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Japan Winter Explorer tour
Hiroshima Imperial Palace Japan Winter Explorer Trip
Kyoto Nara Japan Winter Explorer Trip

Japan Winter Explorer

Peregrine Adventures Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
4.7 . Excellent
91%
Travel Style: N/A
Physical Level: Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
21 days
From: $ 10,270 $ 489 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Japan is a year round destination and winter is one of the best times of the year to to experience it. the streets are lit up at night and blanketed in snow, the markets are bustling a piping hot bowl of ramen tastes especially good when it is below zero outside!
  • This trip is a great balance of included activities in each destination and free time for your own choice of options, all backed by a helpful leader to steer you in the right direction of the best experiences.
  • There’s no better way to get around japan than the country’s famous railway system. be impressed by the efficiency and ultra-modernity as you zip from place to place with your included japan rail pass. your leader will organise all the logistics so all you need to worry about is whether to choose ramen or yakitori for dinner.
  • A visit to the hiroshima peace park is a sobering but important experience for understanding the tragedies of japan’s not so distant past.
  • Trace the steps of the geisha around the alleyways of kyoto’s atmospheric gion district and sit down with an apprentice geisha and enjoy some traditional tea and entertainment.
  • Stay in a ryokan (traditional japanese inn) and sample simple home-cooked fare in edo-era takayama, explore local markets and the hida folk village.
  • Stop over in tokyo, one of the most extraordinary capital cities on the planet.
  • There's nothing like watching japanese macaques (snow monkeys) enjoy their hot spring baths in hakodate. you'll get your own chance to experience the tradition of the japanese onsen in many destinations on this itinerary too.
  • Venture far afield to the remote lake akan and appreciate the beauty and fragility of the winter home of endangered cranes.
  • Stroll along the snow covered canals of otaru and try your hand at the local art - kitakarou glass blowing.
  • The sapporo ice and snow festival is world famous for its huge and elaborate sculptures. make sure you get your camera out and have your batteries charged as you will take far more photos than you expected!
  • Warm up after your winter wanderings with visits to some of japan's best-known breweries and whiskey distilleries.

Short Description

A journey that captures both Japan's cultural heart and shimmering wintertime charms. From the sublime gardens and spectacular shrines of Kyoto to Hiroshima's wartime history to Tokyo's futurisitic metropolis, you will experience firsthand Japan's mythical traditions and modern wonders. Then it's off to Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, for picturesque landscapes and a mesmerising celebration of natural, cultural and artistic delights. Watch Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) warming themselves in steaming onsen before following their lead and dipping into one of your own. Step back in time along the charming streets of Otaru and sample sake at an atmospheric stone brewery. Marvel at the balletic dancing of endangered red-crowned cranes at snow-covered Lake Akan. Be awestruck by a multitude of snow and ice sculptures at Sapporo's world-renowned Snow Festival before trying a few local brews at Sapporo's beer museum.  

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Array
Itinerary Focus N/A
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport N/A
Start City Kyoto
End City Sapporo

Travel Theme

Cultural

Destinations

Japan

Cities & Attractions

Hiroshima Imperial Palace Kyoto Nara Tokyo

Activities

Culture

N/A
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Itinerary

Day 1 Kyoto

Konnichiwa. Welcome to Japan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting tonight at 6pm. Your group leader will leave a notice for you at the hotel detailing the exact time and place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information during this meeting, so please bring these with you. As travellers are arriving from all over the world, there are no activities planned for today. If you have some time, step out onto the streets for your first taste of this beautiful city. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally 'tranquillity and peace capital') by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Tonight’s meeting will be followed by an optional dinner with the group. As the millennium-long home of the imperial kitchen, Kyoto is known as the centre of Japanese culinary tradition, so you’re sure to begin this trip with a delicious meal.

Day 2 Kyoto

Begin your day with a city tour around some of Kyoto’s sights. Visit the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji temple, immortalised in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Golden Pavilion”, and the tranquil Ryoanii zen garden, one of the finest surviving example of dry landscape in Japanese style of gardening. In the afternoon, enjoy a memorable moment with a tea ceremony with a 'Maiko', an apprentice Geisha, followed by a walk around Gion and its old wooden teahouses and exclusive restaurants. This area is the heartland of geisha culture, and it's a great idea to return here in the evening when it really springs to life. You might spot geikos (geishas) or maikos (apprentice geishas) with their elaborate dress and make up on their way out to events. Enjoy a dinner with your fellow travellers and tour leader at somewhere local in this mesmerizing city.

