Vine bridge over Iya Valley in Shikoku

Secrets of Shikoku

Trip code

Leave the herd behind as you dove into a region of Japan full of hidden gorges, forest-filled valleys and mountain temples.

We like to think of Shikoku as Japan’s Wild West: rugged, rural, and barely known to your average foreign tourist. Bookended with two of Japan’s most exciting cities, this is a real adventure into a region that deserves far more attention than it gets.


Price based on 3* accommodation, transport & experiences
Price based on 4-5* accommodation, transport & experiences

Key facts

15 days / 14 nights
Enjoy a private, full-day tour of Kyoto with an expert local guide
Learn the secrets of Japanese cooking with an udon noodle-making class
Take a day trip to discover the world-class art galleries and installations of Naoshima Island

Transport in detail

There’s a real mixture of transport on this trip, with transfers by Shinkansen bullet train, limited express train, ferry and self-drive rental car. Other options are available, so let us know if you’d prefer to travel a different way and we’ll tailor the trip to your needs and wishes.

What's great

Though some destinations are fairly well-known, this itinerary will get you well off the beaten track in a rural region of Japan that’s often overlooked by foreign tourists

It includes a fantastic variety of destinations, including big and small cities, rural towns and villages, mountains, coast and islands

You’ll stay in lots of Japanese-style accommodation, including ryokan inns and minshuku guesthouses, with plenty of traditional home-cooked food

If you’re not bothered about seeing Tokyo, this could be a great trip for a first-time visitor to Japan

Things to consider

With lots of traditional accommodation included, you’ll need to be comfortable sleeping on a futon mattress and sitting on the floor during meals

You’ll need to obtain an international driver’s license to drive in Japan. If you can’t drive or don’t want to, we can arrange alternative transport

This trip doesn’t include Tokyo

This is a fairly fast-paced trip with several one-night stays. If you’d like to travel at a slower pace, we can tailor the itinerary to your preferences

The experience

This is a great introduction to an underrated region of Japan. Have somewhere else you want to discover? Chat to one of our consultants to see what we can do together.

Day 1-3


It’s fitting that you begin your adventure in Kyoto, as in a way, this is where it all began. Kyoto is where Japanese culture as we know it was born, back in the days of the imperial court, and the modern city is still crammed with remnants of that illustrious past. With a local guide to help you negotiate the crowds, you’ll soon discover that the vast majority of tourists stick to just 20 or so of the city’s 1,600 historic sites, leaving hundreds of beautiful, atmospheric temples and shrines blissfully quiet. If you do tire of temple-hopping, Kyoto is also a great base for day trips — perhaps to nearby Nara with its friendly deer, or Hikone to see one of Japan’s original samurai castles.

Golden Pavilion in Kyoto


Explore Kyoto’s iconic sites and lesser-known gems on a private guided tour of the city

Take a break from temples and have us include a boat ride on the Hozugawa River to the Arashiyama bamboo groves (not included in the basic trip price)

Sample Japan’s haute cuisine in the home of kaiseki — or keep it casual with a sushi breakfast at Nishiki Market (let us know if you want us to make you any restaurant reservations)

Wooden temple in wood illuminated at night

Day 4-5


Zipping west on the bullet train, your next destination is Hiroshima: Japan’s own phenix city. You’ll be staying on the sacred island of Miyajima, where you’ll spend the next two nights at a traditional inn. Most visitors come for the day, but you’ll get to see this beautiful World Heritage island when the crowds have gone home, with its “floating” torii gate illuminated against the night sky. If you’re up for a challenge, the hike up Mount Misen is grueling but spectacular — but we won’t blame you if you prefer to chill out with the local deer instead. An onsen bath followed by some local oysters and a glass of Chablis overlooking the bay is a pretty unbeatable way to spend your time.

Two people descending steps in Miyajima


Learn about the impact of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima’s excellent Peace Park and Museum

Try okonomiyaki: Hiroshima’s signature, sauce-slathered, noodle-based pancake

Sleep on tatami mats and eat delicious local food at a traditional Japanese inn

Front entrance of Itsukushima shrine in Miyajima

The finer detail

  • Breakfast on 11 mornings (not included at your farmhouse in the Iya Valley)
  • Seven evening meals: two at your accommodation on Miyajima Island; two in Matsuyama; one at your accommodation in Kotohira; two at your accommodation in the Iya Valley
  • One full-day guided tour of Kyoto
  • One noodle-making class in Kotohira
  • Tickets to the Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima
  • All accommodation
  • All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
  • All domestic transfers and transport
  • Ferry tickets for Naoshima day trip
  • Four days’ car rental
  • Pocket Wi-Fi device
  • Your personalized InsideJapan Info-Pack

Day 1: Shared taxi transfer from Kansai Airport to your hotel in Kyoto (1 hour 45 min)

Day 4: Bullet train transfer from Kyoto to Hiroshima (2 hours); ferry transfer from Hiroshima to Miyajima (15 min)

Day 6: Ferry transfer from Miyajima to Hiroshima (15 min); ferry transfer from Hiroshima to Matsuyama (2 hours 40 min)

Day 8: Rental car journey from Matsuyama to Kotohira (3 hours)

Day 9: Rental car journey from Kotohira to the Iya Valley (1.5 hours)

Day 11: Rental car journey from the Iya Valley to Takamatsu (2 hours 10 mins)

Day 12: Ferry transfer to and from Naoshima from Takamatsu (50 min each way)

Day 13: Limited Express train and Shinkansen bullet train journey from Takamatsu to Osaka (2 hours)

Day 14: Train journey to Kansai International Airport (40 min)

  • International flights
  • Local transport (busses, 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
  • Petrol (gas) for your rental car