Hokkaido Travel Guide

20 Best Things to Do in Hokkaido 2024

Planning a trip to Hokkaido? If you know where to go and what to do during your visit, you can surely have a great time!

Hokkaido is famous for its unspoiled nature, food, and outdoor activities. From stunning landscapes to delicious local produce, and great outdoor activities to historic landmarks, there’s always something on in Hokkaido.

On the island, you’ll also find national parks, panoramic vistas, flower gardens and fields, shopping streets, seaside towns, lakes, hiking trails, scenic driving routes, ski resorts, fruit farms, temples, shrines, old buildings, museums, onsen towns and more.

To have the trip of a lifetime in Japan, one must visit Hokkaido. Let’s discover Hokkaido with our list of the best things to do and the best places to visit:

1. Sapporo

View of Odori Park from Sapporo TV Tower.

Sapporo is an amazing city with a lot of wonderful things to do and see. The surrounding landscapes of Sapporo are beautiful and the food you try is delicious. I like eating a variety of ramen in the city! 

Despite the cold weather in winter, Sapporo is one of the best cities to visit in Japan. In Sapporo, you will find plenty of amazing attractions including annual festivals, spacious parks, museums, shopping areas, beautiful landscapes, restaurants and bars.

This one-day itinerary shares some of the best attractions you can visit during your stay in Sapporo. Read it thoroughly, as we believe you will get important travel tips on how to spend a day in the city.

In addition, there are a number of excellent attractions that make for wonderful day trips from Sapporo. For a comfortable stay in Sapporo, stay your nights at this hotel, located next to Odori Park.

2. Sapporo Snow Festival

A giant snow sculpture!

Many tourists come to Sapporo in February to experience Japan’s biggest snow festival known as “Sapporo Yuki Matsuri.” It’s held at Odori Park in early February every year.

A lot of snow and ice sculptures are displayed both at Odori and Susukino areas.

Thousands of visitors gather in Sapporo to celebrate this magical winter festival and enjoy amazing stage performances, winter illuminations, and foods.

Learn more about this magical winter festival!

3. Food

Delicious Miso ramen! Photo Credit: bryan at Flickr.

Japan’s northernmost prefecture has its own unique food culture. For foodie travelers, Hokkaido is a must-go place in Japan.

Sapporo hosts the biggest food festival in Japan known as the Sapporo Autumn Fest. It’s held at Odori Park in September every year.

During your stay here, you will come across different kinds of local foods. When people think of Hokkaido’s cuisine, fresh seafood and dairy products come to mind, though there are other yummy local dishes and drinks that visitors should know about and try.

Sapporo Beer Museum – learn the history of beer in Japan and the process of beer making!

Try its delicious ramen, soup curry, seafood, and dairy products as you keep traveling around Hokkaido and experience the outdoor activities. 

Enjoy Jingisukan at Sapporo Beer Garden, a famous grilled mutton/lamb dish. You can grill the sliced meat with various vegetables. The grilled meat is usually dipped in a soy-based sauce before it’s eaten.

Take a look at a list of must-eat dishes that Hokkaido is famous for!

4. Otaru

Otaru Canal in Otrau town.

Everyone should visit Otaru, especially if they have come to see the attractions of Sapporo. This small port town located northwest of Sapporo is famous for its historic old warehouses, fresh seafood, glass products, and the iconic Otaru Canal.

Otaru is considered one of the best day trips from Sapporo by train. It’s easy to do! And you should never miss a walk along the famous Otaru Canal.

Every year in February, the city celebrates one of Hokkaido’s best winter festivals, known as the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. Visitors can witness a wonderful display of candlelight and glowing snow statues all over the city.

And the view of lanterns floating in the freezing canal is absolutely breathtaking. At night, the area along Otaru Canal is truly a wonderful sight to behold.

Mount Tengu Ropeway in Otaru.

Discover the magnificent Sakahimachi Street on foot and find some very popular souvenir shops and restaurants in the area.

Otrau is a beautiful place to spend a day, which is worth your time. From JR Sapporo Station to JR Otaru Station by rapid train, it takes about 30 minutes, making it easier for tourists to enjoy a lovely day trip from Sapporo.

Read the best things to do in Otaru guide for your upcoming trip to Otaru and get some useful tips.

