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Hokkaido Road Trip: The Perfect 10 Day Hokkaido Itinerary

One of the most beautiful and coolest places in Japan, quite literally, is Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.

Hokkaido is a wild and untamed destination in Japan with stunning scenery. It's an island of volcanoes, natural hot springs, endless forests, stunning National Parks with plenty of wildlife, and walls of snow that line the roads.

In this Hokkaido self-drive itinerary, you can find all the nitty-gritty details about our Hokkaido road trip.

Hokkaido itinerary: a 10 day Hokkaido road trip

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Planning a trip to Hokkaido, Japan? This Hokkaido road trip itinerary includes a map and the most beautiful places on the island. Hokkaido offers some of the most stunning nature and landscapes in Japan. From purple lavender fields in summer, amazing photography opportunities in winter, imposing volcanoes, delicious food and buzzing cities such as Sapporo. This Hokkaido travel guide will help you make the most of your Hokkaido vacation. |
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Road trip Hokkaido

When I was researching Hokkaido and our Hokkaido tour itinerary, I discovered not much has been written about driving in Hokkaido.

That's why I wrote an extensive post including everything you need to know more about renting a car and driving on Hokkaido (the speed limit, the Hokkaido Expressway, how to get and use an ETC card, etc.).

You can read all about it in my Guide to driving on Hokkaido.

In this post, you'll find all the best things to do on Hokkaido, as well as practical tips and where to stay on Hokkaido. I hope this Hokkaido backpacking itinerary will help you plan your Hokkaido driving trip!

Hokkaido Road Trip: A 10 Day Itinerary

Our Hokkaido road trip itinerary: map

You can find our itinerary including all the highlights we visited and our Hokkaido accommodation on the Hokkaido travel map below.

Click here for the interactive Hokkaido road map

Hokkaido trip itinerary

  • Day 1: Lake Shikotsu
  • Day 2: Noboribetsu and Lake Tōya
  • Day 3: driving South (to Hakodate)
  • Day 4: Hakodate and around
  • Day 5: Matsumae Castle and Onuma Park
  • Day 6: driving North (to Furano)
  • Day 7: Furano and around
  • Day 8: Asahidake Onsen
  • Day 9: Daisetzusan Park
  • Day 10: Lake Akan

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Our Hokkaido travel plan: facts and figures

  • I traveled to Hokkaido with my husband; we started and ended our road trip at New Chitose Airport in Sapporo.
  • Our Hokkaido driving itinerary was 10 days in total, we drove approximately 2000 kilometers (so ~200 km per day).
  • For our road trip we decided to follow the sun, or at least go where the weather forecast said it would be the least rainy and/or cold. I have to say, the Japan weather forecast is extremely good! It was very accurate during our Hokkaido trip, something we definitely used to our advantage while traveling around this amazing island.
  • With temperatures below 0°C at some point, we decided to change our plans and head south instead of north to Wakkanai and the islands of Rebun and Reshiri. Our entire Hokkaido travel itinerary was based on the weather and turned out very different from the one I created before our trip. After all, travel is all about being flexible!
Foot bath in Oyunumagawa Hokkaido Japan

Things to know about a Hokkaido road trip

Is it safe to drive in Hokkaido?

In general, yes, it's very safe to drive on Hokkaido. Roads are well maintained and people generally obey the traffic rules (except for the speed limit, which can be frustratingly low).

In this post, you can read more about driving in Hokkaido.

Can I use the JR Pass to get around Hokkaido?

If you don't want to rent a car in Hokkaido and use public transportation to get around instead, that's a good option as well.

Note that it will be more challenging to get to remote places, while there is an extensive rail network, trains are only available in the major cities.

That being said, there's a network of buses as well, just keep in mind that getting from place to place will take more time than by car.

You can purchase the regular Japan Rail Pass for your time on Hokkaido but it's also worth looking into the regional Hokkaido Rail Pass.

The regional pass is cheaper than the Japan rail pass, but it depends on your Japan itinerary which one is the best option.

Click here to compare the JR rail pass (valid everywhere in Japan) with the Hokkaido rail pass (only valid in Hokkaido).

Bullet train Japan

What is the best time to visit Hokkaido?

Hokkaido is a year-round destination and each time of the year has its own pros and cons.

