Hokkaido Travel Guide

12 Best Day Trips from Sapporo

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost region of Japan. The city appeals to all types of travelers. Unlike Tokyo, Sapporo is less crowded, yet you can see a traditional Japanese city life, where shopping malls, markets, festivals & events, restaurants, parks, and historic landmarks are there to make your trip enjoyable.

Hokkaido always has something to offer you. Throughout a year, four seasons bring a lot of beautiful vistas and events. So whenever you think of escaping from the hustle and bustle of Sapporo city life, think of the places that we are going to highlight here.

Many of the best places to visit in Hokkaido are only a day trip away from Sapporo. For example, you can explore Otaru, Jozankei, Shitotsu Toya National Park, Noboribetsu and so on.

On a single day trip from Sapporo you can easily visit central Hokkaido. Is not that exciting? Many of you might have thought if it is possible to visit Furano and Biei on a single day from Sapporo. Yes, it is possible and you will know how to do it in this post.

1. Otaru

Otaru Canal in Otaru.

If you want a pleasant day trip from Sapporo, Otaru is definitely a perfect destination. It is easy to reach there from Sapporo station as it takes less than 35 minutes along the JR Hakodate Main Line. Note that multiple trains bound for Otaru per hour from JR Sapporo Station.

Otaru is a historic port city of Hokkaido with its iconic well preserved canal area and old stone warehouses and buildings.

The city is one of the best places to enjoy local cuisine of Hokkaido, especially the sea food, and it is a great place to discover on foot. Indeed it is great to walk in the streets of Otaru and experience the life of locals.

Otaru Canal is the symbol of Otaru city, makes a pleasant walk both during the day and night. Once the canal was used to transport large vessels of goods by small ships, now it is a place to enjoy a stroll.

Sakaimachi Street in Otaru.

In winter, the city experiences one of Hokkaido’s best winter festivals. At that time, the canal is visited by many travelers for its Otaru Snow Path Light Festival in each February.

You can see many illuminated snow sculptures and hundreds of lanterns floating in the freezing canal.

Souvenir shops here will delight you with their collections, especially the glassware shops like Kitiachi Glass Building No. 3.

Take a stroll along the Sakaimachi Street to buy local delicacies and varieties of gifts from the shops.

Every attraction you will see here offers something to make your day trip memorable. Check out our best things to do in Otaru article and you will see what you can do and see in Otaru.

2. Jozankei

Jozankei onsen in winter. Photo Credit: Jozankei Tourist Association.

Jozankei is the largest hot spring (Onsen) town in Hokkaido. Part of Shikotsu Toya National Park, Jozankei Onsen is one of Hokkaido’s most famous autumn foliage destinations and it makes a perfect day trip from Sapporo.

The onsen town without question is a four season destination. So, visiting it in winter, spring and summer will also impress you. In fact, throughout the year most travellers come here to enjoy the hot springs that can relax your mind and body.

Visitors have to walk around the onsen towns to see the highlights it offers during the autumn leaf season.  The wonderful vistas of autumn foliage are praised by many, so you will not see any point not to fall in love with this hot spring town.

Hoheikyo Dam in Autumn, Jozankei in Sapporo.

The best time to see autumn leaves in Jozankei is between mid-October and early November. The town is ablaze in colour, and it is a great time to explore the outdoors.

In the town, you will find many ryokan, hotels, restaurants, shops, and of course free foot baths. You can spend a night in one of the ryokan and hotels if you want. In fact, it is recommended to stay overnight if you plan on visiting the sites around Jozankei.

You may stay one night in this ryokan in Jozankei, offering traditional Japanese-style rooms and host spring baths.

For those wanting to experience a long walk, may consider visiting the Hoheikyo Dam and Jozankei Dam. The perfect time for hiking here is in autumn, though summertime will still be enough to make your hiking expedition unforgettable.

Jozankei onsen resort town with hotels and ryokan.

In winter, many people come to hit the slopes of Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, which is not far from Jozankei. After spending a day skiing, relax your body soaking in the hot springs!

There is no train or subway line that connects Jonzakei with Sapporo. Therefore, you have to reach there by a bus.

You can go to Sapporo Station Bus Terminal and buy a bus ticket (Jotetsu Bus number 7 or 8, 75 minutes) bound for Jozankei. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Makomanai Subway Station.

