Discover the best things to see and do in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a treasure trove of stunning landscapes, cultural experiences, and culinary delights. From majestic national parks like Shiretoko to charming towns like Otaru and exciting events like the Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido offers an array of the best things to see and do for visitors. Take a look at our curated selection of top attractions and activities in Hokkaido.
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, and the fifth largest city in Japan. It’s a great base to start your trip in Hokkaido as it has good transportation connections to other parts of the island.
Odori Park is a large public park that stretches 1.5km through Sapporo’s city center. The tree-lined park has fountains, flower gardens, statues and hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
Sapporo beer is one of the most famous beers in Japan. At the Sapporo Beer Museum, you can learn about its history and manufacturing process. Finish off with delicious beer tastings straight from the source.
Ramen is one of Hokkaido’s pride and joys. Ramen Alley, or Ramen Yokocho, has dozens of ramen shops lined up next to each other in Susukino district. It’s the perfect spot to compare Sapporo’s different ramen styles like miso, soy sauce, salt, and curried ramen.
Relax in Noboribetsu Onsen
Noboribetsu Onsen is a hot spring located in Noboribetsu in southwestern Hokkaido. It’s known for its spectacular Jigokudani or “Hell Valley” – a volcanic crater with otherworldly hot steam vents and bubbling sulfurous streams.
There are 9 types of water, ranging from very hot to lukewarm, available to bathe in. The mineral-rich waters are believed to treat hypertension, rheumatism, and skin diseases. Onsen bathing paired with a traditional kaiseki meal is the ultimate Japanese relaxation experience.
Take a stroll around Hell Valley to see dramatic sulfur pits, steaming mineral springs, and the magenta-hued Lake Oyunuma. The hot steam billowing into the air gives it an ominous, lunar-like landscape.
At the Noboribetsu Bear Park, you can observe Hokkaido brown bears, currently an endangered species, in a realistic habitat. Watch them catch salmon, scratch their backs on trees, and laze around in an indoor observation area protected by glass.
View the Striking Blue Pond in Furano
The Blue Pond near Furano city in central Hokkaido is perhaps one of the most photographed places in Japan. While definitely touristy, seeing the beautiful blue water set against lush green forests and snowcapped mountains in person is well worth it.
The artificial pond next to a dam gets its striking blue color from dissolved minerals in the water reflecting light. The color intensified after an earthquake damaged the dam, which caused more minerals to run into the pond.
Head to the observation decks for classic views of the brilliant turquoise water against the forests and mountains. Try different perspectives, like overhead shots from the top floors of the nearby hotel or ground-level photos with colorful flowers.
Walking along the dirt trails around the Blue Pond lets you take in its stunning color from various angles. Visit during peak autumn to see beautiful fall foliage reflected on the water. In winter, the frozen pond becomes a spectacular icy world.
Marvel at the Magnificent Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park, located in eastern Hokkaido, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its pristine and remote natural beauty. Dramatic mountainscapes, dense primeval forests, and diverse wildlife abound here.
Joining a boat cruise along the rugged coastline is one of the best ways to fully experience Shiretoko. See majestic waterfalls plunging down cliffs, breaching whales (in season), soaring sea eagles, and even curious seals swimming alongside your boat.
Shiretoko has one of the highest brown bear densities in the world. From the safety of decks, observe these powerful animals forage for fish at the Rausu Shiretoko Ranch or along the Shiretoko Peninsula. The best chances are early mornings in summer and autumn.
Furepe Falls is one of Shiretoko’s most beautiful waterfalls, accessible via a 90-minute uphill hiking trail. The secluded multi-tiered falls pouring into a peaceful green gorge is well worth the effort. Proper hiking boots are recommended.
Ski World-Class Powder at Niseko
Niseko, located southwest of Sapporo, is one of the best places in the world for snowboarding and skiing. Over 25 feet of light powdery snow blankets its top-notch facilities and varied runs every winter.
