Are you going to take a trip to Hokkaido this winter? Have you begun planning your trip? Don’t panic if you have not started planning the trip yet. Let me introduce you a simple recommended itinerary for your Hokkaido trip. And that’s supposed to be in the winter. Am I right?! Visiting Hokkaido without the perfect travel plan would make you cry and disappointed. Therefore I strongly recommend planning your visits in advance or follow this itinerary to make sure you get the most out of your time in Hokkaido. Those who are eagerly waiting to be there to experience an exciting adventure must read this itinerary and then plan accordingly. If you desire to explore the best winter attractions in Hokkaido, you have got to read this guide.
My extensive travel experiences help me organize this perfect itinerary for first-timers who would be visiting Hokkaido in February and have already intended to experience the snow festivals including other exciting winter attractions. I never say myself that I could create great itinerary. To be honest, I always find it difficult to rate my own work. In fact, you are the one who would judge my work here. Often I receive messages from others saying that I help them creating good suggested itineraries. Hearing such inspiring words inspires me more than anything else! And yet I try my best to deliver you with a lot of information to make your future trip awesome. Let’s get started now!
Day 1 – Sapporo
Ok, you are in Sapporo now! I hope you slept nicely last night and have already taken your breakfast. Let’s get ready for a day trip to Sapporo in February. Please note that the 2017 Sapporo snow festival will be held from February 6 to February 12. Anyway, let’s face it! I have a perfect one day Sapporo itinerary for you which you must read right away. As the main attraction of visiting Sapporo in February is the snow festivals, so I want you to spend most of the time in Odori Park.
Take as many as time you need to experience the whole festival area. Actually you could skip the evening session off the “One day Sapporo itinerary.” You will have a lot of time to do shop in the capital of Hokkaido later on this 7 day trip. If you want to stay in the heart of Sapporo which I mean near Sapporo Station then make a reservation online in advance at Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae. Stay overnight there. Good night guys!
Day 2 – Sapporo to Asahikawa
It is time to get to Asahikawa. Right after taking your breakfast you should head to Sapporo Station. Hop on one of the limited trains that depart from Sapporo to Asahikawa every 30 minutes. The entire one way ride takes about 80-85 minutes. If you have a Japan Rail Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass then you don’t need to buy any tickets. It would cover the cost!
Asahikawa is an impressive city with a number of exciting winter attractions. When people think of visiting Asahikawa in winter, their “bucket list” is filled with three most amazing places: Asahikawa Winter Festival, Asahiyama Zoo, and Asahikawa Ramen Village. This year, the festival will be held from February 7 to 12, 2017.
If you want to see the stunning firework show at night on the opening ceremony, you must be in Asahikawa on February 7. Therefore, after you hop off the train, immediately check in to a hotel to stay overnight there, prefer a hotel that is located near the station. I stayed at JR Inn Asahikawa, it was an awesome stay so why don’t you check this hotel out?
The journey would definitely make you feel tired, so have some rest there for a while. Then leave your luggage in your room and start your trip heading towards Asahikawa Ramen Village. Seriously, you can have your breakfast there! That would simply be nice and satisfying.
Your next destination would be Asahiyama Zoo. It welcomes thousands of visitors each day during winter. It is said to be the largest Zoo in Hokkaido which is home to more than 800 animals of 150 different species. The penguin parade show at the zoo in winter is a must thing to see.
You should dedicate your evening session only for the winter festival. At first, visit the Heiwa Dori site to see the amazing ice sculptures and then head to the Asahibashi site for viewing the firework show and giant snow sculptures. When you are done, get back to the hotel and have a nice comfortable sleep.
Day 3 – Asahikawa to Abashiri
In order to see Hokkaido’s real winter beauty you have got to come to Abashiri. And the best way to get there is by train from Asahikawa, not from Sapporo! Guess what?! The distance between Asahikawa and Abashiri is shorter than the distance between Sapporo and Abashiri. Get up early in the morning and catch the train to Abashiri.
Abashiri is one of the best tourist destinations in Hokkaido in winter. Usually every year, a lot people get there for experiencing the beautiful drift ice (Ryuhyo) in the Sea of Okhotsk as they know February is the best time to see them. The train journey from Asahikawa to Abashiri would be delightful as you would witness amazing picturesque Hokkaido countryside.
