While it is the second largest of Japan’s four main islands, Hokkaido is by far the least developed. They enjoy “real” winters along with plenty of snow winter sports, and the summer is much less hot and humid as other parts of Japan.
It is a mecca for travellers who value unspoiled nature and want to take advantage of outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling, or skiing in the winter. But it is equally appealing to tourists who want to soak up Japanese culture and city life while avoiding the crowds which can be found in other Japanese locales.
Places to Visit on Hokkaido:
Hot Springs at Noboribetsu: Noboribetsu is found in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park which has five towns featuring the famous hot springs or “onsen”. One of the most famous Onsen resort is Nobribetsu Onsen and its gorgeous Jigokudani (Hell Valley) is the source of much of Japan’s best hot spring water.
Sapporo: The largest city of Hokkaido, and its capital, is well worth a visit… especially if you are travelling in the winter during their annual snow Festival held in February featuring snow statues in Odori Park. Sample the Ramen noodles and Sapporo Beer while touring the capital city.
Shikisai-no-oka: Check out these flower gardens near Oka-no-machi Biel. The blossoms are found as far as the eye can sea from Spring through Fall.
Otaru: This port town is relatively close to Sapporo (just 30 minutes by train) and has a decidedly different vibe. You can saunter along the picturesque Otaru Canal while browsing the quaint shops or sampling the local fare. Make sure to check out the soft-serve ice cream. Hokkaido is known to have extremely high quality milk which makes its ice cream worth checking out.
Mt. Tokachi and the Blue Pond (Biei): One of the most beautiful blue ponds in the world is well worth a visit. This pond was created after the eruption of nearby Mt. Tokachi to protect the town of Biei from volcanic flows. The vivid blue colour of the water comes from the rich natural minerals dissolved in the water. Combine this visit with a trip to the nearby hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen.
Lavender Fields: Hokkaido is known for vivid lavender fields that would rival any in Provence. Visit Biei or Furano. The purple blooms last for more than a month from early July to early August so it is much easier to catch than the fleeting cherry blossom season which can last for less than a week.
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