Day 3 Kyoto

With a full free day, there is much to experience, from historical landmarks to traditional arts and literature. Kyoto is a city that lends itself to walking, and there are a number of walks available. Recommended is a gentle stroll through the nearby eastern hills along the ‘Path of Philosophy’ that links Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, with Nanzen-ji Temple. This walk can be extended south through well-preserved ‘old town’ areas to Kiyamizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water) from where there is a justifiably famous view across a wooded gorge toward Kyoto. Close to your hotel the architecturally impressive Higashi Honganji temple and the almost surreal Sanjusangendo, home to 1,001 statues of Kannon (whose name was appropriated by a renowned camera company. Visit the most photographed Fushimi Inari Shrine or enjoy a peaceful stroll in the bamboo groves and Tenryū-ji in Arashiyama. Another great optional activity is a cooking class that introduces you to Japanese cooking methods, from the aristocratic kaiseki ryori (Japan's haute cuisine), to the simple yet refined dishes of obanzai ryori (home-cooked cuisine).

Day 4 Nara - Kyoto

Today you will take a day trip to the city of Nara (approximately 1 hour from Kyoto). With eight World Heritage sites, Nara is second only to Kyoto as a fountain of Japan's cultural legacy. While here you’ll visit Todaiji Temple, with friendly wild deer roaming freely in the park around it. You’ll also visit the Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine), Nara's most celebrated shrine. Kasuga Taisha is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. They symbolise a guiding light and the 3,000 Kasuga shrines throughout the country. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, while as many stone lanterns line its approaches. The lanterns are only lit twice a year during two Lantern Festivals, one in early February and one in mid August. Return to Kyoto for the evening, which is free for your own rest or exploration. Perhaps find a theatre putting on shows of Noh – music, traditional dancing, kabuki and banraku puppetry.

Day 5 Himeji - Hiroshima

As you speed south to Hiroshima, you’ll stop en route for a stop at Japan’s most impressive samurai castle at Himeji. The building, which has survived earthquakes and war since the mid-16th century, was restored to its full glory in 2015. The moats, baileys, towers and walled alleyways were ingeniously designed to trick attackers – perhaps so intimidatingly that they were never in fact tested. Explore the castle that was once home to over 10,000 samurai families and look out over the castle grounds and the city below from the seventh floor. Continue on to Hiroshima, the city indelibly connected with World War II and the atomic bomb.

Day 6 Miyajima Island - Hiroshima

This morning you’ll visit the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome and the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, both of which stand testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated so it was able to retain its shape; the fact that it looks almost exactly as it did after the bombing means it serves as a reminder and symbol of peace. The memorial park serves the same purpose, and has museums, memorials and monuments dedicated to the memory of victims, education on what lead to the bomb’s use, as well as advocating world peace. Afterwards head for the serene island of Miyajima, reached after a short ferry ride (30 kilometres) across the Inland Sea. The island is home to the venerable Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, famous for its huge bright orange gate (tori) that rises majestically out of the sea. At high tide it is considered to be one of the most beautiful sights in Japan. The size and physical landscape of Miyajima makes it an ideal place for walking. There is the lovely Momaji Park (known as Maple Valley), from where it is possible to walk or take a cable car up to the top of Mt. Misen. Return to Hiroshima for the night. Maybe try one of the city’s signature dishes for dinner – okonomiyaki, a kind savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat or seafood.

Day 7 Takayama

Before we depart Hiroshima the leader will try and organise something special for the group during your time here. Due to the sensitivity around the subject of Hiroshima and the availability of our guest speakers, you may just be lucky enough to sit down and talk to a survivor of Hiroshima. This may take place on Day 5, 6 or 7 depending upon circumstances, however we cannot guarantee this will take place.  You will then travel to Takayama, a charming Edo-period town located in the Japanese alps. Renowned for its traditional inns, sake breweries and tranquil atmosphere, this riverside jewel of central Honshu may well be one of the most enjoyable stops on your trip. Later, enjoy free time to make your own discoveries, we highly recommend finding a good restaurant that specialises in Hida beef, as its famous in this region of Japan.