5. Fruit Picking

Fruit picking is a fun outdoor activity. Photo Credit: NITORI Sightseeing orchard.

Fruit picking in Hokkaido is a great way to explore the beautiful rural area of Hokkaido. The more you travel around Hokkaido, the more you realize that Hokkaido is a unique destination in Japan.

If you’re looking for where to go fruit picking around Hokkaido, we have a list of the best fruit picking farms to share with you. They offer a wide range of fruits to be picked by you, ranging from strawberries and plums to apples and cherries.

Fruit picking is a fun outdoor activity cherished by young and old. Be in the right place at the right time to enjoy fruit picking in Hokkaido. In general, the fruit picking season in Hokkaido starts in early summer and closes around late autumn.

Apart from enjoying fruit picking in an orchard, be sure to check out their own shops stocked with local honey, ice-cream, homemade jams, souvenirs, pies, cake, and fresh fruit.

6. Lake Toya

This is not a view of Mt. Fuji from Hakone! The lake you see is Lake Toya and that snow-capped mountain is called Mt. Yotei.

 

Part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Lake Toya is one of the most beautiful lakes in Hokkaido.

In this area you will find interesting tourist attractions, great nature, hiking trails, mountains, volcanoes, forests, caldera lakes, hot springs, and native flora and fauna. 

In the middle of Lake Toya, you find an island called Nakajima. It is a great place to enjoy a walk in the woods and see some wild deer and birds.

Spend a night in the Toyako Onsen area and have the time to experience the Usuzan ropeway and other activities. Enjoy a majestic view of Mount Yotei and Lake Toya as you ascend to the top of Mount Usu using the ropeway.

7. Hakodate

Fort Goryokaku and cherry blossoms. Photo Credit: City Of Hakodate.

Home to one of Japan’s best three-night views, Hakodate is a beautiful city in southern Hokkaido. Tourists flock to this port city in all four seasons of the year to witness the great views, seafood, and historic old buildings.

Located next to JR Hakodate Station, the Hakodate Morning Market is a perfect place to enjoy your breakfast with fresh seafood. Take a stroll around the market and see the things that you have never seen before.

Perhaps Hakodate is the best place to see cherry blossoms in Hokkaido in abundance. Discover the stunning cherry blossoms at Fort Goryokaku (a star-shaped fort) in spring. Often, it is also known as Goryokaku Park, a public park and national special historic site in Hakodate where you can see over 1,000 cherry trees. 

What kind of donburi do you want to try?

Between late April and early May is the best time to see sakura there. For a bird’s-eye view of the fortress and cherry blossoms in spring, reach the observation platforms of Goryokaku Tower. This 107-meters-tall tower does not only offer incredible views of the fort but also the mountains in the distance and beautiful Hakodate city.

Whether it is your very first time visit to Hakodate or not, it is always a great pleasure to enjoy night views from the summit of Mount Hakodate. This mountain is considered one of the three best night views in Japan, along with the views from Kobe’s Mount Rokko and Nagasaki’s Mount Inasa.

At the foot of Mount Hakodate, there are many interesting sites to see, especially the Motomachi area with beautifully preserved western-style buildings, cafes, and the iconic slopes of Hakodate, offering stunning views of the bay area.

Night view of the Hakodate from the summit of Mt. Hakodate. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

If you come to Hakodate during sakura season, a trip to Matsuame Castle would be a very peaceful escape from bustling Hakodate. The castle is located in Matsumae Park, renowned for its cherry blossoms. This is the only former castle town on the island of Hokkaido.

Approximately ten thousand cherry trees of over 250 different varieties can be found on its spacious grounds. This is without question the most famous cherry blossom viewing spot in Hokkaido. From downtown Hakodate, Matsumae Park is around 3 hours by bus, making it ideal for a day trip.

Just about 20 kilometers north of Hakodate is Onuma Park (Quasi National Park). Many tourists make a stop here as they travel between Hakodate and Sapporo.

Autumn leaves in Miharashi park, Hakodate.

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors surrounded by beautiful nature, you must visit this park. It’s a perfect place to spend fun time with family for many locals, as there are many outdoor activities ranging from cycling and canoeing to fishing and camping.  

Take a romantic stroll around the park along the designated walking trails and witness the gorgeous autumn foliage between late October and mid November. Trees along the shore of Lake Onuma and Mount Komagatake in the background look incredibly breathtaking in autumn!

