Things to do in Nikko: The Perfect (Long) Weekend Trip From Tokyo!

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Looking for things to do in Nikko, Japan? Here’s the perfect long weekend itinerary featuring temples, shrines and plenty of nature.

After a month in Tokyo, Nikko was everything we were hoping for!

We knew we were in for a treat on the train ride over once we started seeing forests and mountains all around us, and the town did not disappoint. Located just a couple of hours north of Tokyo, Nikko was the breath of fresh air we were looking for.

During our visit, we hiked through shrines and temples, cruised on a beautiful lake at the base of a volcano, sampled some local dishes featuring tofu skin, and basically had the perfect weekend break.

Looking back on our trip to Japan, the destinations we most enjoyed were the ones where we were surrounded by nature, and Nikko was right up there.

So today I’m going to share some travel tips, foods to try, unique accommodations and things to do in Nikko on your visit.

Things to do in Nikko: The Perfect (Long) Weekend Trip From Tokyo!
Beautiful mountain views from Nikko, Japan

Getting to Nikko & Travel Tips

If you’re looking to make the most of your trip to Nikko, the Nikko Pass is worth considering.

This is a 4-day pass that includes transportation to and from Nikko, access to local buses once you arrive in Nikko, free admission to select tours and attractions, plus discounts at a few tourist sites, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

It’s worth noting that the free transportation included in this pass is with Tobu Railways on the express and local trains from Asakusa Station to Nikko. These are slower trains that involve connections along the way.

If you want to travel on the limited express trains which are direct and much faster, you can use your pass to upgrade your ticket, which is what we did.

We got the Nikko All Area Pass, which is valid for 4 days, however, if you’re short on time, there’s also the Nikko World Heritage Area Pass which is valid for 2 days and covers a smaller area.

If you’re only visiting Nikko for the day, you can book this Nikko Full-Day Private Tour which you can customize to include 3-4 attractions. You meet your guide at Nikko Station and head out together from there.

Getting to Nikko by train | Tokyo Asakusa Station to Nikko
Getting to Nikko by train from Tokyo Asakusa Station to Nikko Station

Things to do in Nikko

Now that you know how to get there, let’s move on to the fun stuff: sightseeing, restaurants and fun things to do in Nikko!

Our itinerary included a mix of culture, food and nature. Here’s a list of 10 things we did in Nikko that we’d recommend to visitors:

Visiting Shinkyo Bridge is one of the many things to do in Nikko
Visiting Shinkyo Bridge is one of the many things to do in Nikko
Views of the Shinkyo Bridge, one of the main attractions in Nikko.
Views of the Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko

1) Walk across the Shinkyo Bridge

Our first stop in Nikko was the Shinkyo Bridge, a red-lacquered bridge that crosses the Daiya River.

The story goes that when the high priest Shodo first arrived here with his disciples in the year 767, he was met with a heavy current that made crossing impossible.

Shodo prayed and then two snakes appeared, intertwined themselves, and created this bridge to allow safe passage to the mountains of Nikko.


Visiting the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan
Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

2) Visit the Toshogu Shrine

Just across the Shinkyo Bridge, we followed the steps up through the forest to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikko.

The Shrines and Temples of Nikko form a single complex composed of 103 religious buildings! These are located within two Shinto shrines and one Buddhist temple.

Clearly, it would be impossible to cover them all in one visit, so we decided to focus on the most visited of these: the Toshogu Shrine.

This particular shrine was built for Ieyasu, or Tōshō Daigongen, who was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate also called the Edo Period (1603-1868). This was the third and last of the shogunal governments in Japanese history.

There’s a lot to see and the path will naturally lead you up the mountain and through the forest, so plan to spend a couple of hours here.


There are many shrines and temples to visit in Nikko.
There are many shrines and temples to visit in Nikko
Visiting Nikko's UNESCO temples and shrines.
Visiting Nikko’s UNESCO temples and shrines

3) Eat Street Food in Nikko

There are a few traditional street food snacks that are popular in Nikko, so we stopped to sample those.

The area around the train station has several shops where you can both pick up box sets to take home or stop to sample these local treats.

