Take a Spiritual Adventure
Set among the world’s most sacred mountains, Wakayama is a treasure trove of ancient temples and shrines. The sacred place that represents Wakayama is Koyasan, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism and one of three World Heritage sites in the Kii Mountain Range. Serene and mysterious, Koyasan is scattered with 117 temples, 52 of which offer accommodations for visitors as shukubo (temple lodgings). At Koyasan’s shukubo—considered among the best in Japan—guests can experience a traditional monk’s lifestyle with meditation, temple services, Buddhist gardens and vegetarian cuisine.
Explore an Ancient Route
Walking the Kumano Kodo, a network of pilgrimage routes across wild, waterfall-laced mountains, is a fantastic way to experience Wakayama's spiritual countryside. In use for over 1,000 years, Kumano Kodo is a special pilgrimage site, registered as a UNESCO world heritage site, connecting three shrines (the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine and Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine). Indeed, the amazing views and historic remains along the way make this one of the most memorable treks on the planet, with easily navigable routes that include hot springs retreats, delicious local food and rich cultural insight into a relatively unexplored part of Japan.
Kumano Kudo is bonded to Way of St. James*, in Spain, as one of the only two pilgrimage routes registered under UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
Ascend to Great Heights
One of the highlights of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is the 1,700-year-old Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine and 133-meter-high falls—the tallest in Japan. Borrow a free walking stick from the path and climb Daimonzaka slope, one of the most beautiful roads in Kumano Kodo. The climb is worth it for the vision of the eminent shrine, the three-story pagoda of the Buddhist temple Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple beside it, and the crashing waterfalls, which were venerated by the earliest Japanese people.
Savor a Local Feast
The self-proclaimed "Kingdom of Fruit," home of some of the best ramen and freshest seafood in the land, Wakayama's fare is distinct and delightful. Join noodle lovers from near and far for a steaming bowl of Wakayama ramen. Its unique base, made with a savory pork bone and soy sauce broth, makes Wakayama ramen deliciously addictive. Finish your meal with an Arida orange, a thin-rind Mandarin orange with the perfect balance of sweet and sour. For a regional specialty, try tuna rice bowl topped with fatty tuna, and is usually enjoyed with the flavourful local shoyu (soy-sauce). More fresh tuna lands in Wakayama than anywhere else in Japan. Quench your thirst at Minabe, the largest ume (Japanese apricot) producer in Japan, where you can get tipsy on sublime ume liqueur (Umeshu).
Cleanse Your Body and Soul
Relax and rejuvenate at one of Wakayama's many ancient hot springs, or onsen, each set in a unique environment. One of the most popular is Saki-no-yu in Shirahama, a public bath right on the shore of the Pacific which has refreshed travelers and locals alike for over a millennium. Or visit Sennin-buro in Kawayu, one of Japan's biggest open-air baths, a natural onsen created by a dam. Or become one with the sea in Katsuura onsen, which faces the Pacific Ocean. Visit the Hongu Onsen-kyo area located close to the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, where you can relax in one of Japan’s oldest and most famous hot springs, Yunomine onsen. This is home to Tsubo-yu, a bath designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is for private use for one or two people for 30 minutes.
Enjoy a Magnificent View
As you fly into Nanki-Shirahama Airport look out for the stunning beaches down below. The name Shirahama is Japanese for "white beach," and as you head toward the region, you’ll see sugar white beaches and deep blue waves crashing against craggy cliffs. Fireworks are held during the summer nights too.
Thrill to Scenic Landscapes on Two Wheels
Undoubtedly, the most exhilarating way to enjoy and understand Wakayama's nature and its beauty is riding on a bicycle. From majestic mountains to dynamic coastlines, Wakayama offers cycling enthusiasts various route options that total up to near 800 km in the prefecture. Wakayama boasts itself as a dreamland for cyclists - climb uphill the sacred mountains, trail along the rocky Seto Inland Sea coastline, and dip into hot springs at the end of the day. The lack of congested roads and traffic lights, make Wakayama one of the friendliest places in Japan for cyclists. For casual riders, one-day rental at popular spots like Shirahama Beach or Wakayama city is available locally for tourists.