If you don’t make it to Onuma Park but are looking for an alternative place to enjoy the foliage, we suggest you visit Miharashi Park. You will be impressed by its stunning autumn foliage displays both in the daytime and at night.

8. Noboribetsu Onsen

Jigokudani at Noboribetsu Onsen! Photo Credit: Noboribetsu International Tourism and Convention Association.

If you are looking for the best places to enjoy a hot spring bath and relax your body in Hokkaido, you will absolutely love Noboribetsu Onsen, part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. It was established by Kinzo Takimoto in 1858. This is the most famous onsen town in Hokkaido and one of the best in the country.

One of the big reasons to explore Noboribetsu Onsen is its various types of mineral waters flowing down from Jigokudani (Hell Valley) that provide health benefits, such as healing chronic skin diseases, treating hypertension, curing rheumatic disease and external injuries, improving blood circulation, and more.

You can experience this hotel’s exclusive indoor and outdoor hot spring baths overlooking Jigokudani, and there you can relax your mind and body at the same time. Staying a night at this hotel in Noboribetsu is one of the best things to do.

Around the Onsen resort town, you will find some interesting attractions. Go for a stroll around the town, especially Jigokudanai, the main source of hot spring water in the area, and witness the volcanic activity.

This is one of the hot spring baths of Daiichi Takimotokan. Photo Credit: takimotokan.co.jp

The surrounding views of Jigokudani are incredible to see lush green in summer, fall foliage in autumn, and snowy weather in winter. Indeed, walking along the wooden path to Jigokudani is a great pleasure in winter, though watch your step and don’t forget to wear a pair of snow boots.

Visit Noboribetsu Date Jidai Mura, a theme park made of reconstructed buildings from the Edo Period of Japan. There you can experience some traditional stage performances, such as the Ninja show, the Samurai show, and the Oiran show.

There are a number of restaurants and gift shops in this hot spring resort town, which you should also explore to enjoy your meals and time. 

You can reach Noboribetu Station by limited express train from Sapporo Station. The journey will take about an hour. And get on the bus from Noboribetsu station to the onsen town (15 minutes).

Noboribetsu is not the only popular hot spring resort in Hokkaido. Read our guide to see a list of onsen towns that Hokkaido boasts of.

9. Cherry Blossoms

Matsuame Castle and Cherry Blossoms.

Hokkaido is a flower paradise in Japan. When snow starts melting, plants of different kinds start growing and flowering. The flower season in Hokkaido begins in early spring, and you can expect to see them until late autumn.

Many remember Hokkaido for its picturesque flower fields that appear in the summer months. How about visiting beautiful gardens filled with seasonal flowers in spring?

Hokkaido’s diverse climate conditions bring scenic views that differ from one place to another throughout the year, and they surely amaze everyone.

Plum blossoms at Hiraoka Park, Sapporo.

Cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, tulips, lilacs, shibazakura (moss phlox), lilies, daffodils, and wisteria are major flowers that bloom in spring in Hokkaido. Unlike other parts of Japan, cherry and plum blossoms bloom at the same time in Hokkaido.

With late-blooming cherry trees, enjoy the sakura and ume blossoms both at the same time as you embark on a journey to experience the beauty of spring flowers in Sapporo at Maruyama Park. Find out the best cherry blossom spots in Sapporo.

Nakajima park in Sapporo is one of the most popular hanami spots.

Many tourists fail to catch the peak sakura season in Honshu (Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo). For them Hokkaido is a great alternative, as cherry blossom season arrives here around the end of April. On the other hand, in Honshu, sakura are at their best between late March and early April.  

Throughout the Hokkaido region, you will see many popular cherry blossom spots. If you want to witness a stunning “flower tunnel” in Hokkaido, head over to Shinhidaka town in Hidaka district and marvel at those pretty pink sakura blossoms.

Shibazakura at Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park, Ozora. Photo Credit: www.shibazakura.net.

This cherry blossom spot is known as Nijukken Road Cherry Blossom, which is about 7 kilometers long, and it makes a great day trip from Sapporo by car.

Another famous cherry blossom spot is Matsumae Park in Hakodate. This huge park is located west of Hakodate City and can be accessed by bus. The park is covered by over 10,000 cherry trees and is considered the best sakura spot in Hokkaido.