Some of the things we tried include:

  • Yuba Manju: sweet and salty tofu skin dumpling stuffed with red beans
  • Sweet Potato Cake: steamed dumplings stuffed with yellow sweet potato
  • Ice Cream with Japanese Lemon: soft-serve vanilla ice cream with a lemon glaze

Cost: ¥200-350

Riding the Akechidaira Ropeway - one of the many fun things to do in Nikko
Riding the Akechidaira Ropeway
Admission cost for Akechidaira Ropeway was 730 yen.
The admission cost for Akechidaira Ropeway was 730 yen
Views of the lake and waterfall from the Akechidaira Ropeway Observation Point
Views of the lake and waterfall from the Akechidaira Ropeway Observation Point

4) Ride the Akechidaira Ropeway

One of the most unexpected things to do in Nikko was riding the Akechidaira Ropeway.

We didn’t know about this place and just happened to see it on the map when we were already riding the bus on our way to the lake.

We decided to get off on a whim and that turned out to be a great decision!

The Akechidaira Ropeway is a short ride – it’s only 3-minutes to the observation platform, but the views are well worth it.

Once we reached the top, we were treated to panoramic vistas of Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Waterfall, and lush green mountains all around.

If you want to properly earn these views, there’s a 2-hour hiking trail that starts at the lake and brings you to this very same spot. Your pick!

Samuel and Audrey visit Nikko, Japan
Samuel and Audrey visit Nikko, Japan
Views of the lake and waterfall from the Akechidaira Ropeway Lookout
Views from the Akechidaira Ropeway Lookout
Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Waterfall views from Akechidaira Ropeway Observation Point
Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Waterfall views from Akechidaira Ropeway Observation Point

5) Visit the Kegon Falls

After riding the ropeway, we got back on the bus and continued to Kegon Falls, which is one of the top attractions in Nikko.

The Kegon waterfall stands almost 100 meters tall and the water that feeds it comes directly from Lake Chuzenji.

These falls were formed when the Daiya River was rerouted by lava flows and they are truly majestic.

In fact, they are considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan.

There are two viewing decks: a free one and a paid one at the base of the waterfall, which is accessed by an elevator that brings you down 100 meters. We did both.

Admission: Free or ¥550 for the elevator

Visiting the Kegon Waterfall in Nikko, Japan
Visiting the Kegon Waterfall in Nikko, Japan
Kegon Waterfall in Nikko, Japan
Kegon Falls

6) Sample local dishes made with Yuba

As you can imagine, we were feeling pretty hungry after all that sightseeing, so we decided to find a restaurant serving up the local specialty: yuba!

Yuba is a food product made from soybeans. During the boiling of soy milk, a skin forms on the surface, which is then scooped out and dried into sheets known as tofu skin.

Yuba is eaten all over Nikko and makes appearances in both sweet and savoury dishes, so we wanted to try it.

We found a restaurant called 観光食堂 that we really enjoyed (it didn’t have an English name, but this will get you to the right place if you paste it on GoogleMaps).

The restaurant was run by an older husband and wife duo, who worked their magic in the kitchen and presented us with some of the tastiest noodle bowls we enjoyed during all of our travels in Japan.

I ordered the ramen with yuba and Sam got the udon with yuba. The tofu skin was fluffy and absorbed all the flavours of the miso. It was delicious!

Cost: ¥900-1100

Foods to try in Nikko - yuba or tofu skin dishes.
Yuba and tofu skin dishes are some of the must-try foods in Nikko
Walking towards Lake Chuzenji
Walking towards Lake Chuzenji

7) Go on a boat tour of Lake Chuzenji

After lunch, we walked down the shores of Lake Chuzenji. This lake is located at the foot of Mount Nantai, a sacred volcano that up until 1872 it was off-limits to cows, horses, and even women!

The boat tour was one of the activities that were included in our Nikko Pass, so we decided to do it. It was a very enjoyable trip aboard a double-decker boat, and we got some beautiful views of the surrounding hills and forest.

Since the boat makes a couple of stops along the way, we decided to get off at Shobugahama, where we were able to hop on a bus again and continue onwards to Yumoto Onsen.

Cost: Free or ¥1250 without the Nikko pass

Boat tour on Lake Chuzenji, Nikko
Boat tour on Lake Chuzenji, Nikko
Docks of Lake Chuzenji
Docks of Lake Chuzenji
Audrey and Samuel doing a boat tour on Lake Chuzenji, Nikko
Audrey and Samuel doing a boat tour on Lake Chuzenji, Nikko

8) Try the foot bath in Yumoto Onsen

Our next destination was Yumoto Onsen, a small hot springs town located in part of Nikko National Park.

Yumoto means ‘origin of hot water’ and it sits next to Lake Yunoko which means ‘hot water lake’. Names are quite literal around these parts!

Since the hot springs are the main draw to this town, we decided to check out the foot bath, which is free. We asked for directions at the information office and then made our way on foot.

