|Type of tour:||Guided|
|Distance:||32 Miles/day average|
|Dates:||Nov 15, 2014. Apr 4, Nov 14, 2015 (minimum 4 participants)|
|Start city:||Nagasaki, Japan|
|End city:||Kumamoto, Japan|
Located in the southern part of Japan, Kyushu is the third largest island and is known for being a hot spot of steaming springs. Our cycle through this mountainous and geothermic island will take us past volcanic calderas, steaming vents, feudal castles, green tea plantations, old growth forests and waterfalls.
We will partake in the Japanese tradition of bathing in hot springs. Onsens provide great opportunities to meet friendly locals and sooth muscles after some challenging rides.
Our ride starts in historic Nagasaki. We cross the Shimabara peninsula via the Mount Unzen volcano. A ferry across the Ariake sea brings us to Kumamoto prefecture. We will visit the city in a couple of days because now we are heading straight to Mount Aso volcano. In the quaint town of Kurokawa, arguably the most beautiful onsen town in Japan, we don yukata and stroll down the streets hopping from hot spring to hot spring.
We next head to the land of water and stone bridges, with stunning views of Mt Kuju (5876 ft/1791m) and stopping to admire the feudal architecture of Taketa. Turquoise water rushes down the Manainotaki waterfalls as we cycle into Takachiho Gorge with its stunning blue waters contrasting with the red and yellows of the trees in the autumn.
We skirt the rim of Mount Aso caldera, which has a circumference of around 75 miles/120 km, before descending down to Kumamoto, offering a chance to glimpse into modern city life and feudal Japan at its landmark Kumamoto Castle.
This 9-day tour rides from the lushness of onsens to the steaming caldera of Mt. Aso to modern Kumamoto and offers up numerous myths and legends of Kyushu along the way.
Learn more about guided tours.
Day 1: Arrive in Nagasaki
Arrive in Nagasaki from Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai or Seoul, or Nagasaki station from Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka and we meet at our hotel for bikes fitting and test ride. If you arrive early Nagasaki is a great city to explore. Chinatown, Dejima and Glover Garden are all worth a visit. The Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum show a darker page of Nagasaki's rich history. There will be a group meeting at 6 pm followed by our first true Japanese meal. Dinner included.
Overnight in Nagasaki.
Day 2: Nagasaki – Obama (37 miles/60km)
We rise early to get the first glimpse of sunrise in Japan and after breakfast we hit the road and immediately start the climb out of Nagasaki Bay. Then it is one hairpin after the other down the old postal road to Tachibana Bay. We ride along the bay on quiet roads, with magnificent views of Mount Unzen volcano. We leave the climb up the volcano for tomorrow and settle in Obama Onsen for a relaxing bath. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Obama.
Day 3: Obama – Shimabara (31 miles/50 km)
Have a hearty breakfast because once again we immediately start climbing up Mount Unzen. In the late 19th century, Unzen was a favorite summer resort for European and American residents of Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila. Unzen Hell is the number one attraction of Unzen and can easily be located by its high, dense clouds of steam.
We continue an exhilirating downhill into Shimabara. After chasing some carps in the samurai neighbourhood we head to our hotel for tonight, a large onsen resort hotel with long tradition. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Shimabara.
Day 4: Shimabara – Mount Aso (43 miles/70 km)
We hop on the morning ferry to Kumamoto. Today is Shirakawa day: we follow Shirakawa river all the way into Mount Aso caldera. Where the river slips into the break in the caldera rim, we follow suit. Climbing the last metres, already partly up Nakadake volcano, we earn a well deserved soak at Jigoku Onsen. Our onsen pass gets stamped as we go into the 3 different onsen areas of the complex. The rocky outdoor baths (separate gender), "Roteniwaburo", are quite nice. The water temperature is great, they're rarely crowded, and the view is spectacular. The Sparrow Bath, "Suzumenoyu" is mixed gender, and has very acidic water, so take off any jewelry before entering. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Mount Aso.
Day 5: Aso – Kurokawa (34 miles/54 km)
Our climbing begins straight away from the ryokan. We get rewarded when we reach the Nakadake crater. If the volcano is not too active, we are allowed a peak across the rim into the bubbling cauldron of primordial soup. Then the descent: we whoosh by the Volcano Museum, Kusasenri grasslands and curious looking Komezuka (Ricebowl Hill) with striking views on Aso plain and surrounding caldera rim. Legend is that the caldera was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation.
We cross the plain and after climbing the caldera rim it is up and down to Kurokawa Onsen. Kurokawa is a charming little town with two streets and a bunch of hot springs dotted around. We visit Yama Mizuki Onsen, with its outdoor bath sitting on the edge of a fast moving creek, giving you the option to freeze yourself then jump back in the hot water. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Kurokawa.
