Just south of Osaka, on the island of Honshu, lie the thickly wooded mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Dotted with ancient temples and sleepy mountain villages, the Kii Peninsula is a world away from central Kansai’s bustling urban sprawl – one of forest-covered mountains, ancient ritual and food fit for the gods.
High amongst the hilltops, the Kumano Kodo marks an ancient pilgrimage route once walked by many in Japan. Here, Mother Nature, mysticism and time-honoured tradition set the pace, offering a glimpse of the ancient culture that lies just beneath the surface of Japanese life.
Challenging but rewarding, three main routes trace their steps through densely forested slopes. Walking from temple to temple over spectacular mountain passes, the Kumano Kodo is a hike so highly rated that it’s been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and voted as one of the best sustainable travel destinations in the world.
And as if that wasn’t tempting enough, traditional ryokans along the way offer an atmospheric bed for the night, where delicious feasts of local food are preceded by a relaxing soak in a hot spring bath.