Escape the bright lights of Japanese cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, and discover natural wonders – from Mount Fuji to Nachi Falls – as well as some special bookable places to stay in the Land of the Rising Sun. Book now and make the most of Culture Trip’s Feel Good Booking Guarantee.
At 3,776m (12,390ft) tall, Mount Fuji’s distinctive snow-topped mountain is Japan’s highest. The sacred, active volcano, on the border between Yamanashi and Shizuoka, last erupted in 1707; it rises like a diamond from the landscape and can be seen from miles away – even from Tokyo and Yokohama on clear days. The best view of Mount Fuji can be enjoyed from Shin-Fuji Station, but if you prefer to head off into nature for the view, go to the Fuji Five Lake region, at the northern foot of the mountain, or to Hakone, a nearby hot spring resort.
Bet you weren’t expecting this. Created over millennia from the redepositing of sand from the Sendaigawa River, the Tottori sand dunes are part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park and span around 16km (10mi) of coast along the Sea of Japan. You can view them from the comfort of a camel or a horse-drawn cart, while the more adventurous might try paragliding or sandboarding. They’re up to 50m (165ft) high, so prepare for some serious speed if you decide to board down.
Jigokudani is nicknamed Hell Valley for a reason: it comprises a series of bubbling steam vents and volcanic activity. Nature lovers will adore the walking trails that meander through the wooded hills above Noboribetsu. After 20 minutes, you arrive at Oyunuma, a 50C (122F) sulphurous pond. Oyunumagawa, a hot river that flows through the forest, makes for an otherworldly sight. You can follow the river and enjoy a natural foot bath (ashiyu) along the way. If you visit Noboribetsu in autumn, the colours of the season add to the already stunning scenery, usually reaching its peak in mid-October.
Stroll 500m (550yd) through a corridor of thousands of towering bamboos. In the middle of the eastern section, near the main street, you’ll find Nonomiya-jinja, a popular Shinto shrine; meanwhile, one of Kyoto’s most beautiful Buddhist temples, Tenryu-ji, can be found on the south side of the western section. The walk is even more dramatic in winter when the bamboo freezes over, creating an icy walkway. Be prepared with your camera, this is one for the’gram.
A few kilometres inland from the coastal hot spring resort of Katsuura is the tallest waterfall in Japan: Nachi Falls (133m/436ft), which towers over the Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, as well as the Seigantoji Buddhist temple. Both buildings are impressive, but the staggering cascade of water is the centrepiece. You can hike up the Daimon-zaka on a paved route lined with enormous evergreens, which leads you to the gates of Kumano Nachi Taisha.
Go underground and visit Japan’s largest and longest limestone cave. The overground vast lands of the Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park are equally as impressive and can be enjoyed from a network of hiking trails in every season. But you won’t want to miss the Akiyoshido Cave, which is 10km (6mi) long. Terraces of limestone pools, underground waterfalls and a cobalt stream can be seen along the way. There is also an adventure path for an additional ¥300 (£2) that is challenging, but rewards you with a view of the cave from a high above.