Continuing on the Japanese Rail Itinerary…
Day 9 – Nikko
- Nikko is a famous hill station near Tokyo (2 hours train ride away). There are 2 options to travel to Nikko – one is to take JR trains (use JR pass but change trains) and two is to use Tobu direct line. Once you reach Nikko, buses are the best option to travel to various tourist spots. Keeping this in mind, we bought the Nikko Free Pass for 4,500 yen – it covers train travel and includes bus pass. We were staying near Tokyo SkyTree so it was convenient to buy the pass one day in advance from the mall SS Tip: Need to head out early to Nikko as its 2 hour ride away. Office which sells pass only opens at 10 am. So buy the pass in advance when you goto Tokyo Skytree as part of Tokyo sightseeing itinerary. Ask for Nikko train and bus timetable.
- We started off early at 7 am – train separates into 2 sections closer to Nikko so remember to shift to correct cars at that point (they give adequate time) . Right outside Nikko station, there are 2 bus stops – one goes to heritage area (closer to station) and the other one goes up the mountains to waterfalls. We decided to start from furthest spot to cover more ground.
- Our first stop was Ryuzu waterfalls – which is a top attraction and can get very crowded. There is wooden balcony from where you can see the twin waterfalls in their full glory. There are 2 restaurants right here where you can grab a bite. After admiring the falls, we walked up along the river. The autumn colors added to the scenic beauty.
- As we were doing good with respect to time, we decided to venture further to Senjogahara plateau. Once you are dropped at marshlands bus stop, to the left there is a small clearing from where you can see the vast plains. To the right, behind the shops and restaurants are green pastures with pretty views of hills
- We started the return journey and took the bus to our next stop, Lake Chuzenji. This pretty lake right in between the hills is absolutely lovely. We walked along the lake and took lots of pictures! The road is dotted with restaurants. We settled for a nice hot meal at a western restaurant. They had a 3 course meal which was reasonably priced (the strawberry ice cream was really rich and creamy)
- We next walked over to Kegon waterfalls. Took the elevator (550 yen fee) to go down around 100m. Pictures don’t do justice to these falls – the sound and the sheer drop are difficult to describe. There are 2 levels once you come down the elevator – views from both levels are similar. On the way back we saw the falls from a balcony near the edge too (free for public) – and were convinced that its worth taking the elevator!
- We had spare time as we dint have to wait long for buses / other tourists to make space. So we decided to head to Akechidara ropeway. Now the issue is that while heading up the mountain, the bus stops at this ropeway – but there is no direct bus to go down ! We were anyways high-spirited so we decided to walk down (30 mins). Half the route involved walking through a tunnel – this was a first for us as we usually drive through and have never walked through one ! The ropeway point is situated strategically offering amazing views of the forests, hills, winding road and few waterfalls. After seeing this, the ropeway which goes just a little high, seemed lame. So we skipped the ropeway and made our way back – by bus this time! SS Tip: Do we regret, walking down to the ropeway ? Absolutely not ! I enjoyed the adventure and saw things not written in any travel book !
- Once we reached the heritage area, we walked around the temple complexes. Toshogu Shrine is one of the largest in this area. We however skipped going inside as we had seen our fair share of temples and shrines in Kyoto.
- We then walked over till Shinkyo Bridge– an old red bridge over the stream with green trees at both ends.
- 2 min walk from the bridge was the bus stop. Took the heritage bus to be back at Nikko Station in time for last train back to Tokyo (additional surcharge is payable for trains post 5:39 pm as they are limited express trains) SS trip: If you plan to stay longer, buy the limited express tickets in advance (at a discount) when you buy the pass