Kumano Kodo

Ancient paths in traditional Japan

Hiking the Kumano Kodo offers a great immersion into Japanese culture. Experience traditional hospitality and marvel at grand shrines amidst awe-inspiring nature. This is a Japan that will surprise and delight you at every turn.

The ancient Kumano Kodo trails are nestled in the verdant mountains of the beautiful Kii Peninsula, just south of Osaka. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries. The sacred Nakahechi pilgrimage route is the most popular and accessible of the Kumano Kodo routes and the most sacred walk in Japan. 

The 1000-year-old trail takes walkers past ancient shrines, through thick forests and offers endless mountain vistas. The rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys, rivers and waterfalls provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers. The seasonal contrasts of cherry blossom in the spring and rich autumn foliage inject wonderful colour along the hiking route. 

At the end of each day, soak in an onsen hot bath while you relive the day’s experiences and await a multi-course feast of delicious Japanese cuisine.

Take a journey through Buddhist history and glimpse into a traditional Japan that contrasts strongly with its hyper-modern cities. 

On this ancient spiritual trail you can’t help but feel the mystical energy and will return rejuvenated and reinvigorated. 

Kumano Kodo


Tori gate icon


Accommodation along the Kumano Kodo is in small-scale ryokans and guesthouses, giving you an intimate and authentic encounter with Japanese culture. The food is superb and each day you can unwind in a hot onsen after your exertions on the trail.

Boot icon


We have our own exclusive guidebook for the Kumano Kodo trail, plus our passionate office team walk this route each year and can provide up-to-date local knowledge and insights. We have local support in Japan to ensure that everything goes to plan, provide back-up if you need it, and luggage transfers during the walk.

signs icon


We listen to what you want and tailor the walking on the Kumano Kodo to your ability and timeframes, giving you the experience you want. We can vary the length of trail stages and find you unique Japanese accommodation that best suits your needs and desires.

temple icon


This is a land of spectacular rugged mountains and forests, a world away from Japan's hectic and hypermodern cities. The ancient 1200-year-old trail of the Kumano Kodo is an immersion into traditional rural Japan with the goal of reaching the Kumano Sanzen, three beautiful temples in the mountains and coast.


Walk highlights

On the trail

Watch our 2-minute video we shot showing you some of the scenic highlights of the Kumano Kodo trail as it winds through the mountains and forests of the Kii Peninsula. The mystical and remote nature of the Kumano region has drawn walkers for over 1200 years and that experience of serenity can still be found today. The magnificent waterfall of Nachi-no-Otaki and the temple complex of  Kumano Nachi Taisha at the end of the trail is shown here.

View Our Walks

Kumano Kodo Walks

Kumano waterfall
8 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Spring Trip – Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Group Self Guided
  • A great option for solo travellers
  • Stay in traditional guesthouses
  • Spring is a wonderful time to hike the Nakahechi Trail
  • Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients


view trip
7 Days

Kumano Kodo

The 7 Day Trail – Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Self-Guided
  • Walk the full length of the Nakahechi trail
  • Stay in traditional guesthouses
  • Gain insights into life in rural Japan and the spiritual history
  • Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients


view trip
Kumano Spring Festival, Japan
8 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Spring Festival Trip – Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Group Self Guided
  • Experience the annual Spring Festival held in Hongu to honour the Kumano Deities
  • Participate in a purification ceremony
  • Hike one of the two UNESCO World Heritage registered pilgrimage routes
  • Enjoy wonderful Japanese hospitality and food


view trip
10 Days

Kumano Kodo

Kumano Kodo in Depth with Mike Rhodes

Challenging - Strenuous Group Guided
  • Hike the full length of the Nakahechi route
  • Gain a great understanding of this ancient pilgrimage trail
  • Be enlightened by the experience, enthusiasm and knowledge of your local guide Mike Rhodes


view trip
6 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Highlights Trip – Kumano Kodo

Moderate - Challenging Self-Guided
  • Stay in traditional minshuku and ryokans
  • Enjoy a traditional boat ride on the Kumano-gawa river 
  • Savour delicious Japanese cuisine
  • Visit all 3 Kumano Sanzan grand shrines


view trip
10 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Extended Trip – Kumano Kodo

Self-Guided Strenuous
  • Hike the full length of the Nakahechi route
  • Enjoy a day on the challenging Kohechi route
  • Journey along the Kumano-gawa river in a traditional boat
  • Experience the life of a monk by staying in a Buddhist monastery


view trip
Koyasan, Japan
9 Days

Kumano Kodo

Koyasan and Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Self-Guided
  • Beautiful nature walking through rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys and alongside rivers.
  • Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
  • Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
  • Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony


view trip
8 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Autumn Trip – Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Group Self Guided
  • Stay in traditional guesthouses
  • Beautiful, changing colours are a highlight for people on this trek
  • Enjoy delicious handmade Japanese food with fresh local ingredients
  • A great option for solo travellers or enjoy the company and support of others


view trip
Kumano Kodo
12 Days

Kumano Kodo

Nakahechi & Kohechi trip – Kumano Kodo

Self-Guided Strenuous
  • Challenging hike through the rugged forested mountains
  • Walk the full length of both the Nakahechi and Kohechi routes
  • Journey along the Kumano-gawa river in a traditional boat
  • Stay in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan


view trip
Best time to visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit


