Places Visited: Kumano Kodo, Nara, Mount Koya, Koyasan, Wakayama, Shirahama, Chikatsuju, Yunomine Onsen, Nachi Taisha, Ise, Kyoto
The Kumano Kodo, on the Kii Peninsula, is Japan’s most traditional pilgrimage trail. And, thanks to the fact most of its Shinto and Buddhist shrines nestle amid cedar forest and soaring mountains, its most picturesque. This tour takes the Kumano circuit as its focal point, bookending the experience with visits to the country’s two great culture capitals, Kyoto and Nara. Although you’ll be transported between some key locations by minibus, the trip does involve a fair amount of moderately strenuous walking, much of it uphill. The payoff is a chance to see a side of the country few foreigners even know exists. You’ll be overnighting in a mix of beautiful ryokan inns, candle-lit monasteries and modern hotels.