A Hokkaido road trip in spring

We traveled to Hokkaido at the end of April and the start of May, my favorite things about traveling to Hokkaido in spring were:

  • We got to experience four different seasons in just 10 days. From snow and freezing nights to walking around in a t-shirt and relaxing in an onsen after a very rainy day.
  • We got to admire the beautiful cherry blossoms (in full bloom!) at Goryōkaku and Matsumae Castle (read more below).
  • I loved that we had the campsites entirely to ourselves as there weren't any other campers yet this early in the season.

However, be sure to pack appropriately and bring plenty of (warm) layers. It's still pretty cold in Hokkaido during this time of year!

Hokkaido 10 day road trip itinerary

A Hokkaido road trip in the summer

During the summer months, you can admire the famous flower and lavender fields on Hokkaido. Plus, you can hike the Shiretoko Traverse and lots of other trails.

Note that many hiking trails on Hokkaido are still closed in Spring (and sometimes even in June) because of the large amounts of snow that fall during winter.

While this isn't a specific Hokkaido summer itinerary, all of the spots included in the post can be visited in summer.

A Hokkaido road trip in autumn

Hokkaido is a very popular spot during autumn because of the brightly colored forests with leaves in vivid autumn colors.

Check the Autumn Color Report on Japan Guide to plan the best time for your visit.

A Hokkaido road trip in winter

If you plan to visit Hokkaido in winter, make sure you're very well prepared. It's not easy to drive on Hokkaido in winter, it can even be dangerous unless you know what you are doing!

That being said, Hokkaido can be a wonderful winter destination! You can visit the Sapporo Snow Festival (read more below), go skiing in one of the ski resorts, and admire the frozen lakes and snowy views.

Planning a trip to Hokkaido, Japan? This Hokkaido road trip itinerary includes a map and the most beautiful places on the island. Hokkaido offers some of the most stunning nature and landscapes in Japan. From purple lavender fields in summer, amazing photography opportunities in winter, imposing volcanoes, delicious food and buzzing cities such as Sapporo. This Hokkaido travel guide will help you make the most of your Hokkaido vacation. |
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Where to stay on Hokkaido

Here is a list of all the places we stayed during our road trip around Hokkaido.

LocationWhere to stayPriceBook/info
Lake ShikotsuCampsite Morappu€12,80 / $14Read more
Lake ToyaNakatoya Camping Ground€7,20 / $8Read more
HakodateHotel WBF Hakodate€76 / $79Book here
FukushimaRoadside Rest Area FukushimafreeRead more
Toyako OnsenToyako Parking Lotfree(see map)
FuranoShin Furano Prince hotel*€131/$135Book here
SōunkyōParking lot next to 7-11free(see map)
Akanko OnsenShizen Koen Parking Lotfree(see map)
SapporoHotel Areaone Chitose€51/$53Book here

Note: Prices for the hotels, campgrounds, and guesthouses depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Click ‘book here’ to see the latest prices on Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.

* Unfortunately the accommodation we stayed at during our Hokkaido trip is no longer available. While we didn't personally stay at the Shin Furano Prince hotel we did visit their spa twice during our time in Furano.

How to find accommodation during Golden Week

Golden Week is the period from the 29th of April to early May and includes a number of Japanese holidays. Check the exact Golden Week dates here

During this week many Japanese people go on holiday and accommodation can be extremely difficult to find.

In fact, when I was looking for some last-minute accommodation on Agoda and Booking, there were only 2 hotels available in the entire city, the cheapest one was €400 a night…

I was very happy to we had our tent and car as a backup option!

If you are traveling in peak season and Golden Week in particular: book your accommodation in advance!

Hokkaido itinerary day 1: Lake Shikotsu

Itinerary: New Chitose Airport – Nissan rental car outlet – Nature trail Lake Shikotsu – Shikotsukomorappu Camping Ground

Pick up your rental car

Rent a car in Japan

Pick up your rental car at New Chitose Airport so you can start your Hokkaido road trip immediately after landing on the island. Click here to compare car rental prices on

Important: be sure to stock up on enough drinks, snacks, and some instant ramen at a nearby 7-11 before setting out on your road trip.

If you are traveling early in the season or during winter, many restaurants are (still) closed.

You really don't want to arrive at a beautiful camp spot with an empty stomach and nothing to eat. We did on our first day in Hokkaido and had to drive back to Chitose for supplies.

Go hiking along the shores of Lake Shikotsu

Nature trail Lake Shikotsu Hokkaido Japan

Lake Shikotsu is a caldera lake in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Around the lake, there are several mountains and (some still active) volcanoes, such as Mount Eniwa and Mount Tarumae.

