Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley Tour Overview

The Nakasendo is the historic road running inland from Kyoto to Edo (modern day Tokyo). The trail passes through picturesque historical post towns proudly restored and preserved by the local people and through valleys with beautiful rolling countryside.

On this eight-night tour starting in Nagoya, we walk approximately 70 kilometres over five days. Our tour takes us to a section of the Nakasendo in the central Kiso region.

For three days we walk the prettiest sections of the Nakasendo trail through the Kiso valley. We then detour off the Nakasendo trail, walking past waterfalls and through forest into the highlands of the Kaida plateau, famous for its blueberry farms, native Kiso horses and wonderful views of Mount Ontake. After spending the night at a traditional inn, we return to the Nakasendo trail for a final morning of walking into the picturesque Edo period post town of Narai before finishing our tour in the castle town of Matsumoto.

Along the Nakasendo trail we stay in a variety of traditional Japanese inns steeped in history, some of which have onsen or traditional Japanese hot spring baths. Meals are one of the highlights of staying at these traditional inns and we are treated to meticulously prepared regional cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. All dinners and breakfasts, and most lunches, are included in the tour price.

Luggage shuttles are provided on this tour as per the itinerary and we carry light packs for walking. On a few nights of the tour (not consecutive) our luggage is forwarded one night ahead and we need to carry our overnight requirements in our packs. As the Japanese inns provide a cotton yukata for wearing to dinner and to bed and also towels and basic toiletries (toothbrush, shampoo, body wash), items required for overnight can easily be kept to a minimum to keep our packs light on these days.

Our Nakasendo tour through the Kiso valley is suitable for active healthy people prepared to walk for 5 – 6 hours per day. On two days we walk approximately 20 kilometres, although we are able to offer options if required to shorten these days. The trail is hilly in parts and has some steep sections but these are relatively short. Generally speaking the terrain is even underfoot.


Further information

About the Nakasendo

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Upcoming Tours

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Nakasendo Testimonials

  • Back from our second trip with Alison and Carolyn. What a special time. Just love the combination of outdoors / fabulous food / rural and forest Japan / great company / quirky and amazing accommodation / caring and convivial guides/ ahh the onsens at the end of the day! Both Alison and Carolyn are so caring and patient with us all. They love what they do. Can’t recommend these tours enough for a deep dive into walking and Japanese culture!

    Anne and Orlando October 2017 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley + April 2023 | Koyasan and Kumano Kodo
  • Highlights for me…Tea shop with Kabuki guy – loved it! Lunch in shelter between Magome and Tsumago – oishii!! Entertainment at Café Poppoya and view of Mt Ontake from there. Yamaka no yu Ryokan – so comfortable. Sweet in Tsumago – dried persimmon filling with chestnut filling. Waki Honjin in Tsumago – especially the bit about who sat where around the fire!! Greatly appreciated your notes for reference.

    Maureen April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • We walked with Alison and Carolyn on the Kumano Kodo in 2018. We chose them after considering other options as we were impressed by their personal approach and their life long love of Japan. We felt like we would be travelling with close friends rather than just making up the numbers on a tour. Our expectations were well and truly exceeded, so much so, that we booked a return tour on the Nakasendo this year. We were concerned that a similar holiday second time around may be disappointing. On the contrary it turned out to be refreshingly different and challenging thanks to Alison and Carolyn’s leadership and caring approach. If you want to be truly immersed in Japanese culture (food, Ryokans, landscape, history, etc) and want the personal touch you won’t do better than Kumano Camino.

    Ian and Annie November 2018 | Koyasan and Kumano Kodo + April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • I felt a sense of relief to begin with the group, having had some challenges with the language and communicating my needs. I felt things were well organised, fine attention to our individual and group needs. The places we visited were extremely interesting and having details around various historical or cultural matters enriched the experience. Carolyn and Alison helped make the whole group cohere and we had lots of fun together.

    Anne April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • This is a fabulous way to discover Japan. In some ways it is a gourmet tour with walking on the side – but the walking is a highlight too. Alison and Carolyn leave nothing to chance – their attention to detail is superb. You must go!

    Michael April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • I have now travelled the Nakasendo and Kumano trails – what a joy. We enjoyed rural inns, beautiful countryside, knowledgeable guides and gourmet food. We had fun, learned a lot about Japanese culture and history and appreciated our travel companions – all thanks to Alison and Carolyn.

    Chris November 2018 | Koyasan and Kumano Kodo + April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • I want to thank you both so much for such a wonderful experience on the Nakasendo Way. Every aspect of the trip – from your flawless pre-planning, your sharing of your knowledge of the history & stories along our journey, the uniqueness & comfort of the ryokan's, & the food (ooh the food!!) exceeded my expectations ten-fold. Walking the meandering ishidatami paths in the dappled light of the soaring cedar & cypress trees was my favourite part & I will treasure those memories for many years to come.

    Susan April 2023 | Nakasendo and the Kiso Valley
  • Thank you both for the wonderful introduction to Japan. It really couldn’t have been better! Walking the Nakasendo Way was a perfect way to start. Firstly there was the massive advantage of your knowledge and guidance and secondly, walking through the countryside, passing through post-towns and experiencing the history was a more authentic introduction to Japan than arriving in a big city. Even if I’d done heaps of research I never could have constructed anything approaching the Tour you’ve designed. I really appreciate your fantastic trip notes, even more after the event. The experience of the ryokans and food was amazing and our daily routine became everyday life rather than a one-off touristy experience.

    Mary October 2018 | Nakasendo Early Autumn Tour
  • Thank you for the extraordinary job you both did to make our walking tour so enjoyable - from the logistics of food and lodgings to sharing your love and your knowledge of Japan. I admired how you managed the needs and wishes of your clients, how you were always supportive and respectful to and about each other and how you use each other’s separate strengths to get things done.

    Jean October 2018 | Nakasendo Autumn Tour
  • Walking the Nakasendo trail guided by Alison and Carolyn was a pure joy. Not only had they chosen exceptionally beautiful sections of this famous ancient highway, but the accommodation in the traditional inns gave us a unique and authentic Japanese experience. Every meal was a journey into Japanese gastronomy, exquisitely presented and explained. Both competent Japanese speakers they smoothed the way through the normal difficulties, enjoyed the walk themselves and offered in depth information about where we were and the history along the way. We traversed remote countryside, forests, preserved ancient villages and small towns and were rewarded with a traditional hot bath/onsen and celebratory drink at the end of each day. We also appreciated the comprehensive lead up preparation and information before we departed. If you want to see the real Japan, we can highly recommend walking the Nakasendo with Kumano Camino. A unique experience.

    Frank and Judy April 2017 | Nakasendo Spring Tour
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