Journey from Tokyo and take a day trip to Nikko! This incredible mountainous region has something for everyone with waterfalls, a historical shrine, and a serene lake. If you want to visit, but only have a day then let this itinerary around central Nikko guide your exploration!
We visited here in the middle of Japan’s winter and it completely blew me away 😮! I truly didn’t know there were so many incredible places to explore in Nikko with beautiful natural scenery. It was truly one of my favorite days of the entire trip!
Read this post for everything you need to know about planning a day trip to Nikko. It includes how to get to Nikko, tips on public transportation, and a suggested itinerary for your time there!
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Table of Contents
What to Do on a Day Trip to Nikko
You’ll find so many wonderful things to see in Nikko. Below you’ll find all of the best sights that I recommend visiting in the order that I would go to them!
My family and I were lucky enough to have a car 🚗 that we could take around and easily get to all of the locations below. If you are traveling by public transit then I recommend skipping the Akechidaira Plateau to save time and see the other beautiful sights.
Toshugu Shrine in Nikko is known as the most ornately decorated shrines in all of Japan as it is covered in gold leaf. Wandering around the grounds of the shrine, you’ll be amazed at the incredible details that went into these buildings.
This shrine was built in the 1800s as a memorial for Tokugawa Ieyasu and features 12 different buildings nestled amongst the trees. Back in the 1800s, it was common for shrines to have both Buddhist and Shinto elements, so you’ll see a mixture of both as you explore.
The shrines costs $1300 yen to visit.
How to Get to Toshugu Shrine
Luckily, you can easily get to the Toshogu Shrine by foot or by bus. The walk from the Nikko JR Train Station is around 30 minutes, while the bus is a 10 minute ride and costs 350 yen.
As soon as you get to the shrine area of Nikko, you’ll see the beautiful red Shinkyo Bridge. This bridge sits over a running river with the mountains behind it. It’s one of the most famous bridges in all of Japan.
Many people just drive or walk by this bridge, but you can pay a small 300 yen fee 💵 to walk across the bridge itself. This is a very quick stop on your Nikko day trip, and it’s very close to Toshogu Shrine, so it’s easy to add in!
How to Get to Shinkyo Bridge
This train is easily accessed by foot or by bus from the Nikko train stations. You can walk 20-30 minutes from the train or take the bus 5 minutes and disembark at the Shinkyo bus stop.
Ready to take in the most remarkable view over Nikko? Then, head to the Ackechidaira Plateau for panoramic vistas 🤩 over the mountains and valley below. Once, you arrive at the Plateau you can then take the Ropeway (1000 yen roundtrip) to the top!
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a truly picturesque scene from the viewing platform. Here, you’ll be able to see mountains rising above the serene Lake Chuzenji, while the waterfalls drop dramatically below.
Although it’s a bit of a trek to get to this spot, it is definitely worth adding to your day trip to Nikko!
How to Get to Akechidaira Plateau
Unfortunately, this spot is a little harder to get to if you are going by public transit. Irohazaka Winding Road is a one way road, and the buses only pick up in one direciton. In order to get there, you can take a Tobu bus either headed to Chuzenji Onsen or Yumoto Onsen. Then, get off at Akechidaira bus stop after a 35 minute ride.
Nikko is a mountainous town that is well known for its beautiful waterfalls. Kegon is arguably one of the most stunning in all of Japan as the dramatic cascades fall off the tall cliffs and into the water below. This water comes directly from the gorgeous Lake Chuzenji.
This waterfall is a fantastic destination year round, but it is one of the most popular sights in the fall.
There are multiple ways to see this waterfall including from above, below, and directly in front of it. You can go to the free viewing platform, take an elevator down to the paid viewing area at the base of the falls, or travel up to the Akechidaira Plateau to see the falls and lake from above.
How to Get to Kegon Waterfall
If you are coming from the JR Train then you can take the bus to Chuzenji Onsen Terminal. This bus rides lasts about 50 minutes and costs 1250 yen.
Lake Chuzenji sits above the town of Nikko at the base of Mount Nantai, a sacred volcano. The bright blue of the lake is an incredibly mesmerizing color and it’s a beautiful place to stop for a bit.
