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Japan’s Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail with Kiera

Nov 3, 2024 - Nov 10, 2024

Cultural Cultural

$2,175 USD


Japan’s Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail with Kiera

Nov 3, 2024 - Nov 10, 2024

$2,175  USD


Join Kiera Blaney of Hey Kiera on this female-only small group trip, walking one of only two pilgrimage routes in the world deemed a World Heritage site, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail. There are various trails to walk the Kumano Kodo and together we will walk the classic and safest route, the Nakahechi Trail.

The trails of Kumano Kodo are a series of ancient pilgrimage routes over Japan’s beautiful Kii Peninsula and offer a profound exploration of nature, spirituality and cultural heritage. This journey will be over 8 days, including 4.5 days of walking and hosted by Kiera Blaney who is an experienced hiker and has completed various pilgrimages including the ancient 88 Temple Pilgrimage and the Camino de Santiago.

The Kumano Kodo’s rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys, rivers and waterfalls provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers. In this trip we will experience the rich autumn foliage as it injects a wonderful colour along our hiking route. Each day on the trail will finish at a carefully chosen traditional guesthouse with onsen (hot spring bathing) and wonderful local food.

On this trip we will combine the Kumano Kodo with a visit to Koyasan, home to 115 temples on a venerated Buddhist mountain and a chance to stay in an active Buddhist monastery.

Along the trail we will collect stamps in our pilgrim passports, visit multiple temples, learn about the history of the Kumano Kodo and experience traditional Japanese customs and homestays. If you have walked the St James Way (Camino de Santiago) you will be able to receive a dual pilgrim certificate of completion in Hongu (you must bring your Camino passport to qualify).

Sunday November 3rd 2024

Sunday November 10th 2024

8 Days, 7 Nights

Western and Japanese Style Rooms, Guest Houses, Buddhist Monastery (See Itinerary)

Some Meals Included (See Itinerary)

Strictly Limited to 9 Guests


Walk the entire Kumano Kodo Nakahechi from end to end via magnificent shrines ending at the glorious Nachi waterfall and temple complex, plus optional walks at Koyasan

1 night in Osaka in a Western style hotel including free access to the onsen on the rooftop (twin share, private bathroom)

5 nights in traditional Japanese guest houses along the pilgrimage trail (twin share, shared bathroom)

1 night in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan (twin share, shared bathroom)

Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary (all breakfasts, 3 lunches, 6 dinners)

Doton Bori walk in Osaka

'Onsen Tamago' boiling eggs in a hot spring experience at Yunomine Onsen

Morning yoga and stretch with Kiera on selected days (see itinerary)

Welcome pack including pilgrim passport and some surprise gifts from Kiera

Whatsapp group chat to connect with everyone on the trip and 1 x live video call in the lead up to the trip (times to be discussed)

Direct access to Kiera in the lead up to the trip for gear recommendations or questions

Recommended packing list and other important information prior to trip


Travel insurance (Required)

Flights (see Important Notes)

Some meals (see Important Notes)

Airport transfers

Public transport where required (see Important Notes)

Beverages (other than water with meals)

Personal expenses for extra food, gifts, etc

Luggage transfers (see Important Notes)

Your host

Kiera Blaney

Hey, I’m Kiera, and I’m all about exploring hidden gems off the beaten path, especially by foot. Last year, I trekked the 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Japan, where I fell head over heels for the culture and its people. Japan quickly shot to my number one on a list of 62 countries I have visited.

I’m a jack-of-all-trades—a hula hoop circus performer, a Chinese medicine doctor, a yoga teacher and a travel storyteller on my Hey Kiera Instagram and YouTube channel, and my blog She Will Explore. At 18, I was a tour guide in Madrid, and now I’m thrilled to lead adventures again, showing you the real Japan beyond the flashy cities. Expect surprises, morning yoga, and peaceful meditation sessions on our journeys together. Let’s make memories!


Day 1 - Sunday November 3rd 2024 Osaka: Welcome & Introduction

Our journey starts in Osaka, where we will use Japan’s amazing public transport to reach our accommodation. Check-in is available from 3pm onward, and the hotel offers a relaxing retreat with western-style rooms, featuring a top-floor hot spring (Onsen). We’ll have a welcome briefing meeting, where host Kiera will introduce you to the magical Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail that you are about to embark upon.

