Hokkaido Itinerary Winter

14-Day in Hokkaido Winter Itinerary – February

Hokkaido is a perfect winter destination in Japan where you can experience fun winter activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and more. Spending two weeks in Hokkaido in the winter could be challenging, especially if you have not been there before, and are looking forward to traveling solo or with your family.

This 14-day itinerary helps you decide where to visit and stay and, most importantly, includes the winter festivals and activities that you must experience in February.

There is no shortage of natural beauty in Hokkaido. The incredible winter landscapes in the area would blow your mind! And in winter, the region becomes one of the most famous places on earth to visit. So, get ready to see what we have got for you today.

2 weeks is definitely not enough time to see all of Hokkaido’s winter wonders; however, if it is all you have, you can still see a lot of things to make your trip memorable. Note that this itinerary would work perfectly if you start your trip in early February.

Day 1 – Welcome to Hokkaido

Snow sculptures at Odori Park during Sapporo Snow Festival.

The best way to access the city of Sapporo is by the Rapid Airport train. This is the fastest train service between New Chitose Airport and Sapporo. It runs approximately every 12 minutes during the day.

Get on this train and reach Sapporo in 35 minutes. Due to many tourists visiting Hokkaido in winter, hotels in Sapporo offer expensive deals. We recommend making hotel reservations in advance; as a result you can avoid paying a lot for your stay.

This hotel is located right next to the iconic Sapporo TV Tower in Odori Park. The location of the hotel allows you to easily get to the park and JR Sapporo Station on foot.

For today, you can just relax and enjoy free time. Though if you have enough time to go out for a walk, go to Odori Park and enjoy winter illuminations there.

Day 2 – A Day in Sapporo City

A giant snow sculpture, Odori Park.

How to spend a day in Sapporo in winter? With so much to offer you, the city is considered one of the best year-round destinations in Japan.

If you are wondering what to do in Sapporo in February, then the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. It is held in early February in Odori Park every year.

This one day in Sapporo itinerary guides you on the best places to visit and experience the fun things, including the best places to eat in the city. Follow that suggested itinerary, I am sure you will be happy to achieve those activities within a day.

Your trip to Hokkaido will never be comfortable until you know what to wear during winter. Read that and see what kinds of clothes and shoes to wear.

Day 3 – Visit Hokkaido Museum and Historical Village of Hokkaido

Full Skeleton Reconstructions of the Two Types of Elephants are on Display at Hokkaido Museum.

Visiting a museum in Hokkaido could be a fun activity, as well as educational. If you want to learn about the history, nature and culture of Hokkaido, you must pay a visit to Hokkaido Museum and the Historical Village of Hokkaido – an open air museum.

Please note Hokkaido Museum is located about a 10-minute walk from the Historical Village of Hokkaido. You can reach these sites from downtown Sapporo by bus, see the bus timetable here.

First, get off at Hokkaido Museum, and then spend hours wandering the museum, which hosts exhibitions, educational events and activities. There you can get the opportunity of knowing the long tale of Hokkaido’s 1.2 million years of history, and the Ainu culture and their lifestyle.

A lot of snow on the ground – Historical Village of Hokkaido in Sapporo.

On the other hand, the open air museum highlights historical buildings that represent the history of Hokkaido from the Meiji Period to the beginning of the Showa Period. These buildings are scattered throughout the four sections of the museum: the town, farm village, fishing village, and mountain village.

It would take time to explore each section and of course there are plenty to see! You never know what you will discover until you go there.

I can assure you that you will see a lot of snow on the grounds in February. You can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride there for a unique winter experience.

Day 4 – Enjoy snowshoeing in Moerenuma Park/Jozankei

Snow trekking is a fun winter activity! Photo Credit: Sapporo Youth and Women’s Activity Association.

Are you a snowshoe hiker? Ever tired of this winter activity before?