There is a short but steep trail going up Mount Tarumae with excellent views from the top.

Unfortunately, the trail was still closed when we visited (too much snow) supposedly the views from the summit are really beautiful and worth the climb.

Where to stay at Lake Shikotsu ⇒ Campsite Morappu (1 night)

Camping in Japan Hokkaido

The view alone makes this campsite worth a visit! However, the fierce wind blowing over the lake was very cold and I didn't get much sleep that night…

We purchased a set of thermal underwear and extra blankets the next day which solved the problem.

Please note that while there are (clean) toilets, there are no showers. I later found out this is actually quite normal for Japanese campsites because there usually is an onsen (either onsite or nearby) instead.

Price per night: €12,80/$14.

Places to stay near Lake Shikotsu

If you don't want to go camping there are other accommodation options available. However, there are only a handful of hotels to be found around Lake Shikotsu and most are quite expensive.

There is the friendly 3-star Marukoma Onsen Ryokan and the superb 5-star Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu no Uta.

Alternatively, you can explore Lake Shikotsu during the day and drive back to Chitose or Sapporo where there are more affordable options to stay.

Hokkaido itinerary day 2: Noboribetsu Onsen and Lake Tōya

Itinerary: Shikotsukomorappu campground – Jigokudani (Hell Valley) – Oyunuma Pond – Lake Kuttara – Lake Tōya – Nakatoya Camping Ground

Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu is Hokkaido's most famous hot spring resort and a great place to visit in Hokkaido.

While the town itself it small, it offers a wide variety of activities and attractions, from its beautiful hot springs to its picturesque lakes and mountains.

Visit Jigokudani (also known as Hell Valley)

Jigokudani Hell Valley Hokkaido Japan

Volcanic activity is something that has fascinated me since I was a little girl. In fact, my first school project was about volcanos and even got me an A!

The smell of sulfur, the crazy colors of the rocks, and the steaming vents make Jigokudani one of the best places to visit on Hokkaido.

Take your time enjoying the scenic landscape of the area, Jigokudani is one of those places where you truly feel (and smell) the incredible force of nature.

Oyunuma Pond

Hokkaido 10 day road trip itinerary

This was quite possibly my favorite place in Hokkaido! I had never seen a steaming lake before, it was mesmerizing, and couldn’t take my eyes off Oyunuma Pond for a long long time…

Lake Kuttara

Lake Kuttara Hokkaido Japan

This perfectly circular crater lake inside the volcano Kuttara contains the best quality water in Japan. You can drive along its shores and admire the views.

There are hiking trails as well (such as this one), but we didn't cover any during our trip.

Lake Toya

Lake Toya Hokkaido Japan

Lake Toya is another spectacular lake, with an even more spectacular backdrop. It's part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park and a popular location for hiking and camping.

Where to stay at Lake Toya ⇒ Nakatoya Camping Ground (1 night)

During our stay, we were the only ones at the campsite. It was so quiet and the starry night was magical.

Also, with our newly purchased thermal underwear and extra blankets, we were well prepared for the cold, and sleeping in our tent was very comfortable!

Unfortunately, the onsen was closed. Maybe it was too early in the season or the campground manager didn't turn it on because we were the only ones there.

Price per night: €7,20/$8.

Hokkaido itinerary day 3: driving South (to Hakodate)

Itinerary: Nakatoya Camping GroundHotel WBF Hakodate

The kindness of Japanese people

Hokkaido regional gifts from a stranger

While driving south to Hakodate I experienced firsthand that Japanese people are among the kindest and most helpful people in the world.

I had accidentally booked the wrong flight and needed to call customer service. There was just one problem, I didn't have a local SIM card and my own SIM didn't work for some reason.

A very friendly Japanese man generously loaned me his phone. And not only that, he bought us coffee and locally produced food as gifts as well!

I was speechless… And very grateful.

That being said I highly recommend getting a local SIM, click here to buy a SIM card with unlimited data online.

Relax in an onsen

Our first onsen experience was amazing but we also desperately needed it. It had been raining heavily the entire day.

Heavy rain on Hokkaido

And we had ‘slightly' underestimated how cold Hokkaido would be at the end of April. Therefore, the rain felt like wet snow and we didn’t feel like pitching our tent that night.

I was extremely happy I managed to book one of the last available hotel rooms in Hakodate (it was Golden Week, read more below), which happened to have an onsen.

