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Amazing Things to Do in Hokkaido: A Seasonal Adventure Guide

Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, is an underrated gem waiting to be explored. Known for its stunning natural landscapes, a fascinating mix of Japanese and Ainu cultures, and a culinary scene that’s arguably the best in the country, Hokkaido is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a trip to Japan. If you have a taste for adventure, a love for incredible food, and a yearning for captivating experiences, then Hokkaido should undoubtedly be the next stop on your travel itinerary.

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Popular destinations in Hokkaido

However, don’t be fooled by its position on the map – Hokkaido is deceptively large. The distances between its sights and attractions are vast, the landscapes are wild and untamed, and the weather can change rapidly. As such, careful planning is essential when embarking on an adventure in Hokkaido, as you’ll want to make the most of what this incredible island has to offer. Here, we will explore some of the most popular destinations that are sure to offer unforgettable experiences.

Sapporo

Sapporo

As the capital city of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a must-visit urban center rich in culture, history, and culinary delights. Known for its iconic Sapporo Beer, picturesque Odori Park, and the annual Snow Festival, there’s no shortage of things to see and do here. Spend a day exploring the historic buildings and beautiful gardens of the Hokkaido University Campus, or immerse yourself in the city’s history at the Hokkaido Museum.

Furano & Biei

Furano & Biei

Furano and Biei are famous for their stunning landscapes, particularly during the summer when lavender fields are in full bloom. These towns are filled with colorful flower fields, tranquil farms, and delightful surprises such as the Furano Cheese Factory and the Biei Blue Pond. Here, nature lovers can experience Hokkaido’s rural beauty at its best.

Niseko

Niseko

Niseko is Hokkaido’s premier destination for winter sports, renowned worldwide for its powder snow. Offering a range of ski slopes to suit all abilities, as well as plenty of opportunities for snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling, Niseko is a winter wonderland. But don’t let the snow distract you; the region is also beautiful during the other seasons, offering hiking, biking, and hot springs.

Asahikawa

Asahikawa

Asahikawa, the second-largest city in Hokkaido, is best known for its fantastic zoo – Asahiyama Zoo, where animals are displayed in unique ways to mimic their natural behavior. It’s also a gateway to the spectacular Daisetsuzan National Park, a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The city is also home to several top-notch sake breweries, which are open for tours and tastings.

Otaru

Otaru

A charming city just northwest of Sapporo, Otaru offers a nostalgic step back in time. Famous for its beautiful canal area lined with century-old stone warehouses, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Additionally, Otaru is known for its glassware and music box industries – be sure to check out the shops and museums dedicated to these artisan crafts.

Shiretoko Peninsula

Shiretoko Peninsula

The Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most remote and beautiful areas in Japan. Home to a range of wildlife, including brown bears and numerous bird species, it’s an ecotourism hub. Shiretoko is best known for its fantastic views of drift ice in the winter and the Shiretoko Five Lakes, which offer breathtaking landscapes all year round.

When to visit Hokkaido

Indeed, Hokkaido is a destination for all seasons, with each bringing its unique charms and attractions.

Spring

Spring in Hokkaido is a season of renewal and color. As the snow melts, the landscape bursts into life with cherry blossoms (sakura) and other vibrant flowers. The famous Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a cultural event that attracts both locals and tourists. This is also the perfect time to visit the Shizunai Nijukken Road in Shinhidaka, renowned for its 7-kilometer stretch of cherry blossom trees.

Summer

Summers in Hokkaido are quite pleasant, with temperatures rarely exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. It’s an ideal season for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and camping. The Furano and Biei areas are particularly beautiful with fields of lavender and other bright flowers in full bloom. Summer is also the time for the Hokkaido Bon Odori, a traditional Japanese dance festival, and the famous Sapporo Summer Festival with its massive beer garden.

Autumn

Autumn brings a stunning change in the color palette of Hokkaido. The foliage turns into hues of orange, yellow, and red, offering breathtaking views – a phenomenon known as ‘koyo’. Prime spots for autumn leaf viewing include Daisetsuzan National Park and the Jozankei Onsen area. This season is also the time for the Sapporo Autumn Fest, a gastronomic delight offering a variety of local dishes and beverages.