Note that many hotels in Jozankei offer a shuttle bus service from JR Sapporo Station.

3. Noboribetsu

Wooden Path to Jigokudani, Noboribetsu Onsen. Photo Credit: 663highland at Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re looking for your next day trip or weekend getaway from Sapporo, my recommendations about Noboribetsu will help you find what to do and see there.

The famous hot spring resort in Hokkaido is Noboribetsu Onsen. It should be on your bucket list if you are looking to experience some unique and popular hot spring resort towns in Japan.

Similar to Jozankei, this is also part of the vast Shikotsu Toya National Park. From Sapporo by limited express train it takes about an hour ride (one way). Some also prefer the Doo Expressway when they decide to come by car/taxi (about 90-100 minutes).

Japan’s best and most effective thermal waters are found here, about 11 kinds. These high sulfur and iron minerals are said to have positive health benefit for skin and body pain. Dai-ichi Takimotokan is the best among other ryokan hotel in Noboribetsu boasting various hot spring baths for its guests.

Enjoy the hot springs there and don’t forget to try the local dishes, especially Jigoku Ramen/Hell Ramen.

Jigokudani or Hell Valley, the main source of Noboribetsu’s hot spring waters, is one of the best highlights you will explore here.

Take a stroll along the wooden walkway and then you will see hot steam, sulfuric odor, rocks, waters, and surrounding trees. The area looks impressive during autumn with fall colors.

Oyunuma pond.

Another interesting attraction is Oyunama Pond, a sulfurous pond. The surrounding area of the pond is known for gorgeous fall foliage.

A short 5 minute walk from Hell Valley will take you to the Oyunuma River Natural Footbath. Spend your time enjoying the footbath and gaze at the forest that shines throughout the year.

If you happen to visit Noboribetsu on the last Saturday and Sunday of August, you can experience the Noboribetsu Jigoku Matsuri. This is a summer festival celebrated by locals in which you will witness iconic demon floats, taiko drum performance, fireworks, dances, and costume parade by participants wearing colorful dresses.

If you want to see marine creatures in Noboribetsu, be sure to visit Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE, where dolphins, sea lions, penguins, goldfishes and other good collection of aquatic animals can be seen.

In addition, visit the Bear Park, Date Jidaimura, and Lake Kuttara, one of Japan’s clearest lake.

4. Shakotan Peninsula

Cape Kamui (kamui misaki), Shakotan Peninsula. Photo Credit: 663highland at Wikimedia Commons.

Hokkaido offers countless mind-blowing views of scenic landmarks. Shakotan Peninsula is one of those beautiful places in Hokkaido where you can experience breathtaking views of the Sea of Japan.

Located about 100 kilometers from Sapporo, it is famous for its incredible coastline, and its crystal clear blue waters. The best time to visit the Shakotan Peninsula is in summer and autumn.

The Shakotan Peninsula is an easy day trip by car from Sapporo, Niseko, or Otaru. You can explore the area from Sapporo by day tour bus operated by Hokkaido Chuo Bus. This is the most efficient way to reach the area and enjoy all the highlights.

Alternatively, enjoy a scenic road trip from Sapporo to Shakotan by a car!

Shakotan town is rich in fishing industry. Visitors coming to explore the area must try the seafood found here; especially sea urchin served in two popular restaurants in the area called Osyokujidokoro Misaki and Osyokujidokoro Naramuraya. You can also try donburi at Hamazushi, a popular sushi restaurant in Yobetsu area.

Kamui Rock.

To be honest, along the coastline of Shakotan, you can see unique rock formations with the blue Sea of Japan. Candle rock for example is a unique rock. It is about 46 meters high standing on the sea like a big candle.

In the area, the Cape Kamui, Cape Ogon, and Shimamui Coast are considered the most scenic spots. The views you will experience while exploring these coastal sites will make your journey an epic adventure.

Among these places Cape Kamui is arguably the most popular attraction on the peninsula, with a panoramic view of the blue colored waters of the Sea of Japan. The cape offers a stunning trail for the visitors. You can take a walk along the trail and enjoy the surrounding scenic views from the cliff.

Cape Kamui is a great place to enjoy the sunset. Here, you will also be able to see Kamui Rock. One the other hand, the Shimamui Coast is one of Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Beaches.

