Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi Route: Choose your perfect self-guided itinerary from 2 to 5 days

Collection of signs from the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi route

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Keen to hike the ancient pilgrimage trails of the Kumano Kodo? Why not walk in the footsteps of emperors and other Japanese nobility, and choose the Nakahechi route (also known as the Imperial Route)? Whether you have five days (or more) or only two, are a beginner hiker or seasoned expert, our self-guided itineraries will help you create your perfect hiking adventure in the Kii Mountains of Japan.

Why choose the Nakahechi route?

The Nakahechi route is one of six remaining pilgrimage routes on the Kumano Kodo:

While more popular than some of the other Kumano Kodo routes, it is by no means a busy route (those having experienced the final 50 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago know what I mean by busy). The advantage of being more frequented is that you can stay in traditional Japanese inns along the way (with advance booking), rather than in your own tent or a basic mountain shelter, and you don’t have to carry food for more than a day at a time.

The Nakahechi route is also the only route that connects all three Grand Shrines of the Kumano Kodo, offering a unique cultural and spiritual experience.

hongu taisha

Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of three Grand Shrines, collectively called the Kumano Sanzan

Kumano Sanzan - the three Grand Shinto Shrines of the Kumano Kodo

Kumano Hongū Taisha

Kumano Hongū Taisha [Official website, Google Maps location] is located in the centre of the Kii Mountains, at the confluence of the Kumano and Otonashi Rivers. Its original entrance is marked by the world's largest shrine gate (called Torii) - the Ōyu no hara Torii - which is 34 metres high and 42 metres wide. Being destroyed by floods (and rebuilt) a few times in its history, Kumano Hongū Taisha was relocated from its original position by the Kumano River to higher ground nearby in 1889. Among others, Kumano Hongū Taisha enshrines Izanagi, the founding father deity of Japan.

Kumano Nachi Taisha

The second Grand Shrine in the Kii Mountains is Kumano Nachi Taisha [Official website, Google Maps location]. It's uniquely positioned on the side of a mountain high above the Nachi River and next to Nachi Falls - at 133 metres, Japan's tallest single-drop waterfall and the home of Hiryū Gongen, another important Shinto deity. Nachi-san (as the sacred complex is often called), is also home to Seiganto-ji, a Temple of the Tendai School of Buddhism, and a sacred 850-year-old Camphor tree, which is said to grant wishes to worshippers who walk through its hollow trunk.

Kumano Hayatama Taisha

The third Grand Shinto Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Taisha [Official website, Google Maps location] is located on the east coast of the Kii Peninsula, in Shingū City near the mouth of the Kumano River. The Grand Shrine is home to a sacred 850-year-old Podocarp tree, called Nagi no Ki. It is said that Izanagi and Izanami, the mythological couple that created Japan, first arrived in the area on a rock named Gotobiki Iwa. The rock marks the location of Kamikura-jinja, the original shrine, which pilgrims can reach by climbing a narrow 500-step stairway a few hundred meters south of the main complex.

nachi taisha and seiganto ji

The UNESCO world heritage Kumano Kodo trails connect sacred Shinto and Buddhist sites

Another advantage of the Nakahechi route is flexibility. It’s the easiest to access of the three mountain routes. You can therefore hike the Nakahechi route as a point-to-point hike (changing your accommodation each night) or base yourself in a central location and take buses to/from the starting/end points of each stage. You can also do a combination of both (which we did over five days).

If you have walked (or are planning to walk) the Camino de Santiago and would like to be recognised as a Dual Pilgrim, only the Nakahechi and the Kohechi routes offer pilgrim passports (and stamps along the route) for your pilgrimage to be officially recognised.

sandra collecting stamp along kumano kodo

Collect stamps along the Kumano Kodo if you want to have your pilgrimage (officially) recognised

How long does it take to hike the Nakahechi route?

