Planning a trip to Hokkaido during winter but not sure where to start? Read this 14-day itinerary to know the best places to visit in Hokkaido in winter.

Traveling around Hokkaido for two weeks is worthwhile than visiting the island for a week. Always remember that the island has endless discoveries to offer you in winter months including various outdoor activities, and food tours to different well-known places across the region. As far as I know that most of the temporary visitors to Japan usually get a 15 or 30-day tourist visa issued by visa officers. That means if you are issued a 15-day temporary visitor visa, you won’t have any problem with this suggested Hokkaido itinerary that I am going to share in this post.

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If you are interested in exploring the popular destinations in Sapporo, Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Niseko, Chitose, Otaru, Asahikawa, and Abashiri, I highly recommend you to follow my guides here. This itinerary can even exceed your expectation and help you discover the best winter activities in Hokkaido including some of the stunning snow festivals. Besides, you will be informed where to stay as you keep exploring the places one by one. I also have included some awesome day trips from Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido. Are you ready?

Day – 1: New Chitose Airport to Sapporo

The fastest way to get to Sapporo from the airport is by JR rapid train.

Welcome to Hokkaido. Congratulation! Your dream has come true finally. No matter what time you land at New Chitose Airport, your first destination from the airport is Sapporo.

Transfer to Sapporo by train and then check in either at Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae or Sapporo Grand Hotel. According to my experience, among the hotels located in downtown Sapporo, these hotels are perfect to stay overnight. You can trust me!

If you arrive in the city before the afternoon, you may still start off your trip by taking a walk into Odori Park. That’s quite possible if you take a long nap after lunch time. On the other hand, if you are to arrive in Sapporo city in the evening, there is no need to go for sightseeing. Just have some rest and wait for the following day.

Day – 2: Sapporo -> Otaru -> Sapporo

Former Hokkaido Government Office Building in winter. Photo Credit: Kentaro Ohno at Flickr.

Start the day off with a visit to Sapporo Clock Tower. This iconic landmark of the city is just 250 meter away from Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae. You can spend half an hour at this little museum. Admission costs 200 yen.

Please note you should wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking around a lot. In fact, this is the best way of exploring the city.

Next you head to the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building. There is no need to take a taxi as it’s very easy to access to on foot. Therefore, just take a walk for a while and you will be there. This little pocket wifi device is all you need to locate your destination on Google Maps. It works great, and it’s very handy for tourists, especially for those who have never been to Sapporo before. My advice is – don’t get lost, stay connected with the internet.

Otaru Canal during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Your next stop is JR Sapporo Station. You really are going to Otaru! Use your JR pass or if you don’t have it, buy your train ticket. From the station, it takes about 30 minutes by rapid train and 50 minutes by local train. The one way train ticket costs 640 yen.

A lot of visitors visit Otaru Canal during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, one of the popular winter festivals in Hokkaido. Visiting the canal during the festival time means you are going to see a lot snow on its grounds. In addition, visit Otaru museum, and explore some shops located along Sakaimachi Street to find some unique souvenirs.

Get back to Sapporo by train.

Day – 3: Sapporo

This castle is made out of snow at Odori Park, Sapporo Snow Festival. Photo Credit: takako tominaga at Flickr.

Do I have to describe about Sapporo’s famous attractions here? If you have been reading some of the posts written about Sapporo on Kyuhoshi.com, you have already got some ideas where to visit in order to make the most of your time in the city.

Today, you will be visiting one of Sapporo’s most beautiful parks called Maruyama Koen. It’s a 5-mintue walk from Maruyama Koen Station on the Subway Tozai Line. There is a lot to see and photograph in the park. Hokkaido Shrine is an important landmark of Maruyama Park. The approach to the shrine looks very picturesque in winter. Besides, if you want, you can pay a visit to Maruyama Zoo. Polar bears at the zoo seem to me quite amusing. Inside the zoo, you can find restaurants to eat and convenience store to buy foods from.

A stunning view of Odori Park from the observation deck of Sapporo TV Tower. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

After the end of the trip to Maruyama Park, I suggest you to get to Odori Park. During the Sapporo Snow Festival, the entire area of the park becomes a winter wonderland. A lot of snow sculptures are displayed, and live music is performed on the stages.

Afterwards, you should head to Sapporo TV Tower for a stunning 360-degree view of the city. The views from the observation deck are quite impressive.

In the evening, you head to Mount Moiwa. Hop on the tram, and get off at Ropeway Iriguchi station. From there, you take the free shuttle bus that departs every 15 minutes to reach the lower ropeway station. The night views over this beautiful city from the top of the mountain are awe-inspiring.

Day – 4: Sapporo to Asahikawa

Penguin parade at Asahiyama Zoo! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

On your four day in Hokkaido you are going to head to Asahikawa. There are limited express trains that connect Sapporo with Asahikawa every 30 minutes. The one way ride takes about 80 minutes and costs you 4500 yen. You don’t have to buy a train ticket if you have a Japan Rail Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass.