Adjacent to Bikuni Port, Cape Ogon provides impressive view of the sea, cliffs, an island, street, and the fishing port from its observatory.

In search of spectacular Hokkaido scenery, you must visit the Shakotan Peninsula. Your day trip from Sapporo to the peninsula will always be enjoyable.

In addition, you can enjoy fruit picking in any of the fruit orchards located in the town of Yoichi.

5. Asahidake Ropeway in Higashikawa

Mount Asahidake and fall foliage in late-September.

One of the best attractions that you can explore from Sapporo on a day trip is arguably Mt. Asahidake. This is the highest mountain of Hokkaido and an active volcano. It stands at a height of 2290 meters above sea level.

The mountain is located in the Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest national park in the Hokkaido region of Japan.

Summer is a good time to hit the trails here and autumn is even better! In autumn, you can see the earliest fall foliage in Japan on its ground. Is not that interesting?

Take the ropeway to get to the Sugatami Station and begin your hiking journey along the designated trails with various viewpoints.

This hiking course is about 1.7 kilometers long. Approximately 1 hour is needed to complete the course. Get a good pair of hiking shoes for a safe and comfortable walk. You can rent hiking shoes from the shop located at the lower station.

Alpine flwoers, Asahidake in Summer.

Whether you go there in spring, summer, autumn or winter, impressive alpine nature and landscapes will always appeal to you. In fact, a lot of alpine plants bloom during summer, making the place a wonderful site to behold.

For those wanting to reach the summit of the mountain and explore nearby trails should stay overnight in Higashikawa town.

Check out the weather before heading towards the ropeway station. On a sunny day, the view of the Mt. Asahidake is truly stunning.

If you want to stay close to the ropeway station for a hiking expedition, stay overnight here.

You can reach the ropeway by tour bus from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal, lunch and cable car fare included!

6. Sounkyo in Kamikawa

View of Sounkyo Onsen in Winter from the observatory of Kurodake Ropeway’s 5th station. Photo Credit: RINYU KANKO CO., LTD.

Take a break for a day and head out of Sapporo to Sounkyo, a popular hot spring resort town with many hiking options, gorges, and a ropeway access to Mt. Kurodake.

Rising at 1,984 meters above sea level, Kurodake is another beautiful mountain in the Daisetsuzan National Park. You can reach the 5th station by the ropeway and then take the chair lift to climb up to the 7th station.

Enjoy the impressive vistas of fall foliage along the way up to the 7th station on Kurodake in autumn. In Hokkaido, Sounkyo is one of the famous autumn leaves viewing spots. Therefore, if you happen to travel to Sapporo in mid-October, you must pay a visit to this onsen town.

Don’t leave the onsen town without visiting two beautiful waterfalls Ginga no Taki and Ryusei no Taki. They are located about three kilometers east of the town center. It is an easy drive by car.

Sounkyo hosts a winter festival from late January to late March known as Sounkyo Ice Water Festival. Snow and ice sculptures are the main highlights of the festival and they are all illuminated at night, making the atmosphere picture-perfect and lively.

Thinking of staying overnight here? Stay in this hotel, and then enjoy some other outdoor activities, such as cycling, skiing in winter, climbing Kurodake summit and other areas of the Diasetsu Mountain Range.

It is impossible to explore the above mentioned places within a day unless you visit Sounkyo by a sightseeing day tour bus or rental car. Click here to make a reservation in advance and pay online when your reservation is confirmed.

7. Furano and Nakafurano

Flower gardens in Farm Tomita, Nakafurano.

Furano is a city; on the other hand, Nakafurano is a small town, both boast wonderful Japanese rural landscapes. They are located next to each other in Kamikawa subprefecture in central Hokkaido.

These two areas are famous for viewing various kinds of summer flowers including lavender. The lavender season is a magnificent sight and one of the best moments to visit.

Visitors usually explore most of the attractions here by car. So if you are with a group of traveler, then rent a car in Sapporo and drive to Furano using the expressway. One way ride will take about 2 hours.

Chuo bus also offers one day sightseeing bus tour from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal. This kind of one day bus tour will take you to a number of places only and it is impossible for them to cover most of the attractions in the area in an itinerary.

Upon arrival of summer, the tour bus company provides in details information on their website about their sightseeing bus tours. You have to choose the one that takes you to Farm Tomita.

Lavender garden of Farm Tomita.

