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Bike through the history, culture and vibrant soul of Japan
This extraordinary Asian island-hopping bike tour carries you through landscapes that resonate with the history, culture, and dynamic spirit of both ancient and modern Japan.
Tracing the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route across the Seto Sea, this fully guided tour leads from Onomichi to Setoda, revealing iconic bridges, thickly forested valleys and mountains, and azure seascapes. The biking is varied and dynamic. Electric bikes, as well as touring bikes, are available
At sacred temples along Shikoku's historic pilgrimage, you are immersed in the spiritual aspect of this diverse experience. Cultural enrichment includes traditional Washi paper-making and sake tasting.
This diverse tour seamlessly combines the exhilaration of cycling with the many dimensions of Japan's cultural richness.
- Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route
- Matsuyama, historical charm, hot springs and picturesque landscapes
- Yusuhara and architectural designs by architect Kengo Kuma
- Natural hot spring
- Shimanto region
- Kayak the sheltered coves and bays of the Seto Inland Sea
- Cultural experiences: Sake tasting and papermaking workshop
- Opportunity to extend your trip in Hiroshima and/or Kyoto
Option for a pre-tour and post-tour extension, details listed below the tour itinerary.
Day 1: Onomichi - Shimanami Kaido Route - Setoda (26 miles/42 km)
The group will meet at Green Hill Hotel at a relaxed 9:30 am. Getting there is straightforward – simply board the Shinkansen or Bullet Train from Kansai International Airport or Itami International Airport in Osaka. (Please be aware that an overnight stay in Onomichi is not included in the tour price. We highly recommend booking an extra night so that you are ready to begin cycling.) As you embark on this adventure, you'll cycle through cool bamboo forests before reaching the impressive Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route with its stunning coastal views. The terrain has some hills but is entirely manageable. You will spend the night at a cozy Ryokan, and dinner awaits at a nearby local establishment.
Day 2: Setoda - Matsuyama (40 miles/65 km)
Commence your day with a coffee at a nearby bike cafe The route initiates with an ascent to the hilltop in the middle of Ikuchi Island, where you ride past the well-known citrus farms. Continue over several bridges, each offering stunning views of the blue Seto Sea, with islands dotting the horizon as far as the eye can see.
As you roll into the town of Imabari, you have officially traversed the Shimanami and arrived on Shikoku. There are four prefectures here, and you will be riding through Ehima and Kochi. An hour-long train ride transports to Matsuyama, the largest city in the prefecture, characterized by colorful orange trams trundling along the main streets and temples and castles sitting atop the surrounding hills.
After checking into your modern hotel, make your way on foot to tonight's dinner for some traditional Japanese fare. While the food holds significance, the highlight will be tastings of Japan's most famous drink - sake. You will be trying a variety of sakes, from dry to sweet and everything in between. Your guide will provide you with insights into sake's unique place in Japanese history, ensuring that after tonight, you will be well-versed in choosing the perfect sake to accompany all your meals!
Day 3: Unomachi - Yusuhara (39 miles/ 63 km)
Embark on another comfortable and punctual one-hour train journey to the beginning of the first inland ride. Following the Hijikawa River, you will pedal along tranquil roads that gracefully trace the contours of the valley. Upon reaching its headwaters, the route ascends out of the valley to the delightful village of Yusuhara. The internationally renowned architect, Kengo Kuma, has designed and sponsored several buildings and public structures. The style is called "satoyama architecture," which combines modern and traditional elements with a focus on using local cedar wood.
Day 4: Washi paper making and Yusuhara loop ride (16 miles/25 km)
This morning, you have the opportunity to bike to Kamikoya to a homestead known for its dedication to the art of Washi Papermaking. A local artisan, who has devoted his life to perfecting this craft, will guide you through a family-run workshop. Set against a mountain backdrop with panoramic views of the valley, this hands-on experience promises to be memorable. After creating your own handmade paper, the family will dry it for you, ready for collection at the end of the tour. Additionally, you'll delve into the history of Washi Paper and its significance in ancient Japan's imperial business throughout the morning.
The return ride to Yusuhara is a descent, so you will cruise into town by lunchtime. The afternoon is yours to wander and relax until you convene for dinner in a small eatery near the hotel.