Winter

Hokkaido turns into a winter wonderland as heavy snow covers the island, creating ideal conditions for winter sports. Niseko becomes a hotspot for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts worldwide, while the Sapporo Snow Festival showcases gigantic snow sculptures and ice carvings that must be seen to be believed. Winter is also the best time to spot the mesmerizing natural phenomenon of drift ice in the Shiretoko Peninsula.

The diversity in Hokkaido’s seasons means there’s always a good reason to visit, regardless of the time of year. Choose the season that suits your interests best, and enjoy all the amazing experiences Hokkaido has to offer!

10 Recommended Things to Do in Hokkaido in Spring

Sakura Viewing

Sakura Viewing
Bill Franklin, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Immerse yourself in the magical world of cherry blossoms. From the early to mid-May timeframe, iconic spots such as Maruyama Park in Sapporo, Matsumae Park in Matsumae, or the renowned Shizunai Nijukken Road in Hokkaido, turn into breathtaking canvases of pink and white.

The Shizunai Nijukken Road, recognised as one of Japan’s Top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots, is an extraordinary spectacle with close to 3000 trees lining the roadside for approximately 7 kilometers. 

Remember, Hokkaido’s cherry blossoms usually peak in early May due to its northern location, so plan your visit accordingly to witness this stunning spectacle.

Hiking at Daisetsuzan National Park – The Largest National Park in Japan

Hiking at Daisetsuzan National Park – The Largest National Park in Japan
Koda6029, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

With snow starting to recede, the park springs back to life, offering verdant landscapes perfect for hiking. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, the trails cater to all levels, each providing magnificent views.

Horseback Riding in Sapporo Countryside

Horseback Riding in Sapporo Countryside
Horseback-Riding in a Country Side in Sapporo

Discover Hokkaido’s horse breeding region with a guided horseback ride. Traverse the open fields, rivers, and woodland trails, and enjoy the region’s stunning landscapes from a unique perspective.

Asahiyama Zoo

Asahiyama Zoo

This zoo, situated in the northernmost part of Japan, showcases a variety of animals in their natural-like habitats. From penguins to polar bears, it’s a great place for wildlife lovers, especially those with kids.

Explore Historic Hakodate

Explore Historic Hakodate

Discover Hakodate’s rich history by visiting the Motomachi district, known for its old western-style buildings and churches. Don’t forget to enjoy the panoramic night view of the city from Mount Hakodate, rated among the world’s top 3 night views.

Immerse in Nature with a Bike Tour from Sapporo

Immerse in Nature with a Bike Tour from Sapporo
Mountain Bike Tour from Sapporo

Embark on an adventurous bike tour from Sapporo to explore Hokkaido’s vibrant spring landscapes. These guided tours often traverse tranquil forest paths and include fun pit-stops such as visiting local hot springs (Onsen). It’s a great way to enjoy Hokkaido’s outdoors, combining exercise, sightseeing, and relaxation in one enjoyable excursion.

Moss Phlox Festival at Takinoue Park

Moss Phlox Festival at Takinoue Park
Takinoue Tourist Association

 Visit the park in May to see it transform into a sea of pink, thanks to the vibrant moss phlox (shibazakura) flowers. The sweet-smelling blooms set against the backdrop of mountains create a mesmerizing sight.

Hakodate Morning Market

Hakodate Morning Market
663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This bustling market is a paradise for seafood lovers. From the freshest catch of the day to delicacies like sea urchin and crab, it’s a feast for the senses. Don’t miss trying seafood donburi, a local favorite.

Sapporo Lilac Festival

Sapporo Lilac Festival

Welcome spring at the Sapporo Lilac Festival. This event brings the community together at Odori Park and Kawashimo Park for music, entertainment, and local Hokkaido fare, all under the fragrant lilac trees that the festival is named after.

10 Recommended Things to Do in Hokkaido in Summer

Furano Lavender Fields

Furano Lavender Fields

Imagine standing amidst a vast sea of lavender, breathing in the intoxicating aroma, and being surrounded by a captivating spectrum of purples. This is what awaits you in the Furano Lavender Fields, a stunning spectacle that blooms to its peak during summer.

Tomita Farm offers visitors an explosion of colors from various blooming flowers, with lavender being the most famous. Walking through these vibrantly colored fields is a feast for the senses, making it a must-visit summer destination.

Cycling in Biei

Cycling in Biei

Biei, often referred to as “The Beautiful Village,” is renowned for its picturesque landscapes. Rent a bicycle and embark on a leisurely ride through its charming rolling hills, enjoying the serene beauty that changes with the seasons.

