length

7 Days

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

trip cost

From $2895 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

7 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Moderate - Challenging

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

From $2895 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • Itinerary
  • On the Trail
  • Inclusions
  • Exclusive Guide
  • Similar Walks

Overview

The Highlights Trip

This itinerary is a great introduction to walking in Japan and features all the highlights of the Nakasendo Way. Explore the well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage villages of Magome, Tsumago and Narai — the most popular section of the Nakasendo Way — then travel on from the Nakasendo to Nagano and Togakushi.

Japan’s Nakasendo Way – or Central Mountain Route – was one of five major routes established by the Shogunate (military dictator) during the Edo period (1603–1868). The route is 533km long and has 69 post towns, which were set up to feed and accommodate the feudal lords, samurai, and merchant travellers. This ancient way passes through the Kiso Valley which is wedged between two of Japan’s sacred mountains (Mount Ontake 3067m and Mt Komagatake 2956m) and is one of Japan’s most breathtaking and scenic areas.

Ancient paved paths known as ishidatami take you past hidden waterfalls, wayside shrines and through stunning cedar and cypress forests. Stay overnight in family-run ryokans and enjoy the wonderful well-preserved ancient villages of Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai, and taste the local delights of the Kiso Valley and Gifu Prefecture. Then journey by train to Nagano, before making your way to Togakushi to experience one of Japan’s most spectacular day hikes.

Nakasendo way _gallery0007

Highlights

Get Ready For

  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Learn the feudal history of the Nakasendo Way with our local guide
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai
  • Original ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Togakushi, visit shrines, walk amongst giant cedar trees
  • Nagano, home to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s most important
  • Follow in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shogun (Feudal Japanese military government) and the samurai during the Edo period (1603–1868)

Itinerary

Daily details

Week 1: NAKATSUGAWA to NAGANO
Day 1
ARRIVE NAKATSUGAWA

Arrive at your starting point in Nakatsugawa, which is number 45 of the 69 post towns on the Nakasendo Way. Spend the rest of the day exploring many of the old buildings and shops that still operate today. Head out on a 3km walk from your hotel to visit the Naegi Castle ruins. You are invited to take up an optional Backstreets Walking tour of Nakatsugawa during the afternoon. On the tour an expert local guide escorts you through the town’s narrow winding streets to help you discover the myriad of well-preserved wooden buildings, residences and warehouses (kura) originally constructed during the historical Edo period. During that time the town prospered with a population of over 1000 people and around 200 houses. This is an opportunity to learn about the town’s rich history and gain an understanding of today’s village life as you encounter locals along the way. (Additional cost applies – please enquire at time of booking.)

Meals: D

Day 2
NAKATSUGAWA TO TSUMAGO (16KM)

After leaving Nakatsugawa at the ancient kosatsuba (official proclamation board) you will see the red torii gates. Expect steep slopes today before Ochiai, after which you begin walking on an old cobblestoned way. This route takes you to the entrance of Magome, one of the highlights of the Nakasendo Way. Follow the stone path into Magome. Notably, its kosatsuba features old wooden tablets stating in Japanese that: “No Christianity can be practised”. Magome is number 43 of the 69 post towns along the way to Edo (Tokyo). It is an insight into how the post towns were in the Edo period. Take time to stroll through the small shops on the main street.

The Nakasendo Way continues right through the centre of Magome past these old shops and inns. The trail begins to climb up to the small touge (pass), where there is a good rest spot. You then walk over the Magome Pass (800m) and slowly descend through peaceful woodland. Listen for the roar of the Odaki-Medaki waterfalls, the sound of which slowly fades as you pass streams and rice paddies coming into the old (smaller) village of O-tsumago. Leaving O-tsumago, the trail climbs briefly before descending into the enchanting village of the main village, Tsumago (number 42 of the 69 post towns). The street is lined with traditional Japanese wooden houses, shops and ryokan (inns). Take up the opportunity to don a traditional yukata gown (provided by your inn) and stroll through the streets after dinner.

