Autumn Hokkaido Itinerary

11-Day in Hokkaido Itinerary – October

Hokkaido is one of the best destinations to visit in Japan in October. If you are visiting Japan in October and would like to stop over in Hokkaido for less than two weeks, then this suggested itinerary is for you. This includes the top attractions in and around Sapporo and the best autumn foliage spots, including onsen towns and more.

From mid-October through early November, Hokkaido explodes with a beautiful bounty of colors. Plus, there are lots of things to do and see, including self-driving, hiking, cycling, kayaking, and cruising. So, why don’t you plan a trip to Hokkaido this coming October and make your journey memorable to the fullest by following this itinerary?

Please note that you should start your journey in mid-October; therefore, you won’t miss the best display of fall colors at those spots we recommend in this post.

Day 1 – Welcome to Hokkaido

Hokkaido University Ginkgo Avenue in late October.

Hokkaido is one of Japan’s top tourist destinations. Get ready to explore some amazing places on the island!

The best and fastest way to reach downtown Sapporo is by the Rapid Airport Train. Get on the train right from New Chitose Airport and get off at JR Sapporo Station. Alternatively, get off at Shin Sapporo Station, and then reach Odori Station by the subway (Tozai Line).

It is always good to stay overnights nearby Odori Park in Sapporo, as it is located in the heart of Sapporo. Check into this hotel. You won’t regret your stay there!

Want to experience the nightlife of Sapporo? You may enjoy a walk nearby the hotel, don’t you? Head over to Odori Park first, and then to Susukino area to enjoy dinner.

Day 2 – Spend a day in Sapporo

Naumann’s elephant skeletons inside the Hokkaido Museum.

Sapporo is home to some of the best museums in the Hokkaido region of Japan. Today, you will visit two of them: Hokkaido Museum and the Historical Village of Hokkaido.

From Odori Station, take the subway on the Tozai Line to Shin Sapporo Station. Then wait for JR Hokkaido Bus No. 22 (Shin 22) bound for the Historical Village of Hokkaido and get off at Hokkaido Museum (15 minutes).  

Bus timetable can be found on this page.

Horse-drawn carriage at Historical Village of Hokkaido.

Explore Hokkaido Museum’s main exhibitions that include the mammoths and Naumann’s elephant skeletons, the Ainu handicrafts, and a large number of materials that represent the nature, history, and culture of Hokkaido.

On the other hand, the Historical Village of Hokkaido is the largest open-air museum in Hokkaido. It comprises 54 hectares of land and is divided into four sections: the Town, Fishing Village, Farm Village, and Mountain Village.

It features interesting structures mainly built across Hokkaido from the Meiji to early Showa eras. A walk around this open-air museum will take you back in time for sure. And you can experience the vibe of how Hokkaido really looked a hundred years ago.

You can enjoy this kind of view of Odori Park from the observation deck of Sapporo TV Tower.

If you want to travel back to the Meiji and Showa eras of Hokkaido, this museum will allow you to walk in the footsteps of history and offer you plenty of things to see that are on display. Indeed, they are well preserved!

For an amazing place to watch the sunset and a bird’s eye view of Sapporo, I would recommend either Sapporo TV Tower or JR Tower Observatory T38. These are also good spots to enjoy stunning nighttime views of Sapporo city.

Day 3 – Day Bus Tour from Sapporo to Central Hokkaido

A view from Kurodake Ropeway! Photo Credit: RINYU KANKO CO.,LTD.

Hokkaido Chuo Bus offers the most affordable bus tours in and around Sapporo. Passionate nature lovers will delight in a day trip to Hokkaido’s most popular sightseeing attractions in central Hokkaido.

If you want to explore the places, such as Furano, Biei, Asahidake, and Kurodake, then make a reservation in advance for one of the day bus tours provided by Hokkaido Chuo Bus. They are affordable and one of the easiest ways to explore the central part of Hokkaido.

Shikisai no Oka, Biei.