Kumano Kodo Route Map


Kii-Tanabe is the gateway town to the Nakahechi (‘Imperial Route’) of the Kumano Kodo. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other. From here, it’s a 40-minute bus ride to the trailhead at Takijiri-oji.


Takijiri is the traditional starting point of the Kumano Kodo walk and where you will find the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre. The trailhead is behind the Takijiri-oji, which is considered to be where the passage into the precincts of the sacred mountains begins.


The small village of Chikatsuyu sits at the base of the mountain trail at the Hidaka-gawa River. Inns and a couple small restaurants run along the main road, which runs east and west. The area features an ancient weeping cherry blossom tree, an ancient graveyard for warriors, a local experience centre and Chikatsuyu-oji.


At the impressive Tsugizakura-oji shrine there are giant Nonaka-no-Ipposugi cedar trees. Some have a circumference of 8m and are believed to be up to 800 years old. This shrine, along with its trees, was scheduled to be demolished in 1906 as part of the government’s shrine consolidation program. It was saved by Minakata Kumagusu, an eccentric genius researcher and avant-garde environmentalist.


Hosshinmon-oji is one of the most important sites on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. It marks the outermost entrance into the divine precincts of the Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Kumano Hongu Taisha

Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three grand shines of Kumano and the head shrine of over 3000 Kumano shrines across Japan. A long stone staircase leads to the sacred grounds of the shrine, located on a ridge and surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. On the riverbank is Oyunohara, the original shrine ground of Kumano Hongu Taisha, marked by an immense Torii gateway – the biggest in Japan!

Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine is a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley deep in the heart of the sacred mountains of Kumano. It was discovered about 1,800 years ago, and it is thought to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. The onsen culture in Japan is very rich, but the strong connection with spiritual culture found in Yunomine is unprecedented.

Kawayu Onsen

On the north side of this hot spring town is a diverse collection of places to stay. On the south side of the river is a green forested mountainside. The defining feature of Kawayu Onsen is the Oto river. In the evening, enjoy a soak while watching the warm mist from the river rise slowly into the clean mountain air.



Hyakken-gura pass

At the Hyakken-gura pass there is a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop with a backdrop of the most spectacular vista of the trip! The impressive lookout surprises walkers with a lovely panoramic view of the 3600 peaks of Kumano.


The small mountain village of Koguchi is nestled along the Akagi-gawa River almost directly in-between Hongu and Nachi. It is refreshing to put your feet in the river after a hot day’s hike.


Nachisan is where you’ll find the brightly coloured Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, the wonderful wooden Seiganto-ji temple and the spectacular Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, which is the highest in Japan and can be seen from far out on the Pacific Ocean. The extra section of trail between Nachisan and Daimon-zaka is an impressive cobblestone staircase lined with centuries-old trees.


Kii-Katsura is located on the southeast coast of the Kii Peninsula. It is in essence a fishing port turned hot spring resort. The most dominant landmark in Katsuura is the Hotel Urashima. It has the feel of an Onsen Disneyland or James Bond-like fortress and is located on an island-like peninsula in Katsuura Bay.


Shingu is where Kumano Hayatama Taisha, one of the sacred Grand Shrines of the Kumano region, is located. Although the shrine buildings were rebuilt recently, the Hayatama Taisha has occupied the same location since at least the 12th century and the area has been a site of nature worship for much longer. The ancient 800-year-old Nagi-no-Ki tree highlights the area’s deep tradition of nature worship and is considered a sacred tree of God.

Kumano-gawa River

For centuries, the Kumano-gawa River was a vital section of the pilgrimage route between Kumano Hongu Taisha in Hongu and Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu. Traditional wooden flat-bottom boats carry modern pilgrims down the river, in the same manner as royal and noble families long ago.

Totsukawa Onsen

Totsukawa Onsen is an isolated hot spring paradise. The small community is spread thinly along the riverside squeezed next to the base of steep mountains. There are three free-flowing hot springs: Tosenji, Totsukawa and Kamiyu. A popular tourist attraction is the Tanizen Suspension Bridge that stretches 297m across and 54m up from the valley floor.


The secluded mountain town of Koyasan is surrounded by the eight peaks of Mt Koya and said to resemble a lotus flower. There are 115 temples, including Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, the stunning vermilion Konpon Daito and Daimon, the majestic entrance gate to this mountain complex. Okunoin has at its centre the mausoleum to Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect and one of Japan’s most significant religious figures.


