How to Spend a Week in Hokkaido

Hokkaido Week itinerary

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The island of Hokkaido offers some of the best experiences in Japan from incredible national parks, unique local cuisine, some of the best skiing globally, and exciting cities, villages, and onsen towns. Here is some of the best of Hokkaido in a week from its major city Sapporo to the wilds of Daisetsuzan National Park, the rolling hills of Furano, and the picturesque harbor city Otaru including what to do and see there.

01 of 07

Day One: Sapporo

Autumnal scene of Nakajima Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
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Your week in Hokkaido will start and end in Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, famous for its seafood, skiing, beer, and snow festival with a solid reputation as a culinary hotspot.

Start the day with a stroll through Odori Park accessed from Odori Subway station. Separating the north and the south of the city with 92 types of trees is a great way to get your bearings. Walk towards the Sapporo TV Tower before stopping nearby for lunch at Japanese Ramen Noodle Lab Q for some Sapporo-style ramen. After lunch, walk two minutes to see the famous Sapporo Clock Tower and museum which details the city’s history before taking a stroll down Tanuki Koji Shopping Street, one of the oldest shopping streets in Hokkaido where you can find unique souvenirs, cafes, and restaurants.

Hop on the subway at nearby Odori Station to Hokkaido Shrine in Maruyama Park. Built in 1869 and restored in 1978, the shrine is dedicated to three deities and Emporer Meiji himself. It’s also a key flower and cherry blossom viewing spot. Spend some time wandering the grounds before hopping on the bus (or grabbing a taxi from outside the shrine) to Mount Moiwa Ropeway. Surrounded by primeval forest and boasting views of the city and the Ishikari Bay of Japan Sea, you can enjoy your dinner at The Jewels, a glass-walled restaurant with panoramic views.

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02 of 07

Day Two: Day Trip to Otaru

Otaru Canal

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Just 35 to 45 minutes by train or bus from Sapporo, a trip to the harbor city of Otaru is a must for anyone spending time in Hokkaido.

If you’re looking for lunch, your first stop should be Sankaku Market, an ideal place to try Hokkaido’s famous seafood particularly the specialty Kaisendon (seafood rice bowl). It’s conveniently located next to Otaru Station so it’s worth seeing whether you’re hungry or not. If you’re a soft-serve ice cream fan or enjoy unique flavors of ice cream then pay a visit to Kita-no Aisukurimu-ya-san parlor, housed in a historic warehouse. It’s a perfect accompaniment while taking a wander down the banks of Otaru Canal, you can also take a tour on a canal boat. Don’t miss the famous Otaru steam clock which came to the city as a gift from Canada.

A short walk from the canal, you’ll find Sakaimachi Street where you’ll find restaurants, cafes, glass workshops, and souvenir shops all within western-style buildings. Return to Sapporo for the night and maybe enjoy an izakaya for a snack and a drink before heading back to your hotel.

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03 of 07

Day Three: Furano

Lavender fields in Furano

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Head off early to the train or bus station to take a trip to Furano. The bus is marginally faster at two and a half hours compared to the three-hour train journey. Furano has often been likened to southern France with its rainbow fields of lavender and wildflowers through the spring and summer. With views of the Daisetsuzan mountains and rolling hills for miles, this is a truly beautiful part of Hokkaido and is ideal for taking long scenic walks. Beauty spots include Farm Tomita, Sorachi River, and the views from Furano Ropeway. 

Wine lovers will have plenty to do with Furano Winery, Tada Vineyard and Farm, and Furano Wine House (which also has a wonderful restaurant with views of the fields) to visit. Taking a wine tour to find out the history of wine in Japan and the unique challenges of producing wine in this area is fascinating. A visit to the cheese factory is also a popular activity because what better food to pair wine with than cheese?

