Koyasan to Kumano: the Ultimate Wakayama Itinerary

Koyasan to Kumano: the Ultimate Wakayama Itinerary
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4 days and 3 nights
Walk / Train / bus

Travel through the mountainous heart of Wakayama and explore the region's two most iconic areas

When visiting Wakayama and the mountainous Kii Peninsula, time constraints and logistics often leave visitors with the difficult decision of choosing between the mountaintop temple town Koyasan or the pilgrimage routes and sacred sites of Kumano. With a daily bus link now operating between Wakayama's top spots, you don't have to miss out on either.


Kansai International Airport (KIX)

Board the Nankai Airport Express or Rapi:t Airport Express (seat reservations required) for Tengachaya, then take the Nankai Koya Line direct to Koyasan. The whole journey takes around 90 minutes.

■ Visit the spiritual complex of Koyasan and the Kumano Sanzan grand shrines. The Koyasan & Kumano Access Bus gives you a ride between the spiritual sites. 

■ For handy travel tips and more information on getting to Koyasan, see our detailed Koyasan itinerary

About 2.5 hours by train


Although most sights in Koyasan are within easy walking distance, a convenient bus network is also available. If you plan to rely heavily on buses, make sure to pick up a 1-day pass available at the bus station outside Koyasan Station.

Temple Stay

One of the highlights of a visit to Koyasan is a temple stay. Of the 117 temples in the area, almost half of them provide lodgings. Each temple has its own unique character and charm, but all offer a warm welcome and meticulously prepared Buddhist cuisine. Many also allow guests to take part in meditation sessions, morning prayer, and other rituals. To make the most of your temple-stay experience, we suggest checking in as early as possible.

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Kongobu-ji Head Temple

If you have some downtime before dinner or don't feel like checking in to your accommodation right away, there are plenty more sights to explore. Kongobu-ji, with a breathtakingly beautiful rock garden and a collection of exotic screen paintings, is an excellent choice.

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Pilgrimage routes run through Wakayama connecting Koyasan and the sacred sites of Kumano, but now there is also a bus service reducing travel time from several days to just a few hours.

Buses leave from Koyasan Station in the morning except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The journey to Kumano takes 4-4.5 hours and includes several short stops. It is necessary to change buses once, but your ticket is valid for the entire journey.

■ While tickets can be purchased on the bus, it is advisable to book them online. Timetable and other detailed information is available here

About 4.5 hours by bus

Hongu Taishamae


The scenic journey through the Kii mountains to Kumano takes you by rustic hot spring villages and dramatic mountainscapes, before terminating outside Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine. You can choose to stay and look around the shrine, or take a short 20-minute bus ride to Yunomine Onsen and jump into a relaxing hot spring bath.

Ryokan Stay

After exploring the Yunomine hot spring hamlet, check into one of the local ryokan. Many of these traditional Japanese inns are family-run and some date back centuries. 


Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route

No trip to the Kumano region is complete without a walk along the famed Kumano Kodo. A section of one of these ancient pilgrimage routes, the Dainichi-goe route, runs from Yunomine to the grand shrine in Hongu. Pick the trail up from Yunomine-oji Shrine, behind the small Tsuboyu bathhouse. Although only 3.5km long, it can take up to 2 hours with short breaks along the way.

■ A detailed trail map is available on the Kumano Tourism Bureau's website.  

Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine

The Dainichi-goe trail leads into the grounds of the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the three revered Kumano Sanzan shrines. Don't miss the main shrine building. It is an architectural masterpiece that epitomizes Japanese shrine architecture.

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Kumano Washi Paper Otonashi

A short walk from the shrine is a traditional paper-making studio. Even today, the master craftsman makes Japanese washi paper by hand the same way it's been made for centuries. For a small fee you can learn about the paper-making process and try your hand at the art.


Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine

After visiting Hongu, make your next stop Shingu, home to Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. Buses bound for Shingu can be boarded from Yunomine and the other nearby hot spring hamlets as well as from the stop in front of Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine.

by bus

Shingu (Kumano-gawa)

Kumano River Boat Tour

Most buses bound for Shingu stop at Kumano-gawa, where traditional boats passengers down the meandering Kumano River to Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. A thrilling experience and an exciting way to approach the shrine, tours operate twice daily at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and last 90 minutes.

Kamikura-jinja Shrine

While Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine is definitely worth a visit, even more spectacular is Kamikura-jinja, a small shrine perched precariously upon a cliff face, seemingly stopping a giant boulder from rolling off the side and down into the city. The climb up the steep, uneven stone steps is a thrill in itself. You may also be interested to know that Kamikura-jinja was the original site of Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine.

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Train lines running west connect Shingu to Wakayama City and on to Osaka, and those running east pass through Mie Prefecture and on to Nagoya. As Wakayama's southern transport hub, Shingu is an ideal place to end your Koyasan-Kumano journey. If you do have more time to spend in the area, consider visiting Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple or Shirahama.

Option: Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple

A short bus ride from either Nachi Station or Kii-Katsuura Station, the Nachisan area is home to Japan's longest waterfall and the third of Kumano's revered grand shrines. Next door to the grand shrine is Seiganto-ji Temple with its vibrant red pagoda.

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08:00 - 16:00

Option: Shirahama

Halfway between Shingu and Wakayama City, Shirahama is a family-friendly seaside resort. If the weather is good, you can soak up the sun on the white sand of Shirarahama Beach. Alternatively, visit Adventure World, a zoo, safari park, and theme park all rolled into one. The Shirahama area also has plenty of oceanside hot springs.

  • Kansai International Airport (KIX)
  • Koyasan
  • Temple Stay
  • Kongobu-ji Head Temple
  • Koyasan
  • Hongu Taishamae
  • Kumano
  • Ryokan Stay
  • Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route
  • Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine
  • Kumano Washi Paper Otonashi
  • Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine
  • Shingu (Kumano-gawa)
  • Kumano River Boat Tour
  • Kamikura-jinja Shrine
  • Option: Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple
  • Option: Shirahama

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