Niseko United is comprised of 4 resorts – Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri, and Hanazono. Each has its own unique appeal, such as lots of backcountry terrain or more family-friendly options. Get a shared pass to enjoy everything.
Take the impressive 5.5km long Mt. Annupuri Gondola up to the peak. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Annupuri mountains and Niseko village below.
The Hirafu/Goshiki area has an excellent après-ski dining and nightlife scene. Relax those sore muscles after an exhilarating day on the slopes by soaking in onsen. Then check out the area’s restaurants, cafes, and bars.
See Moerenuma Park -A Creative Nature Park
Moerenuma Park in Sapporo is an open-air sculpture garden and recreational park designed by famous Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. It’s a true fusion of art and nature that makes for a unique exploring experience.
One iconic feature is the Stone Circles, which are circular depressions and grassy sanctuaries meant for play. Run around the concrete ridges, play hide-and-seek, lie in the grass, and interact with this modern sculpture.
The Flower Path is a 2 km walking trail lined with seasonal flowers. It’s a beautiful and meditative walk overlooking the park’s scenery, including Hidamari (Sun Pavilion), the Glass Pyramid, and Recovery Fountain.
Moerenuma Park has a lovely man-made lake in its center. Relax along its grassy banks or on the wooden platforms extending over the water. From this angle, you get great views of the surrounding forest and Mount Moere.
See Volcanoes and hike in Akan National Park
Akan National Park in eastern Hokkaido is renowned for its volcanic landscapes, alpine forests, crystal clear lakes, and hiking. It’s also home to endangered tancho white red-crowned cranes.
This wooden 3.5km walkway goes through Akanko Marsh allowing you to get up close to unique flora like cotton grass. With luck, you may spot red-crowned cranes nesting or foraging in the marsh during summer.
Mount Meakan is an active volcano within the park. Fit hikers can climb to the 1,499m summit for stunning views of Lake Akan, the surrounding volcanoes, and forests. The steep trail takes around 5 hours roundtrip.
The hot spring resort area of Akan Onsen Town has over ten public onsen baths and hotels. Soak in their therapeutic mineral waters surrounded by forest and glimpses of Lake Akan – the perfect way to unwind after outdoor adventures.
When you visit Hokkaido, a must-visit destination is Hakodate. Hokkaido is home to breathtaking natural beauty, and Hakodate is no exception. With its stunning views, historical sites, and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder that Hakodate is considered one of Japan’s best travel destinations.
Located in the southern part of Hokkaido, Hakodate is a historic port city with a rich cultural heritage. Visit the iconic Goryokaku Fort, explore the vibrant morning market, and ride the Hakodate Ropeway for panoramic views of the city.
Hokkaido is home to some of Japan’s best seafood, and Hakodate is known for its fresh and delicious seafood dishes. Whether it’s savoring mouthwatering sushi at the renowned Hakodate Morning Market or indulging in a seafood feast at one of the city’s many restaurants, food lovers will be in paradise. Don’t miss the opportunity to try Hakodate’s famous specialty, Hakodate ramen, which features a rich and flavorful broth accompanied by fresh ingredients.
Explore Lake Toya
Lake Toya is a picturesque caldera lake surrounded by lush forests and volcanic mountains. Take a scenic boat ride, hike along the lakeside trails, and enjoy the fireworks displays held during the summer months. Relax and unwind in the hot spring resorts dotted around the lake.
If you’re planning a trip to Hokkaido, one destination that should be on your list is Lake Toya. Located in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, Lake Toya offers an array of exciting things to do in Hokkaido. This picturesque caldera lake is surrounded by stunning volcanic landscapes and offers a range of activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
One of the best things about visiting Lake Toya is the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it. The lake itself is a sight to behold, with crystal clear waters reflecting the majestic mountains that surround it. The best time to visit Lake Toya is during the summer months when the weather is pleasant and the area comes alive with vibrant greenery. It’s the perfect time to explore the lake’s shores, take a boat ride, or enjoy water activities such as kayaking or paddleboarding.