There are some hiking trails around the lake as well as Chuzenji Onsen, but if you don’t have time for additional activities it’s a great spot to just see. Both Kegon and Ryuzu waterfalls are nearby, so it’s easy to add into your day!
How to Get to Lake Chuzenji
There are a few buses that will take you from the train stations to the shores of Lake Chuzenji. You can take the Tubo bus and get on the Yumoto Onsen or Chuzenji Onsen buses. These buses cost 1250 yen.
Ryuzu Falls is a gorgeous waterfall where two cascades drop into the pool below 💦. It’s one of the prettiest spots in all of Nikko, so don’t miss it!
One of my favorite things that we did in Nikko was to walk (1000 feet) along the Ryuzu Falls Park. This park follows the gushing waters of Ryuzu Falls and it’s incredibly peaceful to hear the water as you walk.
However, if you are not up for the walk, then luckily you can view Ryuzu Falls directly behind a rest area at the bottom. This spot is free and there is a souvenir shop and cafe if you need to grab anything.
How to Get to Ryuzu Falls
From the train station, you will take the Tobu bus towards Yumoto Onsen. Once you get to Ryuzu no taki, then you’ll get off and the falls will be right there. This bus ride is about an hour and costs 1600 yen one way.
Traveling to Nikko Information
How to Get to Nikko from Tokyo
Luckily, Nikko is a fairly easy destination to get to from Tokyo, which is why it’s a great day trip! You can get to Nikko by both train and car 🚙, then when you’re in Nikko there are plenty of bus lines that can take you around.
Getting to Nikko by Train 🚅
Shinkansen (High-Speed Train)
If you are coming from Tokyo station, then you’ll take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station. Once you get there, then you’ll transfer to the JR Nikko train line. The train takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to Nikko station.
Tobu Railway (Nikko Pass)
If you purchase a Nikko pass, then the Tobu Railway is the cheapest way to get to Nikko and get around Nikko because it covers all buses. You’ll take the Tobu Railway from Asakusa Station to Nikko.
Getting to Nikko by Car
For visitors who are comfortable driving and have an international driver’s license. You can rent a car and drive to Nikko. This is the most convenient way to get around, because then you do not have to rely on public transit as you visit.
How to Get Around Nikko
Nikko is incredibly public transport friendly with multiple bus lines that run throughout the area.
The area has a Nikko Pass which allows you to take the buses freely from site to site. I recommend this over purchasing single use bus passes, because it will likely save you money!
There are two types of Nikko Passes:
- The Nikko World Heritage Pass is valid for two days and covers all bus rides in Central Nikko, as well as the round trip Tobu train from Nikko to Tokyo.
- The Nikko All Area Pass is valid for four days, covers everything above, and buses between Nikko and Okunikko.
Best Time of Year to Visit Nikko
Nikko is a stunning destination year round, but many would tell you the best time to visit is the spring 🌸 (sakua season) or in the Fall 🍂. However, we went in the winter and loved seeing the frozen waterfalls and gorgeous mountains.
While Autumn and Spring are the most beautiful, they are also incredibly crowded. So, just keep that in mind on your travels and add extra time to your itinerary for lines. Still, the fall foliage or spring blooms will simply blow you away!
Where to Stay in Nikko
Although this itinerary is perfect for a day trip, you may want to stay overnight or even longer to explore this incredible area.
I recommend staying at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), because they provide wonderful experiences, but they are farther from town. Otherwise, there are a few great hotels near the central area of Nikko.
Hotels in Nikko
- Hatano Nagomi – If you are not set on a ryokan, then you can stay at this lovely hotel set on the shores of Lake Chuzenji.
- Hacho no Yu– This is one of the best ryokans in Nikko with a beautiful setting in the mountains. However, it’s a bit far from the main sights, which is good to know.
- Asaya – Again, this ryokan is about 30 minutes from many of the major destinations. However, it’s a wonderful stay a traditional ryokan.
Final Tips for Visiting Nikko
Nikko is one of the most underrated areas of Japan with stunning mountains, warm onsens, and incredible history. It will definitely exceed your expectations.
If you want to go on a day trip to Nikko, then I highly suggest getting a car or a Nikko Pass to make your life so much easier! Then, plan ahead so you know what you want to see and add extra time in your itinerary for traffic or lines. Otherwise, you will have a fantastic time on your visit.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this guide!
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