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Kii Peninsula Voted Best in Travel 2018

Japanís Kii Peninsula in central Wakayama prefecture has been voted no.5 in the ten Top Regions to visit in Lonely Planetís Best in Travel 2018!


The Top Regions category pinpoints ten up-and-coming regions working their way up Lonely Planetís must-visit travel bucket list. This yearís list was headed by Northern Irelandís Belfast and the Causeway Coast, with Alaska (USA), the Julian Alps (Slovenia), the Languedoc-Roussillon region (France), and Japanís Kii Peninsula following closely behind. Together with India, the Kii Peninsula is the only Asian destination to feature on this yearís list.

With Japanís status as a ďred-hotĒ travel destination - the number of visitors has doubled over the past three years, and is only expected to rise - Lonely Planet suggests the Kii Peninsula as an ideal place for visitors looking to ďdig a little deeperĒ into the thrilling country of Japan.

Dipping down into the Pacific Ocean south of major tourist honeypots Kyoto and Osaka, the Kii Peninsula offers prime examples of many of Japanís most lauded attractions. There are Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, sublime natural scenery and steaming hot springs, traditional culture and modern convenience, but all without the crowds you are likely to find in nearby big cities - so far, that is!

According to Lonely Planet, the Kii Peninsula is starting to get noticed, in part because ďtravelling here is remarkably hassle-free.Ē Given its proximity to local transport hubs Osaka and Kyoto, travelling to the peninsula is also a no-brainer - the entrance to the peninsula is just 2 hoursí drive south of Osaka or Kyoto, with the tip around 3.5 hours further south. Itís also possible to get around by train, with the Kisei Line running around the peninsula along its scenic coastline.†

But what to do once you get there? Lonely Planet highlights the Kumano Kodo, once an ancient pilgrimage route and now a network of hiking trails weaving through the nature-rich, mountainous peninsula. Once reserved only for emperors and samurai, today the old road is open to all modern-day seekers and wanderers - Lonely Planet describes a trek on the trail as ďone of Japanís most remote and rewarding journeysĒ.

Here are a few more ideas for things to do once youíve ditched the crowds and got firmly off the beaten tourist track in the Kii Peninsula...†

Top Places To Visit in the Kii Peninsula

Hike the Kumano Kodo - Sacred Pilgrimage Trail

The†Kumano Kodo, a network of ages-old walking trails, has been used by pilgrims and visitors to the peninsula for over a millennium. It is one of only two pilgrimage routes in the world that has been decreed a UNESCO World Heritage site, in 2004. Explore the trailsí atmospheric moss-covered, tree-lined paths under your own steam, or join a guided tour by one an expert tour company such as†Walk Japan†or†Oku Japan.

Nearest station: Shingu station

Kumano Sanzan - Sacred Shrines and Waterfall

Venture deep into Japanís spiritual heartland and discover Kumano Sanzan, a trio of sacred shrines tucked away in thickly forested hills on the peninsulaís southern tip. Of the three shrines, Nachi Taisha - home to a dramatic waterfall which is the tallest in Japan at 133 metres - is the most scenic and also the most easily accessible by public transport. Time your visit for mid-July to witness the breathtaking Nachi-no-Ogi fire festival (find out more about it here).

Nearest station: Shingu station

Shirahama - Beaches and Onsen

Offering the unusual - but heavenly - combination of sandy beaches and bubbling hot springs, onsen-cum-beach-resort Shirahama has everything† you need to kick back and relax. Shirahama means ďwhite sandĒ in Japanese, and as the name suggests, the area is home to 500-metre long white sand beach. Many of the resortís hotels will see you bunking down just a few steps from the waterís edge. Shirahama is also one of Japanís three oldest onsen, with six bathhouses open to day guests. Head to coastal Sakinoyu or Shirasuna on the sandy beach for outdoor views while you bathe.

Nearest station: Shirahama station

Mount Koya - Temple Lodgings

Take a detour to visit this sacred mountain-top temple complex at the top of the peninsula near Osaka. Mt. Koya is home to over 100 temples, but the most important are Kongobuji Temple and Okunoin mausoleum. To really appreciate the esoteric vibe, make sure you stay overnight in a shukubo (temple lodging), where youíll get a taster of life as a Buddhist monk, sleeping on a futon, eating shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine), and trying out monkish activities such as calligraphy, Zen meditation and morning prayers.

Nearest station: Gokurabashi station†

Ise Jingu - Japanís Most Sacred Shrine

Located on the eastern ďthumbĒ of the peninsula between Osaka and Nagoya, Ise is home to the Ise Jingu shrines, Japanís most sacred Shinto shrines. Ise Jingu consists of two major shrines standing several kilometres apart from each other: the Inner Shrine (Naiku) and the Outer Shrine (Geku). The Inner Shrine, dedicated to Shintoís most important deity, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, is arresting in its simplicity. Featuring little more than gravel-strewn pathways linking a series of barely painted wooden shrines in a serene forest, the unworldly atmosphere defies words and must be experienced to be understood.

Nearest station: Isuzugawa station†

Yoshino - Cherry Blossoms

Yoshino is one of Japanís most famous and spectacular cherry blossom spots. The slopes of Mt. Yoshino are covered by over 30,000 cherry blossom trees which burst into bloom every year in spring, lending the mountains the appearance of being wrapped in candy floss. Visitors can admire the breath-taking sight as they walk the many trails criss-crossing the mountainís hills and slopes, while those who donít fancy the climb can hop on the Yoshino Ropeway.

Nearest station: Yoshino

If that has piqued your interest you can find out more about the Kii Peninsula and the other nine up-and-coming regions that made it onto Lonely Planetís list this year here:
Alternatively, find out more about hiking the Kumano Kodo here:

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