Aside from the scenic beauty, Lake Toya also offers a range of attractions and activities. One must-visit spot is the Usuzan Ropeway, a cable car ride that takes you to the top of Mount Usu, an active volcano. From there, you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and surrounding landscapes. If you’re interested in geology, you can also explore the Showa Shinzan, another volcano where you can witness the power of nature up close.
Witness the Sea of Clouds at Unkai Terrace
One of the most enchanting sights to see in Hokkaido is the sea of clouds at Unkai Terrace. Unkai Terrace, located in Tomamu Resort, offers a breathtaking experience of the “sea of clouds.” Take an early morning gondola ride to the observation deck, where you can enjoy panoramic views as the clouds roll in, creating an ethereal and dreamlike atmosphere.
Unkai Terrace is situated at an elevation of 1,088 meters, making it the perfect spot to witness the sea of clouds. This natural phenomenon occurs when the moist air rises from the valley and meets the cooler air at higher altitudes. The result is a mystical blanket of clouds that obscures the lower landscapes, creating an ethereal and otherworldly scene. It’s truly an unforgettable experience.
Aside from witnessing the sea of clouds, Unkai Terrace offers other fun things to do and places to see. The terrace itself provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and landscapes, allowing visitors to appreciate the beauty of Hokkaido’s nature. Unkai Terrace is a destination that promises a memorable and fulfilling experience for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
Enjoy a Wildlife Encounter in Kushiro Marshland
If you’re visiting Hokkaido, one of the must-visit attractions is the Kushiro Marshland. Kushiro Marshland is the largest wetland in Japan and is home to diverse flora and fauna. Take a guided tour or board a sightseeing boat to explore the marshland and catch a glimpse of endangered species such as the red-crowned crane and the Blakiston’s fish owl.
One of the top things to do and see in the Kushiro Marshland is to take a guided nature tour. Knowledgeable local guides will lead you through the marshland, pointing out various bird species, including the iconic red-crowned cranes. These majestic birds are considered a symbol of good fortune and are a sight to behold as they dance and display their elegant plumage. You may also encounter other wildlife, such as deer, foxes, and even Ezo brown bears, if you’re lucky.
Undoubtedly, the Kushiro Marshland is one of the top Hokkaido tourist attractions for those seeking a unique wildlife experience. The best time to visit is during the summer months when the marshland is at its most vibrant. However, the different seasons offer different wildlife encounters as well.
Witness the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is a magical celebration that brings warmth to the cold winter nights. Held annually in Otaru, a charming town known for its romantic canal and historic buildings, this festival transforms the city into a winter wonderland illuminated by thousands of enchanting snow lanterns.
During the festival, the streets of Otaru are adorned with meticulously crafted snow sculptures and lanterns, creating a whimsical atmosphere. These snow lanterns, delicately carved and lit from within, cast a soft and mesmerizing glow, guiding visitors through the snowy streets. As you stroll along, you can admire the intricate details of the sculptures and immerse yourself in the ethereal beauty surrounding you.
The highlight of the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is the picturesque Otaru Canal, which is lined with snow lanterns and adorned with enchanting lights. The canal takes on a magical ambiance as the lanterns reflect off the calm waters, creating a mesmerizing scene that is truly unforgettable. Visitors can walk along the canal, taking in the romantic atmosphere and enjoying the performances and festivities that take place throughout the festival.
Wander through Otaru
When you travel to Hokkaido, one town that should not be missed is Otaru. Hokkaido is famous for its picturesque landscapes and charming towns, and Otaru is no exception. This coastal town is renowned for its nostalgic atmosphere, beautiful canals, and delightful attractions, making it one of the top spots in Japan to visit.
Otaru is a charming canal town known for its nostalgic atmosphere and glassblowing heritage. Stroll along the picturesque Otaru Canal, visit the many glassware shops and museums, and sample the delectable Otaru sushi.
