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TRAVEL | What to Do

BEST HIKES IN SHIKOKU

Article | Lukas Leiffer

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Shikoku is one of Japan's southern islands, and is of such natural beauty that it enchants adventurous travelers as a hiker's dream. Discover some of the Best Hikes in Shikoku, which take visitors across hiking trails of various challenge levels to explore the region's local culture and wild natural splendor, from its incredible pilgrimage route spanning the entire island to some of its specific nature treasures. When considering the best hiking trails in Shikoku, it is inconcievable to do so without talking about the Shikoku Henro - an old-fashioned pilgrimage trail spanning 88 Buddhist temples! The path various around the 1200 km route as it wraps around the entire island, and one may come across not only remarkable scenic beauties, but local mountain birds and animals, as well as monks in white traveling garb making their way along the pilgrimage trail. Truly there is something appealing to hikers of every endurance level, no matter how far along the route you want to travel. Shikoku is also home to the breathtaking Iya Valley, where rugged pathways leave civilization behind to explore this hidden slice of idyllic and adventurous jungle landscape. Carving right through the center of the valley are dramatic gorges over the Iya River, which looks spectacular shrouded in fog, and where far-flung villages may be accessed by vine bridges suspend hikers high over rushing rapids. And when exploring the smaller islands near Shikoku, be sure to visit Shodoshima - an island in the Seto Inland Sea with plenty of hiking trails and a unique local culture. Although definitely in Japan, it leaves a strangely Mediterranean impression, with groves of olive trees and a white European-style windmill. Include one of Shikoku's best hikes while on your next tour of Japan and explore the wonders of this largely untouristed gem.


SHIKOKU 88 TEMPLE PILGRIMAGE | SHIKOKU

The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, also known as the Shikoku Henro, is one of Japan's penultimate hiking and walking routes. This pristine journey of spiritual contemplation includes 88 picturesque temples associated with the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism, Kobo Daishi. Recreational hikers can enjoy trekking particular segments, each full of their own special beauty. But those who endure the entire journey receive, in addition to a certification stamp from each temple, the singular experience that only a select few travelers have ever discovered. Some of the temples are especially must-see. The highlight is undoubtedly the temple complex of Koya-san, which contains, in the middle of Japan's most impressive graveyard, Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. In recent years, travelers have rediscovered the Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage Route as a journey of personal regeneration. Seemingly endless vistas of forests, mountains, hot springs, rivers, and coastline present moments perfect for meditation, broken only by the small towns, temples, and fellow hikers you meet along the way.

Read more about Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage


IYA VALLEY | TOKUSHIMA

Hikers exploring the Iya Valley are treated to the sight of spectacular ravines running zig-zag between sloping mountains whose sides are covered in lush forests. The Iya Valley Hiking Trails run far off the beaten path from civilization, through unspoiled nature vistas of mountain gorges cut by the Iya River. A few bridges twisted of jungle vines are a must-visit feature of the valley, beckon travelers looking to feel like rugged explorers by daring to cross the heights. Two of the vine bridges, called the Oku-Iya Kazurabashi, or "couples' bridges" are of noteable interest, stretching over a part of the river rushing down a delightful little waterfall. At one entrance to the Iya Valley, the Yoshino River runs noisily through Oboke Gorge, where adventurous visitors may enjoy white-water rafting and canyoning while hiking the area. While the trails through the Iya Valley are open year round, views of magnificent foliage during the autumn season are particularly prized, when red and orange colors run up the mountains like firecrackers.

Iya Valley


SHODOSHIMA ISLAND | KAGAWA

While discovering Shodoshima, walking the hiking trails that extend across the island, travelers may feel as though they have stepped onto an island half in the Seto Inland Sea, half in the Mediterranean. While sections of these beginner-level hiking trails may explore nearby soybean fields and soy sauce factories, other portions meander past a white windmill spinning lazily over groves of olive trees. Both soy sauce and olives are famous local products, which should not be missed while exploring the island. Other must-see locations include Kankakei Gorge, which is celebrated for its splendid autumn colors. There is also Angel Road - a thin stretch of island that is occasionally washed under high tide, upon which it is claimed that angels descend and an especial favorite of traveling couples. Finally, the best hiking trails on Shodoshima Island run through the Twenty-Four Eyes Village, which is a preserved set-piece from the acclaimed Japanese film "Twenty-Four Eyes" - a movie about the years leading up to World War 2 in Japan.

Shodoshima Island


PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR OUR SMALL GROUP WALKING & HIKING TOURS THAT VISIT SHIKOKU FOR 2024, 2025 & 2026


IF YOU DO NOT FIND ANY SUITABLE GUIDED GROUP TOURS THAT FIT YOUR NEEDS, WE WOULD BE HAPPY TO PLAN A PRIVATE CUSTOM TOUR FOR YOU. PRIVATE CUSTOM TOURS CAN BE CUSTOMIZED BASED ON YOUR WANTS AND NEEDS.

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