Meals: B D

Day 3
HIKE TSUMAGO TO NOJIRI (17KM) THEN TRAIN TO KISO-FUKUSHIMA

Leave the old town of Tsumago at the ancient kosatsuba. The trail then ascends steeply up the valley. Continue through the forest on what our local guide refers to as the Yogawa Forest Route to Nojiri, passing through cedar forests and farmland. This is one of the most scenic sections of the walk. The forest walk joins the Kiso River at Nojiri. After a late lunch in Nojiri, make your way to the train station for a 40-minute ride to Kiso-Fukushima. Located halfway on the Nakasendo Way between Kyoto and Tokyo, Fukushima was an important checkpoint during the Edo period. The barrier station is situated on the hill overlooking the river as well the Yamamura Daikan (a previous official’s mansion). Both are open to the public and have weapons and other artefacts on display. Kiso-Fukushima is also home to the largest stone garden in Japan, and there are a number of Zen Buddhist temples to visit, the most famous being the Kozenji.

Meals: B D

Day 4
TRAIN FROM KISO-FUKUSHIMA TO YABUHARA AND HIKE TO NARAI (8KM)

Today a leisurely start lets you spend some time in Kiso-Fukushima before catching the train to Yabuhara, where your trek resumes. By doing this we avoid the highway walking from Kiso-Fukushima. From Yabuhara, the Nakasendo Way climbs up to the Torii Pass, named after the Shinto torii gate, which marks one of four protective sites surrounding Mount Ontake. At 1197m, the Torii Pass is a great vantage point for views of Mount Ontake on a clear day. The descent takes you along narrow mountain paths until you emerge at the outskirts of Narai, the wealthiest of the post towns along the trail. Explore and relax in the cafes and shops of this well-preserved and atmospheric town.

Meals: B D

Day 5
TRAVEL TO TOGAKUSHI VIA NAGANO

Make your way by train to Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics. There’s time to explore Nagano in the afternoon and visit Zenkoji Temple and the surrounding shops and restaurants. The Zenkoji Temple is considered one of Japan’s most important and popular temples. It was founded in the 7th-century, and the town of Nagano formed around the temple. You then board a local bus for a scenic drive through the mountains to Togakushi. After arriving, make your way to your traditional accommodation and enjoy relaxing in the onsen. This area is famous for its soba noodles, which will no doubt form part of your evening’s gourmet meal.

Meals: B D

Day 6
HIKING IN TOGAKUSHI (12KM) THEN TRAVEL BACK TO NAGANO

Today, your final day of hiking, is a day of exploring shrines and ponds in forested mountains. After breakfast, make your way up the steep stairs to the Togakushi Middle Shrine. There has been a shrine of various forms in this location for over 1000 years. While walking back down the stairs look out for three sacred 800-year-old giant cedar trees. You then hike through the forest towards Kotorigaike Pond. Keep an eye out for native birds as you make your way around the pond. Togakushi is one of Japan’s most famous bird sanctuaries with more than 40 species. Continue on up towards Suzuriishi Lookout for a view of the mountain range before making your way down towards Kagamiike Pond. Locals call it the mirror pond as on a still, clear day it reflects Mount Togakushi like a mirror.

As you walk around this pond look out for native mushrooms and wild boar tracks before making your way to the Zuijinmon Gate, the iconic entrance to Okusha (upper shrine). Walking through the gate you will be in awe of 300m-tall cedar trees planted over 400 years ago that border the trail leading to a shrine. After visiting the shrine, make your way down and stop for lunch — we highly recommend the duck soup with soba noodles. After lunch, you will pass by the museum (place a nut in a box as your entry fee). The museum offers a great insight into all the flora and fauna in Togakushi. Afterward, make your way back to the middle shrine, before boarding the local bus back to Nagano. 

Meals: B

Day 7
DEPART NAGANO

Your journey ends today after breakfast.

Meals: B

Nakasendo way _gallery0000

On the Trail

The experience

The Nakasendo Way offers picturesque, tranquil walking and a variety of trail conditions as you progress along the Kiso Valley. Much of the time you will be walking through fields and rural villages and enjoying gentle inclines that can be taken at a comfortable pace. In the forest you will be walking on a track that can be wet or uneven underfoot. In the more built-up areas the path itself is asphalt, while at its wildest it becomes unformed grit winding between alpine conifers. For sections in between these two extremes, the path is clad in what’s known as ishidatami – a traditional style of stone paving.

