Your first foray into Hokkaido is Hakodate, where you will pick up your hire car. One of the first ports to open up to foreign visitors, Hakodate enjoys a lasting legacy of churches and European buildings. At night, the views from the top of Mount Hakodate are spectacular. Take a cable car or drive to the top and survey the stunning night time panorama, with the city lights twinkling to the very edge of the Katedama peninsula as it disappears into the sea.
With smoking Shinzan Volcano setting the scene, Toya Onsen offers the chance to relax in natural hot springs, or to get out and about on foot or by bike. Before you cross the breadth of the country, there's time to stop in the island's cosmopolitan capital, Sapporo, for the best beer in Japan and fabulous ramen noodles! With the annual snow festival in winter, beer festival in summer and plenty of sake breweries, the island's capital is a great destination at any time of year.
For centuries Hokkaido (or Ezochi as it was formerly known) was largely separate from mainland Japan providing a home to the indigenous Ainu people who had a distinct language and culture to that of the Japanese. Although much Ainu culture has been lost since the Japanese assumed direct control in the 1850's, small pockets remain. You can discover more at the Ainu Culture Centre outside of Sapporo or the Ainu Museum near Toya Onsen.
Central Hokkaido, home to the Daisetsuzan National Park, is famous for its lavender and poppy fields alongside vast farmlands. This is a great base whenever you happen to be travelling, with stunning views of Mount Asahidake enhancing the flora of summer, the brightly coloured leaves of autumn and the snow-capped peaks of winter. Conquer the 16 volcanic peaks, admire the 24-km-long precipitous Sounkyo Gorge, trek through densely forested woodland or simply enjoy the hot springs and dramatic views of Japan's largest national park.
As you head east along the gently winding open roads of the Hokkaido countryside, the population dwindles and the land stretches far, from the hot springs of Kawayu Onsen and lakes of Akan National Park to Shiretoko Peninsula and the fertile Kushiro marshlands. Here nature is in the ascendancy and you may spot bears, redcrowned cranes, whales, seals, deer, eagles and the famous Blakiston's fish owl.
Whether you choose to visit Hokkaido to experience the snowy depths of winter, or escape the muggy mainland summers, this area of Japan always has something to offer. Our Hokkaido Fly-Drive is a fabulous motoring holiday, combining natural wonders, small towns and exciting cities, to offer an alternative vision of Japan.
Twin: £2790 Single: £3890
Twin: £3390 Single: £4890
- 15 nights accommodation in Japan
- Breakfast each morning
- 9 Evening meals
- Tokyo transport card with 2500 yen of credit
- 8 Hour Private Guide service in Tokyo
- 8 Hour Private Guide service in Sapporo
- 12 Days Car Hire in Hokkaido
- Meet and Greet upon arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport
- All transport between destinations including domestic flights to/from Hokkaido
- InsideJapan Tours' complimentary info-pack
- Airport transfers
- International Flights
- Local transport (local buses, subways, taxis) except those covered by the included transport passes
- Any entrance fees including those for temples, shrines and museums
- Petrol (gas) for hire car
- Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
Black Out Dates
There are no black out dates for this trip. However, please be aware that at the busiest times of the year the named accommodation may not be available and in this case the price can not be guaranteed. However, we will always do our best to match the prices you see here as closely as possible.
Included evening meals are in Toya Onsen (2), Biei (3), Kussharo (2) and Tsurui or Rausu (2) .
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Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita Airport you will be met by your driver who will be taking you by shuttle bus to your hotel in Tokyo. Your first two nights will be spent in the historic Asakusa district, a bustling market-like area of old Tokyo, giving you a glimpse of what life in this metropolis used to be like. This neighbourhood is the perfect introduction to the city, with its traditional wares, enticing food stalls and the striking Senso-ji Temple: the perfect atmosphere to get into the swing of Japanese living.
Day 2 Tokyo
You will have the services of one of our professional local guides today: a priceless source into the lives and workings of Japanese life. Your itinerary is not fixed, so you can ask the guide to take you where you have always wanted to go, or alternatively sit back and allow them to show you a few examples of what this fascinating and exhilarating city has to offer. Your guide will show you around as Tokyoites travel today, using the world-class public transport system, renowned for its reliability and convenience and allowing you to really get up close to the city.
Day 3 Hakodate
It’s time to leave the main island of Honshu behind today and head up for your northern adventure! You’ll fly from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Hakodate city – the gateway to Hokkaido island this morning. At Hakodate Airport you will pick up your hire car, equipped with Sat-Nav, and drive the short distance into this small and attractive port. Hakodate was one of the first ports to open up to foreign visitors, with a number of churches and European buildings left behind as a lasting legacy. Today it is most famous amongst the Japanese for its stunning night views of the city from nearby Mt. Hakodate.
Day 4 Toya Onsen
If you’re an early riser, then you may like to visit the morning fish market by the JR station in Hakodate: 400 stores of squid, crabs and countless varieties of fish. Once you have had your fill, you will set off on the scenic drive to Toya Onsen in the Shikotsu Toya National Park. The 100 mile drive will take you via volcanic Lake Onuma, known for its 126 islands and smouldering Mt. Komagatake, and around the attractive Uchiura Bay. As in all of the drives in this plan, there are plenty of places to stop off en-route. The national park itself is centred around a large and attractive lake with the ‘new’ and still smoking Showa Shinzan volcano as a backdrop. There are plenty of hikes in the area as well as cycling routes and boat cruises. For rest and relaxation, your Japanese-style hotel has a wide range of hot spring baths to try.