Onsen = Japanese spa with a VERY hot bath… Utter bliss! Read more about how to visit an onsen in Japan.

I know I've said it before, but I can't stress this enough: Golden Week is the busiest travel period of the year in Japan (because it's a public holiday).

Booking accommodation as early as possible is crucial when traveling during this period. My favorite sites to find accommodation are Agoda and Booking.

I usually also check reviews on Tripadvisor if I'm having trouble choosing between 2 hotels.

Where to stay in Hakodate ⇒ Hotel WBF Hakodate (1 night)

WBF Hakodate is a lovely hotel: comfortable and clean. Rooms have an ensuite bathroom and a kettle. The onsen was pure bliss…

The walls are pretty thin and the room is quite small (though that's pretty common in Japan).

Click here to book hotel WBF Hakodate

Hokkaido itinerary day 4: Hakodate and around

Itinerary: Hotel WBF Hakodate – Goryōkaku Castle – Hakodate Mountain walking trail – Hakodate Village – Roadside Rest Area Fukushima

Goryōkaku Castle

Goryōkaku Castle Hokkaido Japan cherry blossom viewing Sakura

We didn’t time our visit to coincide with the cherry blossom season or sakura as it’s called in Japan.

But it was the icing on an already delicious cake (the cake being Japan;-). Walking below thousands of cherry trees dressed in pretty pinks and whites was like stepping into a fairy tale…

Click here to buy a ticket for the Goryokaku Tower online.

Hakodate Mountain walking trails

Hakodate Mountain walking trails Hokkaido Japan

On Hokkaido nature is never far away. And so it didn’t take us long to find a nice hiking trail leading to the top of Mount Hakodate.

Hakodate historic village

Hakodate Old Town Hokkaido Japan

With old brick houses and colonial villas, I almost felt like we were back in Europe. I would have loved to learn more about Hakodate and its interesting history but unfortunately, we didn't have enough time.

If you want to see the most important highlights of Hakodate (such as the Kanemori red brick warehouse) while gaining fascinating insights into Japan’s history and culture, check out this private walking tour with a licensed local guide.

Where to stay in Fukushima ⇒ Roadside Rest Area Fukushima (1 night)

I didn't know this, but sleeping in your car is actually rather common in Japan!

When we arrived at the Michi-no-Eki (road station) in Fukushima we were a bit apprehensive as we weren't sure if it was allowed to stay the night.

We decided to risk it and were very surprised to wake up in a packed parking lot the next morning! There were fully equipped campervans and next to us was a Japanese man in a suit who slept in his sports car.

This road station is a convenient place to spend the night. There was a supermarket across the parking lot where we bought a cup of coffee and some sandwiches for breakfast.

We even brushed our teeth in the shop's little bathroom! However, keep in mind that you're staying at a parking lot and there aren't many facilities.

Price per night: free!

Hokkaido itinerary day 5: Matsumae Castle and Onuma Park

Itinerary: Roadside Rest Area Fukushima – Matsumae Castle – Onuma Quasi National Park – Lake Toya Fireworks – Toyako Parking Lot

Visit Matsumae Castle

Visiting a Japanese castle during cherry blossom season with a perfect blue sky: it doesn’t get better than that!

Explore Onuma Quasi-National Park

Onuma Quasi-National Park Hokkaido Japan

We strolled around this nice little park with lovely bridges and stunning Mt. Komagatake in the backdrop. A perfect afternoon activity.

Admire the Lake Toya Fireworks

Fireworks Lake Toya Toyako Hokkaido Japan

From the start of Golden Week until October there is a firework show every evening. You don't need a ticket and can enjoy the show from the boulevard.

During our first stop at Lake Toya (on day 2 of this itinerary), we were too early for the fireworks shows (it wasn't Golden Week yet).

We were very lucky to catch the show on our way back north.

Where to stay in Toyako Onsen ⇒ Toyako Parking Lot (1 night)

The parking lot was in the center of the village Toyako, but still very quiet (we were there very early in the season).

There was even a (clean) toilet and a tap with warm water. No showers, but what can you expect from a free parking lot?

Price per night: free!

Hokkaido itinerary day 6: driving North

Itinerary: Toyako Parking Lot – Shin Furano Prince hotel

Admire the view

Everything You Need To Know About Driving On Hokkaido

With the risk of repeating myself too often: road trips are the best! I love driving around an unknown country, looking out the window of our car, and admiring all there is to see…

Eat the best Maze Soba Tempura in Furano

Delicious Food To Eat In Japan - My 10 Favorite Dishes

Until this day, the Maze Soba we had in Furano is the best food I've ever eaten. Food in Japan is pretty much always really tasty, but this dish is my #1 favorite plate of food in the world.

