Winter is about to come in the Hokkaido region as I feel the cold out there! Many of you probably have managed everything else for your upcoming winter trip to Hokkaido in 2019; I mean travel plan (itinerary) hotel reservation, rail pass, flight booking, travel insurance, car rentals, buying suitable warm clothes to survive the cold weather and etc.

There are also other guys who have not planned completely yet though they are serious about taking a trip to Hokkaido. This post is written to guide those travelers who still don’t have a travel plan and have not made any hotel reservation.

Niseko is a paradise for winter sports fanatics. Photo Credit: NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU.

Is February the month you intend to visit Hokkaido? This is without question the best time to spend a perfect winter holiday in Hokkaido, at the same time this is the coldest month of a winter season in the region. So, if you are not accustomed to severe cold weather and don’t have decent ideas on how to stay comfy in the cold, you can read this useful post. However, let’s get to the main point. Let me introduce a perfect itinerary for your trip. And hopefully the hotels I recommend for you here suit your travel budget.

Please note this suggested itinerary suits for ski lovers, foodies, and for those who are planning to visit Hokkaido in February to see snow festivals.

Day 1 – Chitose -> Niseko

Perfect weather and slope for skiing, Grand Hirafu. Photo Credit: NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU.

Welcome to Hokkaido! I don’t know your flight schedule but I assume you will land at New Chitose Airport before 13:00. Please note the last bus that directly goes to Niseko from the airport is at 15:30. I want you to visit this page to see the complete timetable of the buses.

Among the five ski resorts in Niseko, Grand Hirafu is considered the most popular one. Indeed, it’s the first choice for the foreign travelers. You can make a hotel reservation at this hotel for two night stay. If you don’t find any room there, please make reservation at Niseko Price Hotel Hirafutei. If your budget does not suit there, search for other ones. Most of the hotels there are good and deliver you the best value for what you spend for a night or two. For night skiing Grand Hirafu ski resort is the best!

Enjoy night skiing and after this you can soak your body in an onsen.

Day 2 – Niseko

Hanazono ski slope and Mount Yotei. Photo Credit: Tetsuji Sakakibara at Flickr.

Just don’t explore Grand Hirafu, instead enjoy the atmosphere in other ski resorts such as Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hanzono, and Moiwa. You may encounter same sort of activities there but the areas are different so are the slopes.

A 2-night stay in Niseko lets you discover the other four ski resorts and provides you enough time to do a list of wonderful activities. Use the shuttle bus to get to the other ski resorts in Niseko. In search of amazing taste of Ice cream and cookies stop at Niseko Milk Kobo. A perfect place to satisfy your stomach and this place has been rated best for your little ones.

If you are interested in skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and other snow sports, and that’s for why you are in Hokkaido now, stay two nights in Niseko. Though skiing is not the only outdoor activity you are going to experience there. Indeed, you have many options!

You can hop on the lift/gondola and enjoy the surrounding beautiful snowy secrecy as it takes you to the upper elevation. Excessive snowfall in the area creates picture-perfect landscape to be photographed. Why are you waiting for? Start your photography expedition right away.

Day 3 – Niseko -> Sapporo

This impressive castle is made out of snow during the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri. Photo Credit: takako tominaga at Flickr.

After check out, you are heading toward Hokkaido’s capital city – Sapporo. Check into this hotel, located near JR Sapporo Station. Staying nearby train station is highly recommended as often walking in the snow may make some trouble. And most importantly time is important. Sometimes you have got to reach station on time to catch the early train to somewhere you want to go as part of day trip.

Even after the check out process, most of the hotels in Niseko actually let you store your luggage until your time arrives to take the bus to Sapporo. So if you have time, you may go out and walk for a while before leaving for Sapporo.

When you arrive in Sapporo, don’t waste your time but check in immediately. You should have some rest or take a nap if you wish to. In the evening you are going to see Japan’s most famous snow festival known as the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri in Odori Park area. Marvel at the giant snow sculptures; have fun watching the live music performances and so on.

Day 4 – Sapporo -> Otaru

Otaru Canal during the snow light path festival. Photo Credit: 小樽雪あかりの路.

Indeed Otaru is one of the most popular wither holiday destination in Hokkaido, especially when the port town host its annual winter event called, Otaru Snow Light Path Festival.  Just take a leisurely walk along the Otaru Canal, and you its festive atmosphere. Everything is so appealing there from small snow illuminated sculptures to snow lanterns.

Please note the festival is held in February and lasts for 10 days. In 2019, the festival will be held from February 08 to 17.

If you want you can spend a half day in Sapporo, and then make your way to Otaru. I suggest you to spend the whole evening in the festival areas.

Get back to Sapporo by train. Sleep tight tonight because tomorrow you will have to get up early in the morning for heading toward east.

Day 5 – Sapporo -> Abashiri

You will be surprised seeing awesome vistas around. Photo Credit: 流氷観光砕氷船おーろら.

