Nikko is an ancient city located in Tochigi Prefecture, Northern Japan, about 2 hours driving from Tokyo. A special thing about this destination that attracts tourists is a series of shrines and temples skillfully and uniquely constructed by the most reputable artists, architects and craftsmen from all over Japan. In 1999, Nikko Temple, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Rinnoji Temple and Lake Chuzenji were recognized by UNESCO as world cultural heritage. So, what to do in Nikko and top things to do in Nikko? Let’s check out our Nikko guide and Nikko blog from how to get to Nikko, Nikko places to visit to things to do in Nikko and what to do in Nikko to find out the answer and discover Ancient City of Nikko – An astonishing and sacred city of Japan.
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If you are too stifled by the hustle life of Tokyo, you can flee to Nikko for peace and immerse yourself in nature as the place is a real-life wonderland. It may sound a little exaggerating, but you will definitely be stunned by the beauty of nature when coming to this city.
Nikko places to visit: A couple of outstanding attractions in the ancient city of Nikko
The sightseeing places we recommend to visit in Nikko are separated into 2 sections:
The shrine and temple complex
The shrine and temple complex here is mainly built in the 17th century, usually referred to as the “Summer Palace of Japan” due to its unique, sophisticated architecture constructed by the most skilled craftsmen. Comprising of nine national treasures together with 94 Japanese important cultural properties, the entire complex nestles in the middle of the mountains and lush forests.
The charming scenery especially during the autumn welcomes people to come and admire the beautiful red leaves of the season. This complex is often referred to by the Japanese as the “two shrines one temple” because here you will have a chance to visit two Shinto shrines Nikko Tosho-gu and Futarasan, and Rinno Buddhist temple.
Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine
Not only famous for its unique and sophisticated architecture, this attraction is also considered one of the most beautiful places to observe the autumn leaves of Tokyo. If you’re lucky enough to come here in the summer, and precisely on May 17 and 18, you will also witness a great festival performance with thousands of soldiers in samurai armor costumes riding horses and shooting arrows. It is worth it to pay a visit to this shrine.
Nikko Futarasan Shrine
Although the space is not as large as Nikko Tosho-gu, the age of this shrine is much older. The two swords displayed in the main hall of the shrine are Japan’s national treasures.
This is one of the most important places of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko complex. Built in the 18th century, the temple encompasses three gold Buddha statues that are over 8 meters high.
It refers to the Nikko mountainous region located very high and deep in the mountain range to the West of the city center. This region is a picturesque area comprising of natural scenery and several hot springs. A couple of must-visit attractions are as follows:
Formed by a dormant volcano, Lake Chuzenji is poetically beautiful but surprisingly, it has already celebrated its 20,000th birthday. If you want, you can take a boat tour on the lake for more romance. Also, there are many small craft shops along the banks of the lake and you can easily see them when taking a walk.
To get to Lake Chuzenji, it takes you around 45 minutes to “climb down” the Iroha Winding Road, a famous winding road with a total of 48 sharp curves making an astonishing zigzag slope for sightseeing. Those who get car sick will probably shake their heads when hearing this. But rest assured, once you get on the bus, the smooth road, the trees, the waterfalls, and the charming scenery outside will remove all the discomfort.
Although there are about 48 waterfalls in Nikko, the most famous and beautiful one among them is Kegon Waterfall. With a stream falling straight from a height of nearly 100 meters, Kegon Waterfall looks totally majestic and exotic.
Kinugawa Hot Spring (Kinugawa Onsen)
This popular hot spring is located on the upper Kinugawa River. In ancient times, only the clergy or lords could bathe this hot spring. The hot water here is quite good to help dispel fatigue, and treat several types of back pain and shoulder pain. So if you have the opportunity, it is definitely a must to come and visit this attraction.
How to get to nikko from Tokyo?
