A Hokkaido Winter

Winter teases the senses in Hokkaido with a dramatic transformation into a blanket of ice and snow comforted by the warmth of its intoxicating hot springs, enchanting landscapes and lifestyle that presents Hokkaido at its best in February.  

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience fine lodgings with exquisite cuisine

Admire stunning winter season landscapes

Experience less trodden towns and villages 

Participate in the winter festivities of Hokkaido in February

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE OBIHIRO / TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN

Arrive today into Tokachi-Obihiro Airport where a short drive arrives us into the hot spring town of Tokachigawa Onsen greeted by the wintry landscapes along the Tokachi River where during this season, thousands of migratory swans arrive from Siberia to nest and feed (Nov - April). Nearing sunset, we head out on a short drive to the town of Toyokoro to witness the "Jewelry Ice" phenomenon at the mouth of the Tokachi River where clusters of ice resembling gem stones appear on the sand hills every winter. Admire the changing hues reflected on the ice as the day wanes. Thereafter, return to Tokachigawa Onsen Sanyoan where we will spend the next 2 nights. 

Overnight: Sanyoan, Tokachigawa Onsen

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN

After a rejuvenated rest, we enjoy an exceptional day of experiences beginning with a drive to the soba town of Shintoku where we will spend the morning with the excited and happy dogs on a dog sledding tour. After some instructions, enjoy the opportunity to mush your own team of dogs as we ride through some of the most spectacular winter landscapes admiring scenes of snow-covered forests and backdrops of the mountainous peaks. Thereafter, head over to Lake Shikaribetsu to enjoy the Shikaribetsu Kotan Festival where every winter (Jan - Mar), an ice village is painstakingly created and sculptured out of snow and ice with igloos (not for staying), ice bar, ice chapel and even an ice onsen. Enjoy activities such as snowmobiling or just enjoy the festivities on offer during this festive season. 

This evening, we will also get the chance to participate in the Tokachi Swan Festival at the Tokachigaoka Park where an evening of illumination presents a sound and light show to display various art creations for a visual spectacle in winter delighting the senses. 

Overnight: Sanyoan, Tokachigawa Onsen

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 3: TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN / KUSHIRO MARSHLANDS / LAKE AKAN

We leave Tokachigawa Onsen today for a scenic drive to Kushiro, gateway to the world's greatest marshlands, home to the graceful red-crowned cranes where the settle and feed here in the winter season every year. We embark on the SL Fuyuno Shitsugen steam locomotive train where we will enjoy one of the most incredible scenic train journeys admiring the spectacular winter marsh landscapes and flocks of red-crowned cranes while tucking into sumptuous grilled dried squid onboard. Arriving at Shibecha, we will continue our journey by road with a pleasant drive to the Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary, established in 1987 to protect the endangered red-crowned cranes. We will enjoy an informative visit to learn about the cranes and the amazing work by volunteers while admiring these incredible birds at their natural feeding ground at close range. Thereafter, we continue to the wintry scenes of Lake Akan where the thick snow afford us to enjoy a lovely smelt fishing experience on the frozen lake while enjoying a great time in one of the most picturesque destinations in Hokkaido in all seasons. Finally, we retreat to the Hinanoza, an outstanding hot spring ryokan on the banks of the lake where this evening, you have the chance to marvel at the fireworks spectacle of the annual Lake Akan Ice Festival (Feb - Mar). 

Overnight: Hinanoza, Lake Akan

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: LAKE AKAN (THE LAKES OF TESHIKAGA)

A spectacular day excites the senses as we explore the beautiful lakes of Teshikaga. Our first stop of the day will be Lake Mashu, undoubtedly the clearest lake in Hokkaido and also the most beautiful. On a clear winter day, you will witness a surreal and perfect winter scene of the caldera lake surrounded by steep and snow-covered forested cliffs. Thereafter, head on to the hot spring town of Kawayu Onsen not far away where we enjoy a private and unique experience of a horse-drawn sleigh into the snowy forests admiring exceptional winter scenery before we enjoy a visit of Iozan Sulfur Mountain. In winter, its yellow sulfurous vents can be viewed from a close proximity that blends in with the white snow, a visual treat for the eyes. We then continue a short drive to the shores of Lake Kussharo where Sunayu Onsen is, where you will capture yet another revered winter scene, that of the white swan residents against the backdrop of Mount Mokoto. We spend some lovely time enjoying the scenery and there is time to consider a canoe excursion for a different perspective before returning to Lake Akan. 

Overnight: Hinanoza, Lake Akan

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: LAKE AKAN / ABASHIRI

We leave Lake Akan today for a scenic drive via the Bihoro Pass to the port town of Abashiri - renowned for the surreal sheets of drift ice in the winter season. Visit the interesting Okhotsk Ryuhyo Museum which displays real drift ice in a room set to minus 15 degrees Celsius where you will gain more insights. Also on exhibit are the adorable cliones, a type of mollusk also known as “sea angels”. Next, recommended is a visit to the Abashiri Prison Museum, probably the most beautiful prison anywhere in the world with a stunning setting to boot. The buildings of the prison had been in use since the Meiji era and are now carefully-restored showcasing the troubles during the Meiji Restoration period when political prisoners were made to work as laborers in the expansion and development of Hokkaido. Thereafter, we drive to the Notoro Cape admiring its rugged cliffs with the inspiring patches of drift ice before ending the day arriving at the Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort

Overnight: Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort, Abashiri

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6: ABASHIRI

A spectacular day begins where we embark on a icebreaker cruise experience admiring the spectacular ice floes on the Sea of Okhotsk that seemingly spans infinitely. A variety of wild animals can be seen in the drift ice season (late Jan - Mar). As the drift ice arrives, so do the clione, or "sea angels", seals and other marine wildlife and birds can also be seen resting on the ice. One of the most photographic experience is to capture the amazing Steller's Sea Eagle with its distinctive yellow beak resting on the ice and looking for the opportunity to catch fish that comes to the surface. Later, we have time to enjoy a variety of fresh seafood that Abashiri is blessed with before continuing our visit to Lake Tofutsu, a unique water body composition that is a mixture of both river and sea water - a perfect feeding ground for winter season migratory birds as well as offering some of the most inspiring wallpaper-worthy scenes in winter. 

Overnight: Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort, Abashiri

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 7: ABASHIRI / DEPARTURE MONBETSU

Our journey comes to an end today with a transfer to Monbetsu Airport for your flight departure to Tokyo or perhaps consider an extension of your winter sojourn in Central and West Hokkaido. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Surrounded by the abundance of nature, nestled on the banks of the Tokachi River, the Tokachigawa Onsen Sanyoan is an abode of relaxation and tranquility offering wonderfully-appointed rooms, therapeutic hot springs and delightful cuisine in all seasons for the discerning traveler visiting one of Hokkaido's most incredible regions. 

Sanyoan, Tokachigawa Onsen

Akan Tsuruga Bessou Hinanoza transports guests to a tranquil, serene world with elegantly appointed interiors far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Each of the hotel’s 25 luxuriously appointed suites include their own Private open-air bath as well as traditional Japanese-style designs.

Hinanoza, Lake Akan

Hokuten no Oka Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort is a hotel located on the shores of Lake Abashiri that pays homage to these people through distinctive design elements and accents offering a rejuvenating stay for discerning travelers. 

Lake Abashiri Tsuruga Resort, Abashiri

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