The shores of Okhotsk in Abashiri receive a huge amount of drift ice. The ocean freezes and seeing drift ice is typically a great outdoor winter activity there. The best way to witness this winter wonder is by icebreaker cruise. You can get onto one of the Aurora icebreaking ships to begin your journey. You must take a binocular that would help you spotting some seals, Steller’s Sea Eagles and other birds from the ship. The entire boat journey takes about an hour. If the weather condition is too bad then the cruise ship trip will be postponed. Stay overnight at Hotel Sun Abashiri and leave the town for Sapporo on the following day. The early the better!
Attention please! If you want to explore the destination with a group tour from Sapporo then take a look at this one day Abashiri drifting ice adventure tour. If you are interested in this guided tour, get back to Sapporo instead of heading towards Abashiri from Asahikawa.
Day 4 – Abashiri to Sapporo
I hope you would reach Sapporo before 12:00 if you catch the early direct train to Sapporo from Abashiri. You have to stay overnight here again in Sapporo, so check in to the hotel you have already taken a reservation online. Cover the rest of the places you have missed on the first day trip to Sapporo. In fact, this time it would be nice if you spend some times on shopping. You should walk along the Tanuki Koji Shopping Street and find your perfect souvenirs.
I don’t care how much time you spend for this but make sure you find some nice souvenirs. Again in the evening time you can head to Odori Park and enjoy live stage events in the festival arena. For a cozy dining time you can go to one of my favorite restaurants located near the park called Aburiya Odori Bisse. Often it is said to be the best place to have your dinner near Odori Park. Stay overnight!
Day 5 – Sapporo to Otaru
Otaru, the historic port city in Hokkaido would be packed with a lot of visitors during its Snow Light Path Festival. It will be held from Feb 03 to 12, 2017. The festival is known as one of the most famous snow festivals in Japan. The main festival areas look amazingly wonderful with lit up snow sculptures in the evening and at night, especially Otaru canal.
In fact, the whole city gets decorated with different sizes of stunning snow sculptures and night illuminations. In Otaru, no trip is complete without a leisurely walk down the Sakaimachi Street. Museums, Souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes there are regarded as the top attractions. Grab a quick dinner before you get to sleep! Stay the night in Otaru.
Day 6 – Otaru to Niseko
When you read about “what are the best things to do in Hokkaido during winter,” then one thing is for sure that skiing and snowboarding in Niseko United is on the top after the snow festivals though. It is the country’s most famous and biggest ski resort in which night skiing facility is absolutely brilliant compared to other ski resorts you find throughout Japan.
The resort is family-friendly with great ski infrastructures. It is the perfect ski resort for beginners to start learning skiing or snowboarding. If you are afraid of skiing and snowboarding there, you have other outdoor winter recreational activities to try. It is recommended to stay a night there if you would like to try night skiing on the ski slopes. If not then get back to Sapporo before nightfall.
Day 7 – Sapporo to Jozankei Onsen
On the outskirts of downtown Sapporo there is a beautiful hot spring resort town called Jozankei Onsen. The onsen is particularly beautiful in the autumn and winter. The valley’s surrounding snowy landscape is breathtaking! I admire the scenery and you would too. To get rid of Hokkaido’s extreme cold weather often people head to hot spring baths and you should choose this one instead of getting to Noboribetsu hot spring resort town.
You know your time is limited! Soak your body in one of the hot spring baths there and feel good. Take the bus to get back to Sapporo and literally your trip ends there. I don’t know what your next destination would be especially when you are a solo traveler. Anyway, wishing you all the best!
Winter Travel Tips for Hokkaido
1) Buying a Japan Rail Pass is highly recommended for this dream trip to Hokkaido.
2) Dress up well to survive the winter, learn about what to wear in Hokkaido during winter.
3) Those of you who are concerned about big suitcase to travel with on snowy grounds could use Takuhaibin – a nationwide delivery service. In fact, you can rely on Yamato Transport Co., LTD. It would deliver your big suitcase from hotel to hotel all over Japan. If it does not suit you then I would suggest you pack light as much as possible. Read this post to get some ideas on how to pack light for winter trip to Hokkaido.
4) Eat and drink to keep your body warm.
While exploring this island in winter, whenever you get hungry you can stop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the restaurants you find nearby. I have suggested this 7-day Hokkaido itinerary for this year winter holiday that is packed with the best of Hokkaido for some inspiration. I have spent a lot of time in Hokkaido sometimes as a resident and tourist. Based on this it was kind of easy to come up with this perfect itinerary.
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