There are three (recognised) pilgrimage options on the Nakahechi route:

  1. Takijiri-oji [Google Maps location] to Kumano Hongu Taisha, a hike of about 38 kilometres.
  2. Kumano Nachi Taisha to Kumano Hongu Taisha (or reverse) – an approximately 30 kilometres hike; and
  3. Hosshinmon-oji [Google Maps location] to Kumano Hongu Taisha (an easy hike of around 8 kilometres) PLUS a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha AND Kumano Nachi Taisha (the latter two can be done by any means).

Option 1 can be achieved in two days, even by people who consider themselves unfit. To hike the complete Nakahechi route (options 1 and 2 plus a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha), you need five to six days and at least a basic level of fitness.

That said, when thinking about whether to include the Kumano Kodo in your Japan itinerary (or leave it for another time), do consider the following: The Kumano Kodo is not just about spending time in the beautiful mountains and forests of the Kii Peninsula. Like the Camino de Santiago, it’s a spiritual journey – the longer you hike it, the more impactful it is. And while not difficult to reach, it takes a few hours to get to the Kumano Kodo from Osaka or Nagoya. We therefore recommend budgeting at least four to five days for the Kumano Kodo – the longer the better.

path to hongu taisha

The Kumano Kodo is a spiritual journey – the longer you hike it, the more impactful it will be

You can hike the Nakahechi route point-to-point (changing your accommodation each night). Alternatively, you can base yourself in a central spot, and take buses to/from the starting/end points of each stage. We provide various sample itineraries for each option below.

Hiking the Nakahechi route point to point

2-Day Sample Itinerary: Hosshinmon-oji to Hongū hike (8 kilometres) PLUS Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Nachi-san

This itinerary includes a hike from Hosshinmon-oji [Google Maps location] to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately eight kilometres) PLUS a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha (by pilgrimage boat) AND Kumano Nachi Taisha (option 3 of the recognised pilgrimage routes).

Day 0

Travel to the Hongū area and stay the night. If you stay in Hongū, enjoy the medicinal hot spring waters at the Public Bath (Sosei-no-yu) [Official website, Google Maps location]. If you stay in Yunomine Onsen:

  • Head to the public onsen [Official website, Google Maps location] (or use the private onsen in your accommodation).
  • Boil some eggs and sweet potatoes in the public hot spring – best bought at Yumune Chaya, [Google Maps location] the teahouse adjacent to the Yumune Kusushi Tōkō-ji Temple (squeezed between the river and the public onsen) – they make great provisions for your hike.
yunomine onsen2

If you pass through Yunomine Onsen boil some eggs and sweet potatoes in the public hot spring - they make great provisions for your hike

Day 1

Get up early and take the bus to the Hosshinmon-oji bus stop [Google Maps location]. Hike from there first to Hosshinmon-oji (collect your first stamp) and then (largely downhill) to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 8 kilometres).

If you have time, continue to the Oyu-no-hara Torii [Official website, Google Maps location] (plus 1.5 kilometres) for a complete experience. Download the Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongū Taisha map and Hongū area map for use offline during your hike.

After lunch, take the bus (number 51 to Shingū Station [Google Maps location], latest at 1325h) to Michi-no-Eki Kumanogawa [Google Maps location] and join the riverboat at 1430h (advance booking is essential). The river boat tour takes 90 minutes, just enough time to visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha before it closes. If you can’t get a reservation for the river boat, don’t fret: the bus from Kumano Hongū Taisha to Kumano Hayatama Taisha takes approximately 60 minutes (number 51 to Shingū Station [Google Maps location], latest at 1445h).

kumano river boat

Taking the boat down the Kumano River to Kumano Hayatama Taisha is a unique experience on the Kumano Kodo

After exploring the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine grounds, make sure you also visit Kamikura-jinja [Official website, Google Maps location], the original shrine on the rock named Gotobiki Iwa, which can be reached by climbing a 500-step stairway a few hundred meters south of the main complex.

Stay overnight in Shingū.

Our accommodation recommendations for this itinerary are as follows (* where we stayed):

Prev Next
  • Hanare is located within 600 metres of Kamikura Shrine and less than 1 km of Kumano Hayatama Taisha. It features accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive.
  • Kokoyui Guesthouse Shingu is a beautiful, modern-looking, renovated older Japanese home in a quiet residential area of Shingu City.and can be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Shingu Guest House has private accommodation in Shingu with access to a garden, a shared lounge, as well as a shared kitchen.

