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Japan: Path of a Thousand Temples

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 14 day(s)
Group Size: 1 - 8 people
Destination(s): Japan  
Specialty Categories: Bicycle Touring   Cultural Journey  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 6870 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 6870 US Dollar (USD)

Japanese life is as distinct as it is refined: the art, food, and architecture stand out uniquely from the rest of the world. Sushi, geisha, Zen Buddhism all distinctly Japanese and familiar, yet shrouded in mystery. Today, Japan is at a crossroads of old and new, and our bicycle tour will explore the vivid and contrasting wonders of modern Japan with it's rich medieval legacy under a backdrop of incredible natural beauty. On Path of a Thousand Temples we will explore Japan's ancient temples, shrines and castles and cycle through it's natural treasures, including the lush mountain valleys of Shikoku, Japan's most scenic island featuring spectacular back country riding.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Osaka, a modern city that really comes to life at night. We start the evening with a fine meal and orientation at a famous tempura restaurant, followed by a guided walking tour of Dotombori, the inspiration for the futuristic sets of the movie Blade Runner.

- Transfer: airport to hotel
- Hotel: Nankai South Tower Hotel
- Dinner: Tempura Maki
- Evening: Dotomburi nightlife.

Day 2: Nara. After breakfast, enjoy a quick class in basic Japanese language and customs. After a short bus transfer, bicycle to Nara on quiet country roads that take us past beautiful rural architecture and farmland. After a quick lunch, tour the Nara National Museum and its excellent collection of Buddhist art. Retire at night to the comfort of a traditional Japanese inn.

- Breakfast: Nankai South Tower Hotel
- Activity: Japanese language and customs class
- Bike: Osaka to Nara (40 miles)
- Lunch: Bento (box) lunch
- Hotel: Ryokan Seikan-so
- Activity: Nara National Museum
- Dinner: Hiraso.

Day 3: With eight World Heritage Sights, Nara is a close second to Kyoto in terms of cultural import. A day tour takes in many of these sites, including various temples, palaces, shrines and ruins. Sites include Todaiji Temple, home to a huge bronze Buddha that is Nara's most famous tourist attraction, and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, considered to be one of Japan's most important Shinto shrines. After a "fast food" lunch of sushi, the group will spend the afternoon touring Nara Koen, a city park with thousands of semi-tame deer.

- Hotel: Ryokan Seikan-so
- Breakfast: Ryokan Seikan-so
- Bike: World Heritage Site tour
- Lunch: Maguro-tei
- Walk: Nara Koen
- Dinner: Sanshu.

Day 4: Start the day with a relaxing bicycle ride from Nara to Kyoto, the undisputed cultural center of Japan. Kyoto embodies traditional Japan with 17 World Heritage Sites and more museums, art galleries, palaces and gardens than you could explore in two lifetimes! After a quick post-ride lunch, relax and enjoy a traditional Japanese public bath near your inn in central Kyoto. After dinner, take a few hours to explore Kyoto's nightlife on your own.

- Breakfast: Ryokan Seikan-so
- Bike: Nara to Kyoto (40 miles)
- Hotel: Ryokan Hinomoto
- Lunch: Bento (box) lunch
- Activity: Japanese bath
- Dinner: Oiwa.

Day 5: Kyoto is one of the most incredible places in the world. Your first full day in Kyoto will be spent uncovering the traditional beauty of this enchanting city. We start the day with a walking tour of Central Kyoto, including an optional, early morning excursion to Nishiki-koji Market. After a quick breakfast, we will head for Nijo-jo and Nijo Jinya, two excellent examples of feudal architecture from the Shogun period. We finish the walking tour in Kyoto-gyoen, an urban park where we will have a relaxing picnic among the trees, carp fish, and other local flora and fauna. After a quick rest and traditional bath, we will head for Pontocho, an area that typifies old Japan with wooden buildings and hanging lanterns.

- Hotel: Ryokan Hinomoto
- Walk: Nishiki-koji Market
- Breakfast: Ryokan Hinomoto
- Walk: Nijo-jo and Nijo Jinya
- Lunch: picnic
- Walk: Kyoto-gyoen park
- Activity: traditional bath
- Walk: Pontocho
- Dinner: Uzuki.

Day 6: Today we move to the foothills to discover the hidden treasures of Eastern Kyoto. Area sites include the Sanjusangen-do temple, the Kyoto National Museum, which has an excellent collection of Japanese artifacts, and the stunning hillside temple of Kiyomizu-dera. After a simple but satisfying lunch of noodles and area vegetables, we will visit the picturesque grounds of Ginkaku-ji temple and the Zen temple, Nanzen-ji. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony or an optional, unguided two-hour hike up Daimonji-yama for a panoramic view of Kyoto.

- Breakfast: Ryokan Hinomoto
- Walk/Bike: Tour temples and museums (10 miles)
- Lunch: Omen
- Hotel: Mishima-jinja
- Activity: Tea ceremony or optional hike on your own
- Dinner: Ichi-ban Walk: Gion.

Day 7: Kyoto - Kurama Fire Festival. Exploring Kyoto is a must for the any traveler interested in the daily life of Japanese people. Travel by bicycle, on foot or on the trains, and explore any of Kyoto’s fascinating sites. Or simply relax, sit still and let the city come to you! We will reconvene in the evening for a cooking lesson and traditional meal at a 500-year-old noodle restaurant that has been in the same family for 15 generations!