Travel by Klook’s shuttle bus service from Tokyo (pick up and drop off at Subaru Building Gate, Shinjuku Square)
Transportation in Japan is notoriously complicated and expensive, not to mention asking for direction in Japan is also quite difficult because Japanese people are generally not very good at English. So, there are a lot of challenges when traveling in Tokyo. And going to places far away from Tokyo is even more troublesome.
Moreover, for those who do not have a long itinerary in Japan, traveling by public transport will consume a lot of time. Especially, if you do not know how to go there, it will cost you a lot of money. But do not panic, there is nothing to fear when you book your trip on KKday.
Klook’s day tour to Nikko will take you to your destination, visiting Nikko’s beautiful landscapes recognized by UNESCO as world cultural heritage. After exploring around, you can relax with a Japanese style Onsen bath experience, and then go shopping and try some local street foods. All in just 12 hours, really quick and convenient.
Link to book the tours here:
- Nikko Day Tour from Tokyo.
- .Nikko Cultural Day Tour from Tokyo.
- Nikko World Heritage Day Tour from Tokyo.
Travel by public transport
If you are familiar with the train system and confident about your ability to find the right route, you can travel by public transport. Tokyo and Nikko are connected by the rail lines of Tobu Railway and Japan Railways (JR).
To get to Tobu Railway Station in Nikko from Tokyo, you take the train from Tobu Asakusa Station. You can arrive at the origin station by subway (Ginza and Asakusa Subway Lines). You have two options: regular or express train.
- Express train (only one or two trips per day) travels straight from Asakusa Station to Tobu Nikko Station (2,500 yen/way).
- Regular train usually costs half the price (1,360 yen/way) but it takes another 30 minutes to arrive there.
Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station and transfer to the JR Nikko Line. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. For those who already have a JR Pass, it would be much cheaper when you take advantage of the pass. If purchased individually, it costs 10,000 yen for round-trip (about USD 90) while buying JR Pass All Japan (about USD 250), you can get unlimited trips.
Booking your pass through Klook is even 5% cheaper (about USD 12, and you can get a great meal with the extra saving). Link to get your pass: JR Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days).
-> Nikko Station to the shrine and temple complex:
It is about 2 km apart. You need to travel by bus to visit sightseeing places in the city. There is one bus every 10 minutes, 310 yen/way, or you can purchase a day pass for only 500 yen. Note that this is only the expense to travel from Nikko Station to the shrine and temple complex.
-> Nikko Station to the Okunikko Region:
- To Lake Chuzenji: 1150 yen/way (about 50 minutes).
- To Kinugawa, take the Tobu Kinugawa Line and stop at Kinugawa Onsen Station, or take the bus for about 30 minutes.
In general, traveling by public transport to visit all exotic attractions in Nikko in one day is very difficult. So just simply book a day tour to Nikko on Klook, you will have enough free time to rest in the warm and relaxing hot spring.
Link to book your tours:
- Nikko Day Tour from Tokyo.
- Nikko Cultural Day Tour from Tokyo.
- Nikko World Heritage Day Tour from Tokyo.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, to and from Tokyo you can refer to
- Airport Limousine Bus Transfers from/to Narita and Haneda International Airport (Free Wifi Onboard)
- Nikko Day Tour from Tokyo
- Mt Fuji & Hakone Day Tour: Lake Ashi & Ropeway Day Trip from Tokyo
- Nikko Cultural Day Tour from Tokyo
- Tokyo Subway Ticket (24, 48, or 72 Hours)
- Tokyo Skyliner and Tokyo Subway Ticket
- Shuttle Bus Transfers (One Way/Round Trip) from Shinjuku/Ikebukuro to Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea
- Sky Hop-on and Hop-off Bus Pass
- 4G Prepaid Sim Card (JP Airports Pick Up) for Japan
- 4G WiFi (Japan Pick Up) for Japan
- JR Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days)
Are you finding more top things to do in Nikko: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Nikko travel blog — The fullest Nikko travel guide blog for a wonderful trip to Nikko, Japan.