Relax in a spa (onsen)

Hokkaido can be very cold, even in Spring. As such, I had been wearing my thermal underwear for 3 days straight when we arrived in Furano and both my clothes as well as myself were in dire need of cleaning…

The spa at the Shin Furano Prince Hotel was the perfect place to do so. For obvious reasons, taking pictures in the spa isn't allowed, but you can find pictures of the spa on

Where to stay in Furano ⇒ Shin Furano Prince Hotel (2 nights)

This hotel offers clean and spacious rooms in a beautiful location. However, the best feature of the Shin Furano Prince Hotel is the aforementioned spa.

The view from the spa is beautiful and there is no better way to end your day of sightseeing in Furano than by soaking up the heat in the onsen.

Click here to book the Shin Furano Prince hotel

Hokkaido itinerary day 7: Furano and around

Itinerary: Cheese factory – Wine factory – Walk around wine factory – Rollercoaster road – Blue Pools – Glass Forest – Spa at Shin Furano Prince Hotel 

Visit the Furano cheese factory

Cheese factory Furana Hokkaido Japan

The first stop of the day was the cheese factory where we watched an informative movie (even though it was in Japanese and so were the subtitles).

We ate wine-infused cheese and black brie, very interesting tastes. And of course, we had to look up Dutch ‘Goudse Kaas' on the World Of Cheese.

Do a tasting at Furano wine factory

Furano wine factory Hokkaido Japan

Next up was the wine factory (I had no idea they produce wine in Japan). It was fun to take a look in the wine cellar and search for the wine bottles produced in the year we were born.

Go hiking

Wine fields Furano Hokkaido Japan

The weather was amazing during our time in Furano, it was even warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt! We went for an easy 5-km walk near the wine factory and spotted a fox in the fields!

Visit Farm Tomita in Furano

Lavender Farm Tomita Furano Hokkaido Japan

the most famous lavender farm in Japan. I didn’t know this before coming to Japan, but lavender is kind of a thing here. Apparently, there is a special train station that is only in use during the lavender season.

Seeing the already beautiful views from Farm Tomita, I can understand why this place is such a tourist hotspot (for Japanese people).

We bought a lavender ice cream which tasted strangely good albeit a bit weird.

Drive the Rollercoaster Road

This is a fun 4km long road that really fun to drive because of the rolling hills. Thought it would have been even more fun if one were allowed to go faster than 50km an hour…

The Blue Pond

Blue pool Furano Hokkaido Japan

This is a beautiful but odd place with vividly blue glacier water and a lot of dead trees. Pretty but strange.

Drive around Furano valley

Hokkaido 10 day road trip itinerary

The views of the mountains on both sides of the valley were beautiful and we were extremely lucky with the weather!

Visit the Glass Forest

Glass forest Japan Hokkaido Furano

The last stop on our self-drive customized sightseeing tour around Furano was the Glass Forest.

This glass is unique and made using a very special technique that creates tiny cracks in the glass that take 3-5 years to mature! It’s very beautiful but also very expensive!

Enjoy the good life

We ate maze soba again because it was so delicious. And then we hung out in the spa of the Shin Furano Prince Hotel, again…

Hokkaido itinerary day 8: Asahidake Onsen

Itinerary: Shin Furano Prince hotel – Asahidake Onsen – Sōunkyō 7-11 parking lot

Hiking in the snow at Asahidake Onsen

The drive to Asahidake Onsen alone is reason enough to go there. The higher up the mountain we got, the higher the walls of snow lining the road became…

We, therefore, assumed hiking would be out of the question, but when we paid a visit to the tourist information center the friendly guy manning the station told us about a cross-country trail that was accessible for hiking.

Well, that sounded pretty awesome. Turns out it was!

The temperature was around 16 degrees Celsius and was a bit surreal to hike in a t-shirt through a very snowy landscape.

An unusual experience for sure, with gorgeous views along the way.

Where to stay at Sōunkyō ⇒ parking lot next to the 7-11 (1 night)

We asked the staff of the 7-11 if we could park for the night and they so kindly made an exception for us.

