Summer in Hokkaido is visually spectacular. Stunning scenery sprawling the vast countryside right to the edges of the picturesque coastline, combined with mild summer temperatures ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius, it makes for a splendid holiday for the entire family.
Niseko is the perfect base to explore the wonder of Hokkaido with its central location within the Shiribeshi area. From quaint townships to some of the most grand natural landscapes, here's five scenic day trips to add to your Niseko travel itinerary, and don't forget your camera!
#1 Lake Toya
Located 60 minutes from Niseko, Lake Toya in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, is one of Hokkaido's most beautiful gems. The picturesque lake, 45km around in size, offers many great activities including canoeing, SUP (standup paddle boarding) and hiking. There's also boat cruises departing every half an hour from the lakeshore to the island in the centre of the lake, where you can hop off and enjoy a stroll and of course, the stunning scenery.
To get the best views, take a ride to the summit of nearby active volcano, Mt Usu, via the Usuzan Ropeway and soak up the 360 degree panorama. After dinner, marvel at the dazzling colour display with summer fireworks on every night (weather permitting) from April 28th to October 31st.
A unique destination full of old-world character, Otaru is a great day trip for all ages and is only 90 minutes drive from Niseko. Many old warehouses and former office buildings give Otaru's city centre a special charm reminiscent of past decades, giving great photo moments. Stroll along the iconic, photo-worthy canals before enjoying the delicious street food, including the freshest seafood, along Sakaimachi Shopping Street. Browse the quirky stores, many stocking Otaru's famous glasswares. Taste the delights at Le Tao, famous for its cheesecake, then visit the Music Box Museum to pick up a gift for your loved ones. The kids will love the rainbow ice cream in Otaru, too!
#3 Shakotan Pennisula
Shakotan Peninsula is a breathtaking part of coastline, jutting in the turquoise Sea of Japan, 90 minutes drive from Niseko. To get the best vantage point, take the short hike along Cape Kamui (15-20 minutes) and soak up the 360 degree views from the end. The Shakotan area is also popular in summer for swimming, SUP and kayaking.
If you want to marvel at the under water action, take a ride on one of the sightseeing cruises with glass bottom boats. Not only take in the coastline and rock formations views of the peninsula but also the fish and sea urchins beneath. Try the famous Shakotan dish afterward: Sea Urchin Rice Bowl.
#4 Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
Jigokudani, known as "Hell Valley" is an incredible valley landscape 90 minutes drives from Niseko, featuring hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity.
From the valley, there are a number of walking trails through the wooded hills above nearby town of Noboribetsu. Follow the trails for about 20 to 30 minutes and you will get to Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond with a surface temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and a smaller, even hotter, mud pond nearby. It truly is a hellish place!
Forty minutes drives from Niseko, Yoichi is a quaint town well-known in Hokkaido during summer for its production of a variety of fruits including grapes, apples and cherries. Orchards burst with green during summer, making it a great place to visit to explore the countryside where you can enjoy fruit picking at the many orchards. Wineries are also a popular destination along the way, also making for some stunning photo opportunities. Ride the roller-coaster and taste a fresh fruit smoothie at nearby Niki Farm before heading to the famous Nikka Whiskey Yoichi Distillery.