Nikko/Aizu – challenging

A Japanese proverb says, “Never say ‘Kekko’ (meaning I am satisfied) until you’ve seen Nikko.” Our ride starts in Nikko, a Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship center for many centuries and the Toshogu shrine’s seat, an UNESCO’s world cultural heritage site. We then explore its surrounding area, which offers magnificent landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. We spend the latter half of the trip in Aizu, a scenic region in northern Japan surrounded by beautiful mountains. The route takes us through quaint farm villages, rice fields, and narrow mountain roads. Our accommodations are mostly elegant ryokans (Japanese-style inns) that offer local charm and comfort and excellent onsen (natural hot spring bath). Our route encompasses several challenging hill climbs and therefore is most suitable for intermediate to advanced riders.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1 : Nikko (52km)

Meet in Asakusa of Tokyo in the morning and transfer by train to Shimo-Imaichi (takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes), which was once an important transportation point in the old days. Our warmup ride starts on one of the old main roads lined with 380+ years old cedar trees, and then onto quiet country roads amid rice field and gently rolling hills. Tonight we stay in a cozy pension located adjacent to Toshogu Shrine and unwind in a nice onsen (natural hot spring bath). (Dinner included)

Day 2 : Okukinu onsen spa (51km)

We spend the morning sightseeing Toshogu Shrine, the site for the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who established the shogunate government that ruled Japan for 260 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. You will be overwhelmed by the serene atmosphere and series of gorgeous engravings and statues that decorate the shrine’s buildings. Today, our ride starts with a challenging ascent to Lake Chuzenji via the Irohazaka road with 20 ‘hairpin’ turns. Then we bike along Lake Chuzenji and in the Oku-Nikko (inner Nikko) area, which is blessed with magnificent natural beauty. We eventually head Oku-Kinu, which is known as “the home of secret spas.” We stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inn), which has excellent onsen baths. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 3 : Kinugawa onsen spa (68km)

After a smooth and gradual downhill in the morning, we start a challenging 13km ascent via Ozasa pasture to Kirifuri Highland, home to beautiful azaleas in spring and colorful leaves in autumn. Past Kirifuri Highland, we enjoy spectacular downhill towards Nikko and then to Kinugawa onsen spa. Kinugawa Onsen, which was found around 300 years ago, is one of the most famous hot spring areas in the northern Kanto region. We stay at a large Japanese-style hotel with excellent facilities for a relaxing and fun stay. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 4 : Yunokami onsen spa (103km)

After breakfast, we take a local train and transfer to the rural Aizu region. In the morning, we cycle on quiet country roads through rice fields. After lunch, we ride into mountainous areas. We hunt two challenging passes, riding past beautiful rice fields and small farm villages. Tonight we stay at Yunokami onsen, a secluded spa with excellent hot spring water. You can soak in abundant hot spring water and relax – a perfect way to end a long day of riding! (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 5 : Aizuwakamatsu (80km)

Following a smooth start on flat roads, we ride up to Ouchijuku, an old post town used long ago by Aizu feudal lords until the 19th century to travel back and forth to Edo (now Tokyo). Preserved thatched-roof houses give you an idea of what the town used to be like in the old days. Past Ouchijuku, our ride starts with a steep but short climb, followed by a long descent through mountain forests into the Aizu Basin. On our way to Aizuwakamatsu, we stop by one of the oldest temples in the region and a sake brewery. We stay at a beautiful ryokan in Higashiyama onsen spa, Aizuwakamatsu’s back parlor. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 6 : Lake Hibara (82km)

In the morning, we visit the Bukeyashiki (reconstructed samurai villa) in Aizuwakamatsu to see what the samurai lifestyle used to be like. Today, our ride starts with an 11km climb to Mt. Seaburi, followed by a nice descent to Lake Inawashiro. We then take on the most challenging hill climb of the whole trip towards Lake Hibara, a serene lake situated halfway up the Bandai-san (Mount Bandai, a magnificent volcano). After lunch by Lake Hibara, we wind down by a relaxing ride around the lake. We retreat in a western-style hotel by Lake Hibara. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 7 : Departure

Following breakfast, we leave Lake Hibara by shuttle bus and local train and transfer in Koriyama to the Shinkansen (bullet train) for Tokyo. Once in Koriyama, it is time to say goodbye to your leader/guide. You arrive in Tokyo in the afternoon. (Breakfast included)