Day 8 Takayama

Today you will visit the local Takayama farmers market, try some Japanese treats and peruse the stalls. Afterwards you will visit Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum of traditional architecture that gives a sense of centuries past. Cross your fingers for clear skies, as the alps are stunning from this vantage on a clear day. You will also visit a sake brewery this afternoon. The alpine climate and crystal clear mountain waters are perfect for creating this signature drop. Enjoy a walk around the brewery, followed by a sake tasting.

Day 9 Tokyo

In the morning you will make your way by train to Japan’s amazing capital, Tokyo, and your centrally-located hotel where you’ll be based for the next three nights. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore: fascinating museums, world-class shopping, bustling energy and futuristic architecture, as well as a gentler side of neighbourhood backstreets where citizens often reveal themselves – particularly outside of working hours – to be some of the friendliest of any capital city in the world. There are many vestiges of the past, with historic temples and shrines still to be found in some of the most unexpected places, as well as an abundance of parks and gardens – particularly exquisite in spring when the cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom. After you arrive, your leader will take your for a short late afternoon/night tour of the area – you will then have some free time to explore. Perhaps see the Imperial Palace and its gardens, then enjoy the myriad food options for dinner.

Day 10 Tokyo

Today you’ll undertake a varied, full-day tour of the city, beginning in the historic Asakusa area. This is one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo, and is often called the temple district. Here you’ll stop by Senso-ji, the city’s oldest temple – founded almost 1,400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village. Browse the many interesting stalls – filled with tasty treats, crafts and souvenirs – that line the shopping street of Nakamise dori. After lunch you’ll enjoy an alternative view of Tokyo as you relax on a short cruise down the Sumida River. You’ll pass significant buildings like the Sky Tree Tower and Tsukiji Fish Market, under the bridges that bisect the river, and then alight at the delightful urban oasis of Hama Rikyu gardens. Here you’ll have time to stroll along paths that were once the sole preserve of the shogun, who would hunt ducks here in the feudal era.

Day 11 Tokyo

Enjoy a free day to explore this pulsating city. Perhaps head to the eastern districts which are magnets for the city’s fascinating youth subcultures. See the crowds at Shibuya Crossing, the costumes in Harajuku, as well as the important Meiji Jingu Shrine, dedicated to the 19th-century Emperor. Take in history at the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda, or see ancient treasures at the National Museum in Ueno. Another great museum, which gives insight into old time Tokyo, is the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku. Spend some time in the city’s green spaces like Yoyogu and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, browse high-end shops in Ginza, experience the theatre of a sumo bout (only in Jan, May and Sep), or create your own entertainment with some karaoke. This evening, join your group for a farewell dinner as you say sayonara to Japan.

Day 12 Tokyo

Today, you'll have another day exploring Tokyo until 6pm for the group briefing for the second part of your journey. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and group composition may change today.

Day 13 Hakodate

After breakfast you will travel via Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hokkaido, Japan's most northerly island, and the historic port city of Hakodate (4.5 hours). The Western-style wooden buildings and brick churches of this picturesque city were built by the small international community that moved here after the Kanagawa Treaty of 1854 opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade. After settling in you will visit Goryokaku, a massive, star-shaped citadel built in 1864 for the defense of Hakodate against the imperialist threat posed by Western powers. A few years later, the fort became the site of a civil war between an army of the shogunate and troops of the newly established Meiji government. It was eventually turned into a public part and now boasts over one thousand cherry trees -- blooming season is usually early May. In the center of the fort stands the meticulously reconstructed Magistrate Office, from where the officers of the shogunate administered Hokkaido. The best view of the citadel's design is from above, and your tour includes a visit to the 107 metre (351 foot) Goryokaku Tower.

Day 14 Hakodate

This morning includes a visit to the Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden and a most unusual sight: Over 100 Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) enjoying the steaming hot mineral baths of Yunokawa Onsen (hot springs). The monkeys are year-round residents of the garden but in winter are given free reign to soak in a hot spring. You may feel inspired by their ecstatic faces to do the same. An array of onsen retreats may be found in the area, all offering baths reputed to have restorative properties for body and mind. Most onsens have separate male and female baths and it's customary for guests to shower before bathing sans clothes. A truly relaxing and rejuvenating treat. If it's a clear day/night we recommend a trip by tram or bus to the Mount Hakodate Ropeway for a dazzling view of the city.