Farm Tomita is located in Nakafurano area, where you will see different kinds of flower fields and gardens that bloom from spring to autumn. The lavender fields of Farm Tomita are the main attraction in summer. Best time to visit the farm for lavender is in mid-July.

Check out this link to see other popular flower farms in Furano.

Furano ski resort is visited by many tourists in winter. Without doubt Furano boasts a world class ski resort, perfect for skiing and enjoying incredible views of Daisetsuzan Mountain Range in the distance. Please note some of the mountains in Furano are best for backcountry skiing.

Skiing in Furano is less expensive than skiing in Niseko.

If you want to stay overnight here, prefer Furano Highland as it provides magnificent nature through four seasons. And we recommend a night stay in Furano if you want to hike, cycle, and do other outdoor activities.

8. Biei & Kamifurano

Shirogane Blue Pond in Biei.

Biei is a small town located in the middle between Furano and Asahikawa. And the small town of Kamifurano is sandwiched by Nakafurano and Biei. These two towns together have got a lot of interesting attractions which you must explore in central Hokkaido.

Biei offers a wide range of adventurous ways to explore the area, a perfect destination for nature fanatics that love to take amazing landscape photograph.

From Shikisai no Oka and Shirogane Blue Pond to Shirahige Waterfalls, Biei has an abundance of things I like to visit. Many tourists visit Shikisai no Oka, a panoramic flower garden on a hill carpeted with seasonal flowers from April to October.

The blue pond in the area is another masterpiece of what the nature here can offer you. In winter, it looks even magical with snow covered the entire pond. Illumination takes place every evening during winter.

Shikisai no Oka.

For magnificent panoramic views of the Mt. Tokachi range, visit Mt. Tokachi Observatory, only 35 minutes drive from Biei Station. This viewpoint is famous for viewing fall foliage and closest point for hiking to majestic Mt. Tokachi and Mt. Biei.

When it comes to Kamifurano, one interesting fact about the town is that Kamifurano is said to be the birthplace of lavender in Japan. To see lavender in the area you have to visit Hinode Park, 1.4 km from JR Kamifurano Station displays not only lavender but also other seasonal flowers in summer.

At the top of the hill, there is an observatory, which was build to enjoy the panoramic views of the flower garden, rural landscape and mountain range in the background.

One of the best highlights of Kamifurano is obviously the Roller Cosater Road. This 2.5-km-long straight road climbs and descends that passes by the beautiful hills, trees and paddy fields along the way.

Shirahige Waterfalls in Autumn.

There are many interesting places to discover in central Hokkaido. The last attraction that I am going to share here in this post is called Tokachidake Onsen, a popular place to see the earliest autumn foliage.

At an elevation of 1280 meters above sea level, the onsen has four hot spring ryokan. Among them Tokachidake onsen’s Ryounkaku offers hot spring baths for even non-staying guests.

Here, while enjoying the open-air bath you can experience spectacular view of the Tokachi-dake Mountains.

If you intend to make a daytrip out of Sapporo to Biei or Kamifurano, then renting car is the way to go.

There are many wonderful sceneries that can be fully enjoyed in Biei. If you are looking forward to explore some of the sites and not going that much far from Biei Station then a bicycle is recommended.

Alternatively, Chuo bus offers sightseeing one day bus tour from Sapporo. They will take you to the sites like the blue pond, Shikisai no oka, and asahidake ropeway.

9. Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa

Penguin walk at the zoo in winter.

Asahiyama zoo is one of the best zoological gardens in Japan that houses about 150 kinds of animals including arctic creatures, such as polar bears, penguins, seals, and wolves.

Located in Asahikawa city, Asahiyama zoo makes a great family destination. During the weekend, a great number of visitors come to see the animals with their little ones.

Being one of the must-see destinations in the city, Asahiyama focuses on “behavior display” as a result you can see the natural ecology and behavior of animals from a closer distance. For example, you can observe polar bears diving into a huge pool at the Polar Bear Pavilion and same goes for the Hippopotamus House.

The enclosures for the animals kept here are designed properly, so visitors can observe them from various angles. This kind of behavior display also lets you observe the animals eating their regular meals.

Moreover, you will observe native wildlife from Hokkaido, such as deer, cranes, eagles, foxes, tanuki, owls and etc.