Sapporo Summer Festivals

Sapporo Summer Festivals

Sapporo Summer Festival is a lively blend of delicious food stalls, refreshing beer gardens, and cultural performances, including the traditional Bon Odori dance. 

Additionally, the Yosakoi Soran Festival is another highlight of the summer season. This vibrant dance festival sees teams from across Japan perform dynamic routines to energetic folk tunes. 

These festivals offer an incredible chance to immerse yourself in local culture, taste authentic Hokkaido cuisines, and enjoy the ambiance under the clear summer sky.

Shiretoko Nature Cruise

Shiretoko Nature Cruise
Shiretoko Cape Sightseeing Cruise

Explore the untouched beauty of the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage site, by boat. As you cruise along the coast, witness the diverse wildlife and majestic cliffs that define this stunning area.

Mount Asahi Climbing

Adventure seekers can conquer Mount Asahi, in the Daisetsuzan National Park. Hiking this mountain during summer rewards you with breathtaking vistas of unspoiled wilderness, beautiful alpine flowers, and potentially wildlife sightings.

Niseko Outdoor Activities

Niseko Outdoor Activities

Niseko, widely known for winter sports, also offers an array of exciting outdoor activities in summer. You can raft and canoe in the crystal-clear rivers, try mountain biking, or simply hike amidst the gorgeous landscapes.

Visit the Mystical Lake Onneto

Visit the Mystical Lake Onneto

Lake Onneto, nestled within the Akan-Mashu National Park, is a summer must-visit in Hokkaido. Known as the “Five Color Lake,” its waters change hues with the weather and time of day. The surrounding walking trails offer stunning views of the lake’s shimmering surface and the verdant forest landscape.

Otaru Canal Cruise

Otaru Canal Cruise

Enjoy a leisurely cruise down Otaru’s historic canal, lined with 19th-century warehouses. As you drift along the waterway, you’ll enjoy a taste of this charming city’s past, making it a romantic and relaxing way to sightsee.

Lake Toya Fireworks

Lake Toya Fireworks
Nuttapol Sangthongchay, CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr

Every summer night, Lake Toya becomes a stage for a mesmerizing fireworks display. The spectacle of lights reflecting off the calm lake surface is a sight to behold and one that encapsulates the magic of Hokkaido’s summer.

Hokuryu Sunflower Village

Hokuryu Sunflower Village
t-konno, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Step into the sun-drenched spectacle of Hokuryu Sunflower Village in summer, where over two million sunflowers bloom across 23 hectares. This dazzling display of nature offers an unforgettable summer experience in Hokkaido.

The annual Hokuryu Sunflower Festival features captivating sunflower mazes and unique sunflower-themed treats. Bicycles are available for rent to tour the radiant fields. While admission to the festival is free, certain activities incur charges.

10 Recommended Things to Do in Hokkaido in Autumn

Discover the Enchanting Blue Pond in Biei

Discover the Enchanting Blue Pond in Biei

Experience the ethereal beauty of the Blue Pond in Biei during your visit to Hokkaido. This man-made pond owes its striking blue color to natural minerals in the water. Surrounded by a lush forest and with a backdrop of the stunning Tokachi Mountain Range, it’s truly a sight to behold.

The best time to see the pond at its bluest is around June, but it’s also a stunning sight in autumn. The contrast of the pond’s vivid blue against the red leaves on a sunny autumn day creates an unforgettable view.

Koyo Viewing in Daisetsuzan National Park

Koyo Viewing in Daisetsuzan National Park

Experience the grandeur of autumn in Hokkaido with a visit to Daisetsuzan National Park. This park, the largest in Japan, is a haven for ‘Koyo’, or fall color viewing. Daisetsuzan’s high altitude and vast expanse of deciduous forests offer one of the earliest and most dramatic displays of autumn foliage in the country. 

Hues of red, orange, and yellow envelop the park, creating a breathtaking panorama that contrasts beautifully against the rugged mountain peaks. Whether you opt for a serene hike or a scenic cable car ride, witnessing the Koyo spectacle at Daisetsuzan National Park is a quintessential Hokkaido autumn experience.

Lake Shikotsu Kayaking

Lake Shikotsu Kayaking
Lake Shikotsu Clear Kayak Experience

Step into a transparent kayak and be captivated by the crystal-clear vistas beneath the surface of Lake Shikotsu. Enclosed by vibrant autumn foliage, the lake is renowned for its exceptional clarity, offering a unique window into the aquatic world below. As you paddle through the cool, tranquil waters, gaze down through the transparent floor of your kayak to observe the lake’s untouched bottom. 