Parking next to the 7-11 meant we could literally crawl out of bed to get our morning coffee. Also, as apparently, all supermarkets in Japan do, there was a toilet in the store and a little sink to brush our teeth.

Price per night: free!

Hokkaido itinerary day 9: the road trip continues through Daisetzusan Park

Itinerary: Sōunkyō 7-11 parking lot – Ryusei-no-taki and Ginga-no-taki waterfalls – Taisetsu Dam in Daisetzusan Park – Lake Akan parking lot

Ryusei-no-taki and Ginga-no-taki waterfalls

Ryusei-no-taki and Ginga-no-taki waterfalls Hokkaido Japan

I love waterfalls, they are mesmerizing, how can there be such an endless amount of water coming down from those steep cliffs…

To get the best view we hiked to the top of the trail across the waterfalls, from this spot you can take a picture of both waterfalls in one shot.

Be sure to bring bear spray and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. We didn’t see a bear but we did spot a couple of deer strolling through the forest.

Road through Daisetzusan National Park

Cold Hokkaido Japan dam

Even with the dreary weather, it was a delight to drive this road through Daisetsuzan National Park.

We continued driving because with rain pouring down there wasn’t much else we could do and ended up at Lake Akan.

In Akan town, we chilled out in a little café, Pan de Pan, until the rain cleared up. With an almost completely clear sky, we went for a short walk by the beautiful lake and strolled through the Ainu village.

In the shopping street of Akan village, all sorts of arts and crafts products and countless marimo items are being sold in the souvenir shops. Marimo is what Lake Akan is all about after all!

You may wonder what the #$%^ is a marimo?

Marimo are green spheres of algae and very kawaii (because fluffy). How much of a thing is Kawaii in Japan?

Let me quote the Lonely Planet: Marimo became endangered after being designated a national treasure. Suddenly everyone in Japan needed to have one.

Anyway, these green spheres of algae grow in lake Akan and the people living in the village sure know how to use that fact to their advantage, there are marimo-themed items everywhere you look.

Marimo souvenir Lake Akan Hokkaido Japan

Where to stay at Akanko Onsen ⇒ Lake Akan parking lot (1 night)

The lady selling the parking tickets didn't mind if we stayed the night.

The parking lot happened to be across from 7-11, so getting coffee and breakfast was easy again, as was cleaning up (slightly) in the morning.

I'm nit-picking here, but the ground wasn't entirely level. Not ideal when you sleep in your car.

Price per night: €3,20/$4 (for a parking ticket)

Hokkaido itinerary day 10: Lake Akan and around

Itinerary: Lake Akan parking lot – Lake Akan nature walk – Eco Museum – Lake Onetto – car drop-off point – Hotel Areaone Chitose

Lake Akan nature walk

Lake Akan Hokkaido Japan

On our last day in Hokkaido, we were definitely in luck (again): the sun was shining! We went for a short hike over the nature trail next to the Eco Visitor Center.

It was a brief hike but offered great views of the lake. And of course, we passed some mud pools, signs of volcanic activity are never far away on Hokkaido.

Visit the Akan Eco Museum

Marimo Lake Akan Hokkaido Japan

In the Akan Eco museum, we checked out some particularly fluffy marimo (see the picture above) and learned more about the formation of these strange phenomena.

Hike around Lake Onetto

Akan National Park Lake Onneto Hokkaido North Japan

Lake Onetto is a gorgeous lake with bright blue color and two imposing volcanoes looming over the lake.

We went for a hike around the lake, but the trail was still partially snowed under!

I imagine in summer it’s a nice and easy stroll, but in Spring it was quite a challenging hike as we tried not to sink too deep into the snow!

Where to stay in Sapporo ⇒ Hotel Areaone Chitose (1 night)

We had an early flight to Hiroshima from New Chitose Airport. Hotel Areaone Chitose was close to the airport and offered a free shuttle service.

It was a good place to stay, the room was small but after sleeping in our car for a couple of nights it actually felt big to us;-).

We spent our afternoon soaking in the steaming onsen but unfortunately, the sauna was out of service during our stay.

More things to do on Hokkaido

If you've got more time to spend in Hokkaido (lucky you!), here are some popular places I wish we could have added to our Hokkaido itinerary.

Sapporo Snow Festival


If you happen to visit Hokkaido in winter, you can visit the famous Sapporo Snow Festival! This annual winter event is held in Sapporo and takes place every February in Odori Park (you'll also find the Sapporo tv tower in this park).