- Breakfast: Mishima-jinja
- Hotel: Mishima-jinja
- Activity: Cooking lesson
- Dinner: Hiiga.

Day 8: Nagoya. We start the day with an early morning transfer over the Higashiyama Mountains to Otsu, a city on the coast of Japan’s largest lake, Biwa-ko. From there we will cycle along the lakefront to Hikone-jo, a stunning medieval castle. After a short lunch in Hikone city, we continue by bus to Nagoya. Dinner is served at a wonderful robata restaurant. After dinner, feel free to explore the areas famous pachinko parlors and nightlife.

- Breakfast: Mishima-jinja
- Transfer: Kyoto to Otsu via bus
- Bike: Otsu to Hikone (30 miles)
- Tour: Hikone-jo and surrounding gardens
- Lunch: cafe/restaurant
- Transfer: Hikone to Nagoya via bus
- Hotel: Petit Ryokan Ichifuji
- Dinner: Izakaya Bun.

Day 9: Takayama. Today we will visit a sumo stable to see how the great men train and live. For those who do not like fighting sports, feel free to explore Nagoya on your own. Notable sites include the Atsuta-jingu shrine, the Shitori-teien garden and the Pachinko Museum. Following the tournament we will travel by shinkansen (bullet train) to the mountain city of Takayama, your first stop in the Japanese Alps. The city is a beautiful example of traditional Japanese life with old style streets, buildings, customs and activities. For a change of pace, we stay in a traditional minshuku.

- Breakfast: Petit Ryokan Ichifuji
- Activity: Sumo training stable or site seeing on your own
- Lunch: Ebisu
- Transfer: Nagoya to Takayama via bullet train
- Hotel: Rickshaw Inn
- Dinner: cafe/restaurant.

Day 10: Today will include a leisurely bicycle tour of Takayama and the surrounding areas. The village is famous for traditional arts and crafts and has many important and interesting highlights, including Hida Minzoku-mura, a traditional folk village. After a quick lunch of local traditional specialties, we will then relax in the local hot springs. Those more adventurous can add a hike or more extensive biking in this beautiful section of the "Japanese Alps".

- Hotel: Rickshaw Inn
- Breakfast: Little Bear Cafe
- Bike: Area tour, including Hida Minzoku-mura (15 miles)
- Lunch: Bento
- Activity: hot springs
- Dinner: Suzuya.

Day 11: Nagano. Today’s ride is a challenging one through valleys and mountains to the mountain village of Hiyoshi. But don’t worry, your tour is fully supported so you can retire to the comfort of the support van as soon at any time. After a quick lunch in town, we’ll catch the train to Nagano, and retire to temple lodgings near Zenko-ji Temple.

- Breakfast: Rickshaw Inn
- Bike: Takayama to Hiyoshi (40 miles)
- Lunch: Cafe/Restaurant
- Transfer: Hiyoshi to Nagano via train
- Hotel: Temple lodging
- Dinner: Temple lodging.

Day 12: Nagano. For early risers, the first stop of the day is the Zenko-ji Temple for an early morning Zen service. After an extensive temple tour, we will enjoy a nice breakfast before riding to the mountain village of Yudanaka, home of world-famous hot springs and snow monkeys.

- Activity: Zenko-ji Temple
- Breakfast: Temple lodging
- Bike: Nagano to Yudanaka
- Lunch: Cafe/Restaurant
- Hotel: Temple lodging
- Dinner: Temple lodging.

Day 13: Tokyo. After an early morning ride by shinkansen to Tokyo, we will tour many of the city’s highlights, including the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower for a stunning birds-eye view of the world’s most modern city. For dinner, we’ll travel to the beach town of Hayama for a farewell dinner and beach party in your honor.

- Breakfast: Temple lodging
- Transfer: Nagano to Tokyo via bullet train
- Hotel: Palace Hotel
- Activity: City tour
- Lunch: Cafe/Restaurant
- Transfer: Tokyo to Hayama via bus
- Dinner: Cafe/Restaurant.

Day 14: Tokyo. Today you leave Japan, so you might want to do some early morning shopping before you return home. The best places to shop include the Nakamise-dori shopping arcade in Ginza, or perhaps Shinjuku for the worlds best selection of electronics.

- Breakfast: Palace Hotel
- Transfer: hotel to airport.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- Deluxe or first class accommodations
- Most meals, baggage handling
- Transportation
- Activities as outlined in the trip itinerary
- Services of English speaking leaders
- Cost of research, itinerary development, documentation, and educational materials
- Activities
- Equipment and mechanical support.

Price Excludes:
- International air fair
- Domestic or regional airfare on certain trips
- En route accommodations at stopover cities at the beginning and end of your trip
- Passport, visas, excess baggage, airline fuel and security surcharges, security and airport departure fees
- Some meals to allow for individual choice of restaurants
- Alcoholic beverages, gratuities, laundry, telecommunications charges, and other items of a personal nature
- Expenses resulting from delays due to bad weather, trail, river, and road conditions, sickness, government action and bureaucracy, and flight delays
- Trip cancellation.