Tourists to Japan’s main island, Honshu, tend to gravitate to major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, or historic sites such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Kyoto. Understandably so. The cities are rich and varied in both cuisine and culture. You name it, you will find it.
But what about the lesser known areas of the great Pacific island? The areas overshadowed by the glistening shells of the hot spots?
Wakayama, a prefecture located on the Kii Peninsula of Honshū island, is one such pearl. In addition to stunning Pacific coast scenery, the peninsula touts a National Park, an ancient pilgrimage trail through a winding mountain range, waterfalls, and a myriad of rock formations. The region is easily accessible via the JR train line from any major station.
I’ve highlighted four must-see areas within one short train ride of each other. The colors of the forests and scenery change beautifully with the seasons, making Wakayama a recommendable travel choice year round.
Start off with a Dorokyo Gorge Jet Boat tour along the Kitayama-gawa River of Yoshino-Kumano National Park. The Gorge is famous for its sheer rock walls, blue-green waters and steep cliffs.
Kumano Kodo and the Nachi Falls
Often referred to as the spiritual heartland of Japan, the ancient Kumano region is nestled in the mountains of Wakayama. Kumano Kodo is a hiking route made up of seven trails that snake through the Kii Mountain Range. The hike was originally an ancient pilgrimage leading to three major Japanese shrines: Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha and Hayatama Taisha.
Hike the peaceful trail to Nachi Falls to see ancient temples, scenic valleys, lush plantlife, and relatively unknown waterfalls.
Take a train to nearby Kushimoto, located on the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula. The small town and its surroundings feature stunning coastal scenery and unique rock formations that electrify in the sunset.
Head to this white sand beach on Japan’s Izu peninsula, a short and easy train ride from Kushimoro. One of Izu’s most famous and popular sand beaches, it is known for good surfing conditions and the Shinto shrine of Shirahama Jinja. Travelers will find the perfect combination of recreation and relaxation here.
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