Unless you visit those places by car (self-drive), the best option to rely on is one of the one-day bus tours departing from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal. Sit back and relax; I can guarantee that you will have a comfortable ride back and forth.

Check out this website for online reservations for a 1-day sightseeing bus tour. Make sure to do it in advance to secure your spot, at least 2-3 days prior to your departure date.

Shirahige waterfalls in Biei.

You can easily discover central Hokkaido’s top landmarks, which include the famous Farm Tomita, the Blue Pond, Shikisai no Oka, Asahidake Ropeway, and Kurodake Ropeway at Sounkyo Onsen.

Sounkyo Onsen is located in a narrow gorge of Daisetsuzan National Park in Kamikawa. This small yet beautiful hot spring resort town is at its best during the autumn foliage season, between mid-October and late-October.

You will be grateful to see the landscape here with its vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. So, catch the best views of the transitional autumn leaves at the right time!

Asahidake and the hiking trail.

Asahidake is the tallest mountain (2291 m) in Hokkaido, offering great hiking and photo opportunities for nature enthusiasts. There is a special walking trail around Sugatami Pond. Note that one hour is required to complete this easy hiking course.

Besides, some visitors even plan on climbing the mountain to reach the summit, but it will be impossible due to the shortage of time given by the tour bus operator.

Depending on the length of your stay in the city, you may explore more places around Hokkaido by tour bus. For example, the Shakotan Peninsula! It is a scenic spot on the west coast of Hokkaido, offering incredible views of the Sea of Japan and delicious seafood.

Day 4 – Sapporo to Noboribetsu

The Hell Valley (Jigokudani) at Noboribetsu Onsen.

After checking out, head towards JR Sapporo Station. Then hop on a train that is bound for Hakodate and get off at JR Noboribetsu Station. The one way journey will take approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes by Hokuto limited express train.

Noboribetsu is the most popular and famous hot spring resort in Hokkaido and one of the best in Japan. Located next to Jigokudani (Hell Valley), this ryokan hotel in Noboribetsu boats the five different source springs and offers about 35 different baths for its customers.

The spring waters of Noboribetsu are believed to have many health benefits, especially for chronic skin disease, relaxation, and high blood pressure. Use the baths to relax your mind and body and reduce stress and anxiety (if you have them).

One day is enough to see the main highlights of Noboribetsu. After your arrival at the hotel, before checking in, you can leave all your belongings there and spend your time sightseeing in the hot spring town.

Autumn leaves around Oyunuma Pond, Noboribetsu. Photo Credit: Noboribetsu International Tourism and Convention Association.

The first place to visit at Noboribetsu Onsen will be Jigokudani, or Hell Valley. It is the symbol of Noboribetsu and a great sight to behold. In mid-October, the surroundings of Jigokudani look pretty impressive, with breathtaking views of the changing foliage.

Your next stop will be Oyunuma Pond. It is the main source of the Oyunuma River. Here you will also see beautiful fall colors. Want to enjoy a free natural foot-bath in Noboribetsu?

Take a short walk from the pond and follow the river; you will reach the Oyunumagawa Natural Footbath area. It is a hot spring river that flows from Oyunuma Pond. So if you have more than enough time to schedule a quick walk, don’t miss the natural footbath area.

Besides, visit the Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura and enjoy live performances of ninja and oiran shows. This theme park is definitely worth your time!

Day 5 – Noboribetsu to Lake Toya

This observatory is located near the upper ropeway station of Usuzan Ropeway. Photo Credit: © WAKASARESORT Co., Ltd.

Good morning! Your next destination is Lake Toya/Toyako Onsen (part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park).

When you come to stay overnight in Noboribetsu, Lake Toya is worth a visit. With a view of Mount Yotei in the distance, the landscape around Lake Toya is just breathtaking year-round, particularly around mid-October.

Stay in this hotel and enjoy Lake Toya’s stunning fireworks display at night for 20 minutes. This is obviously one of the reasons why tourists should consider coming there in the autumn. 