If you are not into skiing, then snowshoeing could be one big reason to visit Hokkaido in winter. In fact, it is all about walking in the snow! It could be difficult at first attempt, but once you get used to it, you will definitely enjoy it.

You don’t need to go to Niseko to enjoy this fun winter activity. Moerenuma Park in Sapporo is a perfect spot to try this, which allows visitors to explore some of the most beautiful scenic winter views. Check out this guided tour and decide if it fits you well.

Alternatively, you can spend a day at Jozankei for the same purpose. The difference is here you will not have a guide, but have to explore the snowy and frosty forest on your own and feel the tranquil atmosphere. For more info about the program, please visit here.

Jozankei makes a great day trip from Sapporo, famous for its hot springs – so after snowshoeing, why don’t you soak your body in one of its onsen baths?

Day 5 – Sapporo to Abashiri (Start Using Hokkaido Rail Pass: Day 1)

Inside Abashiri Prison Museum.

In winter, Abashiri is icy, beautiful, and one of the most spectacular winter destinations in Hokkaido. If watching the drift ice from an ice-breaker ship is one of your dreams, Abashiri is the right place to visit.

From Sapporo to Abashiri is a long journey by train. It is best if you get on the early morning train that departs right from JR Sapporo Station to JR Abashiri Station via Asahikawa. To minimize your train travel cost across Hokkaido, use your Hokkaido Rail Pass starting from today.

The entire train ride will be enjoyable, as you can expect to see some of the most scenic winter views of Hokkaido’s untouched nature.

Stay in this hotel in Abashiri, located nearby to Abashiri Station and Ice Breaker Ship.

You can go to see the Abashiri Prison Museum after your hotel check in process is done, which is considered Japan’s most famous and oldest prison house – built in 1890. The prison inmates were deployed to build the central road between Abashiri and Asahikawa. It is obvious that they were forced to take part in Hokkaido’s early development.

Here you will not only learn the history of the prison, but also experience the prison meal at Kangoku Cafeteria. Try the food and let us know if they are delicious or not.

Day 6 – Experience the Drift Ice in Abashiri (Hokkaido Rail Pass: Day 2)

Icebreaker Ship Aurora

Drift ice can’t be seen year-round; also the icebreaker ships operate for a certain period of time, usually from mid January through late March every year. Unfortunately travelers thinking of visiting Hokkaido in December or early January will miss this amazing experience.

Drift ice that you see in Abashiri travels all the way from the northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk to the coast of Eastern Hokkaido. Admire the spectacular winter scenes and if you are lucky, you may spot seals, and white-tailed eagles.

Visit this page for timetable and fares of Ice breaking ship Aurora.

After the end of your drift ice expedition, catch the train to Asahikawa. And tonight, stay in this hotel in Asahikawa.

Day 7 – Spend a day in Asahikawa (Hokkaido Rail Pass Day 3)

Penguin walk at Asahiyama Zoo in winter. Photo Credit: Birdman at Wikimedia Commons.

With massive snow sculptures (made as a stage), and stunning ice sculptures, it is no wonder Asahikawa Winter Festival is Hokkaido’s second largest snow festival. It is held in two different areas – Asahibashi and Heiwadori.

You will find the biggest snow sculpture at the Asahibashi site. On the other hand, an ice sculpture competition is held at Heiwadori. At night, the ice sculptures are illuminated with lights, offering you a different festive atmosphere.

Start the day with a visit to Asahiyama Zoo. You can reach the zoo by bus. The Penguin Walk at the zoo is a sight not to be missed by its visitors.

Here you will find animals that are native to Hokkaido include Brown bears, Ezo red foxes, Red-crowned cranes, Yezo sika deer, and many more. Besides, various animals from across the world can be seen as well, such as Red pandas, Polar bears, Orangutans, Giraffes, and Leopards – just to name a few.

After spending half a day at the zoo, make your way to the sites of Asahikawa Winter Festival. There are many restaurants around JR Asahikawa Station. Try the famous Asahikawa ramen and other regional dishes. 

