, Alison and Carolyn, who made our experience so memorable.

    Juliana and Peter April 2015 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
  • Thank you Alison and Carolyn. This was a great introduction to Japanese walking and to authentic Japanese regional cuisine. The ryokans were very well chosen, each with their own individual character. A visit to an onsen is definitely the way to finish a day’s hiking!

    Michael March 2014 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
  • Walking the Kumano Kodo was an amazing adventure. Alison and Carolyn were thoughtful and engaging guides who took care of every detail. The inns were fantastic and the food was sensational. More importantly the scenery was breathtaking with the highlight being Nachi Taisha.

    Megan March 2014 | Kumano Kodo Spring Tour
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