Day 5: Yusuhara - Kure Bay (45 miles/73 km)
You leave your lovely mountain village to journey through the Shimanto region to the Pacific Coast. The ride promises another delightful day of lush green valleys, nearly deserted roads in excellent condition, and bubbling creeks and rivers. There is a sustained climb late morning that is particularly beautiful in the Fall, with autumn colors at the top that are visually stunning. Lunch today is at a wellness retreat followed by a ride along a plateau. A final descent completes your ride where you capture your first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
After settling into your clifftop property, a dip in the excellent natural onsen will soothe your muscles. The views spread out over rocky outcrops towards the dark blue ocean landscape. A traditional meal is served tonight, and you can retire to a comfortable Japanese futon-style room for a sound night’s sleep.
Day 6: Kayaking and Kure loop ride (32 miles/51 km)
Today, there is an off-the-bike activity planned, weather permitting. After a transfer from the hotel, you meet local kayaking enthusiasts who've researched nearby sheltered coves and bays. You paddle some of the best spots to view the topography from the water, featuring rocky outcrops, distant mountains, and, if you are fortunate, ocean life sightings. In the afternoon, it is back on the bikes heading south to visit Iwamoto Temple, the 37th stop on the Henro Pilgrimage route. Situated on a wooded hillside outside the town of Kubokawa, the temple boasts ornate paintings on the ceiling of its main prayer hall. Your ride will then continue to the Shimanto River, a significant fishery and the largest river in the area, before returning to the overnight lodging via a different route.
Day 7: Kure Bay - Kochi (41 miles/66 km)
You ride along a solitary road with ocean views, pass through Susaki, and climb to a nature reserve for more stunning scenes. Lunch break near the Blue Dragon temple, and the final stretch leads to Kochi. It's the last night together, so savor it with a progressive dinner and maybe a visit to a sake bar (or two).
Day 8: Kochi
Explore the old town, check out a Japanese castle, and say your goodbyes at the hotel by 5 pm. If you're feeling adventurous, perhaps consider extending your stay for more fun!
Option for a pre-tour and post-tour extension, details listed below.
On this three-day pre tour extension you will stay in Hiroshima, the target of the world's first atomic bomb attack on August 6, 1945, during World War II. The devastating event led to widespread destruction and loss of life. Hiroshima's story did not end with the attack but continued out of the ashes.
Day 1: The pursuit of peace and harmony
The city's narrative is one of resilience and a profound commitment to peace which becomes clear as you explore and experience.
The Peace Memorial Museum, designed in remembrance of the bombing, is the perfect start. The museum provides a detailed and emotional account of the events leading up to the atomic bombing, its aftermath, and the city's journey towards recovery and restoration. The Memorial Park houses various monuments, including the Atomic Bomb Dome, which remains partially intact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is then the opportunity to explore Hiroshima on a guided bike tour with a focus on the wartime and post-war period.
You pedal through the Peace Park, significant sites related to bombing, and the city's beautifully reconstructed present.
You are accommodated at The Knot Hiroshima, setting the stage for an evening embracing the vibrant culture with Okonomiyaki dining and leisurely bar hopping.
Day 2: Hiroshima's Surroundings
The second day of the journey delves into the profound connections between humanity and nature. After breakfast you depart for the Hiroshima World Heritage Sea Route, which connects Peace Memorial Park to Miyajima Island. Officially known as Itsukushima, it is a picturesque island located in the Seto Inland Sea, just off the coast.
Local guides will share their insights and knowledge of majestic Mt. Misen followed by a seafood lunch featuring fresh oysters. Visit the iconic Itsukushima Shrine and Daisho-in Temple, with time reserved for souvenir hunting and savoring local beer. Conclude the day with a ferry ride and tram journey to your Hiroshima City hotel, providing the opportunity to unwind and explore the city at your own pace.
Day 3: Farewell and departure
Today is the official end of this extension. Depending on your travel plans, proceed to Kyushu or Onomichi, embarking on the next chapter of your journey. Alternatively, savor the scenic landscapes and experiences Hiroshima has to offer before saying goodbye to this extraordinary city.
