This two day trek covers some of the toughest climbs and falls of the Nakahechi Route, but the payoff is spectacular mountain and ocean vistas, as well as a number of spiritual encounters. Warm and bubbling hot springs, the remains of ancient teahouses, the entrance into the spiritual realm of those who have passed, and a spot where the Kumano deities meet up for tea all await on this challenging yet ultimately fulfilling course.
Clamber rocky roads and stone stairways
Metaphysical meetups with gods and spirits
Warming dips into rock pools and river
Sweeping vistas from mountain passes
Tips: Fly to Nanki-Shirahama airport to begin your exploration of Wakayama. Japan Airlines offers affordable domestic fares with the JAL Japan Explorer Pass. The easy-to-use English website makes booking flights very easy.
To access the Shirahama and Kii-Tanabe area, take the Kuroshio Limited Express. Hugging Wakayama’s scenic coastline as it passes through the major access points of the area, the train rolls out of Kyoto Station, through Shin-Osaka and Tennoji, reaching the area in just over two and a half hours. The service is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
From there, buses are your best option. A bus from Shirahama Airport—stopping off and sometimes starting from Kii-Tanabe Station—runs to the onsen resort areas of Kawayu, Yunomine and Watarase Onsen.
Tips: Other travel options from throughout Japan are available.
After breakfast, pick up the same local bus that brought you to your onsen destination and take the 15-20 minute journey to the Ukegawa Bus Stop. The trailhead is located a short walk south of the bus stop. Pick up some drinks and snacks from the store (closed Wednesdays) before starting your trek. The first section is a gradual climb through forests of cedar and cypress taking you up along some mountain ridges.
3 Sakura-jaya Teahouse Remains
4 Into the Valley
5 Overnight in Koguchi
Whether you are planning to explore other areas of Wakayama Prefecture or move on to destinations further afield, the Kuroshio Express train stops at Kii-Katsuura, and travels onto to Kii-Tanabe, and Shirahama Airport—the airport has daily flights to Tokyo. You can take this train north to Osaka and Kyoto.