Day 2

After breakfast, take the train and bus to Nachi-san (approximately 90 minutes). Get off at the Daimonzaka bus stop [Google Maps location] and hike the Daimonzaka steps (approximately 1.5 kilometres) to Kumano Nachi Taisha.

Spend some time exploring the sacred grounds:

  • Visit the Grand Shrine and the adjacent Seiganto-ji Temple [Google Maps location];
  • Make a wish and walk through the cavity of the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree (Shorei-sha Shrine Tainai-Kuguri) [Google Maps location]; and
  • Walk to the three-storied pagoda (or further to Hirō-jinja [Google Maps location) and admire Nachi Falls.

After lunch, continue your onward journey.

daimanzaka steps to nachisan by antonio rull on unsplash

A steep climb up the Daimonzaka Steps takes you to the sacred sites of Nachi-san | Photo by Antonio Rull on Unsplash

3-Day Sample Itinerary: Hongū to Nachi-san hike (30km) PLUS Kumano Hayatama Taisha

This itinerary includes a hike from Kumano Hongu Taisha to Kumano Nachi Taisha (approximately 30 kilometres – option 2 of the recognised pilgrimage routes) PLUS a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha.

Day 0

Travel to the Hongū area. After check-in, visit Kumano Hongu Taisha and Oyu-no-hara Torii [Official websiteGoogle Maps location].

Stay the night in the Hongū area. If you stay in Hongū, enjoy the medicinal hot spring waters at the Public Bath (Sosei-no-yu) [Official websiteGoogle Maps location]. If you stay in Yunomine Onsen:

  • Head to the public onsen [Official websiteGoogle Maps location] (or use the private onsen in your accommodation).
  • Boil some eggs and sweet potatoes in the public hot spring – best bought at Yumune Chaya, [Google Maps location] the teahouse adjacent to the Yumune Kusushi Tōkō-ji Temple (squeezed between the river and the public onsen) – they make great provisions for your hike.

Download the Hongū area map for use offline during your hike.

yunomine onsen

In Yunomine Onsen, buy eggs and sweet potatoes from Yumune Chaya, the tea house adjacent to the Yumune Kusushi Tōkō-ji Temple

Day 1

Today, you hike the first stage of your hike to Kumano Nachi Taisha (also called Kogumotori-goe, approximately 13 kilometres/5 hours).

Get up early and take the bus to the trailhead, located between the Ukegawa bus stop [Google Maps location] and Shimoji-Bashi bus stop [Google Maps location]. If you haven’t stocked up on supplies, there is a convenience store [Google Maps location] on the way from the Ukegawa bus stop to the trailhead. There is a toilet at the Shimoji-Bashi bus stop. Do stop here as there is only one other public toilet on today’s section (requiring a 300-metre detour off the trail).

public toilet at shimoji bashi bus stop

Use the public toilet at the Shimoji-bashi bus stop - there is only one other toilet along the Kogumotori-goe section of the Nakahechi

Today’s section takes you along (yet more undulating) forest trails, over a few passes (with nice views on a clear day), past teahouse remains and a number of poet monuments, and ultimately on a long (and in parts slippery) descend into Koguchi.

little shrine along kumano kodo

Praying and giving thanks at the little shrines and statues is a right of passage along the Kumano Kodo

As you reach Koguchi, cross over the bridge (there used to be a ferry here back in the day) and follow the signs along the river and over the road tunnel. As you descend from the tunnel, you walk past a cemetery on your left. Just keep walking straight (through what seems to be people’s backyards) until you hit the village road (you see the main road and various bridges below you).

If you keep going straight along the village road, you’ll pass the post office (on the right, with an ATM) and a small groceries store [Google Maps location] (on your left, good for last-minute supplies).