Hokkaido is one of the best places in Japan to sample delicious seafood, and Otaru offers a fantastic array of seafood delicacies. The town is known for its fresh sushi, delectable seafood bowls, and mouthwatering grilled seafood. Don’t miss the chance to savor the local specialty, Otaru snow crabs, which are prized for their sweet and delicate flavor. Indulging in a seafood feast is a must-do when visiting Otaru.
Witness stunning ice sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival
Hokkaido is famous for its Sapporo Snow Festival. Held annually in the city of Sapporo, this festival transforms the city into a winter wonderland of incredible ice and snow artworks. The highlight of the festival is the vast collection of snow and ice sculptures that are meticulously crafted by talented artists from around the world.
The Sapporo Snow Festival offers visitors the opportunity to admire some of the most intricate and awe-inspiring snow and ice sculptures you’ll ever see. From towering castles and famous landmarks to whimsical characters and intricate designs, the sculptures are truly a sight to behold. Stroll through the festival grounds and be amazed by the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into these temporary masterpieces.
To get the best view of the snow and ice sculptures, head to Odori Park, one of the main festival sites. This spacious and picturesque park becomes a winter wonderland, with hundreds of sculptures spanning its grounds. Take a leisurely walk along the park’s snow-covered pathways, marveling at the intricate details and grandeur of the sculptures. The park also hosts various activities and events, making it a vibrant and lively destination during the festival.
Visit the Ainu Museum in Shiraoi
One of the must-visit destinations in Hokkaido is the Ainu Museum in Shiraoi. This museum provides a unique opportunity to learn about the indigenous Ainu culture, their history, and their contributions to Hokkaido. The Ainu people have a rich and distinct culture, and the museum offers a comprehensive insight into their way of life.
At the Ainu Museum, you can explore exhibits that showcase traditional Ainu artifacts, clothing, and tools. These exhibits provide a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives and customs of the Ainu people.
You can learn about their traditional hunting and fishing techniques, their spiritual beliefs, and their unique artistic expressions. It’s a chance to gain a deeper understanding of Hokkaido’s indigenous heritage.
Discover the historical sites Furano Shrine and Furano Church
In the charming town of Furano, Hokkaido, discovering the historical sites of Furano Shrine and Furano Church offers a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage. These two distinct landmarks, each with their own unique charm, provide insight into the religious and architectural history of Furano.
Furano Shrine, also known as Kamimura Shrine, is a sacred Shinto shrine that dates back over 140 years. As you approach the shrine, you’ll be greeted by its distinctive vermilion torii gate, a symbol of entering a sacred space. The serene atmosphere and beautifully landscaped grounds make it a peaceful retreat where visitors can pay their respects and soak in the spiritual ambiance.
For those interested in the architectural beauty of Furano, the Furano Church is a must-visit. This picturesque church, also known as the Church of the Good Shepherds, is a stunning example of European-inspired design. Its elegant white exterior and spire make it a prominent landmark in the area. Inside, you’ll find a serene and tranquil space, adorned with stained glass windows that create a beautiful interplay of light.
Both Furano Shrine and Furano Church serve as important historical and cultural landmarks in the town. They symbolize the blend of traditional Japanese beliefs and the influence of Western architecture on the region. Exploring these sites allows visitors to appreciate the cultural diversity and historical significance that have shaped Furano over the years.
Visit the impressive Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Sapporo
When visiting Sapporo, an area of Hokkaido, one impressive destination that art enthusiasts should not miss is the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art. This museum showcases a diverse collection of contemporary artworks from both Japanese and international artists, offering a unique and enriching cultural experience.
The Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art is known for its impressive architectural design, blending traditional and modern elements. The spacious galleries provide the perfect setting to appreciate the wide range of artistic expressions on display.
From paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations, the museum features a variety of mediums and styles that showcase the dynamic nature of modern art.
Visit the scenic Lake Shikotsu and relax in the hot spring
Take a leisurely stroll along the lakeside and be captivated by the beauty of Lake Shikotsu. The crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding landscape, creating a picturesque backdrop that is perfect for photography enthusiasts. Whether you visit during the blooming cherry blossoms in spring or the vibrant autumn foliage, the views of Lake Shikotsu are always a sight to behold.
