Setouchi – relaxed

Bound by Japan’s major islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) is the largest inland sea in Japan. With its calm sea surface and mild climate, Setouchi and its surrounding areas have prospered as a vital shipping lane since ancient times. There are full of sites of scenic and historical interest. On this trip, we explore islands and surrounding areas of Setouchi, riding along picturesque coast dotted with numerous islands, visiting historical and cultural sites, enjoying great food. En route, we ride across the sea using the Shimanami Highway, the most popular cycling course in Japan that stretches across the Sea from Shikoku to Onomichi on Honshu. Our tour ends in Hiroshima with visits to the Peace Memorial Park and Miyajima, both registered with the list of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage sites.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1 : Himeji (no ride)

We meet at the Himeji train station in the afternoon. Please plan to arrive at the Himeji train station by 2pm. We visit the magnificent Himeji castle. Also known as the White Heron Castle, Himeji Castle is both a Japanese National Treasure and a World Heritage Site and is widely considered the best-preserved feudal castle in Japan. Stroll around in the castle ground and enjoy its imposing size and beauty. Himeji is easily accessible from Osaka, about a 1-hour ride on a local train. There are direct bus services from the Kansai International Airport to Himeji – about a 2 to 2.5-hour journey. (Dinner included)

Day 2 : Shodoshima (38km)

After breakfast, we start biking from the hotel to the Himeji port.  We then travel by ferry to the island of Shodoshima. We ride along the northern coast of this beautiful island known for olive cultivation, soy sauce production, and Mediterranean atmosphere. We ride at a leisurely pace enjoying views of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. Tonight we stay at a Japanese-style hotel with magnificent ocean views from guest rooms. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 3 : Takamatsu (28km)

We head inland and cycle to the beautiful farm village of Hitoyama in the morning. There is some climb followed by a nice descent to the southern coast of the island. Then we continue cycling along the rugged coastline and stop by a soy sauce factory to see its production facilities. We finish our ride for the day at Ikeda port, where we catch a ferry to Shikoku. It is about one hour journey from Kusakabe to Takamatsu. Once in Takamatsu, we ride to the beautiful Ritsurin Garden. Tonight, we stay at a western-style hotel conveniently located in central Takamatsu. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 4 : Kotohira Shrine and Dogo Onsen spa (no ride)

After breakfast, we hop on a local train and head to Kotohira. We visit Kotohiragu Shrine, the most celebrated shrine in Shikoku. The access route to the Main Sanctuary has some 785 steps and is not an easy climb. The view back over the town from the main Hongu shrine at the point of the 785th step is incredibly impressive. After lunch, we are on a 2-hour train journey to Matsuyama. We stay at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in Dogo Onsen (natural hot spring bath), the oldest onsen in Japan, which is said to have a 3,000-year history. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 5 : Imabari (50km)

After breakfast, we say goodbye to the ryokan staff and cycle out of Matsuyama city past rice paddy fields. Eventually, we reach the coast and ride along the coastline with views of the picturesque Seto Inland Sea dotted with small islands. Today, we stay in Imabari city, the access point to the Shimanami Highway. Imabari is famous for great foods such as fresh seafood from the Kurushima strait or yakitori (charcoal-grilled chicken). We stay at a western-style hotel. We plan to have dinner at a local izakaya – a Japanese-style pub restaurant. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 6 : Shimanami Kaido (47km)

Today we set off for a cycling journey from Shikoku to Honshu across the Seto Inland Sea. We ride on the Shimanami Highway for two days, which has become the best-recommended cycling course in Japan. Most Highway parts have dedicated cycling paths and offer cyclists to enjoy relaxed rides with spectacular “island-hopping” rides over six islands connected by bridges. Tonight we stay at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) on a small island. (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 7 : Onomichi (55km)

We continue our journey on the Shimanami Highway to Onomichi city amid citrus orchards and fishing villages. We conclude cycling on Mukaishima and approach Onomichi city by ferry. Onomichi is a quaint city that has long flourished due to brisk maritime trade. We stay at a casual western-style hotel. Relax and enjoy watching small ferries passing through narrow Onomichi strait and take in the city’s nostalgic port town atmosphere. We have dinner at a local izakaya (Breakfast and dinner included)

Day 8 : Hiroshima (no ride)

We spend the morning exploring Onomichi, which is characterized by its many slopes and temples. We walk through narrow lanes and stopping by several temples. If your legs have not worn out, we can walk up to the hilltop of Senkoji Park and enjoy a birds-eye view of the city. By mid-morning, we depart Onomichi and head to Hiroshima. After a one-hour train journey, we reach Hiroshima and visit the Peace Memorial Park and the Museum. The evening is your free time. Hiroshima offers many gastronomical pleasures. Why not try oysters or Hiroshima-style 'okonomiyaki,' a unique flour crepe fried with vegetables and noodles? We stay at a western-style hotel conveniently located in the city center. (Breakfast included)

Day 9 : Hiroshima (no ride)

After breakfast, we travel by local train and ferry to Miyajima island. It is a scenic site where the mountains, sea, and red shrine buildings blend in harmony. It is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful sights and inscribed as a UNESCO’s world cultural heritage site. After lunch, we head back to Hiroshima. It is time to say good-bye. Our guide will escort you to Hiroshima train station, where you can catch a bullet train for your next destination. (Breakfast included)