Start your day with a visit to Noboribetsu Station. There, wait for a train bound for Hakodate. When it arrives, hop on the train and make sure you get off at Toya Station. The journey will take about 40 minutes.

Fireworks at Lake Toya! Photo Credit: Toyako Onsen Tourist Association.

From Toya station, you get on the local bus to reach the hot spring town, known as Toyako Onsen. It is located at the foot of Mount Usu and is packed with restaurants, shops, and hotels.

The first activity of the day is visiting the Usuzan Ropeway. Use the ropeway all the way up to the upper station, and then enjoy scenic views of the lake, Mt. Yotei, and the hot spring town from its first observation deck.

The second observation platform is sure worth the trip too, as it offers good views of the ocean, mountains in the distance, and Mount Usu’s largest crater, which formed in an eruption in 1977.

You may want to cycle around Lake Toya in the evening for an hour or more, depending on your interest, and later you can watch the fireworks display from the boat. Check out the fireworks cruise timetable.

Day 6 – Nakanoshima -> Lake Toya to Sapporo

Lake Toya Cruise! Photo Credit: © WAKASARESORT Co., Ltd.

On day 6 of this itinerary, for a unique outdoor adventure, enjoy a scenic cruise on the lake. Board this spacious double-deck cruise boat and reach Nakajima Island (Nakanoshima) to explore the wildlife and nature there.

Talk a walk along the designated trails to get the chance to see the famous Hokkaido wild ezo deer living freely on Nakajima Island. Many birds can be spotted too.

The ferry/boat leaves the pier every 30 minutes. Be sure to check the time schedule at the pier, and don’t forget to board the last ship that departs from Nakanoshima.

My recommendation will be to spend half a day there and get back to the onsen town. After lunch, be prepared to catch the train back to Sapporo City.

In Sapporo, stay your last four nights in this hotel.

Day 7 – A Day Trip to Jozankei

Jozankei Onsen view in autumn from Jozankei Bridge. Photo Credit:

Jozankei is one of the best places to see autumn foliage in Hokkaido. With various autumn leaves spots around this onsen town, Jozankei attracts thousands of visitors every day during the koyo season.

The popular autumn leaves spots at Jozankei are Jozankei Suspension Bridge, Jozankei Futami Park, Jozankei Bridge, Hoheikyo Dam, Jozankei Dam, Sapporo Lake, Jozankei Farm, and Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort.

Hoheikyo Dam, Jozankei.

Here at Jozankei, the leaves are estimated to hit peak color around the third week of October. When the deciduous trees are ablaze with colors, this hot spring resort town becomes a place like no other. Everywhere you look, you find something eye-catching.

Ever thought of fruit picking in Hokkaido? Visit Jozankei Farm and spend time picking your own fruit and more.

You can access Jozankei by local bus from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal (Jotetsu Bus number 7 or 8 bound for Jozankei).

Day 8 – Sapporo

Kochia at Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park, Sapporo. Photo Credit: @Takino Park

On day 8, you’ll be visiting Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park, Makomanai Takino Cemetery, and Makomanai Park. Start your trip by visiting Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park. If you are not driving, the only way to access the park is by local bus or taxi from Makomanai Station.

You can get to Makomanai Station by subway. So get to Odori Station and hop on the subway (Namboku Line) to Makomanai Station, which is the last station. From there, get on the bus to reach Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park.

This huge and spacious park in the south of Sapporo offers walking trails, forests, flower gardens, playgrounds, and beautiful waterfalls. It is one of the best places for those who want to experience the chilly autumn temperatures with the colorful autumn leaves outside downtown Sapporo.

Autumn foliage at Makomanai Park.

Kochia plants that you will find there are usually planted in the summer, and they change color from green to red in mid October before winter sets in. Autumn foliage season in this park traditionally falls in the middle of October.

Appreciate the gorgeous fall foliage as you walk around the park, and make sure you pay a visit to its beautiful waterfalls!