Witness this 800 meter long tunnel of cherry blossoms in spring in Hakodate. Photo Credit: Hokkaido Love

Cherry trees along Sakuragaoka-dori in Hakodate City are an incredible sight to see. Don’t miss the beautiful display of cherry blossoms there. It is a perfect place to take a stroll and take pictures of sakura.

When it comes to viewing spring flowers in Hokkaido, there are many gardens and parks to introduce to you.

There are two notable shibazakura viewing spots in Hokkaido: Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park and Takinoue Park, both located in the northeastern part of Hokkaido and very popular among tourists. Visit them in mid-May and it will impress you with beautiful views of Shibazakura.

Colorful tulip beds at Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park. Photo Credit: 湧別町役場

For the largest tulip garden on the Island, you would head to Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park. Every year, from early May to early June, the park attracts thousands of visitors. The park is packed with rows of brightly colored tulips, approximately 1.2 million of more than hundred varieties.  

Visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park in mid-May and see its tulip gardens. In addition, you would like to pay a visit to Yurigahara Park in Sapporo. It features many varieties of flower gardens, including cherry blossoms, tulips, daffodils, wisteria, and more.

10. Summer Flower Fields and Gardens

Lavender field of Farm Tomita, Nakafurano. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the best times to visit Hokkaido is in the summer. Throughout the summer season, you will see many stunning flower fields, especially in central Hokkaido.

To see massive and picturesque flower gardens and fields in Hokkaido, you have to visit these beautiful rural towns: Nakafurano, Kamifurano, and Biei. There you will find incredible landscapes to capture, featuring mountains, rolling hills, farmlands, scenic roads, and flower fields and gardens.

Most of Hokkaido’s best summer flower fields and gardens are located within these three towns in central Hokkaido.

Farm Tomita, located in Nakafurano, is one of the best places to see lavender in Hokkaido. It is an ideal place to start your summer expedition in the area. With many flower gardens and lavender fields, this iconic spot is a must-go for flower enthusiasts. 

Panoramic flower gardens – Shikisai no Oka!

Flower Land Kamufurano and Hinode Park are the two most exciting places to see flowers in Kamifurano town. On the other hand, Shikisai no Oka in Biei is a panoramic flower garden that will keep you and your family entertained with its scenic views for hours.

Next to Nakafurano town is Furano city. With lots of activities to offer, Furano is a great place to be, not only because it works as a base to explore nearby flower fields and gardens, but also for its dairy products and winery.

In winter, Furano is indeed a perfect place to enjoy a ski holiday in Hokkaido and is relatively less expensive than Niseko.

Lupinus at Flower Land Kamifurano, they bloom in early summer! Photo Credit: フラワーランドかみふらの

When you hit the slopes of Furano Ski Resort, gaze at Mt. Tokachi and the Daisetsuzan Mountains in the distance. Appreciate the snowy winter scenery as you enjoy skiing in the mountains covered by high-quality powder snow!

To get the most out of your trip in Furano and Biei, we recommend you rent a car and explore these places, including the ones that can’t be reached by public transport.

For example, Flower Land Kamifurano can’t be accessed directly by public transport, so you have to use your foot from Kamifurano station or use a taxi.

Sunflowers at Hokuryu sunflower village. The best time to see sunflowers is in early August.

If you want to see the biggest sunflower field in Hokkaido, visit Hokuryo Sunflower Village. It features about 2 million sunflowers covering a land area of 23.1 hectares. It is truly a great scenic spot, and you should visit it while exploring the flower fields in Furano and Biei.

Many tourists are interested in exploring the scenic places there by car or through guided cycling tours.

Doing so will cost you some extra money, but it is very rewarding! Obviously, it is a great way to discover the places around you and experience the lives of the locals. 

Unkai Terrace! Photo Credit: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu.

One unique attraction in Hokkaido that attracts a lot of tourists in the summer is Unkai Terrace. Here, unkai means sea of clouds in Japanese.

Unkai Terrace of Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is one of the best spots to see a sea of clouds in Japan. At the resort, an overnight stay is highly recommended, as visitors need to wake up very early in the morning to see Unkai. 

There is no guarantee that you will see unkai since it is natural and happens due to the weather conditions. Every year, the observation deck is open from May to October.