Day 15 Otaru

Head to the small, picturesque harbour city of Otaru today. During Hokkaido’s rise in the late 19th and early 20th century, Otaru thrived as a port city and many Western-style buildings were built in its centre. Many of those buildings have been converted into restaurants, cafes, boutiques and museums, and today you will take a walking tour past many of them along Sakaimachi Street. Your tour will also visit Otaru’s canal, beautifully restored in the 1980s and the current site of the annual Snow Light Path Festival, and the historic Music Box Museum, home to a collection of over 25,000 antique and modern music boxes. When the local herring fishing industry declined in the 1950s, local glassmakers began producing highly regarded glassware, and today you will enjoy a hands-on experience making a piece of local Otaru glassware for yourself. Later in the afternoon you will visit Tanaka Sake Brewery for a look at how high-quality sake is made and, lucky for you, how 10 brands taste. You may also be able to nibble some sake cake, made from the fermentation process’s tasty rice residue, or local vegetables pickled by sake.

Day 16 Sounkyo

A short train journey to Sapporo will be followed by a train and bus trip to Sounkyo, a small town known for its hot springs at the base of Kurodake Mountain. Located in a narrow gorge flanked by 100-metre-high, forested cliffs, this region is also known as one of the coldest parts of Japan - so make sure you bring your winter woolies. If you are lucky enough to be here during the Sounkyo Ice Festival (mid-January – end of March) you will witness a crazy landscape of tunnels, caves and stairways made totally from ice that are lit up with many colours at night. The festival takes place along the Ishikari River. While the layout of the festival can change from year to year, it normally has large ice sculptures, snow domes and a snow tubing run (small fee required to rent tubes). There's also a stage area built out of snow, where various shows and events are held.

Day 17 Sounkyo

A free day in a winter wonderland. Weather permitting venture out into the gorge that gives Sounkyo its name and runs 24 kilometers (15 miles) along the Ishikari River; you may wander on riverside paths where frozen waterfalls hang in mid-air. If the weather is clear you may opt to ride the Kurodake Ropeway to the higher reaches of Daisetsuzan National Park and near the summit of Mount Kurodake. Sounkyo offers the ultimate wintertime indoor activity, of course, as you have several hot spring baths to choose from in town.

Day 18 Lake Akan

On the way to Lake Akan you will stop at a reserve largely credited with saving a national monument from extinction. The Akan International Crane Centre is a museum, breeding centre and sanctuary devoted to the rare red-crowned crane (also called Japanese crane). Beside it is the Tancho Observation Centre, which provides food for the birds during the winter months when snow covers the ground. Overhunting in the 19th century and loss of habitat in the 20th meant that in 1924 less than two dozen cranes were thought to survive in the nearby Kushiro marshes. The bird, a potent icon of happiness and long life in Japan, was declared a National Monument in 1935. With gradual protections and support the crane recovered and became a preservation success story: In the early 21st century its numbers surpassed 1000, and there are now about 1300 cranes in Japan. You will learn more about the crane's story and see them during included visits to the Crane and Observation centres. From there you will continue to Lake Akan, a scenic crater lake in Akan National Park, where you can walk forest trails that lead to bubbling mud pools. Along the shores of Lake Akan is the small village of Ainu Kotan, home to about 200 Ainu, the traditional people of the area. You will make an included visit to the Ainu Museum, which holds displays of musical instruments such as the mukkuri (a kind of mouth harp) and the zither-like tonkori as well as traditional implements and clothing. It cannot be guaranteed, but you may experience the Ainu’s haunting songs and dances celebrating nature.

Day 19 Sapporo

Your celebration of winter continues with today's bus and train trip to Sapporo. The largest city in Hokkaido, Sapporo is transformed every February during its weeklong Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival). What began with a few high schoolers building snow castles in 1950 has grown into an event that draws more than two million visitors from around the world and includes hundreds of snow sculptures of everything from famous monuments to international celebrities. As the festival has grown, other forms of entertainment have been added, including concerts, food stalls, art exhibitions, and areas for ice-skating, ice-sliding, snow-tubing and snowmobiling.