Day 6: Kurokawa – Taketa (27 miles/44 km)
Scenic Hokutaki Roman Road crossing the Kuju Highlands leads us southeast to the old Bungo State, land of water and stone bridges. Underway, the views on Kyushu's highest mountain, Mount Kuju are truly stunning. The Kuju Flower Park and Midori Highlands Guernsey Farm offer distraction from the hard work in the saddle. Then it is a downhill freewheel all the way to Taketa. Arriving in Taketa, we visit the ruin of Oka Castle, which was constructed by a local warrior to house Yoshitsune Minamoto, a hero in Kamakura Period. If it's the season, cherry blossoms bloom plentiful. Taketa has a fair amount of feudal architecture, buke yashiki, most notably Taketa Manse built in 1818. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Taketa farm stay or inn.
Day 7: Taketa – Takachiho (36 miles/58 km)
We spend today in the hilly Sobo Katamuki Quasi-National Park, taking a break at the Harajiri Waterfalls before climbing to Ohiragoe Tunnel at 950 m. After the tunnel it's a spectacular descent into Takachiho, ancient land of Japanese myths. In autumn, the slopes colour magnificently red with maple leaves. It is said that the gods first set foot on earth at this spot after creating Japan by stirring the primeval ocean muck.
On our way down we visit Amano-iwado Cave, said to be where sun goddess Amaterasu hid from her joker-brother Susanou, to be coaxed out by goddess Amano-uzume dancing hoochi-kooch parody of her own sacred dance which 'made assembled gods laugh till the high plain of heaven shook'. In the evening we can watch these ancient kagura folk dances performed at the Takachiho Shrine. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Takachiho.
Day 8: Takachiho - Kumamoto (52 miles/84 km)
Our last day will lead us back to sea level. We set out on the Himuka Myth Road and soon skirt the Aso caldera, crossing many of the rivers running down its slope. The road continues up and down until we reach Kumamoto plain once more. Quiet trails around Ezuko Lake sing praise of the boats like in the folk song Pompokonya. But the city is now not far anymore and the end of our trip is near.
We check into our hotel and visit Suizenji garden with its replica of Mount Fuji. If we arrive enough early, we also visit Kumamoto castle. Otherwise you'll have to do that tomorrow. The castle dates back to 1467, and is considered one of Japan's top 3 castles (三名城 Sanmeijō), together with Osaka and Nagoya. The newly rebuilt Honmaru Palace offers a glimpse into the court life of days gone by. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Overnight in Kumamoto.
Day 9: Kumamoto
After breakfast, departure to airport or train station.
We recommend that you tuck away a few extra dollars, perhaps US$30 a day for incidentals. Tipping is not customary in Japan. Guides have received and accepted tips on a voluntary basis.
The currency in Japan is the yen (¥) and is pronounced as ‘en’, with no ‘y’ sound. Though ATMs are everywhere in Japan, it is not always easy to use them as most only work with Japan-issued bank cards and credit cards. The exception is Japan’s post office ATMs, which accept cards that belong to the following international networks: Visa, Plus, MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus American Express and Diners Club cards. In addition to postal ATMs, you will find a few international ATMs in big cities and at the major airports. International cards also work in Citibank Japan ATMs.
Please note that for your safety you are required to take out travel insurance that will cover you for a mountain biking tour.
These are sample hotels and may vary by availability.
Single room availability:
A single room may be available locally on payment of a supplement but, as some of the Japanese-style hostels are quite small, this cannot be guaranteed.
Day 1: Chisun Grand Nagasaki, Nagasaki
Day 2: Obama Onsen, Obama
Day 3: Nampuro Hotel, Shimabara
Day 4: Jigoku Onsen, Mount Aso
Day 5: Kurokawa Onsen, Kurokawa
Day 6: Farm Stay or Turiyado, Taketa
Day 7: Hosuehiro Ryokan, Takachiho
Day 8: Green Rich Hotel Suizenii, Kumamoto
Bikes available to rent (must be reserved in advance at time of booking):
The bikes will have FLAT pedals. If you want to bring your own pedals, please bring your own shoes and the necessary equipment to change the pedals.
If you plan to bring your own seat, please make sure it will be compatible with a universal seat post.
Helmets are NOT included with the bike rentals. For safety and hygiene purposes, we recommend that you bring your own helmet.
*You may bring your own bike if you wish. If you do, please make sure that it is in good mechanical order.
