All About this Tour
Hokkaido is considered Japan's wild frontier. This northern island is known for wildlife, volcanoes, pristine lakes, vast forests, fields of flowers and of course Japan's ubiquitous hot springs (onsens).
Our cycle tour of Hokkaido is moderately challenging with a few mountain passes to conquer and some long distances when on flatter terrain. We ride a total of 792 km in 11 cycling days and ascend a total of 7,020 m on quiet roads with amazing views. There is an option on Day 11 to ride an additional 48 km. You have the option to use a hybrid or a road bike as both are appropriate for this tour.
On two nights, we will be overnighting at hostels, and though the rooms will be private, the facilities will be shared. All meals are included, except for lunch and dinner on the rest day. We will be enjoying traditional Japanese fare for our meals, including local seafood.
Suitability: This is a tour for cyclists possessing a moderate to high level of physical fitness. Fitness will be a huge asset on those long-distance days and on the ascents in the hills. We have climbs nearly every day, but we also have some rollicking descents to enjoy, and fit cyclists will have no problems. The tour is fully supported, so the bus is always close at hand for those finding any part of the riding too difficult.
Biking Conditions: This trip is along tarmac roads in good condition, and there is no technical riding. The climbs are gradual on easy gradients of 5%. In 11 days of cycling, we ascend a total of just over 7,000 m.
Known for hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics and its famous Snow Festival, well-connected Sapporo is our starting point to explore Hokkaido. We meet at the hotel where we will have a trip briefing.
This morning, we board a train to the town of Furano, known for lavender in the summer and skiing in the winter. The three-hour train ride will be a good opportunity to take in the Hokkaido landscape, especially the explosion of colour from flowers fields. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel, and then it's time to meet your bike for an afternoon ride to the surrounding hills.
Leaving Furano town, we cycle through flat fields and into the mountains, following a river upstream. We come across the beautiful Lake Kanayama nestled in the mountains and keep cycling along the shore. We stop for lunch at the far end of the lake, as we need to fuel up for our afternoon climb up to our first mountain pass. Karikachi Toge tops out at 644 m, and from the viewpoint, we'll have magnificent views of the Tokachi Plain. Tonight's accommodation has a natural hot spring (onsen), and we can relax in the waters and rest our legs from the climb.
We cycle through the Tokachi Plain in the morning and stop for a break before we start this morning's climb. On the way to Shirakaba Toje (900 m), we cycle through farmland and forests. We enjoy a short downhill to Lake Shikaribetsu, which, at 800 m, is Hokkaido’s highest lake. We have a picnic lunch lakeside and then continue along the shore on a narrow winding road where we take in the contrast of the green forest leaves against the cobalt blue lake. We overnight at the town of Nukabira and check into our hostel that has a natural outdoor onsen for us to enjoy. We will have private rooms, but the facilities will be shared.
Today’s challenge is conquering the highest paved mountain pass in Hokkaido – Mikuni Toge at 1,139 m. Starting from Lake Nukabira, we have a gentle start before the true climb begins 10 km before the summit. On the way, we have fantastic views of the Kumaneshiri mountain range and dense woodlands. After a morning tea at the top of the pass, we cycle down to Lake Taisetsu and start our second climb of the day, up to Sekihoku Pass at 1,040 m. A picnic lunch at the summit is your reward before we have a 30 km downhill to our accommodation. Tonight, we have another opportunity to soak ourselves, this time in the famous Shiobetsu outdoor hot spring, known for its silky-smooth water.
This is a recovery ride after those mountain passes, and most of the route is a gradual downhill to Lake Saroma, though there is one small climb. We have a morning break at a park in Rubeshibe and then have an undulating cycle through farmland and small hills. We finish at our accommodation by Lake Saroma, the third largest lake in Japan and the largest in Hokkaido. It is known for various kinds of aquaculture – oysters, scallops, shrimps – and we can taste fresh oysters and scallops from the lake at dinner.
As we cycle along the lake this morning, we'll likely see fishermen farm-ing scallops. The highlight of today is the Wakka Wild Flower Park, which blooms more than 300 kinds of wild flowers, such as the Siberian Lily, the Rosa Rugosa, the orange-yellow Day Lily. The unique flower garden is 25-km long and runs between Lake Saroma and the Sea of Okhotsk. After our visit, we continue on a designated cycling path that used to be a railroad track as we head to Cape Notoro. The cape is known as the best place to see ice drifts floating from Siberia in the winter. We'll enjoy magnificent views of Sea of Okhotsk from the cape before riding on to Abashiri and our city centre hotel.
