Self Guided Adventure

Classic
Tailor-made

Romantic Road

10 Nights: price on request Trip Code: RMR

Swap bullet trains for the freedom of a rental car as you set off to discover some of the lesser-known spots on Honshu island. From the mountains and forests of Nagano to the hot springs of Gunma Prefecture, this itinerary combines scenic vistas with a stay among the bright lights of the capital. Read more >

With such a fantastic transportation network, it's so easy - not to mention enjoyable - to zip around Japan on the speedy bullet trains, but there are still pockets of the country that can only be accessed by car. In this self-guided driving itinerary, we've included one of the most scenic drives in Honshu: the poetically named Romantic Road. The 350km long route linking Nagano and Tochigi Prefectures traverses the stunning mountain scenery of Gunma, while passing through a famous hot spring town, the snow monkeys of Yudanaka Onsen, and the world heritage sites of Nikko, with plenty of time to stop off en-route. With a stay in the vibrant capital city at the beginning and end, this itinerary combines the best of the scenic and urban sides of the Japan.

Your journey will begin in Tokyo, where cutting edge technology and centuries' old traditions mingle. From fascinating markets to tranquil parks to soaring skyscraper and shopping districts, there's plenty to explore in the capital.

From Tokyo you will travel north on the Shinkansen bullet train into Nagano Prefecture, where your journey on the Romantic Road starts. The total route is 350km long, beginning in Ueda City in Nagano and ending in the city of Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture, and leads you through the mountains of Gunma Prefecture which would otherwise be inaccessible by public transport. We have cherry picked the best part of the Romantic Road, meaning that you will be joining it in Nagano City, and from there you'll travel east into the mountains to Yudanaka Onsen, home of the macaques who stave off the cold of the higher climes by bathing in the hot spring pools tucked deep in the forest.

After crossing into Gunma Prefecture you will spend your first night of the Romantic Road in the famous hot spring mecca of Kusatsu Onsen, located on the slopes of volcanic Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, which provides some excellent hiking - depending on the volcanic activity in the area. Famed throughout the country as one of the best hot spring destinations, we're sure you'll find the steaming baths of Kusatsu Onsen incredibly therapeutic after a day behind the wheel.

Next stop along the route is the little river-side town of Minakami, situated at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. In addition to its excellent hot springs, it also has a reputation as a thrill seeker's destination with numerous adventure companies in the area. The rapids here are some of the best in the country - particularly in spring - and provide the perfect place for an action-packed white water rafting experience.

Your driving adventure continues east to the shores of Japan's highest lake, Chuzenji. Located in Nikko National Park, Lake Chuzenji and the surrounding park offers plenty of excellent walking routes and scenic views, and some tasty Tochigi specialities too.

From Lake Chuzenji it's a short but dramatic drive to Nikko via the exhilarating Irohazaka. This one-way route, which is made up of two roads, one heading up to the lake and one down into the valley to Nikko, snakes down the mountainside in a series of 48 hairpin turns, offering incredible views at each bend. If you're travelling in autumn, you will be rewarded with the blazing reds and yellows of the trees.

Nikko itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the form of the ostentatious and lavish Toshogu Shrine, the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu who founded the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled over Japan for two centuries. Is it utterly ostentatious or one of the best examples of traditional Japanese architecture? We will leave it to you to decide.

Your final day's drive on the Romantic Road will bring you to Utsunomiya, where you will switch your rental car for a journey on the bullet train back down south to Tokyo. You will have another full day in the capital to do any final exploring, shopping, or eating that you missed during your stay at the beginning of your trip.

At a glance

What's Included

What's included

  • Accommodation for 10 nights (three nights Japanese style)
  • Breakfast each morning and four evening meals
  • Airport transfers
  • Manaca transport card with 3000yen credit for city transport
  • Five day car rental
  • All train travel between destinations
  • Private guide service in Tokyo and Nikko
  • Half day white water rafting experience in Minakami
  • Cooking class in Tokyo
  • Your personalised InsideJapan Tours Info-Pack

What's NOT included:

  • International flights
  • Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) unless otherwise specified
  • Any entrance fees unless otherwise specified
  • Baggage handling and luggage forwarding

Trip Highlights

  • Explore the mountain scenery along the Romantic Road
  • Learn the history of majestic Nikko
  • Stay in traditional accommodation
  • Drive the 48 hairpin bends of the Irohazaka scenic road
  • Go white water rafting in the canyons of Gunma Prefecture
  • Try hot spring bathing in a traditional onsen town

For more information email us: [email protected] or call: 303 952 0379

What, where, when and how...

Romantic Road - 11 Days - Accommodation

Trip Reviews

Other trips you may like