Nikko temple in autumn

World Heritage Japan

Trip code
WHJ001

This itinerary traces the story of Japan on a journey steeped in tradition and history, with UNESCO’s World Heritage list as its foundation.

A thatched-roof village in the Japanese Alps, a skeletal building stripped by the atomic bomb, magnificent temples and shrines, and cultural traditions preserved over centuries. This trip isn’t just about seeing amazing monuments; it’s about what makes Japan Japan.

Pricing

Price based on 3* accommodation, transport & experiences
From
A$5,800
pp
Price based on 4-5* accommodation, transport & experiences
From
A$9,700
pp

Key facts

18 days / 17 nights
Enjoy expert guided tours of Tokyo, Kyoto and Nikko
Take a day trip to see the “floating” torii gate and shrine on Miyajima Island
Spend the night in a traditional, thatched-roof farmhouse in Shirakawago
Contrast the exquisite simplicity of Kyoto’s Zen temples with the splendour of Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine
Enjoy an optional guided visit and sutra-chanting session at Saiho-ji Moss Garden, famous throughout Japan
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DAY 1-3, 17-18 TOKYO DAY 9-10 MT KOYA DAY 16 SHIRAKAWAGO DAY 6-8 KYOTO DAY 14-15 KANAZAWA DAY 4-5 NIKKO DAY 12-13 HIROSHIMA DAY 11 HIMEJI
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DAY 1-3, 17-18 TOKYO DAY 9-10 MT KOYA DAY 16 SHIRAKAWAGO DAY 6-8 KYOTO DAY 14-15 KANAZAWA DAY 4-5 NIKKO DAY 12-13 HIROSHIMA DAY 11 HIMEJI

All transfers will be by public transport (mainly limited express train and Shinkansen bullet train) unless otherwise specified. If you’d prefer to travel a different way, there are lots of options – including first-class train tickets and private transfers with a driver. Just let us know and we’ll tailor the trip to your preferences.

What's great

This itinerary covers seven of Japan’s 25 World Heritage Sites, which constitute some of the country’s most magnificent art, architecture and landscapes

It includes a great balance of urban and rural destinations, including big cities, small towns, mountaintop temples and rural villages

With at least two nights in every stop excet Himeji and Shirakawago, you’ll have plenty of time to get to know each destination

This itinerary is destination-led rather than activity-based, but if you want to add any extra experiences we can to tailor it to your preferences

Ticking off many of Japan’s most famous sites, this is a great trip for first-timers with an interest in history and tradition

Things to consider

At 18 days, this is a fairly long trip. If you have less time, let us know and we’ll design an itinerary to suit your needs

Since this journey is all about heritage, there’s a focus on traditional experiences over more alternative or modern destinations

Most of the locations on this trip are popular tourist hotspots, so be prepared to contend with crowds

The experience

We used UNESCO’s World Heritage list as the bones of this itinerary, but we can build a trip around any theme. Let us know what floats your boat and we’ll get designing.

Day 1-3

Tokyo

It may not have a World Heritage Site, but the biggest city in human history isn’t exactly without accolades. To help you discover the undercurrents of history and heritage in the Japanese capital, spend a full day with one of our favourite guides. They’ll show you the ropes, help you master basic etiquette, and introduce you to the endless possibilities in this great city. How you spend your time depends on your interests, but you could check out contemporary art at Mori Tower, go cruising on the Sumida River, take tea in Hamarikyu Gardens or even drop in on morning training at a sumo stable. Tokyo is full of heritage, UNESCO-listed or not.

Panoramic view of Tokyo seen from Park Hyatt hotel

Highlights

Explore Tokyo’s many contrasting districts, including traditional Asakusa, buzzing Shinjuku and peaceful Ueno (to name a few)

Have us arrange a visit to a kabuki show for an introduction to the traditional arts (not included in the basic trip price)

Go in search of Tokyo’s modern architectural heritage in glitzy Ginza and Omotesando Boulevard

Person walking past Meiji Shrine in the rain

Day 4-5

Nikko

In Nikko National Park, human artifice meets natural splendour in a World Heritage Site like no other. With two nights here, you’ll have time to explore even further than the magnificent 103-building shrine complex, perhaps hiking along the shores of Lake Chuzen-ji, visiting the spectacular, 96-metre Kegon Falls, or soaking in some of the region’s hot springs. As beautiful as Nikko’s natural surrounding are, they’re almost upstaged by its manmade attractions – and none more so than the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s greatest shogun. Eye-poppingly lavish, it’s the antithesis of the usual pared-back shrine aesthetic. There’s simply nothing else like it in Japan.

Nikko pagoda in the snow

Highlights

Tour Nikko’s shrine complex with an expert local guide, who’ll explain why this is such an important location in the country’s collective memory

Look out for the original carving of the three “see-no-evil” monkeys at Tosho-gu Shrine

Take some time to appreciate the natural beauty of this stunning national park

View of waterfall in Nikko in autumn

The finer detail

  • Breakfast every day
  • Three evening meals: two at your accommodation in Mount Koya; one at your accommodation in Shirakawago
  • Two full-day private guided tours: one in Kyoto; one in Tokyo
  • One six-hour private guided tour of Nikko
  • All accommodation
  • All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
  • All domestic transfers and transport
  • 14-day Japan Rail Pass
  • Manaca card with 2,500 yen credit for city transport
  • Kansai Thru Pass for transport in the Kansai region
  • Pocket Wi-Fi device
  • Your personalised InsideJapan Info-Pack

Day 1: Train and subway transfer from Narita Airport to your hotel in Tokyo (80 min)

Day 4: Limited express train transfer from Tokyo to Nikko (1 hour 45 min)

Day 6: Limited express and bullet train transfer from Nikko to Kyoto (5 hours)

Day 9: Express train and funicular railway transfer from Kyoto to Mount Koya (3.5 hours)

Day 11: Funicular railway, express train and bullet train transfer from Mount Koya to Himeji (2.5 hours)

Day 12: Bullet train transfer from Himeji to Hiroshima (1 hour)

Day 14: Bullet train transfer from Hiroshima to Kanazawa (4.5 hours)

Day 16: Highway bus transfer from Kanazawa to Shirakawago (1 hour 15 min)

Day 17: Highway bus (1.5 hours) and bullet train (2 hours 15 min) transfer from Shirakawago to Tokyo

Day 18: Limited express train transfer to Tokyo Narita Airport (1 hour 15 min)

  • International flights
  • Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) at any destination unless otherwise specified
  • Any lunches or dinners unless stated
  • Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
  • Tipping and personal expenses
  • Baggage handling