A day to rest or to explore Abashiri. There is shopping and museums within an easy walking or cycling distance. Recommended is the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples, which introduces the culture and traditional everyday life of the inhabitants of the northern, subarctic regions, including the Ainu of Hokkaido, the First Nations people of northern Canada, the Inuit, the Sami, and Siberians. Lunch and dinner are on your own, and there are many places to choose from.
From Abashiri, we head south to a beautiful caldera, Lake Kussharo-Ko via Bihoro Pass, which looks over the lake and surrounding mountains. At the top of the pass, we have lunch at a rest house and then enjoy riding downhill to the shore of Lake Kussharo-Ko. It is the second largest lake in Hokkaido and one of three lakes in Akan National Park. The area is known for its abundant hot springs from volcanic activities. We have a brief stop at sunayu, a popular foot spa site on the shores of Lake Kussharo-Ko before we retire to our lakeside retreat.
We continue cycling along Lake Kussharo-Ko, and we will know when we are close to the active volcano Lozan, which literally means “Sulphur Mountain.” Lozan last erupted liquid sulphur in 1889 and 1936, but it is still steaming and reeking of sulphur. After a gradual, but long up-hill, we reach the lookout of Lake Mashu-Ko, with waters known to have the highest level of clarity in the world. The 200-m high cliffs surrounding Mashu-Ko prevents people from going down to the lake shore, which many believe is what helps protect the water quality. Most of the time, the lake is covered in fog, but if we are lucky, we will be able to view the emerald-coloured surface. The rest of our cycling day is easy, mainly downhill with flat runs into the farming area of Nakashibetsu.
This morning we ride through dairy farms, enjoying the changing scenery as we approach Shiretoko Peninsula, dotted with volcanoes. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 for being the southern-most point where sea ice forms in the Northern Hemisphere. We cycle along the east coast of the peninsula, heading to our day’s destination, the small fishing village of Rausu, famous for its sea kelp and king crab. In the afternoon, you have an option to ride or drive a further 24 km along the coast to the Aidomari Onsen, used as a public bath for local fisherman and has a perfect seaside setting. At dinner, enjoy local fresh seafood.
From Rausu, we cross to the other side of the peninsula, requiring us to climb 16 km between two mountains. It is a gradual climb with spectacular views of Mt Rausu, the highest peak in the Shiretoko Mountain Range. After a leisurely downhill, we lunch at the Shiretoko Nature Centre, where we learn it is home to Japan's largest brown bear population. We make a side trip to Iwaobetsu Onsen, where trees surround the natural rock pools. By mid-afternoon, we cycle towards Iwaobetsu Hostel, the only accommodation in Shiretoko National Park. We have a salmon dinner in the hostel, where the chef cuts whole salmon into pieces for sushi and BBQ.
We continue riding along the coast and enter fields of hay, oats, and beans. The long, straight roads travel also through potato farms, which will be in full bloom in early July. We have a brief stop at Koshimizu Wild Flower Reserve, where about 40 kinds of flowers bloom in spring and summer. We finish our ride back in Abashiri; however, we stay at a different hotel, this time on the hillside overlooking Lake Abashiri. One last outdoor onsen awaits, this time with a spectacular lake view.
We will transfer you to Memanbetsu Airport or Abashiri Train Station for your onward travel.
Because some people can't imagine going on a trip without their own beloved bicycle, we do not provide them as part of this tour. However, you can hire bikes locally for the price listed in the tour pricing section. You can choose to rent a hybrid TREK 7.3FX or a TREK 1.2 road bike. Both models have lightweight alloy frames, 24- to 27-speed gearing, v-brakes, and Shimano components. If you bring your own bike, please make sure that it is a hybrid or road bike and that it is in good mechanical order.
Basic spares and tools are carried by the guide and on the support vehicle, though we cannot guarantee having spares for every conceivable problem. Carrying a basic tool kit, a spare tube and a pump while riding is recommended.
Wearing a helmet is required on all our biking adventures and is non negotiable. If you do not wear a helmet you will not be allowed to cycle. Your tour leader is trained in first aid and emergency rescue, but to a large degree you must be responsible for your own safety while riding. It is therefore compulsory that you take out travel insurance that will cover you for a mountain biking tour.
You will be led by a local English-speaking guide and if the group is 9 people or more we will add another guide to the tour. All our guides are well informed in the history, culture and religions of the area where you are biking and are skilled at passing that knowledge on to you. Your guide is also medically trained and an experienced cyclist, able to handle most minor repairs en route.