Don’t miss out on trying lavender soft-serve ice cream as well as other unique lavender products. In the evening, make sure to take a stroll up Ningle Terrace, a forest path of wooden chalets which are lit by fairy lights and where you can enjoy food, drink and work by local creators.

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04 of 07

Day Four: Daisetsuzan National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park

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Just a three-hour bus ride from Furano, Daisetsuzan is Hokkaido’s largest national park and one of the most popular, especially in the fall, when it becomes one of the forefront leaf-peeping spots, and in spring when the alpine flowers are in full bloom. These intense colors are best viewed from the Kurodake Ropeway which connects Sounkyo Onsen with Kurodake Mountain’s Fifth Station which is halfway to the summit. From there you can opt to take the 90-minute steep hike to the peak through the forest with views of the Daisetsuzan mountains. Alternatively, in the winter, you can enjoy a day of Hokkaido’s powder snow with a day of backcountry skiing. 

An ideal stop for the night is Sounkyo Onsen, nestled in a lush, narrow gorge where you can enjoy the hot springs, take scenic a number of scenic walks including two nearby waterfalls, and enjoy a number of shopping and dining options. 

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05 of 07

Day Five: Noboribetsu (Jigokudani) Hell Valley

Noboribetsu Onsen

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One of the longer travel days at three and a half hours by car or five and a half hours by train, you’ll be rewarded by stepping into a steaming volcanic landscape with oni demons and ogre statues at every turn. This active geothermal area can be enjoyed with a two-hour circular walk which includes two viewing points to take in the sheer scale and wonder of the valley as well as Oyunuma Pond formed by the eruptions of Mount Hiyori and reaches an intense 260 degrees F. Surrounded by primeval woodland, the valley lights up in the fall but is an otherworldly experience any time of year.

Enjoy the thermal waters after your walk at Noborietsu Onsen with many private onsen options available in the town and visit the shops which, amongst usual souvenirs, also stock an array of demon-related items in keeping with the lore of the area. Don’t miss trying the local spicy noodle dish, enma yakisoba—named after King Enma, also known as the demon king—which you can try at Onsen Ichiba.

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06 of 07

Day Six: Lake Toya

Lake Toya a beautiful caldera lake.
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Take the express highway bus between Noboribetsu and Lake Toya in 60 minutes or the express train in 90 minutes and enjoy some of the nature of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, named after the two great lakes within.

The lakeside Toyako Onsen hot spring resort is where you will find restaurants, cafes, dessert and confectionary shops, and souvenirs as well as viewing spots to enjoy the views of the lake and Mount Usu. From Toyako Onsen, you can also hop on a 50-minute cruise around the lake which departs every hour. You can also tackle the lakeside walk which has around 60 sculptures dotted along the 26-mile circumference of the lake. Head to the Silo Observatory viewing spot for great views of the lake.

Return late to Sapporo for your final day, the train journey is direct and will take two hours, or spend the night by the lake at one of the onsen resorts before returning in the morning.

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07 of 07

Day Seven: Sapporo

Historical House sapporo

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Spend your last day in Hokkaido seeing more of Sapporo starting with breakfast and a wander around the famous Nijo Market. Have fresh sushi, sashimi, or rice bowls made up for you, or just enjoy the atmosphere before heading to your next stop.

Whether you’re a big beer drinker or not, a visit to the Sapporo Beer Museum and restaurant should be on your list. It’s the only museum in Japan dedicated to beer and Japan’s long history of brewing and it offers free tours and a paid tasting station. Housed in beautiful red brick, it’s as impressive inside as outside. Enjoy lunch at the attached restaurant where you can have a beer and try some Hokkaido specialties such as Genghis Kahn barbecue.

From the museum, take the train to the Historic Village of Hokkaido (Kaitaku-mura) located in Nopporo Forest Park which showcases sixty buildings from all over Hokkaido throughout history. You will also be able to explore Ainu, native Hokkaido culture. Head back to the center for dinner and enjoy one of Sapporo’s excellent restaurants.