This serene experience is an exceptional way to appreciate the purity of Hokkaido’s waters and the stunning colors of the season. Kayaking on Lake Shikotsu provides a unique perspective on the captivating beauty that defines Hokkaido’s autumn.

Klook.com

Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu Onsen invites you to experience the soothing bliss of its famous hot springs, set amidst Hokkaido’s serene landscapes. This premier hot spring resort is surrounded by the breathtaking Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, known for its otherworldly geothermal landscapes and sulfuric steams. 

For a complete cultural experience, consider staying in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Here, you can soak in the therapeutic waters of the Onsen while enjoying the quintessential hospitality of Japan.

Winery Tour in Furano

Winery Tour in Furano
Tony Lin CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via flickr

Discover the winemaking process and sample local wines in Furano, a region renowned for its vineyards. The crisp autumn weather creates the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day of wine tasting.

Rusutsu Resort: A Fusion of Thrills and Nature

Rusutsu Resort, wrapped in autumn’s vibrant hues, promises a blend of outdoor adventures and amusement park thrills. Zip-line through the multicolored treetops for an exhilarating view, horse ride along serene trails, or mountain bike down winding paths amidst the spectacular foliage. Moreover, the resort’s amusement park continues its operations, offering a variety of fun rides and attractions. This fusion of high-adrenaline activities and beautiful natural surroundings make Rusutsu Resort a unique and exciting autumn destination in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens

Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens
t-konno, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Take a peaceful stroll through the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens, where you can admire the beautiful fall colors and historic Ainu artifacts. It’s a lovely blend of natural beauty and cultural discovery.

Otaru Music Box Museum

Otaru Music Box Museum
Wpcpey, CC BY 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the Melodic Charm at Otaru Music Box Museum

The Otaru Music Box Museum, also known as “Otaru Orgel Doh,” is a treasure trove of melody and artistry. As Japan’s largest music box store, it houses an impressive collection of around 80,000 music boxes of 5,000 different kinds in just the main building. Each box holds a distinct charm, exuding a nostalgic aura that tugs at the heartstrings. 

For a more immersive experience, the museum offers workshops where you can tap into your creativity and craft your own unique music box.

Farm Tomita Melon House

Farm Tomita Melon House
Choi2451, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Farm Tomita Melon House, treat yourself to a slice of the famously delicious Furano melons. The juicy sweetness of the fruit is a refreshing complement to the crisp autumn weather.

Unkai Terrace at Hoshino Resort Tomamu

Unkai Terrace at Hoshino Resort Tomamu offers visitors a rare and fascinating spectacle – the sea of clouds, known as ‘Unkai’ in Japanese. 

Perched high up in the mountains, this panoramic terrace gives you the chance to literally walk above the clouds. On clear mornings, witness the majestic Unkai rolling out beneath you, cloaking the landscape in a soft, ethereal blanket. This surreal, heaven-like scenery is a unique natural phenomenon and viewing it from Unkai Terrace is a magical experience not to be missed. 

Remember, though, the occurrence of Unkai is weather-dependent. Unkai Terrace is open during early morning from mid-May to mid-October.

10 Recommended Things to Do in Hokkaido in Winter

Sapporo Snow Festival: A Winter Wonderland

The Sapporo Snow Festival takes winter enjoyment to a whole new level. This iconic event held in Odori Park transforms the cityscape into an artistic marvel, boasting large and intricately carved ice sculptures and snow statues. Visitors can stroll through the chilly beauty, marveling at the impressive frozen creations lit up in the dark winter nights. It’s not just a visual treat but a testament to the city’s festive spirit and creativity.

Skiing in Niseko: A Powder Paradise

Skiing in Niseko: A Powder Paradise

Niseko, known for its legendary powder snow, is a winter sports enthusiast’s dream. Renowned globally for its impeccable skiing and snowboarding conditions, it offers a blend of groomed and off-piste trails to cater to all skill levels. The panoramic mountain views and the thrill of descending its snow-clad slopes make a trip to Niseko an unmissable winter experience in Hokkaido.