The penguin walk at the zoo becomes a daily routine in winter when the ground is covered in snow. It happens twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. Cute penguin parade is a great sight you can enjoy standing by the walking route.

You can enjoy a fun & great day with your family at the zoo. How to reach the zoo? Click here to confirm your 1-day sightseeing bus tour to Asahiyama zoo from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal.

10. Historical Village of Hokkaido

One of the many old buildings of the Historical Village of Hokkaido. Photo Credit: 663highland at Wikimedia commons.

You have come to Hokkaido to see its beautiful attractions, try the food, and participate in cultural activities, but have you thought of exploring what the life was in Hokkaido from the Meiji and Taisho Periods (1868 to 1926)?

That was the time when a large scale of development took place in Hokkaido. Today’s Hokkaido that you see was the contribution of that time, which is still flourishing in the region.

Opened in 1983, the Historical Village of Hokkaido was built to preserve important cultural properties for future generations. This open-air museum in Sapporo showcases 52 historical buildings that were relocated for restoration or were reconstructed that represent the history of Hokkaido from 1868 to 1926s.

The whole compound is divided into four sections, a Town, Fishing Village, Farm Village, and Mountain Village. Each building displays lifestyles, cultures and industries of the Meiji and Taisho Periods.

This historical landmark can be enjoyed year round, though the horse-drawn sled in the winter for a ride maybe one of the reasons you want to go there.

The Historic village of Hokkaido is located in the Nopporo Forest Park. It is easy to get there from Shin-Sapporo Station by local bus. So, take the No.22 bus to Kaitaku-no-mura, the last bus stop.

To get to Shin-Sapporo Station, you can either take the train from JR Sapporo Station or the subway on the Tozai subway line.

11. Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya

Cherry blossoms and lake Toya in the distance.

You can explore Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya on a day trip from Sapporo by a sightseeing bus tour. Both these beautiful caldera lakes are part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

It is important to note that the nature surrounding the lake provide habitat for many fauna and flora. The views they offer are impressive and you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings by a number of outdoor activities. And camping there is a common thing that visitors love to do.

If your itinerary allows you to explore some amazing lakes in Hokkaido for scenic views, be sure to explore these two on a single day trip. It is a very rewarding trip with full of surprises. These two lakes also are perfect places to enjoy the fall colors in autumn.

Lake Shikotsu is surrounded by beautiful mountains. In winter, Lake Shikotsu hosts of Hokakido’s best winter festival called the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival annually from late-January to mid-February, featuring sculptures both small and big. In the evening they are illuminated.

Fishing in lake Shikotsu. Photo Credit: Inlet Masu at Wikimedia Commons.

Lake Toya has some amazing observatories from where visitors can gaze at the lake and the mountains in the background. One of the observation decks is Silo Observatory. Enjoy a 180 degree panoramic view of the lake, Mt Usu and other mountains in the distance.

View of the lake while soaking your body in one of those open-air hot spring baths provided by the hotels nestled along the shore of Toyako onsen is truly relaxing and incredible experience. I highly recommend you stay overnight there to explore more highlights in the area.

Cycling around Lake Toya is a perfect way to enjoy the scenery. Ride a bike in spring there and you will see delicate cherry blossoms.

Take the Usuzan Ropeway and reach close to the summit of Mount Usu. At the upper station, two interesting sites to visit, Lake Toya Observation Deck and Usu Crater Basin Observation Deck.

12. Sapporo Teine Ski Resort

At Sapporo Teine

Hokkaido is a ski destination. It has a number of great ski resorts in the region. To hit the slopes, you don’t need to go far from Sapporo.

Sapporo Teine itself is a popular ski resort in Sapporo, so why don’t you visit the ski resort in winter? The city has some good ski resorts and Sapporo Teine is arguably the most popular.

Connected by lifts and trails, the ski resort comprises two zones, Olympia and Highland. Try both ski zones and spend a memorable day skiing on the slopes.

The ski resort provides excellent ski facilities ranging from ski rental shops to restaurants and café. You will also see changing rooms and coin lockers.

When you go there, expect to see spectacular winter views of Sapporo City , Ishikari Bay, Mashike Mountains, and Daisetsuzan from the summit of Mt. Teineyama.

It takes approximately 40 minutes drive from Sapporo city center. You can visit this page to see other alternative options to reach the ski resort from Sapporo downtown.

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