Well, whoa-ho-hoooo, get ready for your toes to cook!

It was piping hot in there. I could only dip my feet in the water for a few seconds at a time and even that had me sweating.

Is it any surprise that I decided I needed ice cream to cool down after that?

Admission: Free

Walking along Lake Yunoko in Yumoto Onsen
Walking along Lake Yunoko in Yumoto Onsen
Enjoying the free foot bath in Yumoto Onsen, Nikko
Enjoying the free foot bath in Yumoto Onsen, Nikko
Hot springs at Yumoto Onsen, Nikko
Hot springs at Yumoto Onsen, Nikko

9) Ice Cream at Sanbonmatsu

We hopped on the bus again, this time ready to start making our way back to Nikko, but made a quick pit stop at Sanbonmatsu.

This is essentially a parking lot, but it has restaurants, souvenir shops, access to the marshland hiking trails, and most importantly, ice cream!

The ice creams at this stop were made with fresh milk from Swiss cows that live at a nearby farm (this farm is a place we drove past but didn’t have enough time to visit). Even though it was soft-serve ice cream, it had a creamier quality and it was exactly what I needed.

Milk ice cream at Sanbonmatsu, Nikko
Milk ice cream at Sanbonmatsu, Nikko

10) Walk along Senjogahara Moor

Now for the final activity on this Nikko travel itinerary!

Simply being out in nature was one of our favourite things to do in Nikko, and we especially enjoyed Senjogahara Moor.

The Senjogahara Marshland covers the area between Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen and it offers some great hiking opportunities within Nikko National Park.

We only covered a small portion of it, but the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail which follows the Yukawa River can be completed in two-and-a-half to three hours.

The boardwalk in Senjogahara Moor, Nikko
The boardwalk in Senjogahara Moor, Nikko
Senjogahara Moor boardwalk trail in Nikko National Park
Senjogahara Moor boardwalk trail in Nikko National Park

Where to stay in Nikko

When it comes to choosing accommodations in Nikko, most visitors generally stay in a ryokan. This is a traditional type of accommodation in Japan that features rooms with tatami floors, communal baths, and public areas where you can wear yukatas.

A ryokan generally provides breakfast and dinner, with a focus on traditional Japanese cuisine showcasing seasonal ingredients and regional specialties.

They are also typically located in scenic areas close to nature, so it’s easy to see why Nikko has plenty of these.

Most of Nikko’s ryokans are a few kilometres outside of the town and require some form of transportation (either a rental car or a hotel pick-up), however, there is a small selection of centrally located ryokans which I’ve listed below.

Just be sure to look these up on a map, to make sure you’re happy with their location:

Since we were in Nikko for a few nights, we personally opted for something a bit more budget-friendly and booked a hotel instead of a ryokan. We stayed at Nikko Station Hotel II, which to be honest, suited us perfectly! You can read their reviews here.

For starters, the hotel was located just across the Tobu-Nikko Train Station, which is also where the bus terminal is located. This meant that we just had to walk down the street, and we could hop on a bus right away and go sightseeing.

Like in most of Japan, the rooms were compact, but they were bright, offered mountain-facing views, and served up a free breakfast.

Final thoughts on our trip to Nikko

Four days in Nikko was the perfect weekend escape from Tokyo, but I definitely felt like we barely scratched the surface.

If I lived in Tokyo, I could easily see myself coming up to Nikko for follow-up visits to enjoy the landscapes during the different seasons. We travelled in summer, but autumn in Nikko is meant to be beautiful!

While we made the most of our 4 days in town, here are some ideas of other things to do in Nikko if you have more time:

  • Explore the other temples and shrines
  • Enjoy a scenic walk along Lake Yunoko
  • Visit Yutaki Falls
  • Hike the Senjogahara Moor Trail
  • Go up to the Kirifuri Highlands and Kisugedaira Plateau
  • Tour the Ozasa Farm
  • Enjoy the different onsen available throughout the valley

If you need any more sightseeing ideas for Nikko, just pick up one of the brochures from the train station or walk into the tourist information centre – they are super helpful in there and speak English fluently.

Surrounded by nature - one of the best things to do in Nikko.
Surrounded by nature – one of the best things to do in Nikko.

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  1. So awesome, Nikko looks so awesome! I watched your video and it look like a great destination to travel to. If you ever get to the southeast US you should visit Alabama. I write about the cool things to do here in Alabama! Thanks so much for sharing video and blog!

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