Your next stop would be Makomanai Takino Cemetery. Spend an hour or two here and see its iconic Atama Daibutsu, one of the largest Buddha statues in Hokkaido, the Moai statues, Stonehenge, and other Buddha statues.

Atama Daibutsu (Hill of the Buddha) at Makomanai Takino Cemetery.

There is one more place to explore in the area of Makomanai, which is Makomanai Park. It is considered one of the top autumn foliage spots in Sapporo. You can take a short walk to the park from Makomanai Station.

Unlike Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park, it offers free admission. In peak season, usually between mid-October and late-October, many trees highlight brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows.

Thanks to a massive amount of deciduous trees, including maple and cherry trees, this park is the perfect place to enjoy an evening or morning stroll.

Get back to Sapporo by subway, and spend some relaxing time in Odori Park. When the sun sets, it is time for you to head towards Susukino’s Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade and buy some souvenirs. 

Day 9 – A Day Trip to Otaru

A view of Otaru city from Mount Tengu.

On your 9th day, spend your time in the port city of Otaru. This is one of the top day trip destinations from Sapporo. The one way journey from Sapporo station to Otaru station, it takes about 30 minutes by rapid airport train. On the other hand, if you take the local train it will take roughly 45 minutes.

Located northwest of Sapporo, Otaru is a historic port city with beautiful well-preserved old buildings, restaurants and shops. Don’t forget to try sushi in Otaru!

Read our guide on the best things to do in Otaru, which showcases the must-see attractions in the city. Though there are many other places to see and do around Otaru, and our advice is – don’t tire yourself out trying to see everything. Plan accordingly!

Sakaimachi street in Otaru.

Some of the places can’t be reached by public transportation, so you have to depend on your feet. In fact, to enjoy the city’s atmosphere, you must take a walk, especially to explore the places around the iconic Otaru Canal and Sakaimachi Street.

When you are in Otaru in October, a visit to Mount Tengu is top-notch! Visitors can even hike up the mountain, but you should use the ropeway instead and spend your time on the other activities.  

Whether or not you intend to buy some unique Otaru souvenirs, make sure you visit the Otaru Music Box Museum. This historical building is home to thousands of music boxes and glass figurines.

Day 10 – Sapporo

Hokkaido Shrine’s main building.

When you are in Sapporo, you don’t have an excuse not to visit the famous Hokkaido Shrine. It is located in Maruyama Park and is one of the most sacred and historical sites to visit in Sapporo.

Maruyama Park itself is a renowned place to see autumn leaves in the city. Leaf-peeping season begins in early October and continues through early November.

There are places to sit and appreciate the surrounding vibrant autumn foliage and fallen leaves on the grounds.

Nakajima Park during autumn.

Once you get back to Odori Park from Maruyama Park, catch the Loop 88 Factory Line bus from Odori subway station to the Sapporo Beer Museum. To learn about the history of beer in Japan and experience the process of beer making, you must go there.

Next to the museum is the Sapporo Beer Garden. It has a few restaurants where you can eat Jingisukan, a famous regional grilled mutton dish.

Your final destination for today is Nakajima Park. This is another renowned fall foliage viewing spot in Sapporo. Here, you will love enjoying autumn’s best views while taking a leisurely stroll.

If you don’t plan on visiting Nakajima Park, you must visit Hokkaido University Ginkgo Avenue!

Spend most of your time here before heading towards Sapporo Station for a little bit of shopping.

Day 11 – Goodbye Hokkaido

Ginkgo trees in Makomanai Park, Sapporo.

Sapporo Station -> New Chitose Airport

At New Chitose Airport, you can enjoy tax-free shopping. Buy delicious Hokkaido sweets there and bring them home to surprise your beloved ones.

Have a safe flight back home!

In conclusion, we believe that Hokkaido is worth visiting anytime of the year, and you will feel the same as you keep exploring this vast and beautiful island.

For a list of the top experiences in Hokkaido, you can read our article, The Best Things to Do in Hokkaido. The article shares a lot of travel ideas to inspire you and your family to come back and explore many places across Hokkaido.

Thank you!

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