Day 5 Toya Onsen
A full day in the National Park. You may want to visit the infamous Mt. Usu which has garnered attention in recent years as a temperamental volcano on the southern shore of the lake. Mt. Usu last erupted in 2000 when nearby residents were forced to evacuate their homes. Volcanic ash and fumes still spew from the crater today. Alternatively, if you fancy something a little less lively, you could drive to nearby Lake Shikotsu where there are further mountain walking routes as well as trails through a moss covered gorge and the chance to wander around the crater of Mt. Tarumae. A further option is heading to Noboribetsu Onsen – the most popular hot spring area in Hokkaido, surrounded by lush green forested hills and home to Jigokudani, a ‘hell valley’ complete with steaming sulphurous vents and streams of hot water.
Day 6 Sapporo
An eighty mile drive away lies Hokkaido’s most cosmopolitan city and today’s destination – Sapporo. The relaxed air, green parks, and tree lined boulevards mean Sapporo is a modern Japanese city quite unlike any other. The city is built on a grid system and unlike most Japanese cities has a lot of open space and green areas. There’s plenty to see and do here including attractive botanical gardens, Japan’s most famous brewery (tours with free samples available!) and views from the TV tower in the large Odori Park.
Day 7 Sapporo
For your second day in Sapporo we will be arranging a private guide service for you, a great way to get to know the city and learn more about Hokkaido Island. You can explore the city more or take the chance for a day trip to Otaru – a seaside town with a distinct Russian influence. The glassworks shops, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls along the canal have been converted from stone-built or brick-built warehouses, which were used for storage in the days when commerce flourished and the canal was crowded with jostling barges. When night falls, oil lamps on the cobbled streets are lit, and the town evokes a gentle, nostalgic mood.
Day 8 Biei
You’ll be heading east today into the plains of Biei, famous for its lavender and poppy fields and its vast farm lands. There are numerous walks to take around here as well as a number of art galleries to visit all set off against the panaromic backdrop of the Daisetsuzan mountain range. You can enjoy Biei throughout the year, with the snow-capped tips of the Taisetsuzan contrasting the bare soil in spring, beautiful flowers and blue sky in the summer, autumn leaves and bright yellow rape blossoms in the fall, and pure white powder snow in winter. You’ll be staying in a small family run inn complete with home cooked meals.
Day 9 Biei
Using Biei as your base, today we would recommend visiting Mt. Asahidake. There are numerous trails around here and of course the opportunity to hike to the top of Hokkaido’s highest mountain – helped by a cable car most of the way if you wish! Your climb is rewarded with dramatic views over steaming lava pools and after your day’s activities you can take a hot spring bath if you wish.
Day 10 Biei
A smaller peak could be your destination today and we would recommend Tokachi-dake. Away from the usual tourist routes, you’ll have the place largely to yourself. The dominant mountain range peak is a volcano that is still active and located at the highest altitude in Hokkaido. Its water has two sources: one which is rusty in colour and one which is clear. Nearby Fukiage spa offers free of charge hot-spring open-air baths, where you can sink into the hot, healing waters overlooking the stunning views of the gorge.
Day 11 Kawayu Onsen
Continue east across Hokkaido today to the hot springs and beautiful lakes of Kawayu Onsen. It is a 137 mile drive but again there are lots of places to stop off en-route. Kawayu Onsen is a unique spa town near Mashu-ko, reputed to be Japan’s most attractive lake. Entirely protected, without a single building along its pristine shores, Lake Mashu can only be viewed from two designated lookout points. The deep volcanic caldera lake is often blanketed with a thin layer of fog giving starkly beautiful views.
Day 12 Kawayu Onsen
Today gives you further time to explore this national park with its sparkling clear mountain lakes – on a clear day you can see as far as the Daisetsuzan National park from the peak of Mt. Akan. There are a number of small mountains to explore near Kawayu Onsen and you can also visit Lake Kohan where there are exhibits and museums about the indigenous Ainu people. This is one of the largest settlements in Hokkaido so a great place to try Ainu cuisine and learn about their culture.
Day 13 Rausu
From Kawayu Onsen it is an hour's drive on to either Rausu or Tsurui today - your choice. Rausu is on the wild Shiretoko peninsula and is a great base for walking and hiking in the summer and for ice breaker cruises in winer. Tsurui meanwhile is home to a number of crane reserves. Japanese Cranes, also known as Tancho (lit. red head), were thought to be extinct in Japan due to overhunting and habitat destruction. However, in 1926 a group of about 20 birds was discovered in the marshes around Kushiro. With conservation efforts they have since made a dramatic recovery and now number more than 1000 birds. The cranes are spectacular to watch as they dance, often in pairs, with seemingly choreographed dips and jumps. The cranes are best seen in the winter as they gather at winter feeding sites.
Day 14 to Day 15 Tokyo*
It’s time to head back to the main island and buzzing capital for your final night, and to catch up on anything you may have missed the first time round! From Tsurui you’ll drive just 40 minutes to Kushiro Airport, drop off your car and fly back to Tokyo. Your last night will be spent in the energetic Shinjuku district of town, quite a contrast with the wilds of Hokkaido! Back within the bright lights, you have time for some last minute souvenir shopping, a museum or gallery, or maybe just take the chance to eat some final mouth-watering Japanese sushi you won’t find back home!
Day 16 Depart
Sadly, today marks the end of your adventures in Japan and it is time to head home. We have included tickets for the airport bus for the journey back to Tokyo Narita Airport.
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|Standard Price:||£2790 (Single Price: £3890)|
|Upgrade Price:||£3390 (Single Price: £4890)|
Richmond Hotel Asakusa
Hotel Nets Hakodate
Lake Toya Kohantei
Richmond Hotel Sapporo Eki-mae
Standard Ryokan (JP)
Tsurui Woody Hotel and Restaurant
Rausu Dai-ichi Hotel