Places to Visit in Nikko: The Perfect Side-trip From Tokyo
A couple of hours from Japan's busy capital of Tokyo, a wonderland of ancient temples and shrines covered in greenery and nestled in the mountains, Nikko is one of the most perfect escapes from the city. While it's beautiful all throughout the year, the landscape here is particularly vibrant during the autumn season where the trees turn to a spectacular spread of colors.
Easily the most cost-effective option is to get the Tobu Nikko 2-day Pass or Nikko All Area Pass, depending on which places you're planning to visit in the area. The former costs 2000 yen and includes round-trip transportation from Asakusa to Nikko along with buses around the shrine area and Kinugawa Onsen for travel within two days. The All Area Pass is a better option for those planning to spend more time exploring the surrounding area. The pass lasts for four days and includes unlimited travel on Tobu Buses all around the popular places in the Nikko National Park area such as Lake Chuzenji.
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While the entrance fee might seem a little high at 1300 yen, it's still worth it to view some of Japan's most beautiful and lavishly decorated shrine buildings. These are some of the most stunning looking traditional buildings you'll find around Japan, the whole complex is home to around 55 different buildings so you'll want at least a couple of hours to slowly walk around checking them out. The backdrop of the scenic forest and surrounding mountains only elevates the sacred presence you'll feel here.
One of the national park's most scenic areas, most people that are day-tripping to Nikko from Tokyo miss out the areas outside of the historic temple complex. It's a shame, because Lake Chuzenji and the surrounding scenery here is absolutely beautiful and some of the best natural sights you'll find in the country. To see the incredible sight above over the lake head to Hangetsuyama Observation Deck, easily reachable by the Tobu Bus from Chuzenji Onsen to Hangetsuyama.
Nestled in a mountain valley north of Nikko town, Kinugawa is a popular spot for relaxing in the natural hot springs there. An onsen town that was founded over 300 years ago, Kinugawa was once exclusively for monks and daimyo samurai who were visiting the region. Although there are a number of places in the mountains of Nikko to bathe in hot springs, this town has a beautiful backdrop of scenery to go with it that's incredibly picturesque during the fall season.
One of the most famous sights of Nikko leading to its iconic shrines and temples, Shinkyo Bridge is a beautiful traditional bridge ranked as one of the most famous three bridges in Japan. Crossing over the Daiya River, it's unsure when exactly the bridge was first built although the current structure was created in 1636.
For the best views over Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls and the beautiful surrounding scenery, head up the Akechidaira Ropeway to a viewing platform that looks out across all the famous natural sites of the area. The ropeway costs 400 yen one way but can be taken free of charge if using the All Area Pass. You can get to the ropeway station by Tobu Bus which is also covered by the pass.
The place to go for those interested in getting a window into the life and style of traditional Japan, Edomura was built to replicate a town in the 17th century, displaying the architecture and culture of Japan during the Edo Period. Apart from walking around admiring the town, the village offers a number of performances and events throughout the day for visitors to enjoy such as learning samurai sword techniques and their Edo policemen and ninja experiences.
The 'Mount Fuji of Nikko' Nantai is a beautiful conical volcano that looms over the adjacent Lake Chuzenji. If you're looking for a moderately challenging place to hike around Nikko the 2,486-meter-high volcano offers a number of great hiking trails and takes around four hours if you're hiking straight to the top. You'll need to spend most of a day getting up there and down, if you're looking for something shorter you can also hike to one of the ten stations along the way and come back.
A short trip away from the megalopolis of Tokyo, Nikko is perfect for spending a few days exploring the national park and its historic significance. If you're planning on visiting during the autumn season when the fall colors are at their brightest, try to stay there during a weekday as it can get quite crowded and often more expensive during the weekend.