Hot Springs in Noboribetsu: A Soothing Escape

Hot Springs in Noboribetsu: A Soothing Escape

Amid Hokkaido’s winter chill, a visit to Noboribetsu’s onsens (hot springs) promises a warming, rejuvenating experience. Here, visitors can unwind in soothing thermal waters while taking in the serene, snowy landscapes that surround them. These hot springs not only offer relaxation but a delightful contrast between Hokkaido’s frosty outdoors and the cozy warmth of the onsens.

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival: Illuminating Winter’s Beauty

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival: Illuminating Winter's Beauty

The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is an exquisite blend of natural beauty and artistic creativity. During this captivating event, the historic canal and old town area of Otaru are adorned with delicate snow lanterns and miniature snow sculptures. Their soft glow under the dark winter sky creates a dreamy, fairy-tale-like atmosphere, making the festival a must-visit for those seeking the magical side of Hokkaido’s winter.

Winter Wildlife Watching: Nature’s Cold-Weather Wonders

Half-Day Primeval Forest Snowshoe and Wildlife Watching Tour
Half-Day Primeval Forest Snowshoe and Wildlife Watching Tour

For nature enthusiasts, a guided winter wildlife watching tour in Hokkaido is an extraordinary treat. These tours offer a captivating glimpse into the region’s robust biodiversity that thrives even in the chilly climate. 

From spotting red-crowned cranes dancing in the snow and seals basking on icy shores to sea eagles soaring against the winter sky, and the enchanting sight of red foxes darting through the snowy forests, these tours promise a unique and memorable immersion into Hokkaido’s vibrant winter wildlife.

Asahikawa Winter Festival: Celebrating Winter’s Joy

Asahikawa Winter Festival: Celebrating Winter's Joy
京浜にけ, CC BY 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

The Asahikawa Winter Festival is a winter celebration like no other. It offers a blend of impressive ice sculptures, fun snow slides, and a giant snow stage featuring a variety of entertaining performances. Families will love this event that turns the cold winter into a playground, offering unique experiences and an ambience of merriment.

Drift Ice Cruises in Shiretoko: The Frozen Spectacle

Drift Ice Cruises in Shiretoko: The Frozen Spectacle

Join a drift ice cruise in Shiretoko for a unique encounter with nature’s frosty artistry. The sight of the Sea of Okhotsk’s surface being transformed into a vast, icy landscape offers a surreal and breathtaking experience. This natural phenomenon, visible during Hokkaido’s frigid winter months, is a striking symbol of the region’s seasonal harshness and beauty.

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy: A Winter Holiday Dream

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy: A Winter Holiday Dream

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy is a holiday event that envelops the city in festive cheer. The centerpiece is a beautifully adorned Christmas tree that, along with nightly firework displays, creates a heartwarming spectacle. The twinkling lights, reflecting off the snow-covered town, offer a memorable holiday experience in the cold, yet cozy, winter setting of Hakodate.

Goryokaku Tower in Hakodate

Goryokaku Tower in Hakodate

For a truly magical winter experience, make sure to visit the Goryokaku Tower in Hakodate. The tower offers a panoramic view of the unique star-shaped Goryokaku Fort, a spectacle that becomes even more stunning when covered in a blanket of pristine snow. The contrast of the fort’s geometric lines against the soft, white landscape is a sight to behold. 

And when night falls, the scene takes on a different kind of beauty as the fort and its surrounding area are illuminated, casting a warm glow against the cold winter night. This captivating view combines history and natural beauty in one unforgettable scene.

Asahikawa Ramen Village: Exploring Delicious Varieties

Asahikawa Ramen Village: Exploring Delicious Varieties

For food lovers, Asahikawa Ramen Village is a winter comfort-food heaven. This unique destination hosts eight famous ramen shops, each offering its distinctive style of the beloved noodle soup. The variety of flavors and textures in each bowl is a gastronomic delight, making a visit to Asahikawa Ramen Village a must for a warm, fulfilling meal amid Hokkaido’s chilly winter.

Conclusion: Your Adventure Awaits in Hokkaido

Regardless of the season in which you choose to visit, Hokkaido promises a wealth of unforgettable experiences for every type of traveler. From breathtaking landscapes and thrilling outdoor activities to delightful culinary experiences, Hokkaido is ready to welcome you. Each season paints a different, yet equally stunning, picture of Hokkaido, ensuring that every visit is unique and memorable. We hope this guide has inspired you to make Hokkaido your next travel destination. Happy travels!


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