The cycling around Mt Aso is moderately challenging with a few climbs. We ride 164 miles/265 km in five cycling days on quiet roads with amazing views. The first few days riding are shorter, giving you ample time to warm up for the longer days towards the end of the trip, but averagely fit cyclists will have no problems.
This trip is for 99% along tarmac roads in good condition and there is no technical riding. The trip is fully supported; an air-conditioned bus follows us for the entire journey, so exhausted riders can skip the tougher sections if they wish.
This trip is not too arduous, and so riders with less experience are more than welcome, although the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it.
Nearest airport and train station: Nagasaki, Japan
Nearest airport and train station: Kumamoto, Japan
International and domestic flights to and from the start and finish points are not included in the tour price. Please contact us for advice before arranging flights for the best arrival and departure times.
All nationalities require a valid passport and up to 62 countries have reciprocal visa exemption arrangements allowing nationals from those countries to enter Japan without a visa. Depending on the country, you are allowed to stay in Japan for a certain period of time, which can range from 90 days to six months.
Japan has a diverse climate. There are four seasons: from April to June is spring. The rainy season is from middle of June to the middle of July. July through end of September can be hot and humid temperatures in the big cities can go as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit/35 degrees Celsius.
Weatherspark.com offers information on average weather conditions at most destinations throughout the globe. Type a destination in the search box, and select "Averages," and you'll find a range of information such as average high and low temperatures, precipitation, cloudy days, humidity and wind speed/direction.
Of course, if your tour is coming up in the next week, you can also select "Forecast" to get the most current information on upcoming conditions.
SpiceRoads endeavors to offer high-quality, educational, and adventure-filled itineraries that highlight and focus on the diversity of landscapes found in Asia and its people. As a specialized "niche" bicycle tour operator since 2000, we provide the most authentic, unique and exciting adventures in Asia.
The SpiceRoads family began back in the mid 1990s, when Hamish Keith was creating, operating and leading ground breaking cycle tours throughout Thailand and in emerging destinations such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar for well known companies such as Exodus Travels and World Expeditions and his own company the Wild Planet.
In 2000 Hamish decided to concentrate on what he loved doing the most and he established SpiceRoads as a specialist cycle tour operator in the region he knew best - Southeast Asia. The “niche” was to promote bicycle group tours directly to clients all around the world via the internet. Hamish set the standard for all subsequent SpiceRoads tours by offering a high quality tour - from customer service, to bicycles, to well researched routes to the guides we use – at a good value.
In 2002, when Hamish left to pursue other opportunities in the travel industry, Struan Robertson came on board, and with his skills in management, IT and of course cycling, the company has grown to encompass other Asian countries. During the years of growth what hasn't changed is the spirit of SpiceRoads, which is to offer professional, international standard cycle tours and services to independent travellers and cycle enthusiast looking to discover Asia by bicycle.
Our well-planned eye-opening cycling tours provide an active immersion into local cultures, languages, scenery and, of course, the most delicious of foods. By combining legendary service and rare opportunities for cultural experiences, our travel philosophy continues to excite, enthuse, and positively impact every guest. Take a look at our guestbook if you don't believe us!
SpiceRoads' staff and all of our professionally licensed multi-lingual tour guides are passionate about creating the best possible experiences, with fun, creativity, and total dedication to satisfaction.
We're always peddling towards making your tour perfect so you can See Asia by Bicycle!
(Involuntary) On the rare occasions when we, SpiceRoads, must cancel a trip, all payments received to date will be 100% refunded, which constitutes full settlement. There will be absolutely no deductions.
(Voluntary) If you, the client, must cancel your reservation, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the following formula:
For all tours (except short Thailand tours 4 days or less, see below):
Number of days prior to trip start
Cancellation fee per person
50% of tour price
70% of tour price
**Administration fees include bank fees and exchange rate losses.
Exceptions to this policy cannot be made for any reason, including weather or personal emergencies. Please note:
We strongly advise that clients have full personal travel insurance that covers for the refund of monies paid in case either party cancels the tour for any reason.
We regret that we cannot be held responsible for incidental/consequential costs or expenses you may incur as a result of any changes or cancellations. No compensation is payable for minor changes.
Any damages/injuries incurred that are attributable to your own actions, acts of some other party unconnected with the contract services or where the damage/injury results from events/circumstances which our outside our control and could not be reasonably foreseen.
For damages where SpiceRoads is responsible, our liability is strictly limited to twice the total price of the tour. In booking a tour with SpiceRoads you, the client, are agreeing to these terms and you accept this limit on our liability. This limit allows us to keep the prices of our tours as low as possible.