Spend the night in Koguchi. Download the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Route Map for use offline on your hike.

kowaze bashi bridge koguchi

Upon completing the Kogumotori-goe section of the Nakahechi, crossing the Kowaze-bashi bridge will take you into Koguchi

Day 2

Today is the second stage of your hike to Kumano Nachi Taisha (also called Ogumotori-goe, approximately 16 kilometres/5 1/2 hours).

Get up early and head to the trailhead (you can collect your next stamp there). The hike today crosses three mountain passes with some very steep uphills and downhills. There is a shelter/rest stop at the top of the last pass, slightly off the trail. Make sure you stop there, you get rewarded with beautiful panoramic views over the forests and mountains down to Kii-Katsuura and the Pacific Ocean.

rest stop near funami toge pass

Stunning views from the rest stop near Funami-toge pass make the small detour off the Ogumotori-goe section of the Nakahechi worthwhile

After the rest stop, you slowly descend into Nachi-san, passing a big parking lot and through a recreational park. You finally exit the forest next to Seiganto-ji Temple [Google Maps location] – with a view of Nachi Falls and the three-storied pagoda.

Spend some time exploring the sacred grounds:

  • Visit the Grand Shrine and the adjacent Seiganto-ji Temple [Google Maps location];
  • Make a wish and walk through the cavity of the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree (Shorei-sha Shrine Tainai-Kuguri) [Google Maps location]; and
  • Walk to the three-storied pagoda (or further to Hirō-jinja [Google Maps location) and admire Nachi Falls.

Download the Koguchi to Nachi-san map for offline use during your hike.

seiganto ji in nachisan

Beautiful Seiganto-ji Temple is one of the sacred Buddhist sites in Nachi-san

Stay the night in Nachi-san or Kii-Katsuura. If the latter, make sure you catch the last bus at 1735h.

Our accommodation recommendations for this itinerary are as follows (* where we stayed):

Prev Next
  • Koguchi Shizen-no-Ie* is an old junior high school that has been beautifully renovated as a lodge.
  • @koguchi is like a home-away-from-home in this remote mountain settlement. It can be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Minshuku Momofuku is run by Mr. Nakazawa, a friendly retiree. This tiny guesthouse has only two rooms and can also only be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Minpaku Kodo was a family home that was re-purposed into a guesthouse.
  • Oyado Hana* has a pleasnt hot spring bath, but with small accommodation rooms.
  • Chochu Stay So House is a very clean property near public transport.

Day 3

After breakfast, take the (bus and) train to Kumano Hayatama Taisha (approximately 90 minutes from Nachi-san or just over 30 minutes from Kii-Katsuura).

After exploring the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine grounds, make sure you also visit Kamikura-jinja [Google Maps location], the original shrine on the rock named Gotobiki Iwa, which can be reached by climbing a 500-step stairway a few hundred meters south of the main complex.

After lunch, continue your onward journey.

kamikura shrine

When visiting Kumano Hayatama Taisha don't forget to climb the 500 steps to Kamikura-jinja, the original shrine at Gotobiki Iwa

5-Day Sample Itinerary: The complete Nakahechi point-to-point

This itinerary includes the hike from Takijiri-oji [Google Maps location] to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 38 kilometres – option 1 of the recognised pilgrimage routes) and the hike from there to Kumano Nachi Taisha (approximately 30 kilometres – option 2 of the recognised pilgrimage routes) PLUS a visit of Kumano Hayatama Taisha by bus/train.

Day 0

Travel to Kii-Tanabe [Google Maps location] or the surrounding villages and stay the night. Pop into

Day 1

Get up early and take the bus to the Takijiri bus stop [Goolge Maps location] – you’d want to be there no later than 0900h.

Pop into the Kumano Kodo Information Center [Google Maps location] (in a round building across the river) for some last-minute advice and/or to use the bathroom. The Center also provides some historic information on the Kumano Kodo for those who’d like to learn a bit more. Don’t stay too long though as you’d want to get going – there is a long day ahead of you.

kumano kodo information center takijiri oji

The Kumano Kodo Information Center in Takijiri provides historic information on the Kumano Kodo as well as last minute supplies and a public toilet

Takijiri-oji [Google Maps location], the starting point of the Nakahechi Route, is across the road from the Information Center. The trailhead is to the left behind the shrine. The hike today will take you from Takijiri-oji to Chikatsuyu or Nonaka (13 to 17 kilometres/6 – 7 1/2 hours, depending on where you chose/found accommodation for the night).