Day 20 Sapporo

Today wil be dedicated to exploring Sapporo. Specifically, Odori Park, the main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival; Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, where you'll get a great view of the city beside a statue of William S. Clark, the first vice-principal for the Sapporo Agricultural School (presently Hokkaido University) whose departing words "Boys be ambitious" lingers as a catchcry in Japan; the historic Sapporo Clock Tower, built in 1878; and Nijo Fish Market, which takes up an entire city block and offers an ocean of delicacies. You will be pleased to discover that despite the wintry conditions Sapporo's underground pedestrian passageways and trains make getting around the city a breeze. After stopping for an included seafood lunch (vegetarian options will be available), it's off to the only beer museum in Japan. Established in 1878, Sapporo Beer is Japan's oldest beer brand. The museum is housed in an 1870 red-brick building that was part of the Sapporo beer factory until 1965. It was renovated and opened as a museum in 1987. After learning about the history of beer brewing in Japan and its current status as the country's favourite type of alcohol, you may enjoy partaking in the many beers on offer, one of which is a recreation of Sapporo beer's original recipe. This busy day ends with an included meal that's a Hokkaido speciality. Jingisukan -- ''Genghis Khan', legendary founder of the Mongol Empire -- is a dish consisting of meat (usually lamb) and vegetables cooked on a dome-shaped metal grill in the middle of the table. The meat is dipped in a soybean based sauce and eaten right off the grill. It will provide a fitting final meal of your Japanese winter adventure.

Day 21 Sapporo

There are no activities planned for today and you can depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

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Price Per Day: $ 489 per day
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22 Peregrine Adventures Travel Reviews & Ratings

91%
4.7 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 19
Great 1
Average 1
Disappointing 0
Terrible 1
Value
4.7
Guide
4.6
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.5
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.6

Japan Winter Explorer

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amazing beyond all our expectations

5.0
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We arrived home last week following an 11 day tour with Peregrine Plus, Lima, The Sacred Valley and Lake Titikaka. It was amazing beyond all our expectations. Our private guide was a Peruvian local, English speaking, he was excellent great local knowledge and organised everything like clockwork. Our accommodation was brilliant we were treated like royalty, check out Hotel B in Lima, Sol Luna Urubamba and Hotel Belmond Monasterio in Cusco. Would highly recommend this tour and look forward to another experience with Peregrine in the future.
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What an AMAZING 6 week trip of 6 countries!

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
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Lodging4.0
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Meals4.0
My first ever trip in smaller numbers - loved it, yes, loved it so much as we could do things that larger groups can not do. Ecuador, Peru including the Amazon region, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil were awash with fantastic experiences with the stunning and majestic sights, the people and their culture, the food, animal and bird life and of course, what I accomplished by surprising myself at the Incan ruins. Our guides, Alejandro in Ecuador, Sally in Peru and Sabina in Chile, Argentina and Brazil were just the best Ambassadors for Peregrine as they showed such passion for their country and genuine care for each of our small number to return home with amazing memories to abide in our hearts forever. Muchas Gracias to each of you as you have touched my life with a very special imprint. I highly recommend this full trip for the entire 6 weeks just in case you have not noticed.
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Fabulous time with a wonderful guide, Jorge.

5.0
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This trip was fabulous and it was made even better with the knowledge and expertise of our Spanish-speaking guide, Jorge Riofru. Jorge smoothed over all our difficulties and showed us the real Peru that is his homeland. He was able to ensure that my coeliac diet was catered for even when we were trekking to Machu Picchu! this trip was enhanced by the deep knowledge and love that Jorge has for his country. this has been one of the best trips ever.
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Great tour

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Great adventure for someone who wants a taste of vietnam. Our guide Manh went above and beyond making sure we got the best of everything.

absolutely amazing

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Vietnam snapshot tour was absolutely amazing our guide Manh Nguyen was fabulous he went above and beyond to make sure we all had the best adventure, best food and best experience ever.
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excellent guide

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Our trip code PABA180303 was lead by guide R Mirwan Mustapha(Obi-Wan),we were a small group and were so fortunate to have an excellent guide and he left no stone unturned to show us everything possible and was so accommodating in every way.I for one was very sceptical about the trip but would go back in a heartbeat..we saw so many animals,so many river trips and the highlight was a herd of elephants crossing the river in front us..unreal..thankyou Mirwan
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Details

Accomodations

Hotel (16 nights),Roykan (4 nights)

Guides

All Peregrine Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Peregrine Adventures endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Peregrine Adventures we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip. Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional tour leader sources. As a result our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may be local Japanese or long term foreign residents in Japan.

Additional Information:

Finish point

  • Cross Hotel Sapporo
  • 23 Kita 2 jo Nishi 2, Chuo-ku,
  • Sapporo Hokkaido 060-0002, Japan
  • Sapporo
  • JAPAN

Trip ID#:

peregrine-PCJJC

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