Travel Experts

Your Dedicated Travel Team



Kumano Kodo destination guide


Japan’s ancient Kumano Kodo trails are nestled in the verdant mountains of the southern part of the beautiful Kii Peninsula, just south of Osaka. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries.

Our destination guide is bursting with all you need to know about walking the sacred Nakahechi pilgrimage route, the most popular and accessible of all the routes. You’ll love the peacefulness and tranquillity of the trail, the food (so elegant and refined!), the onsens (a cherished Japanese ritual), and the traditional family run guesthouses, full of character and charm.

Download Now

Kumano Kodo

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the origins of the Kumano Kodo?

For millennia, the mountainous region of Kumano has been thought to be the mythical ‘holy ground where gods dwell’. Pilgrimages to the shrines became popular for the imperial families and aristocracy between the 9th and 12th centuries. During this time, Kumano was worshipped as a place of rebirth where spirits going to the afterworld would gather and pray for their happiness in the next world. By the 14th century, samurai warriors and commoners started to do the pilgrimage, and by the 17th century it had widely spread to all. People from all levels of society have journeyed to the tranquil Kii Mountains, following many pilgrimage routes to the revered Kumano Sanzan Shrines. The various paths are known collectively as the Kumano Kodo.

How long is the Kumano Kodo and is it well signed?

The total distance of the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo is 68km. It reaches a maximum elevation of only 868m, and is very serene and peaceful. The trail takes hikers through a mountainous and sparsely populated part of the Japanese mainland. It starts from Takijiri on the western coast of the Kii Peninsula and works its way east across the mountains towards the Kumano grand shrines at Hongu and then Nachisan. It is extremely well marked with wooden signs. There are waymarkers every 500m as well as regular signs indicating directions and distances.

When is the best time to walk the Kumano Kodo?
How difficult is the Kumano Kodo?
How is the Kumano Kodo different from the Nakasendo Way?

We often get asked about the differences between the Kumano Kodo and the Nakasendo Way and if they can be combined in one trip. Both trails are very well suited for self-guided trekking and provide a breathtaking authentic adventure. Learn all about the main differences between these two walks.

How do you get to the starting point of the Kumano Kodo walk?

The nearest international airport to the Kumano Kodo is the Kansai International located just outside of Osaka, at the top of the Kii-Peninsula and a convenient access point. The rail network connects you with Kii-Tanabe and from Kii-Tanabe you reach the trailhead at Takijiri by a local bus that departs from just outside the Kii-Tanabe train station. Kii-Tanabe is where you will find the Tanabe Tourist Information Centre. Your tour orientation will be scheduled with staff here who will provide you with detailed pilgrimage route maps, up to date bus timetables as well as the latest track conditions.

What essential gear do you recommended for walking the Kumano Kodo?

The Kumano Kodo is in the Kii Peninsula, which is a very wet part of Japan. Expect rain at any time of year. You’ll need sturdy hiking boots (not trainers) as you’ll want to keep your feet dry and protect your toes when walking over rough rocky ground. Also bring a waterproof breathable jacket and over-trousers, and a waterproof cover for your daypack. Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing and add in a hat, sunscreen, and a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated. On this trail there are many steep ascents and descents, sometimes on stone staircases and over tree roots. Trekking poles will give you extra stability, especially when it is wet. Our comprehensive packing list is tailored to the Kumano Kodo’s unique demands and will ensure you are well-equipped for the pilgrimage. If you embrace the journey fully with the right gear, you can focus on the spiritual and cultural experiences of this trail.

Is the Kumano Kodo suitable for solo travellers?

RAW Travel embraces solo walkers and supports them to have a fulfilling and culturally immersive journey along the Kumano Kodo. The trail is in an isolated part of Japan, so if you are walking on your own you need to consider that you may not see many other walkers each day, depending on the time of year you walk. On our guided and group trips, we offer twin-share accommodation and can pair you up with another traveller.

How do I become a dual pilgrim?

Japan’s Kumano Kodo trail and Spain’s Camino de Santiago are the only two pilgrimage routes on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list and the trails have been twinned since 2014. The Camino trail is an important Christian pilgrimage route, while the Kumano Kodo is a significant part of the Japanese Shinto (Buddhist) religion. The Dual Pilgrim program was developed to celebrate, honour, and share the stories of those who have completed both of these UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage routes.

RAW Travel compass

Not quite what you're after?

Tailor-made trips

If you don’t see the exact trip you’re looking for then consider a customised trip, individually tailored to your ideal walking distances and timeframes. Or if you have a group of friends or family you can have your own private group departure. Have a look at our tailor-made trips page on the link below and drop us a line:

Customise this trip

sign up to our newsletter

explore the world with Raw