If you want to have your pilgrimage officially recognised, make sure you stop along the route to collect stamps for your pilgrim passport. Don’t forget to collect your first stamp at Takijiri-oji – the wooden stand containing the stamp is in front of the little café, to the left of the entrance to the shrine grounds.

takijiri oji

The trail head of the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi route is to the left behind Takijiri-oji

The first stage of your hike today is a steep climb, so take your time and watch your steps.

The first village you’ll pass through is Takahara, with Takahara Kumano-jinja and a public rest area worthwhile place to pause and rest. There is also a small family-run cafe called Coffee Keyaki [Google Maps location] which you’ll pass as you’re climbing out of Takahara – another worthwhile stop with gorgeous views over the mountains. Shortly after Takahara, you will pass the idyllic Takahara-Ike pond.

takahara kumano jinja

Takahara Kumano-jinja makes for a great rest stop after the steep climb from Takijiri-oji

From Takahara-ike pond, you continue to climb through the forest until you reach the Umadawa-jaya teahouse remains, the highest point of the day.

Shortly before you reach Chikatsuyu, the trail briefly joins Highway 311, providing the opportunity to use the public toilet and/or buy some food at the adjoining rest area before embarking on the final stretch of the day. This stretch takes you past the Gyuba-doji statue, a small statue showing Kazan, one of the first emperors to do the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, sitting on a horse and cow.

gyuba doji statue

Shortly before Chikatsuyu, you will pass Gyuba-doji, a small statue showing Kazan, one of the first emperors to do the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, sitting on a horse and cow

If your accommodation doesn’t provide dinner (or you chose not to book it), there are a few small cafes/restaurants (we had a great meal at Tororoya restaurant [Google Maps location]) in Chikatsuyu, though all close pretty early. Also, make sure you pop into the local A Coop Supermarket [Google Maps location] in Chikatsuyu to buy provisions for the next day.

Stay overnight in one of the Japanese inns along/near the Kumano Kodo in Chikatsuyu or Nonaka (2 to 4 kilometres further along the route after Chikatsuyu).

Download the Takijiri-oji to Takahara map and Takahara (via Chikatsuyu) to Tsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) map to use offline during your hike.

path into chikatsuyu

After passing the Gyuba-doji statue you slowly descend into Chikatsuyu

Day 2

Get up early and continue your hike along the Kumano Kodo. The hike today will take you all the way to Kumano Hongu Taisha via Hosshinmon-oji (20 to 24 kilometres/7.5 to 9 hours). While it is the longest of all your hiking days on the Kumano KodoNakahechi Route, do make sure to stop at Tsugizakura-oji [Google Maps location]. The giant cedar trees are magnificent.

giant cedar trees at tsugizakura oji

Make sure to stop at Tsugizakura-oji - the giant cedar trees are magnificient

Following Tsugizakura-oji, you continue to climb, ultimately reaching Waraji-toge Pass which makes for a nice rest stop.

You then descend and join a forest road along a valley stream. The original trail from here was badly damaged during a typhoon in 2011, requiring a detour to be put in place. You reach the detour further along the forest road, crossing a log bridge and then climbing back up into the mountains.

closed nakahechi route section

The original Nakahechi trail after the Waraji-toge Pass was badly damaged during a typhoon in 2011, requiring a detour to be put in place

After reaching the Detour Pass, the highest point of the day, the journey continues in (by now familiar) undulating fashion, following the Otonashi-gawa River and passing Funatama-jinja [Google Maps location] and Inohana-oji [Google Maps location] before reaching Hosshinmon-oji [Google Maps location].