One of the highlights of the festival is the Snow Sculpture Contest. Teams from countries around the world compete to create the most amazing snow sculptures and the cool thing is: you can actually see the snow sculptures being made during the festival.

There are lots of other attractions such as snow slides, skiing, live performances, and much more. The Sapporo Snow Festival is a great way to experience the beauty of winter in Sapporo.

Check the official site for more information.

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko National Park is a stunning natural area located in the northernmost part of Hokkaido. With its unique combination of mountains, volcanoes, forests, and seashore, it is a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts.

The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered Steller's sea eagle, brown bears, and the Asiatic black bear.

If you plan to visit this stunning part of Hokkaido, be sure to read up on bear safety and bring a can of bear spray and a bear bell.


Otaru is a charming port city, known for its picturesque canals lined with old-fashioned warehouses and charming, historical buildings.

The city has a rich history of fishing and trading, and you can still see many of the old fishing boats in the harbor.

Besides the famous Otaru Canal, there are a variety of attractions, such as the Otaru Aquarium, Otaru Music Box Museum, and the Otaru Tenguyama Ropeway.

All in all, Otaru is a great place to visit in Hokkaido, as it is a peaceful and relaxing city with many great restaurants, shops, and attractions to explore.

Road trip in Hokkaido: conclusion

Our road trip around Hokkaido was an amazing experience, despite the cold.

Hokkaido truly is a wonderful island: wild, mountainous, active volcanoes, lots of wildlife, pretty lakes, friendly people, and delicious food. 

I will add that 10 days in Hokkaido is not nearly enough to see everything this beautiful place has to offer. I really hope that we'll be able to come back to Hokkaido and visit more Hokkaido highlights.

Not many people include a trip to Hokkaido in their Japan itinerary, but I hope that this Hokkaido travel blog has convinced you Hokkaido is highly worth a visit!

If you want to read more about traveling in Japan, check out my other posts:

Download our Hokkaido free and easy itinerary below and plan your trip in no time! Feel free to ask any questions you may have about planning a trip to Hokkaido, I'm happy to help!

This post was updated in January 2023.

Yuval Dror

Sunday 15th of September 2019

Will you recommend Hokkaido in mid October? And if so, what changes from your itinerary do you suggest?


Friday 20th of September 2019

Hi Yuval,

While I think you can visit Hokkaido in October, please keep in mind it will already be quite cold. Also, the leaves will probably have fallen (most of them at least) so you will miss the splendid fall colors. Nevertheless, the scenery will still be stunning and the crowds will have left so you'll have them all to yourself.

I wouldn't necessarily change the itinerary but my most important tip would be to follow the weather. If the weather forecast says sun in the north, go north. If rain is expected in the east, go west. And pack enough layers, gloves and a beanie:-)

Have a great trip! Lotte


Friday 12th of July 2019

Hi Lotte, Your mission has been accomplished as I was truly inspired by your 10day trip to Hokkaido. I live in Malaysia. I am hoping to take my 17 yr old daughter on road trip. I am hoping to rent a MPV (with sleeping and simple cooking set up but no toilet facilities). You are right in that there are not many articles about driving /camping routes around Japan or maybe I don't know what to look for. So thank you very much for sharing your trip. I've never done a driving holiday before and I feel even more responsible bringing my teen daughter so I don't really know where to begin. I chose Japan as I think it is a safe country to begin such a journey and also because I LOVE Japan and have only seen small parts of it. I wonder if you could give me some advise as to how I could go about researching and planning my own trip. (1) I would like to travel mid August 2020 as that is school break for my daughter - would it be meaningful to use your travel route as a guide (keeping in mind I won't see seasonal wonders like cherry blossoms blooming) (2) We plan to sleep in our van (so no hotels) (3) We are not sure how long should we plan ( we think maybe 7-10 days) - also I am concerned about how to plan so I can return the hired van in time. Also, I chose a Van instead of RV ( my teen is hoping I'd get an RV) because I wanted to have freedom of more parking options. (4) We would love to do the following: - Hot springs & light hiking ( a couple of hours) - visit quaint little shops or markets - local interesting places e.g. temples, museums or architecture (we both enjoy craft and art) (5) I am REALLY hoping to end our day with a warm Japanese meal and a bath in an Onsen before we retire for the evening in our van. But we are also prepared to park at a rest stop sometimes and hopefully able to get a shower at least. I need to own up on the fact that I have always been a book and plan in advance person. So this is a huge leap for me. I want to do this before my teen outgrows bunking and holidaying with mom. (6) I looked at the car rental which you mentioned but I don't see that they offer the van which I'm after. I have done some research but if you do have any recommendations, I'd be happy to compare with my own findings.