Day 8 – Leave Asahikawa for Noboribetsu (Hokkaido Rail Pass: Day 4)

One of the hot spring baths of Daiichi Takimotokan.

The most developed onsen resort town in Hokkaido, Noboribetsu is mainly known for its hot spring waters, flowing down from Jigokudani (Hell Valley) that are believed to have many health benefits, especially for chronic skin disease, relaxation, and high blood pressure.

Read this page here to see the different kinds of waters with many health benefits. If you have one of those health issues, you may try the onsen baths and see some improvements.

For the best stay and hot spring experience in Noboribetsu, this hotel claims the top position. It offers the best onsen baths both indoor and outdoor. The food that they serve is also delicious and satisfying.

Today you will just enjoy the hot springs baths owned by the hotel.

Day 9 – A day in Noboribetsu (Hokkaido Rail Pass: Day 5)

The path leading towards Jigokudani in winter.

Today you will enjoy a day by roaming around Noboribetsu onsen.

Your first place to visit today is the Hell Valley, also known as Jigokudani. It is the main source of all kinds of minerals that you find in the hot springs at Noboribetsu.

Not far from Jigokudani is Oyunuma, a sulfurous pond – enjoy a walk to this pond from the hell valley, but watch your step as the path could be slippery due to ice and snow.

The surrounding trees of the pond change color in autumn (mid-October), making the area a great sight to behold. Nearby the pond, you will find the natural foot baths to relax your feet. Soak your feet there for a while before visiting the next destination.

Wooden buildings at Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura are impressive.

Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is a history-themed park, which is worth your time. With many interesting structures throughout the theme park and stage performances of Ninja, Samurai and Oiran, it focuses on the lifestyle of Japan’s Edo period.

Try the ninja maze there and you will have so much fun! Besides, don’t forget to check the horror house. This is an ideal place to go for families with kids, especially for those interested in Japanese culture and history.

Move to Sapporo in the evening by train, and stay here in this hotel.

Note that your Hokkaido Rail Pass expires today. For more info about the rail pass, click here.

Day 10 – Visit Wonderland Sapporo and enjoy Snowmobiling/Sapporo Taine

Photo Credit: wonderlandsapporo.com.

Want to discover Sapporo’s incredible snowy landscapes on a snowmobiling tour? When you are in Sapporo in winter, don’t forget to get a taste of pure winter adventure there on a fully-guided snowmobile tour.

One of Hokkaido’s must-try winter sports is snowmobiling. Have you ever tried this before? It is fun, and there is no better place to experience this in the city of Sapporo than at Wonderland Sapporo.

The instructors there can speak English and will guide you on how to ride a snowmobile on snowy trails. You will be provided everything for a safe and comfortable ride.

We believe, for incredible views of nature in winter, you should try this outdoor activity and make your trip a great adventure. Before you book your tour, you must contact them and ask if they would provide you a free shuttle from downtown Sapporo to their property.

If you are not going to experience this winter activity, but want to try skiing, make your way to Sapporo Taine. This is one of the best ski resorts in Sapporo.

Day 11 – Visit Lake Shikotsu and experience the Chitose and Shikotsu Ice Festival

Night Illuminations – The Chitose and Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival.

On day 11, you will visit one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful and clearest lakes, called Lake Shikotsu. And there you will be able to see another popular winter festival known as Chitose and Shikotsu Ice Festival.

This winter festival is held from late January to late February every year. Colorful illuminations of the gigantic ice sculptures occur every evening. Indeed it creates a magical atmosphere. Take a walk around the festival site, and be sure to admire the view of the lake during the day.

The best way to access the lake is by car, as there is no public transportation between Sapporo and Lake Shikotsu. However, it is possible to get there by the Hokkaido Chuo bus from Chitose Station.

When you come back from Lake Shikotsu, maybe you want to try one of Hokkaido’s must-try foods tonight, guess what? It is crab! Visit Sapporo Kaniya Main branch, a popular restaurant for eating Hokkaido crabs and satisfy your stomach.