From Hosshinmon-oji, it’s an easy descent into Hongū. En route, you will pass the Sangen-jaya junction where the Kohechi route joins the Nakahechi route. Shortly after that, there is a small (and worthwhile) detour to a viewpoint overlooking the Oyu-no-hara Torii [Official websiteGoogle Maps location] in the valley below.

oyunohara views from lookout point

A small detour near the Sangen-jaya intersection provides a first glimpse of the Oyu-no-hara Torii Gate in Hongu

After visiting Kumano Hongu Taisha and Oyu-no-hara Torii, make sure you pop into the local convenience store to buy provisions for the next day. If your accommodation doesn’t provide dinner (or you chose not to book it), have dinner at one of the few local cafes/restaurants in Hongū.

Afterwards, head to your accommodation in the Hongū area. If you stay in Hongū, enjoy the medicinal hot spring waters at the Public Bath (Sosei-no-yu) [Official websiteGoogle Maps location]. If you stay in Yunomine Onsen:

  • Head to the public onsen [Official websiteGoogle Maps location] (or use the private onsen in your accommodation).
  • Boil some eggs and sweet potatoes in the public hot spring – best bought at Yumune Chaya, [Google Maps location] the teahouse adjacent to the Yumune Kusushi Tōkō-ji Temple (squeezed between the river and the public onsen) – they make great provisions for your hike.

Download the Takahara (via Chikatsuyu) to Tsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) map, Tsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) to Hosshinmon-oji map and Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongū Taisha map to use offline during your hike.

yunomine public bath information

If you stay in Yunomine Onsen head to the public bath or use the private onsen in your accommodation

Day 3

Today, you do the first stage of your hike to Kumano Nachi Taisha (also called Kogumotori-goe, approximately 13 kilometres/5 hours).

Get up early and take the bus to the trailhead, located between the Ukegawa bus stop [Google Maps location] and Shimoji-Bashi bus stop [Google Maps location]. You can hike from Kumano Hongū Taisha to the trailhead (approximately 4 kilometres), but you’d just be following the road, so save your energy.

If you haven’t stocked up on supplies, there is a convenience store [Google Maps location] on the way from the Ukegawa bus stop to the trailhead. There is a toilet at the Shimoji-Bashi bus stop. Do stop here as there is only one other public toilet on today’s section (requiring a 300-metre detour off the trail).

hyakken gura

On a clear day, you can enjoy stunning views from Hyakken-gura on the Kogumotori-goe section of the Nakahechi

Today’s section takes you along (yet more undulating) forest trails, over a few passes (with nice views on a clear day), past teahouse remains and a number of poet monuments, and ultimately on a long (and in parts slippery) descent into Koguchi.

path into koguchi

The descend into Koguchi is steep and slippery - take your time and watch your steps

As you reach Koguchi, cross over the bridge (there used to be a ferry here back in the day) and follow the signs along the river and over the road tunnel. As you descend from the tunnel, you walk past a cemetery on your left. Just keep walking straight (through what seems to be people’s backyards) until you hit the village road (you see the main road and various bridges below you).

If you keep going straight along the village road, you’ll pass the post office (on the right, with an ATM) and a small groceries store [Google Maps location] (on your left, good for last-minute supplies).

Spend the night in Koguchi. Download the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Route Map for use offline on your hike.

aproaching koguchi

Koguchi is a small settlement at the confluence of the Akagi, Higashi and Wada rivers

Day 4

Today is the second stage of your hike to Kumano Nachi Taisha (also called Ogumotori-goe, approximately 16 kilometres/5.5 hours).

Get up early and head to the trailhead (you can collect your next stamp there). The hike today crosses three mountain passes with some very steep uphills and downhills. There is a shelter/rest stop at the top of the last pass, slightly off the trail. Make sure you stop there, you get rewarded with beautiful panoramic views over the forests and mountains down to Kii-Katsuura and the Pacific Ocean.

After the rest stop you slowly descend into Nachi-san, passing a big parking lot and through a recreational park. You finally exit the forest next to Seiganto-ji Temple [Google Maps location] – with a view of Nachi Falls and the three-storied pagoda.

nachi taisha with old camphor tree

In Nachi-san, visit Kumano Nachi Taisha, the adjacent Seiganto-ji Temple and make a wish at the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree

Spend some time exploring the sacred grounds:

  • Visit the Grand Shrine and the adjacent Seiganto-ji Temple [Google Maps location];
  • Make a wish and walk through the cavity of the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree (Shorei-sha Shrine Tainai-Kuguri) [Google Maps location]; and
  • Walk to the three-storied pagoda (or further to Hirō-jinja [Google Maps location) and admire Nachi Falls.