JR Asahikawa Inn is where you will stay the night in the city. It’s located next to Asahikawa Station. There are three big reasons why you will be visiting Asahikawa. One is Asahiyama Zoo, one of Japan’s most popular zoo, Asahikawa Winter Festival, and Abashiri Drift Ice tour.

Asahiyama Zoo is arguably the best place you are going to explore in Asahikawa. Spend most of your time at the Zoo. When the trip is over, you are suggested to visit the areas where the Asahikawa Winter Festival is held, the second largest winter festival in Hokkaido.

There are many restaurants you can find nearby the Station. So, visit one and enjoy your dinner.

Day – 5: Asahikawa -> Abashiri -> Asahikawa

Ice-breaking ship Aurora, Abashiri Drift Ice. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Do you want to take a day trip out of the city? Don’t tell me that you don’t want to.

Located in Okhotsk Subprefecture, Abashiri is famous for its drift ice. Even though drift ice can be seen from the coast of Abashiri, a sightseeing boat trip (ice-breaking ship Aurora) is necessary in order to admire the surrounding vistas and marine wildlife.

To start the trip, first you hop on the train from JR Asahikawa Station, and you get off at Abashiri Station. From there you can take a taxi to Abashiri Port. Use the train and enjoy the ride back and forth. This page has got everything else that you need to know if you are interested in doing this hilarious winter outdoor activity.

After the end of the cruise, return to Asahikawa by train.

Day – 6: Asahikawa to Sapporo

Susukino – red light district of Sapporo.

Check out time has arrived! Before leaving the hotel take your all belongings. Head toward JR Asahikawa Station and leave for Sapporo.

In Sapporo, again you can check in either at Nest Hotel Sapporo Ekimae or Sapporo Grand Hotel. It’s up to you. Or if you want to stay elsewhere, there is no problem at all.

Miso Ramen with seafood, corn and pork. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Do you want to take a break? A day break will be good and why don’t you just walk around Susukino? It’s the red light district of Sapporo. You can gladly do it in the evening. Find its Ramen Yokocho – a small alley packed with a number of ramen shops. Indeed this is a perfect place to try ramen of different varieties including the famous Miso Ramen.

Apart from that you can spend your time on shopping at Sapporo ESTA, Daimaru, Sapporo Underground Shopping Malls, and Sapporo Stellar Palace. Tourists and local alike enjoy shopping at these popular shopping areas in the city.

Day – 7: Sapporo

Play Mountain of Moerenuma Park during spring. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

On your day seven in Hokkaido you can visit a number of places. For example, if you would like to learn the history and the life-style of Hokkaido, visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido. This is one of the must-see destinations in Sapporo, especially if you are a history buff.

It’s a large open-air museum, located in the suburbs of Sapporo and comprises four main areas, they are as follows: the Town, Fishing village, Farm village, and Mountain village. Besides staring at the beautiful historic buildings, and other landmarks in the village, you are offered to experience a ride by a horse drawn trolley.

Alternatively, you can visit Moerenuma Park, a spacious park designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. HIDAMARI (glass pyramid), Sea Fountain, Tetra Mound, Music Shell, Aqua Plaza, Play Mountain, and Mount Moere are the interesting landmarks you want to explore in the park. Travelers can hike the trail of Mount Moere, and enjoy panoramic views of the entire park from the top of the mountain.

Which one would you like to visit? Both seem worth exploring, right?!

Jingisukan is being cooked! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In the evening, you are going to taste one of Hokkaido’s renowned local dishes called Genghis Khan (Jingisukan), a delicious lamb barbecue dish, prefect treat for non-vegetarian. You first head to Sapporo Beer Museum, then to Sapporo Beer Garden. In order to learn the history of beer in Japan and the process of beer making you must visit the museum.

Instead of visiting the museum, and eating Jingisukan at beer garden, you can find other restaurants in the city. Bear in mind Sapporo has no shortage of good restaurants and bars.

Day – 8: Sapporo to Niseko

View of Mount Yotei from the slopes of Grand Hirafu Resort, Niseko. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hotel to stay in Niseko, Grand Hirafu Resort: The Vale Niseko.

Access to Niseko from Sapporo is not a daunting task. You can either take a train or bus to reach there. The most suitable ski resort in Niseko for foreign travelers is Grand Hirafu. It’s the largest resort in Niseko with many restaurants, bars, hotels and lifts. You are going to stay there and take a day trip to other ski resorts.

A famous ski resort town, Niseko, is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders as it is blessed with tons of quality dry and light powder snow during winter. It houses a number of diverse terrains, and ski slopes within its four major resorts to experience the best ski holidays in Hokkaido. Those four resorts are known as Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri.

If you are not a quite fan of winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, yet I believe you should go there and enjoy your time viewing the surrounding snowy landscapes. The views are incredible indeed.

Ski lessons are taught by certified instructors, and they are keen to teach you the basic ski lesson including things you should do and don’t while skiing and snowboarding on the slopes. Snowmobile and ski rentals shops are there to provide the best gears you need to have an unforgettable trip.

On your first day in Niseko, you can enjoy night skiing on the slopes of Grand Hirafu. You might even consider exploring some of its cozy onsen to relax your body and soul.