In the evening, take a leisurely stroll to the vibrant Doton Bori area, immersing yourself in the bright lights, energetic atmosphere, and bustling pedestrian lanes. Explore the famous street food scene, indulging in the diverse culinary delights that make Doton Bori a renowned food haven.

Meals Included: None

Day 2 - Monday November 4th 2024 Kii-Tanabe to Takahara

On day 2, begin your journey by checking out of the hotel and walking to Namba train station (15mins). We will take the subway from Namba to Shin Osaka and board the train departing from Tennoji at 9:01. Your destination is Kii-Tanabe.

Upon arrival at Kii-Tanabe, head to the Tanabe Tourism office for updates on track closures or detours. We will purchase a bus ticket and obtain pilgrim passports for Kumano stamps. Catch the bus from Kii-Tanabe to Takajiri Oji, departing at 12:50 and arriving at 13:15. Start your approximately 4km uphill, short but challenging walk to the ridge-top settlement of Takahara, where you’ll find our accommodation offering western-style rooms with a Japanese focus.

The trail today is rocky and root-covered terrain, so maintain a slow and easy pace. We will experience beautiful views to the left over the valley and our first taste of the pilgrimage trail. 

Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 - Tuesday November 5th 2024 Takahara to Chikatsuyu

On day 3, we’ll have a picturesque 13 km forest walk from Takahara to Chikatsuyu. The morning will start with an optional warm up stretch, breath and mini yoga flow led by Kiera.

The trail winds through the lush forested mountains east of Takahara, taking you up and over scenic ridges into the next watershed before descending into the charming village of Chikatsuyu. This is our first real sense of walking through the distinctive Japanese forest canopy on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. On our way to the village we will pass by small shrines and over a river into town.

Unwind and immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings, before settling in to our Japanese-style accommodation.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 - Wednesday November 6th 2024 Chikatsuyu to Hongu

The morning will start with an optional warm up stretch, breath and mini yoga flow led by Kiera, followed by a delicious homemade breakfast. Today we set off on a challenging 24km full-day walk from Chikatsuyu to Minshuku Takiyoshi, a family-run Japanese guest house. This trail involves numerous climbs and descents, leading you to the revered Kumano Hongu Taisha, a picturesque temple nestled along the pilgrimage route.

Arrive in time to explore the temple and its scenic grounds before taking a bus (from the bottom of the steps to the temple) to the onsen village of Yunomine Onsen. Hongu Taisha is one of three main temple shrines of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

The mid-section of the trail features a permanent detour over the pass, offering diverse forested trails and captivating settlement scenery from Hosshinmon-oji to Hongu. Upon reaching our accommodation, a warm and welcoming Japanese guest house, check in and settle into your Japanese-style rooms.

Take the opportunity to explore the charming village, boil eggs in the public hot spring, and perhaps book a visit to the public onsen in the heart of the village. Our guesthouse will have an onsen available for you too.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5 - Thursday November 7th 2024 Hongu to Koguchi

On Day 5, the morning will start with an optional warm up stretch, breath and mini yoga flow led by Kiera and then after a delicious and large breakfast, begin your journey by taking a bus from Yunomine Onsen to the starting point of the walk at 08:30am. Walk approximately 13km to Koguchi, reaching the end of the bridge where you can find vending machines offering cold drinks or hot coffee.

The Kogumotori-goe trail traverses a mountain range between Hongu and Koguchi, offering varying terrains. The northern section involves a gradual climbing gradient, followed by ups and downs in the mid-section, and concludes with the steepest descent in the southern part.

For accommodation, we will enjoy the night at a hot spring resort that provides western-style rooms, or a similar guesthouse (subject to change depending on availability). 

Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 - Friday November 8th 2024 Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha

The morning will start with an optional warm up stretch, breath and mini yoga flow led by Kiera. Day 6 presents a 14km trek from Koguchi to Nachi-Shingu, this part of the pilgrimage is renowned as one of the most challenging sections but also one of the favourite parts of the whole pilgrimage for many pilgrims. There is a fair bit of elevation but the views over the Pacific and the glimpses of the mountains as you traverse through the forest make it all worth it.

The Ogumotori-goe trail connects Koguchi to Kumano Nachi Taisha, home to the divine Nachi-no-Otaki, Japan’s tallest waterfall and travelled by thousands of pilgrims. The panoramic scene of the superb orange Seiganto-ji Temple against the backdrop of the most sacred Nachi waterfall, the tallest in Japan, is certainly one of Japan’s most beautiful views.