Catch the early morning train to Abashiri from JR Sapporo Station. Inform this to hotel front desk executive before you get to sleep on Day 4, so that he/she prepares your bill and arrange your check out.

The train is about 6 hours of journey, so enjoy the ride viewing the surrounding landscapes. When you reach JR Abashiri Station, head to this hotel. The hotel itself clean and staffs are friendly.

It’s time to head to the dock where to experience Abashiri Drift Ice by a sightseeing cruise boat. This official website has got everything you need to know from timetable to fare. So read that page carefully. After the trip, rest of the time you can spend taking a walk around the town.

Day 6 – Abashiri -> Asahikawa

Everyone loves watching the penguin walk at the zoo. Photo Credit: Asahiyama Zoo.

If this not a solo trip and you have kids on this journey, don’t make a mistake by not visiting Asahikawa. Many people may think there is nothing to see in downtown area, that’s a wrong a view! Most of the restaurants of the city are perfect to taste Hokkaido’s finest local cuisines. And accommodation here is cheaper than Sapporo. Many travelers who fail to manage hotel reservation in Sapporo actually choose Asahikawa for their overnight stays as there are plenty of accommodation options.

After check out from the hotel in Abashiri, I tell you to directly head to the station and hop on the train to Asahikawa. You are going to stay there, so don’t mind checking into this hotel, its location is perfect and adjacent to JR Asahikawa Station.

Rest of the time after checking into the hotel you can roam around the city, especially experience the Asahikawa Winter Festival and Asahiyama Zoo.

Day 7 – Asahikawa -> Sapporo

Does not it look awesome?! Photo Credit: 札幌もいわ山ロープウェイ.

Check in at JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sappro. You can just leave your luggage at the hotel before checking in, and they will take care of it. No one will steal your luggage, so don’t worry at all.

You can go shopping nearby or if you think you want to have your lunch in a cool restaurant, and then head to Sapporo Beer Garden. After that you can get back to hotel, finish your check in procedure. Why don’t you take a nap? Take it if you need it.

In the evening, you may think of visiting Mount Moiwa. Use the ropeway to get to the top from where you witness amazing views over Sapporo city. This is a kind of experience you will never forget.

Day 8 – Sapporo -> Noboribetsu

Jigokudani in the winter. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: ruich_whx at Flickr.

There is nothing like visiting a market in the morning where tourists can taste fresh seafood of different kinds. For a perfect breakfast, you are suggested to either visit Nijo market or Curb market in Sapporo. A list of seafood such as salmon eggs, crabs, sea urchin, and other variety can found there. And don’t hesitate to prepare your own donburi. Add toppings as much as you want, who cares!

Don’t spend more than 2 hours there because after check out you are to take the train to Noboribetsu.

Noboribetsu is known for its hot spring waters as you find variety of minerals there, said to be the best hot spring resort in Hokkaido. It would be pity if you don’t visit this hot spring resort. The distance between Sapporo and Noboribetsu is not that much far, it takes only 2 hours of bus ride. This hotel provides a direct shuttle bus service for its customers from JR Sapporo Station bus. So check into this hotel and use their shuttle bus. Although that’s not a free service, it is convince and reliable. In case you don’t make a reservation there, use the train.

Spend time walking along the designated trails to Jigokudani (the hell valley). This is the must-see attraction in Noboribetsu.

If you are going to visit Noboribetsu around February 3-4, then you have a big surprise there. Noboribetsu Onsen Hot Spring Festival is held at that time. Half naked guys gather forming two teams and fight for the glory in a Hot Water Battle. The atmosphere of the festival indeed lively despite the cold weather!

Day 9 – Noboribetsu -> Chitose

Chitose Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: redlegsfan21 at Flickr.

The reason I tell you to stay in Chitose before you fly to home is – it’s great to stay overnight in a hotel located nearest to the Airport. And if you are traveling to Hokkaido between January 26 and February 18, then you will be happy to participate in the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, held in Shikotsuko Onsen. This post highlights Hokkaido’s greatest winter festivals, and there you will surly find useful information on Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival.

Spend your time there and don’t leave the place before the illumination takes place. Every snow structures are lit up and decorated stunningly in the evening.

Stay an overnight at Chitose Airport Hotel.

Day 10 – Chitose

At New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: redlegsfan21 at Flickr.

Say goodbye to Hokkaido! I hope this suggest itinerary does not only tell you where to stay but also clearly explains the major attractions you ought to visit during your trip.

If you want to modify this itinerary, you can do that, no doubt. I actually had to skip one very important winter attraction of Hokkaido, Jozankei Onsen. The place is actually can be explored from Sapporo as a day trip. So, if you think you can manage one more day, visit Jozankei.

Besides, if shopping is what you like when you travel aboard, add one more day on the itinerary. Most of the shopping stores and malls are located in downtown Sapporo.

Well, if you have any question about visiting Hokkaido in winter, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will gladly try my best to solve your problem. Thank you so much.