11. Autumn Foliage

Asahidake in September. Photo Credit: WAKASARESORT Co., Ltd.

Want to see the earliest autumn leaves in Japan? Come to Hokkaido and explore its famous autumn foliage viewing spots from mid-September to early November.

If you are seeking a place to see autumn colors in the earlier part of the fall, consider taking a trip to Mount Asahidake, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido (2,291 m). This is usually the first place in Japan where you can appreciate the fall colors and see the fresh snowfall of the year.

The upper elevation of the mountain begins to change color in early September and reaches its peak around mid-September.

On the other hand, the trees that you see on the mountain slopes while riding the cable cars from the base station to halfway up the mountain (Sugatami station) offer the best views of the transitional autumn leaves around the first week of October.

Shirahige waterfall in Biei in autumn.

If the weather is good enough for going on a hike, you can even climb the mountain easily and reach its summit.

As a tourist, you can experience a very easy hike around the ropeway’s upper station, which will allow you to experience great views of the mountain and the picturesque landscapes. 

Mount Asahidake is a must-see if it is your first time in Daisetsuzan National Park. There are many interesting sites you can find in this national park that are ablaze with colors in autumn, and some of them are only possible to access if you go on a hike.

Kurodake Ropeway at Sounkyo Onsen. Photo Credit: sounkyo.net

Mount Kurodake, one of the major peaks in Daisetsuzan National Park, is a popular autumn leaves viewing spot in Hokkaido. Sounkyo Onsen is the perfect gateway to explore its beautiful nature, as it is connected by Kurodake Ropeway to the upper station, halfway up to the summit.

Located in a narrow gorge, Sounkyo Onsen is one of the best destinations to visit in Hokkaido in autumn because from here you can easily access Mount Kurodake by the ropeway, marvel at the beautiful foliage, relax in the hot spring baths, and discover the two most beautiful waterfalls, Ginga no Taki and Ryusei no Taki, respectively.

These two fascinating autumn foliage spots can be explored by separate day bus tours right from downtown Sapporo or Asahikawa.

Incredible fall foliage display and Toyohira River at Jozankei. Photo Credit: Jozankei Tourist Association.

Jozankei Onsen provides some of the best foliage scenes every autumn in Hokkaido. Part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, this beautiful hot spring resort is located in the mountains outside central Sapporo.

It makes a great day trip from Sapporo and is considered one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Hokkaido.

The area offers a view of spectacular vistas of trees with vibrant foliage along the valley and the Toyohira River that runs through the hot spring resort. A trip to Sapporo in mid-October would not be complete without visiting this popular fall foliage spot.

Visit this page to see other places that would make your trip to Hokkaido in autumn a great adventure.

12. Skiing in Niseko

The view of Mount Yotei looks fabulous! Slope of Grand Hirafu, Niseko.

There is no shortage of places to find good ski areas in Hokkaido. For the prime ski location, Niseko is the best and easy pick and one of the finest ski resorts in the world.

Compared to other ski resorts around the region, Niseko is unique in many ways and offers plenty of skiing opportunities for beginners, intermediates, and experts.

The quality of powder snow in Niseko attracts a lot of skiers and snowboarders from all over the world every winter season. Abundant amounts of powder snow on the slopes, long ski runs, and world-class ski facilities make Niseko a great place to experience skiing and other winter sports in Japan.

All ski resorts in Niseko are located on Mount Niseko-Annupuri. There are ski resorts to be found in Niseko: Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri, Hanazono, and Moiwa. Among these, the smallest resort is Moiwa, while largest is the Grand Hirafu, lies on the southeastern side of the mountain.

Except Moiwa ski resort, the other four are collectively called Niseko United.  

Snowmobiling on a clear day in Niseko. Photo Credit: Hanazono Niseko.

Whether you want to try skiing or not, a trip to Hanazono ski resort would be very memorable if you experience one of the fun winter activities there, ranging from snowmobiling and snowshoeing to snow tubing and snow rafting. 

With 22 ski trails and 13 lifts and gondolas, Grand Hirafu is truly a perfect ski arena. Besides, you will find plenty of good accommodations, shops, and restaurants to keep you entertained after ski activities.

Treat yourself to drinks at one of the many pubs, bars, and cafes at the resort. And if you are interested in night skiing, why don’t you give it a try at Grand Hirafu Ski Resort?