After exploring the lake, you can indulge in the ultimate relaxation experience by visiting one of the hot springs in the area. Lake Shikotsu is renowned for its natural hot springs, which are known for their healing properties and rejuvenating effects. Immerse yourself in the soothing waters and let the stress melt away as you take in the surrounding nature.
The hot springs near Lake Shikotsu offer a range of amenities, from outdoor baths with panoramic views to traditional indoor baths. After a day of sightseeing, there’s nothing more satisfying than soaking in the warm water and enjoying the serenity of the natural surroundings. It’s an experience that allows you to connect with nature while rejuvenating your body and mind.
Take a scenic drive along the Shakotan Peninsula and Admire the Coastal Views
When planning your trip to Hokkaido, make sure to include a scenic drive along the Shakotan Peninsula in your itinerary. This coastal stretch offers some of the most breathtaking views in Hokkaido, with its rugged cliffs, turquoise waters, and panoramic vistas. Embarking on a drive along the Shakotan Peninsula is an unforgettable experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Hokkaido.
As you make your way along the coastal roads, be prepared to be awe-struck by the dramatic landscapes that unfold before your eyes. The cliffs that line the shoreline provide a dramatic backdrop to the sparkling turquoise waters of the Sea of Japan. Take your time to stop at the various lookout points along the way, where you can pause and admire the panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see.
The Shakotan Peninsula is also known for its quaint fishing villages, which dot the coastline. These charming villages offer a glimpse into the traditional fishing way of life in Hokkaido. You can take a break from your drive and explore these villages, enjoy some delicious fresh seafood, and interact with the friendly locals who call this area home.
Explore the historical village of Biei
In the picturesque region of Hokkaido, Japan, located lies the historical village of Biei. This charming village is renowned for its traditional thatched-roof houses, which offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich architectural heritage. Exploring Biei allows you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of this historical village.
Walking through the village of Biei feels like stepping into a postcard, with its well-preserved thatched-roof houses that exude a sense of timeless charm. These traditional houses, known as “kayabuki,” showcase the architectural styles of the past and provide a fascinating insight into the daily life of the people who once inhabited them.
As you wander through the village, you’ll notice the intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into constructing these houses. The thatched roofs, made from local materials, are not only aesthetically pleasing but also provide excellent insulation, showcasing the ingenuity of traditional Japanese construction methods.
Visit the famous Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery
When visiting Yoichi in Hokkaido, one famous destination that whisky enthusiasts should not miss is the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery. This distillery holds a significant place in Japan’s whisky history and is known for producing some of the finest whiskies in the country. A visit to the Yoichi Distillery offers a unique opportunity to learn about the whisky-making process and appreciate the art of Japanese whisky.
The Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is located in the scenic coastal town of Yoichi, surrounded by beautiful nature and a rich whisky heritage. As you explore the distillery, you can take guided tours that provide insights into the craftsmanship behind the production of Nikka whiskies. You’ll learn about the selection of ingredients, the traditional pot stills, and the aging process, which all contribute to the distinct flavors and character of Nikka whiskies.
During your visit, you can also indulge in tastings of a variety of Nikka whiskies, allowing you to savor the flavors and appreciate the nuances of each expression. Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur or a curious beginner, the Yoichi Distillery provides an immersive and educational experience that celebrates the artistry and dedication of Japanese whisky-making.
Walk Through Lavender Fields in Furano
One of the most enchanting experiences you can have is walking through the lavender fields in Furano. Known for its gorgeous landscapes and vibrant colors, Furano offers a picturesque setting that is a must-see for nature lovers and photographers alike. Walking through the lavender fields in Furano provides a sensory journey that is both calming and visually breathtaking.