Download the Koguchi to Nachi-san map for offline use during your hike.

Stay the night in Nachi-san or Kii-Katsuura. If the latter, make sure you catch the last bus at 1735h.

Our accommodation recommendations for this itinerary are as follows (* where we stayed):

  • Guest Cafe Kuchikumano* is a 1-star guest house with 5-star service. Highly recommended as a great starting accommodation for your pilgrimage.
  • Guesthouse Ogawaya has free WiFi, washing machine and a fully equipped kitchenette with a microwave and toaster.
  • Guesthouse Takao, a 3-star property also has a restaurant to make your stay more indulgent and memorable.

 

  • Minshuku Momiji-no-Sato is a small rental house at the east end of the sleepy main street of Chikatsuyu village, directly on the Kumano Kodo route. It can booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Guest House AGAE (pronounced "ah-gah-eh") is a lovingly renovated rental house in Chikatsuyu village. It too is booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Minshuku Nakano* is a family-run guesthouse located in the southern part of Chikatsuyu village. The shared lounge area is nice.
  • Koguchi Shizen-no-Ie* is an old junior high school that has been beautifully renovated as a lodge.
  • @koguchi is like a home-away-from-home in this remote mountain settlement. It can be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Minshuku Momofuku is run by Mr. Nakazawa, a friendly retiree. This tiny guesthouse has only two rooms and can also only be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Minpaku Kodo was a family home that was re-purposed into a guesthouse.
  • Oyado Hana* has a pleasnt hot spring bath, but with small accommodation rooms.
  • Chochu Stay So House is a very clean property near public transport.
  • Hanare is located within 600 metres of Kamikura Shrine and less than 1 km of Kumano Hayatama Taisha. It features accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive.
  • Kokoyui Guesthouse Shingu is a beautiful, modern-looking, renovated older Japanese home in a quiet residential area of Shingu City.and can be booked through Kumano Travel.
  • Shingu Guest House has private accommodation in Shingu with access to a garden, a shared lounge, as well as a shared kitchen.

Day 5

After breakfast, take the (bus and) train to Kumano Hayatama Taisha (approximately 90 minutes from Nachi-san or just over 30 minutes from Kii-Katsuura).

After exploring the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine grounds, make sure you also visit Kamikura-jinja [Google Maps location], the original shrine on the rock named Gotobiki Iwa, which can be reached by climbing a 500-step stairway a few hundred meters south of the main complex.

After lunch, continue your onward journey.

hayatama taisha

Located in the city of Shingu, Kumano Hayatama Taisha is the easiest to access but also the least crowded of the three Grand Shrines

Doing the Nakahechi route with day hikes from a central base

2(+1)-Day Sample Itinerary: The Nakahechi Main Route (38km) PLUS optional visit of Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Nachi-san

This itinerary includes a hike from Takijiri-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha (approximately 38 kilometres – option one) PLUS a visit to Kumano Hayatama Taisha AND Kumano Nachi Taisha (option three of the recognised pilgrimage routes).

If this is your preference, we recommend basing yourself in Yunomine Onsen or Hongū.

Day 0

Travel to the Hongū area and stay the night. If you stay in Hongū, enjoy the medicinal hot spring waters at the Public Bath (Sosei-no-yu) [Official websiteGoogle Maps location]. If you stay in Yunomine Onsen:

  • Head to the public onsen [Official websiteGoogle Maps location] (or use the private onsen in your accommodation).
  • Boil some eggs and sweet potatoes in the public hot spring – best bought at Yumune Chaya, [Google Maps location] the teahouse adjacent to the Yumune Kusushi Tōkō-ji Temple (squeezed between the river and the public onsen) – they make great provisions for your hike.