Thank you for your time. May you have many more lovely trips and wonderful memories. Vivien


Saturday 20th of July 2019

Hi Vivien,

It’s so wonderful to read about your upcoming adventure to Hokkaido with your daughter! Japan is a very safe country indeed and a great place for a first driving trip.

Regarding your questions, I think a van is a good choice as it gives you lots of flexibility. Keep in mind you’ll need/want something (like towels) to cover your windows so you don’t wake up at first light.

In 7-10 days you can see lots of things, but it really depends on the distance you want to cover in one day. You could easily spend a couple of days in the area around Furano, especially since you mention you like quaint little shops and arts&crafts.

Some campsites have an onsen but not all, I’d just ask the camp manager about the facilities when you arrive at a site. We also parked at random parking lots and there are no facilities (like a shower) available at such locations?. Regarding the rental company, if you are after a particular car I’d just go with the company that offers the best deal. As I went with ToCoo I have no experience with other rental companies in Japan.

I wish you a wonderful trip with your daughter! Let me know if you have any further questions:-) Lotte


Monday 18th of February 2019

Hi Lotte,

Great post! Thank you for sharing your trip and information with fellow travellers!

I have a question... You mentioned "With temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius at some point, we decided to change our plans and head south instead of north to Wakkanai and the islands of Rebun and Reshiri..." Was weather and freezing temperatures the only reason why you changed your course of travels or was it because of the sights as well (with North having less sights over longer distance and South having more sights over shorter distance travelled?

I am planning to include some south Hokkaido (giving NOBORIBETSU and HAKODATE a miss... the former i've seen plenty in Rotorua and the latter, is just a city) and some of north Hokkaido (including Cape Kamui, Wakkanai and Cape Soya). Will include Biei and Furano as well.

Do you think is workable? I want to follow the tourist route but at the same time i'd like to able to see a little of the north side of Hokkaido as well. Just iffy about the travel distance and time between the cities thats all. We want to be able to take a relaxing journey and take our time, instead of being on the road all the time and rushing from one place to another, not taking time to enjoy the experience.


Sunday 3rd of March 2019

Hi! Thanks, I'm happy to hear that:-) For us the weather was the only reason we traveled South a couple of days sooner than planned. I'd love to revisit Hokkaido as there is so much more to see...

Regarding your itinerary, it really depends how much time you have available. As I mentioned in the post, covering the distances on Hokkaido takes time. However, the views are beautiful though and the roads are in great condition! I always like the journey as well, but I agree you don't want to feel rushed. I'd calculate the distances with google and multiply the time mentioned there by factor 1,3. If that seems alright to you I'd go for it! Have a wonderful trip:-)



Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Hello Lotte!

Thank you so much for this!

Did you go to Hokkaido around late April? I'm planning to go there on this late April and would love to go to Farm Tomita Furano, I saw your picture there, and seems that the lavender is not bloomed yet, But how about other flowers? I'm afraid that late April (30 april) wont be a good time to go to the farm if others flowers are also not bloomed yet.

Thank you Yessi


Friday 1st of February 2019

Hi Yessi,

You are most welcome:-) Regarding your question, yes we traveled to Hokkaido at the end of April. No flowers were in bloom at all, in fact, there was still a lot of snow! Visiting Farm Tomita (and the other places on Hokkaido) was still great but if you are specifically looking for flowers blooming the end of April of probably not a good time. Enjoy your trip!


Rob Dyer

Friday 7th of September 2018

Hi Lotte - what a great read!

As a non-driver (yeah, shocking I know!) I'm always interested in how folks explore Japan by hire car.

I have a lot of affection for Hokkaido and reading this reminds me not to leave it too long before I'm next there.

The Log Yukari Guesthouse really looks like my kinda place - so that's a good find - thanks for the tip!

If anyone is visiting Hokkaido in Winter (especially between Jan-Mar) then I can thoroughly recommend taking a cruise out into the winter ice floes in an icebreaker ship - it really is an unforgettable experience:


Wednesday 19th of September 2018

Hi Rob,

Thanks for reading! I loved exploring Hokkaido by car but of course the trains in Japan are excellent as well;-) I would love to visit in winter, the icebreaker cruise sounds amazing...