From late June to September, the countryside around Furano explodes in vibrant purple with blooming lavender fields. The lavender fields in Furano are a sight to behold, with rows upon rows of vibrant purple blooms stretching as far as the eye can see. During the peak season in summer, the air is filled with the sweet scent of lavender, adding to the immersive experience. As you stroll through the fields, you can gently run your hands through the flowers, releasing their aromatic oils and enhancing the sensory experience.
In addition to lavender, Furano is also home to other beautiful flower fields, including sunflowers, poppies, and colorful blooms. The contrast of colors creates a vivid and dynamic landscape that is truly captivating. Walking through these flower fields allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature in its most vibrant forms.
Discover the rugged beauty of Cape Soya
Cape Soya is a destination that offers a unique opportunity to discover the rugged beauty of Japan’s northernmost point. This remote cape is known for its breathtaking views, wild coastline, and remarkable sense of serenity. When you visit Cape Soya, you’ll be captivated by its untamed beauty, making it a must-see for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.
As you stand at Cape Soya, you’ll be overlooking the Sea of Japan, with nothing but open waters stretching out before you. The rugged cliffs and rocky shoreline provide a dramatic backdrop, creating a sense of awe-inspiring vastness. Whether you visit on a clear day or experience the raw power of the wind and waves, Cape Soya offers a humbling experience that will remind you of the immense beauty of nature.
One of the highlights of Cape Soya is the symbolic monument that marks the northernmost point of Japan. This monument not only serves as a landmark but also represents the spirit of adventure and exploration. It’s an opportunity to stand at the edge of Japan and reflect upon the vastness of the world beyond.
Visit the iconic Sapporo Clock Tower
One iconic landmark that you should not miss is the Sapporo Clock Tower. Located in the heart of Sapporo, this historical building is a symbol of the city and a must-visit for history enthusiasts and architecture lovers. Visiting the Sapporo Clock Tower allows you to step back in time and appreciate the rich heritage of Hokkaido.
The Sapporo Clock Tower is a charming wooden building that dates back to the late 19th century. It was originally constructed as a drill hall for the Sapporo Agricultural College and later served as a meteorological observatory. Today, it stands as a timeless symbol of Sapporo’s history and evolution.
As you enter the clock tower, you’ll find a small museum that showcases the history of Sapporo and the building itself. You can learn about the fascinating origins of the clock tower and its significance in the development of Sapporo. The museum exhibits include photographs, documents, and artifacts that provide insights into the early days of the city.
Visit Lake Shikaribetsu and enjoy the beautiful scenery
This freshwater lake offers a serene atmosphere and picturesque views that will captivate any nature lover. Whether you’re a photographer or simply seeking tranquility, a visit to Lake Shikaribetsu is a must.
The beauty of Lake Shikaribetsu lies not only in its crystal-clear waters but also in its surrounding landscape. Nestled amidst the mountains, the lake offers a stunning backdrop of lush greenery and snow-capped peaks. The contrasting colors create a truly captivating sight that is a feast for the eyes.
One of the unique attractions at Lake Shikaribetsu is the Ice Hotel, which is constructed entirely from ice and snow during the winter months. This magical structure offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience, allowing visitors to step into a frozen wonderland. You can explore the ice sculptures, enjoy a cozy drink at the ice bar, and even stay overnight in an ice room.
Stroll through the beautiful Ashiribetsu Waterfall Park in Teshikaga
This scenic park offers a picturesque setting surrounded by lush greenery, flowing waters, and the mesmerizing Ashiribetsu Waterfall. A visit to Ashiribetsu Waterfall Park is a must for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil escape.
As you explore Ashiribetsu Waterfall Park, you’ll be enchanted by the captivating sights and sounds of nature. The main attraction, the Ashiribetsu Waterfall, cascades gracefully over a series of rocky layers, creating a dramatic spectacle and a soothing soundtrack of flowing waters. The mist from the waterfall adds a refreshing touch to the air, making it a peaceful and invigorating experience.
The park offers well-maintained walking paths that meander through the surrounding forest, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. Along the way, you can encounter vibrant flora and fauna, providing ample opportunities for photography and close encounters with Hokkaido’s wildlife.