Read about the best ski resorts in Hokkaido and get some ideas on where to go for the best ski experiences in the region.

13. Museums and Historical Landmarks

At the Historical Village of Hokkaido. Photo Credit: 一般財団法人北海道歴史文化財団

So far, you have discovered so many places here in this blog post. It is your responsibility to decide when you want to come to Hokkaido and discover the magnificent landmarks.

If you want to learn about the history, art, and culture of Hokkaido, you must visit some museums and historical sites. No visit to Hokkaido is complete without checking out its fantastic selection of museums.

Visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido while sightseeing in Sapporo, one of the best open-air museums in Japan, featuring 52 historical buildings (relocated and restored) that represent the history of Hokkaido from 1868 to the 1920s (from the Meiji era to the beginning of the Showa era).

Next to this open-air museum is the Hokkaido Museum, a must-see museum for those visiting Sapporo at any time of year! It collects and preserves the materials that are important treasures for the people of Hokkaido.

Traditional Ainu show at Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park. Photo Credit: アイヌ民族文化財団

It highlights the nature, history, and culture of Hokkaido. Visitors can see traditional handicrafts of the indigenous Ainu people, a full skeleton of two types of elephants (the mammoth and the naumann elephant) that lived in Hokkaido, aerial pictures, and various artifacts on display.

You can also learn a lot of things about the Hokkaido ecosystem. How cool is that?

See the National Ainu Museum and Park (Upopoy) in the town of Shiraoi, Hokkaido. It is dedicated to the history and culture of the indigenous Ainu people.

The main objectives of opening this museum are to build a society where Ainu pride is acknowledged, create awareness of Ainu history and culture, and help to build a future for Ainu culture.

Discover the exhibition halls and the theater inside the museum to learn about the culture of Ainu and their traditional lifestyle. 

Inside Abashiri Prison! Photo Credit: Raita Futo at Wikimedia Commons.

In the National Ainu Park, you will find a lot of interesting activities. It is an open-air center where visitors can experience the culture of the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan.

Check out the reconstructed Ainu houses built along Lake Poroto and enter the houses to see what is inside. Besides, visitors can partake in hands-on experiences associated with Ainu cuisine, crafts, and music. You must watch demonstrations of traditional Ainu performing arts, including Ainu dances, songs, and musical performances, at Cultural Exchange Hall.

One of the historic sites in Hokkaido is the Abashiri Prison Museum, located on the side of Mt. Tento in Abashiri city, northeastern Hokkaido. It is the oldest prison in Japan.

Completed in 1912, though the construction took place in the year 1890, this notorious prison in Abashiri illustrates the daily lives of prisoners who committed crimes and were punished by a judge in the Meiji-era of Japan. It also exhibits different wooden prison buildings.

Hokkaido Shrine in Sapporo.

Want to taste the food that prisoners used to eat? Try the secret meals and see if you find them delicious.

When you come to experience the drift ice by icebreaker ships Aurora in the Sea of Okhotsk, make sure to spend some time at this prison museum before you leave the city. Another museum you can discover in the city is the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum, where you can experience the drift ice and nature of Okhotsk.

Located in Maruyama Park, Hokkaido Shrine is a historical site in Sapporo. The shrine celebrates the famous Hokkaido Jingu Matsuri in mid-June every year, which is considered one of the major summer festivals in Sapporo.

14. Biei

Cycling is a great outdoor activity in Biei, making you experience amazing landscape.

Biei is a place of scenic beauty. It’s located in Kamikawa Subprefecture, Hokkaido. Everywhere you go there you will find eye-catching landscapes of rolling hills and vast fields.

Many visitors will also want to explore the picturesque Biei town on a bicycle. The distance between Asahikawa Station and Biei Station is about 33 minutes by train, making it possible for those planning to enjoy a cycling tour in Biei.

The view of Tokachidake Mountains in fall from Tokachidake Observatory.

You can spend a great day in Biei by visiting the Blue Pond, Shirahige Waterfall, the stunning panoramic garden Shikisai no Oka, and Tokachidake Observatory, a popular place to see fall foliage in Biei around early October.

At Shikisai no Oka you will find different kinds of flowers from early summer through mid-autumn!

Blue pond in Biei.

Alongside cycling and hiking in the summer, many visitors there enjoy snowshoeing and snowmobiling during the winter months.

