After you’ve planned for your trip (see this entry which includes information on budget and car rental), you should be set to go. This is day 1 of Hokkaido Itinerary:
8.30 a.m.: Reach Chitose Airport. Go to the car-rental counter and inform the receptionist about your car reservation. The receptionist will then call your car company and they will pick you up.
10 a. m.: By this time, you should have already collected your car. Drive to Chitose Outlet Mall Rera to get shopping out of your system. (Note that there are two outlet malls in Hokkaido. Chitose Mall has less interesting brands but it is along our route. However, you can still visit Mitsui Outlet Park on the last day of your visit.) It’s a good idea to look at Chitose Outlet website first and decide on the shops you want to visit. Don’t need to enter all the shops.
12 p.m.: Have your lunch at Chitose Mall food court. The food here is surprisingly excellent. Very satisfying.
1 p.m.: Set off towards Noboribetsu, a two-hour drive. But before you check in to your hotel, you may want to visit some tourist attractions en-route. (Click on the official tourism link in the previous sentence to see the list of attractions.)
Noboribetsu is essentially an onsen (spa) town, so the onsen itself is already an attraction and there isn’t much spectacular sights around it. We contemplated visiting the Bear Park, but we had our moral dilemma about animal captivity so we skipped it.
We did visit Lake Kuttara, which is a volcanic caldera, a 5-minute drive from Noboribetsu town. It was so quiet like a scene from a ghost movie. There was also no mobile reception here. Quite lovely but really nothing much to see.
After you visited your tourist attraction, check in to your hotel. We were very satisfied with our ryokan Oyado Kiyomizuya.
4.30 p.m: Most hotels are situated right at Jigokudani (Hell Valley), which is the major attraction here. Take a walk out of your hotel to Hell Valley or as I call it, Earth’s Fart because the sulphur smells like fart. Really, you can’t miss it; just follow your nose. Follow where it smells worst.
Jigokudani acquired its name because of the sulphuric odour and the bubbling water, reminding people of Hell. (There are many demon statues around). It is in fact the crater of Mt. Kuttara, 450 m in diameter and 11 hectares in area. We only walked to the entrance and looked but if you want, you can spend some time strolling around.
5.30 p.m.: Most people order dinner at their hotels in onsen towns; this is the rule. But if you didn’t order dinner at your hotel, you can walk around and dine at the one-street town. Nothing interesting in the town, so if you skip it, you won’t be missing out on anything.
8 p.m.: After dinner, take a long onsen spa at your hotel. (All hotels here are onsen hotels.) About 10,000 tons of hot water for onsen is supplied by Jigokudani.
8 a.m.: Have an early breakfast so that you can get some time in at the onsen again before you check out. Alternatively, after breakfast, you can walk 10-15 minutes to the Oyunuma Brook Natural Footbath. But really, why go to a footbath when you can bathe your whole body at your hotel onsen?
10 a. m.: Check out of hotel and get ready for Day 2 at Lake Toya and Hakodate.
You may be interested in…
–Four Fish Markets in Southern Hokkaido: Hakodate, Otaru, and Sapporo
–Tour at Nikka Whisky Distillery Hokkaido: Free Shots of Whisky Here!
–What to Eat at Niseko Hokkaido
–Matsunomi 松の實, Sapporo Hokkaido: Bib Gourmand Awardee, Famed for Duck Soba, Not a Quack
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.