Day – 9: Niseko

Here is another picture of Mt. Yotei. Is not it beautiful? Photo Credit: NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU.

On your second day in Niseko, my advice to you is keep exploring the other ski resorts. There are plenty of areas for capturing incredible winter vistas.

Instead of exploring only the area of Grand Hirafu, try visiting one of its neighboring slopes. I think visiting Niseko Village will not be a bad choice. The views of Mount Yotei from the slopes of these two resorts are breathtaking.

Niseko Milk Kobo is what I believe the best place to try various kinds of fresh dairy products, ice creams, and sweets. If you don’t hesitate to spend some times there, take a trip to Milk Kobo.

Day – 10: Niseko to Hakodate

Night view over Hakodate City from the observation platform of Mount Hakodate. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This morning, you catch the train to Hakodate and say Goodbye to Niseko!

When you reach Hakodate, stay overnight at this hotel.

Mount Hakodate and Mount Moiwa offer you to experience similar sort of night views. Some people say that night views over the city from the Mt. Hakodate’s observation platform is better than Mt. Moiwa, while some say the opposite. Whatsoever, I like both.

You can walk into Motomachi District for a while, before you head to Mount Hakodate Ropeway in the evening.

Day – 11: Hakodate to Noboribetsu

A bird’s-eye view of Fort Goryōkaku in winter, Hakodate. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Wake up early in the morning, and make your way to Hakodate Morning Market to taste some fresh seafood. When the trip is over, head toward Fort Goryokaku, a star shaped fortress built in the late Edo period. Visit the upper observation deck at the top of Goryokaku Tower to take awesome photos of the fortress.

After taking your lunch, hop on the train to reach Noboribetsu Station. Please note all limited express trains between Hakodate and Sapporo stop at Noboribetsu Station. When you get off, find the bus at the station to get to Noboribetsu Onsen. It’s operated by Donan Bus, and usually takes a 15-mintue bus ride.

Hotel to stay in Noboribetsu: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel.

Before you get to sleep, you can enjoy a bath one of its indoor baths featuring three different types of hot spring water.

Day – 12: Noboribetsu to Chitose

That’s the hell valley – Jigokudani! Photo Credit: Andrew Flenniken at Flickr.

Located within Hokkaido’s Shikotsu Toya National Park, Noboribetsu is considered the best hot spring resort town in the region, and according to my experience, this is one of the top 3 onsen in all over Japan.

If you are not sure what to do in Noboribetsu or where to start, make sure you first experience its hot springs. They are believed to be good for our skin.

Some of your might hesitate to take a bath in a public onsen. In that case, you can prefer one of its private onsen. They are usually run by privately owned ryokan and hotel.

Alongside soaking your body in an onsen, I recommend you to pay a visit to Jigokudani or Hell Valley, the main source of Noboribetsu hot spring waters. At Hell Valley, visitors can witness volcanic activity includes sulfurous streams, and hot steam vents. From the valley you find a trail that takes you to Oyunuma Pond. If the weather is good, take a leisurely walk along the trial to the pond. In addition, travelers can also visit Oyunugawa Natural Foot Bath as it’s a short walk from the pond.

After check out, head to JR Noboribetsu Station.

Hotel to stay in Chitose: Chitose Station Hotel.

The location of this hotel is perfect and from here you can easily access to Minami-Chitose Station. When coming from Noboribetsu, don’t get off at Minami-Chitose Station, but at Chitose Station.

Day – 13: Chitose -> Lake Shikotsu -> Chitose

Awesome illuminations – Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival. Photo Credit: redlegsfan21 at Flickr.

Lake Shikotsu is one of the most beautiful caldera lakes in Hokkaido. If the weather is not harsh, you must go there and enjoy a day trip. I bet you will be excited to see its snowy landscape including the mountains in the background.

The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is held annually from late January to mid February. Lucky you! You have a great chance to experience this awesome winter festival. In the evening, snow sculptures at the festival venue are illuminated gorgeously! The area indeed a great place to admire nature, and there it’s always fun to walk through.

The most convenient way to get there is by a rental car. If you are allowed to drive in Japan and you think that you should give it a shot, then I recommend you TOYOTA Rent a Car.

Day – 14: Chitose Station to Chitose Airport

Japan Airlines, New Chitose Airport. Photo Credit: redlegsfan21 at Flickr.

Today is the day you leave for your home country.

At New Chitose Airport, there are many shops to buy things from. If you wish then take some time to explore the airport. Walk into the airport; find some souvenirs to take home. Don’t forget to eat some yummy chocolates at Royce’ Chocolate World.

Have a safe trip back home!

I hope this suggested 14-day itinerary of things to see and do in Hokkaido in winter shares the best trip ideas you desperately need to know prior to coming to this island. Finally, I have to say, there are plenty of passions to pursue in Hokkaido. Due to lack of time, I have not included some other notable spots in this itinerary. If you could add one more week to this travel plan, I believe you would be able to experience the best winter activities in the eastern part of Hokkaido.

Thanks for reading.