If you want to explore Biei’s major attractions, then be sure to check out this bus tour. They include the spots that are worth your visit based on the season you want to come to Biei. Online reservations are required!

15. Asahikawa

Ueno Farm in Asahikawa – such a wonderful place to be! Photo Credit: UENO FARM.

Asahikawa is the second-largest city in Hokkaido, which in fact is a major gateway for many travelers looking to embark on a trip to explore Central Hokkaido’s attractions, such as Kamikawa, Nakafurano, Kamifurano, Furano and Biei.  

For many hikers and wildlife explorers, Asahikawa is indeed a good place to stay, as they can enjoy various day trips from the city. There are many wonderful places to see in and around Central Hokkaido that will make for a great day trip.

Tourists who think accommodation in Furano is a bit expensive or are not getting a hotel to stay in can find Asahikawa a great alternative. The city of Asahikawa offers many budget hotels!

One of the best places to visit in Asahikawa is Asahiyama Zoo; this is perhaps the most popular tourist spot in the city. This is arguably the best place to see polar bears in Japan, though you can find them at Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo.

Witness polar bears diving into a huge pool. Besides, you can see them through the seal’s eye (a glass dome), which allows you to observe polar bears from the seal’s point of view. In winter, the penguin walk at the zoo entertains many visitors.

The Penguin walk at Asahiyama Zoo is one of the highlights that you don’t want to miss.

Apart from observing polar bears, you will see native wildlife from Hokkaido as well as various animals across the world, such as cranes, deer, eagles, wolves, foxes, tigers, penguins, lions, seals, leopards, and more.

You really don’t need to visit the popular Asahikawa Ramen Village to get the taste of famous Asahikawa Ramen. There are many ramen shops around JR Asahikawa Station, and one popular old ramen shop is Asahikawa Ramen Aoba, a 5-minute walk from Asahikawa Station. Enjoy your soy ramen and satisfy your stomach there!

If you visit Hokkaido in February, plan a trip to Asahikawa to see the second largest winter festival in Hokkaido, called the Asahikawa Winter Festival. It features gigantic snow and ice sculptures, illuminations, fireworks, and many food stalls.

Discover the beautiful flower gardens of Ueno Farm in Asahikawa. The farm is open from late April to mid-October, featuring flowers of various kinds.

With more than 2,000 kinds of flowers, this English-style garden impresses visitors of all ages. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll in the gardens while admiring the plants and flowers in full bloom.

16. Shakotan Peninsula

Cape Kamui in Shakotan.

Taking a road trip in Hokkaido guarantees to be an epic adventure. In particular, Hokkaido’s highways are remote with absolutely spectacular scenery.

Shakotan Peninsula makes a great day trip from Sapporo or Otaru. Even though you can see the major attractions of the Shakotan Peninsula on a hassle-free day bus tour from Sapporo, it is highly recommended to explore the area by car.

There is no better way to explore Hokkaido than from behind the wheel. In fact, Hokkaido could be your next driving adventure! Why don’t you start your road trip adventure right from Sapporo to the Shakotan Peninsula? It is a perfect choice and is one of the best road trips in Hokkaido, no doubt about that.

The road to Shakotan passes through Otaru and Yoichi. On the way to Shakotan, you will see many interesting places, including those located in and around the towns of Otaru, and Yoichi.

The scenery along the drive is just amazing, featuring stunning coastlines, mountains, towns, rocks, and a beautiful sea. When you travel to Shakotan, two places are not to be missed: Shimamui Coast (you have to walk through a tunnel to see this scenic spot) and Cape Kamui (Kamui Misaki).

Discover the beautiful Cape Kamui by taking a stroll along the trail leading you to the tip of the cape. Here you can experience the breathtaking views of the Sea of Japan, and marvel at crystal-clear blue waters, one of the reasons why Shakotan is famous.

Shimamui Coast in Shakotan, one of Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Beaches. Photo Credit: 663highland at Wikimedia Commons.

When your trip to Cape Kamui is over, make your way to Osyokujidokoro Misaki, one of the two famous restaurants in the area that serves the best fresh uni (sea urchin) and donburi in Hokkaido.

On the way back to Sapporo, pull over for lookouts. It is Cape Ogon this time, located in the Bikuni area. A beautiful place from where you can enjoy views of the Sea of Japan and seaside cliffs.

