Nikko National Parkbabibubebo | 12 11 2006
Nikko (日光市), located in Tochigi Prefecture, is a relatively small city population wise, but after recently merging with a few other cities in March of 2006 it covers a vast area. Nikko is very famous for it’s beautiful nature– including waterfalls, lakes and especially fall leaves–and it’s temples and shrines. For the main part, these two famous features of Nikko, nature and temples, are divided into two different areas, so you need at least two days to see Nikko; however I recommend 3 days and 2 nights, staying one night close to Lake Chuzenji and one day in the actually city. The nature area, Nikko National Park, is about an hour drive away from the temple area and the drive is up a curvy mountain road. For more information about Central Nikko please see my other post about Nikko National Park. For more information about Nikko National Park, keep reading here.
If you are going to see the fall leaves know that the two areas of Nikko change colors at different times. The Nikko National park at a much higher elevation and tends to change color about 2 weeks before the central area. I was there just a little late for Nikko National Park area just a little early for Central Nikko
Nikko National Park has is most famous for Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls (above left) and Ryuzu Falls (below). Actually, there are very many waterfalls, big and small, in and around Nikko, so if waterfalls are your thing, Nikko is a great place.
Access to Nikko National Park can be a little bit difficult for a tourist as there is no train that goes there and can only be reached by bus or car. It takes about 45 minutes to get there with no traffic. The bus schedule is fairly infrequent and somewhat limited and if you go on a weekend or during a peak travel time, the buses will get heavily delayed due to heavy traffic going up and down the mountain. If you have a valid driver’s license, I recommend renting a car as it will give you a lot more freedom to go to more places. The only down side to this is that parking can sometimes be somewhat tricky if you want to do a lot of hiking because there are some really nice hiking trails.
If you want to go hiking, I recommend the Lake Chuzenji Observation Course, which starts around Kegon Falls and ends at the top of Mount Hangetsu. As you can see in the photo above, at the top of Mt. Hangetsu there is a spectacular view of Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Nantai. The course takes about 5 hours and is about 11km. Also a really nice course is hiking across the Senjogahara Plateau. This is actually more of a trail rather than a hike as you walk along a wooded boards for most of it, but this two and half hour walk from Ryuzu Falls to Lake Yunoko (below) has wonderful scenery.
Once you arrive in Nikko there is plenty of available information about the surrounding area and attractions in English, but if you want more information now, see the official Nikko Tourist site.
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