Hokkaido Japan: a 5-day off-the-beaten-path Adventure

Japan has a lot of off-the-beaten destinations to offer. In Hokkaido, for example, many towns and villages are still undiscovered by foreign tourists. You may associate Hokkaido with winter, but trust me, this Japanese region has a lot to offer no matter what the season. Rather than going to the usual Hokkaido tourist destinations such as Sapporo, I created a 5-day suggested itinerary to show some more off-the-beaten path highlights. Ready to go off-the-beaten-path in Hokkaido? Read on!

How to check flights to Japan

For my Hokkaido trip, I used the Traveloka app to look for cheap flights promo online. This app made it easy for me to see when there are better, cheaper flight options available to and from my chosen destination. I also used Jetstar Booking Online to book my flights from Tokyo to Sapporo, which I managed to get round trip air tickets for only about 5,000 pesos. This was a very good rate considering it was a peak travel period.

5-day Suggested Itinerary

Day 1 (Arrival in Sapporo; Jozankei)

Today is the start of your adventure in Hokkaido! Take an early morning flight to New Chitose Airport (CTS), which is about 45-minute drive away from downtown Sapporo. If you are traveling as a group, I recommend renting a car and explore at your own pace. For solo travelers like me, it would be cheaper to travel by local transportation instead. You may leave your belongings at one of the coin-operated lockers in JR Sapporo Station.

Autumn leaves can be seen from Nishikibashi Bridge in Jozankei

In the afternoon, make your way to Jozankei, a hot spring district located inside Shikotsu-Toya National Park. With nearly 60 hot spring sources, this town is a great place for travelers who would like to be close to nature. You may stay here overnight to take advantage of its indoor and outdoor baths, which contain a variety of different minerals with healing properties. If your travel date is during the winter, then you’re lucky to witness the Jozankei Snow Light Path at Jozankei Shrine.

Day 2 (Lake Toya)

On your second day, check out from your accommodation in Jozankei then continue your drive down south to Lake Toya. Known for the picturesque lake, and an active volcano, Mount Usu, Lake Toya is a hot destination in every sense. Thanks to the strong volcanic activity around the area, you will find hot spring resorts in the most Instagrammable locations! Experience a different side of Lake Toya by riding the Usuzan Ropeway. The obervatory deck offers the best panormaic view of Lake Toya, Mount Usu’ craters and the Pacific Ocean. Another attraction you should see is Usuzan West Crater, a newly created crater from the year 2000 volcanic eruption.

swans surrounding Lake Toya

Day 3 (Noboribetsu)

Hokkaido is home to numerous volcanoes, with many that are still considered active. So on your third day, check out from your accommodation in Lake Toya then make your way further south to another hot spring resort town, Noboribetsu. The main attraction of this town other than its geothermal baths is Jigokudani, also known as “Hell Valley.” Here you will see bubbling pools and steam rising from the earth, which look as though it’s come straight from a movie!

Jigokudani (hell valley) located right next to Noboribetsu hot springs

If your travel date happens to be in August, then you are lucky to witness the annual Noboribetsu Hell Festival (Noboribetsu Jigoku Matsuri), a once-a-year welcoming of Enma, the Hell God. Sticking with the hell theme, make sure to try a local specialty called Noboribetsu Enma Yakisoba, a spicy hot noodle dish. After a whole day of exploring, how about experiencing hot spring footbath at Oyunuma River Natural Footbath?

Day 4 (Shiraoi and Tomakomai)

On day 4, continue traveling northwest of Noboribetsu to Shiraoi. Driving on the Hokkaido Expressway on the way to town is a highlight in itself, as you will be lucky to see charming little towns, costal views and rugged mountains. You may stop along the way with a quick visit to Lake Kuttara, a circular caldera lake surrounded by lush forests. Once in Shiraoi, dine at one of the local restaurants for lunch. Then, continue your drive west to Mount Tarumae, an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Check in to your preferred accommodation in Tomakomai, Hokkaido’s fourth largest port city.

Lake Shikotsu, a caldera lake located at Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Day 5 (Back to Sapporo)

On day 5, check out from your accommodation in Tomakomai, and make your way back to Sapporo. There’s plenty you can do on this day, so choose what sounds best to you. Go for a short visit to Chitose, home of the New Chitose Airport. Many people do not know this but there are a few attractions here you may want to visit such as Mount Eniwa, Chitose Outlet Mall Rera, Aoba Park, Hokkaido Hakone Farm, and Chitose Country Club. You may also enjoy a half-day Sapporo city tour, which includes a visit to Sapporo Clock Tower, Odori Park, Susukino, Sapporo TV Tower, Nijo Market, and Sapporo Underground.

Sapporo Clock Tower

So, there you have it! Have you been to Hokkaido? Do you have other suggestions on how to travel off-the-beaten-path? Comments? Insights? I’m all ears! Let’s chat down below.

p.s. I also have a Facebook fan page where I’d love to chat with you and answer your questions!

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