In Shakotan, a dolphin, whale, and bird-watching cruise is an activity that would make your trip not only a great adventure but also unforgettable as you admire these aquatic creatures in their natural habitat in the Sea of Japan.

Visiting the famous attractions of Hokkaido is always great fun, but what is even better is when you get to discover locations that people usually don’t go to. Shakotan is one of those attractions that many international tourists are not aware of; surprisingly, it is a scenic hidden spot in Hokkaido.

Road tripping in Hokkaido could be a good reason you may think of visiting Hokkaido again in the future. In fact, there’s no better way to see the region than by self-drive tour!

17. Daisetsuzan National Park

Mount Asahidake!

Daisetsuzan National Park is the largest national park in Hokkaido. Every summer, many alpine flowers bloom in Daisetsuzan National Park.

You can witness them as you take a stroll along the circular trail, passing some small ponds and the observation decks, to see the beautiful peak of Mount Asahidake and Daisetsuzan National Park.

If you are a wildlife photographer, you would probably spend more time finding the animals that dwell in this vast national park. The further you walk off into the forests, the greater the chance of seeing Brown Bears, Ezo Red Fox, Yezo Sika Deer, and other mammals.

Ice village over Lake Shikaribetsu. Photo Credit: 鹿追町観光協会

Visit Lake Shikaribetsu when you travel around Daisetsuzan National Park. This is the only natural lake in the Daisetsuzan National Park and the highest lake in Hokkaido, with an elevation of 804 meters above sea level.

In autumn, the incredible fall colors around the lake will make your trip quite memorable. On the other hand, if you want to experience an ice village with igloos, bar, and onsen in Hokkaido, you have to visit this lake and celebrate the Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan (winter event) with locals.

18. Shiretoko National Park

Ezo sika deer in Shiretoko. Photo Credit: Captain76 at Wikimedia Commons.

Shiretoko National Park is situated on the Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido. It is a perfect place to be if you like to explore the wildlife, where you can see drift ice, mountains, lakes, forests, waterfalls, rocks, sea cliffs, hiking trails, animals, and rare birds.

The entire park is littered with a huge selection of activities to choose from. Cruise to the Sea of Okhotsk in spring and spot drift ice, white-tailed eagles, Steller’s sea eagles, seals, whales, dolphins, sea lions, and aquatic birds.

Go on a hike around Shiretoko Goko and see the diverse wildlife in the summer. You can even spot beautiful ezo sika deer!

In autumn, drive along Shiretoko Pass, a mountain pass of 738 meters above sea level that connects the two towns on the peninsula – Utoro on the western side, and Rasusu on the eastern side, and admire the best foliage scenes in mid-October in the area.

Ever thought of walking on the drifting sea ice floating in the sea? Aabashiri drift ice is a popular winter activity in Hokkaido, which can be enjoyed from the icebreaker ship Aurora, but this time you would walk on the drift ice! Is it possible?

Yes, this once-in-a-lifetime winter activity is only possible in Shiretoko. For more info about the tour, please check out this page.

You can join in a sightseeing boat cruise and explore the peninsula’s dramatic coastlines, waterfalls, cliffs, and sea creatures that are not accessible from the walking trails. For more information visit here.

Please note that Shiretoko was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005.

19. Abashiri Drift Ice

Without question, viewing drift ice in Abashiri is one of the best things to do in Hokkaido. Drift ice can be seen in Wakkanai and Shiretoko Peninsula, but seeing it in Abashiri is absolutely mind-boggling, as it’s thickest!

Experience the drift ice by icebreaker ship Aurora in the Sea of Okhotsk and witness a variety of wild animals, such as seals, steller’s sea eagle and etc.

Drift ice in Abashiri arrives by late January and disappears again by late March. So, come to Abashiri city before its too late.

You can check out the timetable of the icebreaker ship Aurora.

20. Lake Mashu

Lake Mashu. Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO at Flickr.

What is the clearest lake in Japan? The answer is Lake Mashu, located in Akan Mashu National Park. Surrounded by beautiful nature, it is the second-clearest lake in the world.

Be aware that visitors can’t go down to the lake, but they have to enjoy the views from one of its observation decks. There is also a hiking trail that is worth your time and offers great views of the lake.