Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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Only one hour from Tokyo by train is a green peninsula surrounded by an inviting azure blue sea. This peninsula is called Izu, and many locals already know about its amazing white beaches, lush nature with superb hiking opportunities, relaxing hot spring resorts and fun activities. However, most international tourists and newcomers to Japan have never heard about this amazing destination despite its proximity to Tokyo. Let us inspire you with an itinerary for the perfect weekend trip to the Izu Peninsula!
Day 1: Reptile Zoo and Shirahama Beach
Let’s depart for Izu! We recommend leaving around 10am to avoid the morning rush, aiming to arrive in the town of Ito around 1pm. If traveling by public transportation, drop off your luggage at your hotel before making your way to iZoo in Kawazu north of Shimoda. This reptile-centered zoo is entertaining and offers a lot of hands-on activities. Not only can you observe a wide variety of snakes, lizards, turtles, amphibians and birds, but you can also experience a few of them up close. Hold adorable lizards, a snake or even a newborn crocodile while tortoises of different sizes freely move about around your feet. And have you ever had an axolotl encounter? Here you can try gently touching these cute and unique creatures. In order to prevent the extinction of endangered species, iZoo also takes part in a number of breeding programs.
After you’re done meeting all kinds of fascinating animals in iZoo, why not stop by one of Japan’s most beautiful beaches? Shirahama Beach is not far from the zoo and very much worth a stop for a swim in the summer or a beach walk in the cooler seasons.
Day 2: Outdoor Activities Around Ito
Today is all about enjoying Izu’s natural beauty. Start with a diving experience near Ito where the underwater views almost reach the level of subtropical Okinawa. We booked a two-dive experience with a diving company, and it was great fun to see Ito’s underwater world. This experience is possible even for children – we did an easy beach entry because we came with our 10-year old, and we went to a depth of 6-12 meters. We saw plenty of subtropical fish in large schools, some corals and many large rocks teeming with ocean life. If you opt for a boat entry instead, you can encounter many squid in this area during late spring.
After changing into dry clothes, it’s time to visit the green mountain known as Mount Omuro: its conical shaped and grassy hills stand out against the surrounding landscape, and Mount Omuro is a popular sightseeing destination in Izu. You can go up by cable car and walk around the extinct crater rim where you’ll have a wonderful view of Izu’s beautiful nature and might be able to spot a few of the Izu Islands in the horizon as well. If you are at least 140 cm tall and 12 years old or above, you can practice archery in the crater area as well.
Not far from Mount Omuro is the Jogasaki coast, and hikers of all fitness levels will enjoy the sweeping views from the coastal trail. Izu’s volcanic past shows very clearly along this rugged coastline with its black rocks, steep cliffs and a deep blue ocean below. There are several points of interest along the trail such as a suspension bridge and a lighthouse, and there is also a museum with a beautiful flower garden. Do you still have energy left after dinner? Then you should visit the Izu Granpal Park after 6:30pm as they have magical illuminations at night during the weekends. There are also several fun attractions such as a long zip line and slides for both kids and adults to enjoy.
Day 3: Hakone and Odawara
On your 3rd day, it’s time for some action and sightseeing. First, let’s head to Hakone for a few hours of fun in the forest. If you’re not scared of heights and like being active outdoors, Forest Adventure is just what its name promises: an exhilarating experience in the woods. Test your balance on various courses, climb high and let yourself slide down by zipline several times. A visit to Forest Adventure is most enjoyable if you are at least 140 cm tall so you can take the most challenging course, but there is an easier course available as well.
After an active 2 hours, head to Owakudani for Hakone’s most exciting sight. Named ‘Hell’s Valley’ in English, this volcanically active area is the source of the hot spring water feeding Hakone’s many onsen, and it’s a popular area to visit. Steam billows from the yellowish sulfite-rich ground, and several volcano-themed foods, such as the famous black eggs and black ice cream, are available here. Sometimes you can also see Mt. Fuji from this area although this is usually only possible in winter when the air is clearer.
Before heading home, don’t forget to stop by the castle in Odawara which is on the way back to Tokyo. Odawara Castle is the city’s most famous landmark and it is especially photogenic at night when it is lit up. On clear winter days you might get lucky and have a beautiful backdrop of Mt. Fuji as well.
When to Go to Izu
We had one rainy day and two sunny days during our trip in late May. We departed Tokyo around 11am on a Friday and returned in the evening on Sunday. The temperature was very pleasant at 22 degrees celsius. It’s recommended to travel during this season as this is when Izu is at its most picturesque.
However, if you wish to avoid the crowds, it is strongly advised to visit Izu during the week or at least on a weekend that doesn’t coincide with a national holiday. The beach can get crowded and the roads very congested during peak seasons.
Getting Around the Izu Peninsula
Renting a car provides the most freedom to get around the Izu Peninsula smoothly and comfortably. If you visit Japan as a tourist and want to rent a car, don’t forget to bring a valid international driver’s license from home. You should budget around 7,000-10,000 yen per day for a mid-range vehicle. This is inclusive of insurance but not of gas or toll costs, which you can research on this page.
Alternatively, you can opt to take the train to Atami or Ito and then hire a car from there, arranging a car drop-off in Odawara. In this way you can avoid the Tomei Expressway traffic which can be very heavy, especially on weekends and during holidays.
If you can’t or don’t want to drive, it is also possible to do the above itinerary by public transport. In that case, it can be a good idea to plan the routes with the help of Google Maps before you go and allow for some extra time as buses may not always be exactly on time. If you travel by public transport it’s also advisable to choose a hotel located close to the train station in Ito or one that has a good shuttle service to/from the station.
Discovering regions away from Japan’s so-called Golden Route can add much fun and adventure to your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. But of course, famous cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka also have plenty to offer the intrepid traveler. One of the best ways to dive deeper into the culture and history of cities you visit is to go on a tour with a private guide. The itinerary of a private tour can be adjusted to fit your personal interests and allows you to immerse yourself in the wonders of Japan at your own pace. And you will be able to ask any question about Japan that you have always wanted to know the answer to!
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▶Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
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