You must be in possession of a valid passport and all the visas and permits required for your tour. This includes any medical certificates that are required. The client accepts full responsibility for obtaining any and all such documentation. Every client is encouraged to contact the consulate/embassy for the countries they are traveling in respectively to receive the latest and most current information about their immigration / transit policies.
SpiceRoads does not accept responsibility if your documentation is not in order. Information provided by the company about these matters and other related items (clothing, baggage, climate etc.) is given in good faith but without responsibility on the part of the company.
For all tours (except short Thailand tours 4 days or less, see below):
SpiceRoads insists that all clients must take out good travel insurance before joining one of our tours. There are inherent risks involved in cycling and mountain biking and we will not be liable for your medical expenses or evacuation in case of an accident.
This insurance must include adequate coverage for any personal accident, medical expenses, injury, death and repatriation. Insurance should also provide coverage for cancellations or curtailment of the holiday. Clients should also ensure that there are no exclusion clauses limiting protection for any dangerous or unusual activities that might be included in their tour.
If you join the tour without adequate insurance you may be disallowed from continuing on the tour without the right of refund. Clients are solely responsible for arranging their own insurance and they should ensure that they are covered for the full duration of their tour. Your tour leader will ask for copies of your insurance before allowing you to join the tour. This protects both you and us.
In case of an accident, please consult with your tour leader or contact our reservation staff at +66(0) 89 895 5680 (24 hour hot line).
Upon signing up for a tour you must agree to accept the authority of the tour leader who is the representative of the company. The tour leader should be regarded as the same as a “ship’s captain” or an airline’s “Pilot.”
At all times the authority of your tour leader will be final when concerning matters likely to endanger your own health or safety or in regard to behavior or ill health that is causing or is likely to cause danger, distress or disturbance to the group and the well-being of the tour. Failure to abide by the authority of the tour leader could result in legal proceedings and the immediate termination of your participation in the tour without recourse.
In such circumstances we reserve the right to terminate all travel arrangements without liability on the part of the company. You must always comply with the local law, customs and drug regulations of the country/ies you are visiting. Failure to do so may lead to you being ordered to leave the tour without recourse to any refund or any legal claim against the company. In the case of ill health the company and its operators can make those arrangements that it sees fit and recover all monies paid from the client. The person who signs the booking form (which incorporates these conditions) warrants that he/she does so, with full authority on behalf of all those whose names appear thereon, and confirms thereby that all such persons accept and are fully aware of these conditions.
No refund will be given for non-utilized services, however if we are able to obtain a refund ourselves for these services we will endeavor to pass these on to the client less reasonable administration charges.
SpiceRoads pledges never to increase the tour price except under exceptional circumstances for those that have previously book the tour. Circumstances of this policy include: government action or legislation that directs the company to increase prices, exceptional and unfavorable changes in exchange rates that exceed a 20% fluctuation or currency devaluation.
Clients will be notified of any price increase at least 4 weeks before departure.
We will not accept any liability for any delay in your outward or inward flight/s, whether the cancellation or delay is caused by the weather, airline rescheduling, industrial action or mechanical failure. We will give no refunds or compensation for lost time and services from the itinerary.
Should you have a complaint while on tour, you must notify your guide, or the local operator, at the earliest opportunity, so that they can do what they can to immediately rectify it. Failure to do so will result in the limiting of a client's ability to claim compensation. If the problem is not brought to our attention we have no opportunity to rectify it. Any complaints should be sent to us in writing, or by email, not more than 28 days after the tour ends.
Complaints related to booking, inquires, billing, sales or operations should be directed to the Sales and Marketing Manager and/or the General Manager.
If there is anything else you need to know or want to hear in order to put your mind at rest, please do not hesitate to contact us.
SpiceRoads is not liable for any bodily injury or property damage as a result of (but not limited to): physical exertion for which a guest is not prepared; forces of nature; travel by plane, train, auto, boat or other conveyance, or by bicycle, horseback, foot or other form of active or adventure travel; consumption of alcoholic beverages; civil unrest; terrorism; breakdown of equipment; high altitude; lack of or limited access to medical attention in remote locations; and the adequacy of medical attention once provided.
SpiceRoads is also not liable for: expenses (e.g., meals, transportation or hotel costs) that are not specified as included in the trip cost but may be required to get to or from a trip start or end point.
SpiceRoads reserves the right to make route and hotel modifications as necessary to improve the trip quality or to accommodate the comfort and well-being of guests. Guests grant SpiceRoads express permission to take photographs or make film records of its trips for promotional and commercial use, as well as approve such use by third parties with whom SpiceRoads may engage in joint marketing, without financial remuneration.
To view our liability release form click here. You will be asked to sign this form before you start your tour.