- 2 nights accommodations at The Knot
- 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner
- Local guide for Day 1 and 2
- Train ticket to Onomichi
- Entry fee as per program
Embark on a fascinating three-day post-tour extension to Kyoto, Japan's cultural birthplace, guided by a knowledgeable local.
Day 1: Arrival in Kyoto
A short 5-minute taxi ride will bring you to Takkasegawa Bettei, a charming ryokan-style hotel that will be your home for the next few days.
Upon check-in, consider a stroll to the nearby Kyoto Beer Lab, one of the city's top-rated craft beer pubs. Later in the evening, the group gathers in the lobby before heading out for dinner, followed by a guided walk through Kyoto's old town.
Day 2: Explore Kyoto by E-Bike & Foot
Discover Kyoto's beauty on an e-bike, exploring wide roads, shared pathways, and charming alleyways along canals. A taxi takes the group to the cycling starting point near the Imperial Palace. The morning ride covers highlights like the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, cherry blossom gardens (seasonal), and the timeless Tenryuji Temple. En route to Ryoanji, known for its UNESCO-listed zen-style garden, enjoy a pause at Kinkakuji for a panoramic city view. The ride along the scenic Kamo River leads back to the hotel.
The afternoon and evening are free for participants to explore Kyoto's dining options, with the guide offering recommendations for the best local eateries.
Day 3: Kyoto
The final morning allows participants to explore at their own pace, guided by the knowledgeable guide. For a gentle morning adventure, a walk through the Shimogamo-Jina grounds is recommended. Alternatively, for a more active experience, visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its red tori gates. The guide is available for additional recommendations to make the most of the morning. For those continuing by train, the hotel can assist with securing a taxi to Kyoto Station.
- 2 nights accommodations at Takkasegawa Bettei
- 2 Breakfasts and 2 dinners
- Expert Guide
- Entry fees
- E-bikes and equipment on day 2
- Snacks and water when riding
Surface and terrain
You will enjoy riding on well-maintained roads throughout the entire journey. Traffic is generally sparse, and motorists display courtesy towards cyclists. The route offers a variety of gradients, encompassing both gentle and steeper sections. Notably, the steepest segments are brief, ensuring manageable ascents, while the longer stretches do not present challenging inclines.
Setoda: Yubune Setoda
Matsuyama: Candeo Hotel
Yusuhara: Marche Yusuhara
Kochi: Kuroshio Honjin and Kure BayDormy Inn
How to get there
Fly to Kansai International Airport (KIX) or Itami Airport (ITM), formally known as Osaka International Airport. You can also fly to Tokyo.
Both travel options from Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Itami International Airport (ITM) to Onomichi involve utilizing the efficient and extensive railway network in Japan. In both cases, passengers will board a bullet train to reach Onomichi, and there might be a transfer at a major station (Shin-Osaka for KIX and Hiroshima for ITM) to connect with a local train.
Mar 21; Apr 8; May 10, 15; Jun 3; Sep 2, 30; Oct 14; Nov 4, 18, 2024
Sep 2 All remaining departures Per person, double occupancy $4625 $4830 Single-use room (1 person/1 room) $5545 $5750
Road Bike $270 Electric Bike $200
Explore Hiroshima - Pre-tour extension Per person, double occupancy $890 Single-use room (1 person/1 room) $390 Explore Kyoto - Post-tour extension Per person, double occupancy $990 Single-use room (1 person/1 room) $400
- 7 nights' accommodation in comfortable and carefully selected establishments
- 7 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 7 dinners
- Healthy snacks and water during cycling
- Knowledgable local guide
- Quality well-serviced touring bike and helmet
- Souvenir jersey and water bottle
- Comfortable van for support and transfers
- All tickets & entry costs indicated as included in the itinerary
Bikes available for this tour, and included in the tour cost (reserved in advance at the time of booking):
- 22-speed Cannondale Quick 1 Disc ( or similar)
Bikes available to rent:
- Electrically assisted bike, 9-speed Yamah E- bike
- Road bike, 22-speed Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra SE (or similar)
Bike protection can be purchased at the time of booking. You can read more about that HERE.
Helmets are available for rent free of charge, but must be reserved in advance. Please indicate in your booking request if you would like to book the helmet. However, we recommend that you bring your own helmet for safety and hygiene purposes.
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