If the trail’s difficulty feels overwhelming, there is an option to take public transport to Shingu and then proceed to the shrine grounds to meet the group later.

For accommodation, today we have a cozy Japanese-style retreat for the night and an included dinner to celebrate our pilgrimage journey together.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 - Saturday November 9th 2024 Koyasan

Today we will have a delicious breakfast at our guesthouse before starting off on our journey from Nachi to Koyasan. After breakfast we will take a bus to Kii Katsuura Station and then onwards by train to Wakayama Station. From here we will take a private line to Gokurakubashi station and a cable car to Koyasan (the private line and return cable car is bought via the Koyasan Heritage Pass).

Today we travel by public transport for 5-6 hours so sit back, enjoy the scenery and take it all in while you process the last 5 days walking.

After reaching Koyasan we will check in to our temple lodging at the monastery and be briefed with the itinerary which includes witnessing a ceremony led by the monks. Depending on how the group feels, we can have free time to explore Koyasan village, which is quite a popular place with tourists or we can explore the trails around Koyasan.

Our rooms will be simple Japanese style rooms and our meal for the evening will be traditional Buddhist cuisine. It is what the monks would eat and it is called “shojin ryori”, completely vegan and it typically includes rice, miso soup, tempura, hot pot, vegetables, tofu and fruit. 

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 - Sunday November 10th 2024 Farewell

After your last traditional Japanese breakfast we will have a group meeting before saying farewell and closing our amazing trip. If you wish to hang around Koyasan there is optional walks to explore like the Women’s pilgrimage otherwise if you wish to continue your trip around Japan there are many great places to see like Nara or Kyoto, or if you would like more off the beaten path places I suggest Yuasa or Hidaka which haven’t changed much for hundreds of years.

Your Koyasan World Heritage pass will include a return on the cable car back to Gokurakubashi station where you can catch a train onwards to Osaka airport or other destinations.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Trip Photos

Important Notes

It is important to note that this tour is not recommended for smokers or heavy drinkers looking for a fun holiday or highly social atmosphere. There will certainly be fun and social moments, but it will also have moments of introspection. This trip involves walking a pilgrimage so respect for the culture and our surroundings is highly important. Additionally, when walking a pilgrimage some people may choose to go inward and walk in silence, some may choose to be more social, this is up to the walker. Please note that this is strictly a female-only trip.

This trip involves hiking reasonably long distances each day, with some sections containing challenging terrain, and/or steep ascents/descents. A sufficient level of fitness is highly recommended. Please reach out to us at if you would like more detailed information.

Upon booking please notify your dietary requirements, as vegetarian and gluten free may be possible, but for vegans it is a lot more difficult as the same oil is used for cooking meat.

Dinner on the first night, 3 lunches and any extra snacks purchased between meals (average lunch cost is between JPY500 – JPY1000*)
*Prices subject to change

The trip starts on day 1 at our accommodation in Osaka with a welcome briefing in the evening. More information on the briefing and exact accommodation details, transport options etc will be provided once the trip is confirmed, so that you can book your arrival flight into Osaka International Airport (highly recommended as your arrival airport) and transport accordingly.

Be sure to check entry requirements based on the passport that you will be travelling with.

Local train tickets (Osaka to Kii-Tanabe (JPY5400*) + Kii Katsuura to Wakayama (JPY5900*)
Local bus tickets (Kii-Tanabe to Takajiri Oji (JPY900*) + from Yunomine Onsen to start of walk on day 5 (around JPY400*) + Nachi to Kii Katsuura (JPY630*))
Koyasan Heritage pass (return passage via private line and cable car to Koyasan (JPY3140-3540*)
*Prices subject to change

A trip is listed as PENDING until the minimum guest numbers are reached, at which point the trip becomes CONFIRMED. Guests will be notified when a trip becomes CONFIRMED.

Travel insurance is required, and this will need to organised independently. There are a number of travel insurance comparison websites available. We do not recommend organising this until your trip is CONFIRMED. TIP: If you have a credit card there may be travel insurance included as part of your benefits, so check with your bank.

We do not recommend booking flights until your trip is CONFIRMED.

We recommend you familiarise yourself with our Booking Terms & Conditions for more information about our booking, deposit and cancellation policies.

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