No vaccinations are needed.
Japan has a diverse climate. There are four seasons: from April to June is spring. The rainy season is from middle of June to the middle of July. July through end of September can be hot and humid temperatures in the big cities can go as high as 35 degrees Celsius.
Meals are included as per the itinerary where B = breakfast, L = lunch, Most meals will be Japanese seafood; a typical breakfast would include rice, a piece of grilled fish, miso soup. We always carry some granola and Muesli with us for those in need. Dinners will include lots of different seafood - some cooked, some raw. Any special dietary requirements can also be catered for as well. Please let us know at the time of booking.
Keeping you completely hydrated is a job we take very seriously. Cold water, some energy-restoring local fruit and soft drinks are included in the tour price while riding. Soft drinks and other beverages during meals are not included. Beer is freely available everywhere in Japan, but is NOT included in the price.
SpiceRoads does not require you to pay a surcharge for travelling alone. We will arrange for you to share accommodation with another traveller of the same gender and if we can not match you up we will provide a single room at no extra charge. If you prefer not to share a single supplement is payable to guarantee your own room. The cost of the single supplement is listed above.
We recommend that you tuck away a few extra dollars, perhaps US$30 a day for incidentals. Tipping is not customary in Japan, although our guides have received and accepted tips on a voluntary basis.
The currency in Japan is the yen (¥) and is pronounced as ‘en’, with no ‘y’ sound. Though ATMs are everywhere in Japan, it is not always easy to use them as most only work with Japan-issued bank cards and credit cards. The exception is Japan’s post office ATMs which accept cards that belong to the following international networks: Visa, Plus, MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus American Express and Diners Club cards. In addition to postal ATMs, you will find a few international ATMs in big cities and at the major airports. International cards also work in Citibank Japan ATMs.
If this is the tour for you here's what you need to do to confirm your place: Read our Booking Conditions
From the tour page click the 'Book Now' link. All departures for this tour will appear, just select the date you'd like to travel. There is a minimum number of participants (usually 2) required to enable the trip to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to Depart'. Once a trip is guaranteed to depart you are free to book your flights and make other travel arrangements. If you are unsure about the trip status, please email us or call our office. For the next steps you'll need to know the names of the people traveling and have either a Visa or a MasterCard. If you wish you can also provide extra details such as passport numbers, height, or you can add that later by logging into Manage My Trip (we'll set up an account for you automatically if you don't already have one). However, if you wish to get a children's discount, please do fill out the date of birth of the riders. If you are having any problems, please send us an email, or give us a call (+66 2 381 7490) and one of our travel specialists will assist you with your booking.
For Long Tours (7 days or more) to guarantee your place we require a 30% or 500 USD deposit, whichever is the greater. For Short Tours (6 days or less) we require full payment to guarantee your place. We also require that you take out travel insurance when you book your holiday. Besides covering you during your holiday it will also enable you to claim for any money that you have paid to us, including your deposit, should you have to cancel your trip.
Full payment must be paid 45 days before the departure date with fees for any bicycle rental(s), single supplement(s) and extra hotel nights. Our confirmation will include personal details you provided us (including your flight information), visa application advice, a packing suggestion list and a detailed tour itinerary. It will also include a checklist to ensure you get everything ready for your holiday.
On the rare occasions when we, SpiceRoads, must cancel a trip, all payments received to date will be 100% refunded, which constitutes full settlement. There will be absolutely no deductions. If you, the client, must cancel your reservation, your cancellation fee will be determined according to when you cancel. For full details, please read our cancellation policy.
For those who have been on several long tours with us we reward customer loyalty by offering repeat customers a special discount off the tour price (excludes single supplement and bike rental). If this is your fourth scheduled tour or more you will receive a 5% discount. If this is your eighth scheduled tour or more we will extend a 10% discount. The discount will be reflected in your online booking, but please contact us if any questions. Loyalty discounts can not be used in conjunction with any other offer. Note: Only tours of 7 days or more will be applicable for loyalty discount.
International flights, to and from the start and finish points are not included in the tour price. Once your tour is Guaranteed to Depart you can book your flight. Please contact us for advice before arranging flights for the best arrival and departure times. We would only cancel a trip for an extreme circumstance, but in that case, where we cancel your trip, we cannot be liable for losses incurred relating to any flight booking you have made. Please claim any losses from your travel insurance that you acquired when you booked your holiday.
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The information in this document is given in good faith, and covers the average range of conditions likely to be found on this trip. Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances, however, we will always do our best to adhere to this original itinerary