Day 1

Get up early and take the bus to Takijiri Shrine [Google Maps location] (1 to 1.5 hours). Hike to Chikatsuyu Shrine [Google Maps location] (or better yet: Tsugizakura Shrine [Google Maps location). Then take the bus back to Yunomine Onsen or Hongū (the last bus from Nonaka is at 1800h).

Download the Takijiri-oji to Takahara map and Takahara (via Chikatsuyu) to Tsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) map to use offline during your hike.

tsugizakura oji

Tsugizakura-oji is a beautiful small shrine along the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi route

Day 2

Get up early and take the bus to Chikatsuyu or Nonaka (depending on where you finished yesterday/want to continue today). The bus takes 30 to 60 minutes.

Hike to Kumano Hongu Taisha via Hosshinmon-oji (20 to 24 kilometres/7.5 to 9 hours).

Explore Kumano Hongu Taisha and Oyu-no-hara Torii. Then return to your accommodation (the last bus from Hongū to Yunomine Onsen is at 1900h).

Download the Takahara (via Chikatsuyu) to Tsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) mapTsugizakura-oji (Nonaka) to Hosshinmon-oji map and Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongū Taisha map to use offline during your hike.

kohechi joining nakahechi at sangen jaya

The hike from Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongū Taisha will take you past the Sangen-jaya intersection where the Kohechi joins the Nakahechi route

(Optional) Day 3

Check out after breakfast and take the bus to Shingū Station (approximately 1 hour). Store your luggage in a coin locker at the station.

Then walk to Kumano Hayatama Taisha and spend the morning exploring the Shrine grounds. After exploring the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine grounds, make sure you also visit Kamikura-jinja [Google Maps location], the original shrine on the rock named Gotobiki Iwa, which can be reached by climbing a 500-step stairway a few hundred meters south of the main complex.

kamikura shrine2

Kamikura-jinja, the original shrine at Gotobiki Iwa is especially beautiful at sunrise

After lunch, pick up your luggage and take the train to Kii-Katsuura. Store your luggage again in a coin locker at the station (or if you stay the night in Kii-Katsuura pop by your accommodation and ask them to store it for you until check-in).

Then take the bus from Kii-Katsuura to Nachi-san (~20 minutes). Get off at the Daimonzaka bus stop and hike the Daimonzaka steps (~1.5 kilometres) to Kumano Nachi Taisha.

Spend some time exploring the sacred grounds:

  • Visit the Grand Shrine and the adjacent Seiganto-ji Temple;
  • Make a wish and walk through the cavity of the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree; and
  • Walk to the three-storied pagoda (or further to Hirō-jinja) and admire Nachi Falls.

After your visit, return to Kii-Katsuura (the last bus is at 17:35) and stay for the night or continue your onward journey.

Our accommodation recommendations for this itinerary are as follows (* where we stayed):

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  • Minpaku Kodo was a family home that was re-purposed into a guesthouse.
  • Oyado Hana* has a pleasnt hot spring bath, but with small accommodation rooms.
  • Chochu Stay So House is a very clean property near public transport.
old camphor tree at nachisan

When in Nachi-san, make a wish and walk through the cavity of the sacred 850-year-old camphor tree

What else to know when planning to hike the Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi route?

This article focuses on different self-guided itineraries.

If you have other questions about the Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi route, our comprehensive guide answers questions like:

And if you’d like to know how much to budget for your Kumano Kodo adventure, we’ve got you covered too.

What itinerary did you go for and most importantly, how was your experience?

I wrote this Kumano Kodo/Nakahechi Route itinerary based on our own experience. If you have hiked the Nakahechi Route of the Kumano Kodo and you have something to add about the itinerary, please feel free to contact me. If you liked the tips and suggestions and found them helpful, I would appreciate it if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.

Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandrarosenau/" target="_blank">Sandra Rosenau</a>

Author: Sandra Rosenau

Sandra Rosenau is a Gen X gal from Germany, born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, with an unquenchable thirst to learn. Self-starter. Multi-lingual. Minimalist. Environmentally conscious. Financially and location independent. Energised by connecting with others and helping people succeed.