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Legacy of Kyoto and Surrounding Prefectures
While Japan may be seemingly gripped by an obsession with the modern world it still retains a fascinating traditional culture. Join this special cycling adventure that soaks up those traditions as you pedal out of the ancient city of Kyoto, marvel at the world renowned cherry blossom trees, and meet the monks atop mountains who lead such a unique way of life. This is a journey that truly shows off Japan’s history, beauty and culture.
- CategoryRoad Cycling
- Duration7 days
- Culture LevelAdventurous
- Skill Level3 - Intermediate
- Activity Level3 - Active
- Elevation3 - Intermediate
- Distance158.4 miles
- Avg. Daily Distance31.7 miles
- Day 1Stepping back in time ahead of a grand Japanese adventure
It is official: you have touched down in the cultural epicenter of Japan, Kyoto.
The day is yours to explore the intriguing city of Kyoto before meeting the tour representatives in the late afternoon for a briefing and to pick up your bike and equipment. Widely recognized as Japan’s spiritual heart, a city full of UNESCO world heritage sites, there is an abundance of places to explore.
Temples, history and tradition can easily tempt the eye with the Golden Pavilion standing proud on the lake it sits in while the towering Imperial Palace also vies for attention. Away from the history that peeks around every corner, Kyoto is also known as being home to Japan’s rising modern art scene.
Kyoto is a city that will quickly draw you under its spell as you head to meet the rest of the tour participants for the first of many delicious meals. Tomorrow the tour begins in earnest.
- Day 2Swapping two feet for two wheels to explore Kyoto in style
After yesterday’s self-guided exploration of the city, it’s time to crank those gears and feel the rush that will greet you while riding around Kyoto. The Japanese people are exceptionally courteous drivers, which makes for some fantastic urban riding on wide roads and shared pathways.
Today’s pedaling begins alongside a river which takes you towards the Bamboo Forest. Depending on the time of year, you may see the cherry blossoms bloom. The natural sights are a beautiful distraction but try not to overlook the years of history that this ancient city has to offer. Kyoto served as Japan’s capital twice. One tour stop takes in the Tenryuji Temple, ranked as one of the top five Zen temples in the city. It’s a spectacular place to see and is reminiscent of ancient architecture. En route, the group stops to breathe in the Zen garden scents in Ryoanji before marveling at the stunning cityscapes from Kinkakuji.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, plenty of traditional treats can be enjoyed along the way. Eventually, you will all roll back into town before the evening's exploration of the wide array of fantastic dining options. If you’re at a loss, your guides will be more than happy to recommend somewhere to pull up a chair for the evening.
- 19.9 miles
- Day 3Cruising from capital to capital as Nara awaits
City riding is considered a monotonous task, however, Japan is not most countries and Kyoto is not most cities. The pleasant nature of drivers here is a refreshing change to the norm, making cycling out of the city an enjoyable experience.
As you ride out of the city, you’ll be connected to a bike path that provides smooth riding all the way along the river. You’ll quickly forget the initial city riding as you're surrounded by natural scenery. With every rotation of the pedals glorious bamboo forests, green tea plantations and corn crops greet you. The variety of color is dazzling and will make every bead of sweat worthwhile.
A charming café offers a welcome respite for some morning tea. Later, a viewing tower can be climbed for some breathtaking views halfway through the route.
Your destination is Japan’s first permanent capital city, Nara. While the hotel appears standard, you may be surprised to learn that each room has its own theme. Some are Japanese while others are Hawaiian or Minimalist. The hotel is in a perfect spot for exploration, situated near two Imperial tombs set on islands surrounded by moats. Nara’s maze of streets and lanes around the community are perfect for venturing around and meeting with the locals.
- 30.4 miles
- Day 4Tackling Mount Yoshino and dipping further into Japanese culture
Nara was installed as Japan’s first capital back in the 8th century and while there are not many remains from this period, there are still a few fascinating sights to discover. An imposing replica of a temple will steal your gaze as you make your way out on the bikes. Nara is an intriguing place and as you cycle further you will begin to realize just how large this place is.
After navigating the city’s maze of roads you’ll pop back onto quiet back roads in the rolling Japanese countryside. A few hills present a small challenge but the views of local agriculture and authentic villages will keep you distracted from the potential aches.
The hills get steeper as you edge closer to climbing up Mount Yoshino. No call for alarm, the gradient here is manageable and does not last long. The reward is a magnificent view from a ridge with a mesmerizing collection of temples atop the mountain.
Tonight you will stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Immerse yourself in Japan’s culture; the inn comes complete with tatami matted floors, paper walls, futon beds, yukata gowns, and, of course, a Japanese feast for dinner.
- 39.1 miles
- Day 5Battling the climbs with the reward of an onsen waiting
Awaking in your traditional surroundings, you can ease into the day with a delicious local breakfast enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Afterwards, gear up and begin a pleasurable descent back down yesterday's climb.
This tour includes a support vehicle at all times, but after yesterday’s warm up you should feel confident to tackle the hills that are coming. Prior to reaching them you can carb up with some lunch at a convenience store before pushing onwards.
The first part of the climb is 4km (2.5mi) long before you descend again and then finally tackling the main climb of 8km (5mi). After pushing through and reaching the top, the road levels out again and you can enjoy a breezy ride to your accommodation for the evening. Tonight's lodging is another unique Japanese accommodation; the shukubo, traditionally part of a temple facility and used by students and novice monks. These days paying guests are also welcome. Your host will take you on a tour and explain its inner workings, including the onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring bath that will be perfect for soaking your aching muscles after today’s climbing.
- 31.1 miles
- Day 6Rise early for the views and a jam packed final day
Koyasan has a special beauty at the dawn. You may choose to rise early for a chance to appreciate the sunrise in this quiet town. Along winding streets lined by small houses, you may catch sight of processions of monks on their way to morning meditation. Depending on the time of the year, moss and verdant greenery bedeck the rock walls. The 45 meter (148 foot) tall Konpon Daito Pagoda and its encompassing memorial grounds are a lovely place to observe the town’s peacefulness.
After a breathtaking morning, it’s back to the shukubo where breakfast has been prepared for each participant in their own room. You can take your pick from a selection of vegetarian delicacies as eaten by the monks themselves. There’s enough time to take a dip in the onsen before today's 10 a.m. ride start.
The first segment of the last ride of this tour is an exhilarating descent on smooth tarmac. Please do be attentive for any vehicles and people making the ascent; as long as you stick to your side of the road you will be fine.
Halfway down, leave the rush of the descent on the main route as the tour diverts to quieter back streets. Taking a more serene pace, ease back into more gentle riding, revel in the surrounding cedar forests, and cycle alongside a fast moving river.
You will eventually come to a junction with a trail that leads, uninterrupted, all the way to the city of Wakayama. This flat, open, vehicle- and crossing-free trail is about the best way to end a tour.
Your hotel for the final night is in a central spot and close to all the sites. Dinner is on your own; there are a preponderance of options in Wakayama. The tour organizer would be happy to make recommendations and will whisk away the bikes and equipment at this time.
- 37.9 miles
- Day 7Waving goodbye to Wakayama and leaving Japan
Enjoy one last Japanese breakfast with your tour mates before deciding what’s next. Wakayama is an excellent place to explore in the morning: there's a castle, an art museum, and a train museum. All are close to the hotel so there is plenty of time prior to the 10 a.m. checkout. If it's not too busy, the hotel may accommodate an extension to 11 or noon.
Taxis can take you to the train station easily and from there it’s a straightforward train ride to Osaka Airport, Osaka City or Kyoto.