Inclusions

What's included?

Included
  • 4 nights accommodation along the trek (traditional Japanese guest houses – shared bathroom facilities)
  • 1 nights accommodation at Togakushi (traditional Japanese guesthouse)
  • 1 nights accommodation in Nagano (western style beds, private bathroom)
  • Daily meals as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers on all trekking days on the Nakasendo
  • Briefing in Nakatsugawa at the start of your trek 
  • RAW Travel’s exclusive interactive navigation app
Excluded
  • Bus and train tickets
  • Luggage transfers to Nagano and Togakushi
  • Flights
  • Single supplement
  • Travel Insurance
  • Drinks other than water at meals
  • Expenses of personal nature 
  • Lunches
  • Dinner in Nagano
Nakasendo-Way-Destination-Guide-Cover

Exclusive Guide

get inspired

Ready to step back in time and discover a centuries-old road through the mountains of central Japan? The Nakasendo Way is a stunning 94km journey from Mitake to Narai. Steeped in history, much of this walk weaves through the picturesque Kiso Valley. The ‘post towns’ strung out along the route give an enticing and authentic glimpse into Japan’s past.

There is so much to discover on this route! Find out more in our comprehensive destination guide – it’s bursting with inspiration, travel essentials, practical information and more!

Download Now

Similar Walks

Japan

8 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Group Guided Trip – Nakasendo Way

Group Guided History Moderate - Challenging
  • Fully guided walk with our qualified Japanese guide
  • Dive into the colourful history of the Shogun/Samurai
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Visit 16 of the original post towns from the Nobi plain land to deep in the Kisoji valley
from

$3,995.00

view trip
8 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Group, Self-Guided Trip – Nakasendo Way

Group Self Guided Moderate - Challenging
  • Trek in a group of like-minded travellers
  • A journey through the heart of Japan
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso Fukushima and Narai
from

$3,375.00

view trip
6 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Highlights Trip with Shimo-Suwa Onsen – Nakasendo Way

Group Guided Moderate - Challenging
  • Visit Shimosuwa, the only hot springs district
  • Understand the feudal history with our local guide
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai
from

$2,895.00

view trip
5 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Kiso Valley Highlights Trip – Nakasendo Way

Moderate - Challenging Self-Guided
  • A short hike offering a great introduction to walking in Japan
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Understand the history of the Nakasendo Way with our local guide
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai
from

$2,090.00

view trip
11 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Kyoto and Tokyo Trip – Nakasendo Way

Kumano Kodo Moderate Self-Guided
  • Explore Kyoto, the cultural and historical heart of the country
  • Discover old and new Tokyo with a private, guided tour
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso Fukushima and Narai
from

$4,650.00

view trip
8 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Self-Guided Trip – Nakasendo Way

Moderate - Challenging Self-Guided
  • A journey through the heart of Japan
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso Fukushima and Narai
from

$3,495.00

view trip
9 Days

Nakasendo Way

The Shimosuwa Trip – Nakasendo Way

Moderate - Challenging Self-Guided
  • Journey through the heart of Japan
  • Visit Shimosuwa, the only hot springs district
  • Walk the historical Nakasendo Way through the Kiso Valley
  • Walk on ishidatami (stone paving) dating back over 400 years
  • Visit Nakatsugawa, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso Fukushima and Narai
from

$3,750.00

view trip
6 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Highlights Trip – Kumano Kodo

Moderate - Challenging Self-Guided
  • Stay in traditional minshuku and ryokan accommodation
  • Experience a traditional boat ride along the Kumano-gawa river 
  • Savour delicious Japanese food using fresh local ingredients
  • Visit all 3 grand shrines; collectively known as the Kumano Sanzan
from

$1,995.00

view trip
12 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip – Kumano Kodo

Challenging - Strenuous Self-Guided
  • Explore Kyoto, the culture and historical heart of the country
  • Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
  • Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
  • Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony
from

$3,995.00

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
from

$2,250.00

view trip
12 Days

Kumano Kodo

The Mike Rhodes Trip – Kumano Kodo

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

$5,695.00

view trip

TRIP date selection

when would you like to travel?

Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed

SELECT PREFERRED DATES

sign up to our newsletter

explore the world with Raw