Day 12 – A Day Trip to Otaru

Otaru Canal during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival.

Otaru is a beautiful port city in Hokkaido. It is famous for its food, glass products, music boxes, and old buildings. Besides, many remember Otaru for its iconic Canal, called Otaru Canal. A walk along the canal is said to be one of the best things to do in Otaru.

You don’t have to think about staying a night in Otaru, as you can easily get there by train or bus from Sapporo. It is a 30-minute ride from Sapporo Station by the Rapid Airport train. If you get on the local trains, it will take about 45 minutes.

Spend your day in Otaru seeing the iconic landmarks, such as the Otaru Aquarium, Otaru Canal, Sakaimachi Street, Otaru Music Box Museum, and Tanaka Sake Brewery. If you think visiting an aquarium is not your cup of tea, then the alternative place to visit is Mount Tengu.

You will see different kinds of marine creatures in the glass tanks, especially the fish that live in Hokkaido and the polar region. Furthermore, don’t miss seeing the Dolphin show, Seal show, Penguin show, Steller Sea Lion show, and Penguin walk, which would make your trip quite enjoyable. 

Snow candles along the Otaru Canal.

You need half a day to see all the live shows at the aquarium. Reach the aquarium by Chuo bus, so get to the bus terminal no. 3# and wait for the bus to arrive. Pay the bus fare using an IC card.

After that, get back to downtown Otaru and make your way to the Canal area. When you are hungry enough, take a walk to Sakaimachi Street, where you will find many restaurants and souvenir shops! One of the most famous places to find gifts is Otaru Music Box Museum.

Many tourists also set off on a cruise along the Otaru Canal to see the sights from a different vantage point. Please read this guide to see exactly what tourists can do in the city of Otaru.

As you will visit Otaru during the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in February, we recommend you spend most of your time in the canal area. With thousands of lights and glowing snow statues, the canal looks absolutely breathtaking at night during the festival!

Day 13 – Enjoy Shopping in Sapporo

Party items inside MEGA Don Quijote Sapporo.

Don’t you want to take back some souvenirs to remind you of your experience? There are a number of shopping areas you can find in Sapporo city, offering you a great shopping experience for all.

Many tend to buy Japanese beauty products (cosmetics) because of their high quality items and affordable prices. If you are one of them, visit one of the drugstores in the city to get the best deals. For example, you can visit Tanukikoji Shopping Street – home to many drugstores, souvenir shops and restaurants.

MEGA Don Quijote Sapporo Tanukikoji Honten in the same area offers a wide variety of products to buy. You can enjoy tax free shopping there.

Round1 – game center at Susukino area.

Aurora Town and Pole Town – two Sapporo Underground Shopping Malls have many shops selling affordable products, and restaurants and coffee shops.

In addition, if you want to enjoy some fun time then visit Round1. This is where you can find a lot of ways to entertain yourself, including bowling, video games, karaoke, skating and many more! 

This page here features the best shopping areas in Sapporo. Read that guide and decide where to go to enjoy shopping in the city. Always remember that you have to bring something home, not mandatory though, but to remember your travel experience, a simple and unique gift is enough. Don’t you think so?

Spend the day by visiting those recommended shopping spots, and buy the items and brands that are not available in your home country.

Day 14 – Your Final Day in Hokkaido

Are you inspired to take another trip to Hokkaido in the future? This guide on the best things to do in Hokkaido shares a lot of exciting activities, including the ones you have seen throughout this winter trip.

Hokkaido is worth returning for and the region offers plenty of things to see and do no matter what time of the year you plan on visiting.

Before your flight, be sure to buy some authentic Hokkaido souvenirs from the shops found at the airport. Have a safe flight back home and thanks for visiting Japan!

If you can’t visit Hokkaido in February, would you like to explore the island in March (Late Winter)?

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