The wilderness of Hokkaido provides numerous outdoor pursuits, and its cities, nestled against the backdrop of mountains and lakes, provide culinary delights and a dose of culture. With its unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in winter to cyclists and campers in the warmer months.

Drive along traffic-free, smooth stretches of tarmac roads that sweep between forested volcanoes, farmland and colourful autumn leaves. Being similar to Australian roads, an international driver’s license is all that is needed. Best time to see the array of autumn colours would start from September into early November.

Recommended Points

  • Panoramic views from above, at places like  Mt Usu Ropeway & Mt Okura Ski Jump Stadium
  • Get in touch with nature and the fantastic landscapes of Lake Toya, Lake Shikotsu & the mountains all around Hokkaido.
  • Our local private guides will show you things not on the lonely planet or google radar!
  • Get to know the true Hokkaido at your own leisurely pace
  • See the towns & villages as a local, an try your hand at tasting some of the local produce
  • Airport meet and greet and assistance to rental car pickup.
  • Detailed itinerary with only local known spots, local maps, map codes, English set GPS
  • 24/7 support from Japan Holidays

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Itinerary at a glance

Day 1

Pickup – Lake Shikotsu

You will be met by a local assistant and guided from your place of pick up to the rental car office. The complicated coastlines, magnificent idyllic scenery, wide straight roads, green coloured mountains and vibrant flower gardens make Hokkaido a real driver’s paradise during any season: there is always something new and exciting around the corner. After collecting your car, you will journey to Lake Shikotsu, Japan’s second largest caldera lake. This 40,000 year old lake is also the second deepest lake in the whole of Japan, with a maximum depth of 363 metres. Lake Shikotsu does not freeze in most winters. The lake’s clear water quality has been ranked the best in the country for eight straight years.

Day 2

Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu

Lake Shikotsu offers impressive scenery throughout the year, both on land and underwater. Experience the crisp clear and ever changing reflections of Lake Shikotsu from a clear glass bottom kayak. Continuing on your journey to Noboribetsu, where “Hell Valley” is one of the must-see sightseeing spots conveniently located close to the hot spring area. It is easy to take a stroll and catch some impressive pictures of the volcanic gases during a short scenic walk around this former explosive crater area. If you feel like walking some more while you are here, you might also want to dip your feet into the natural foot bath in Oyunuma River, a hot spring river that flows from a nearby pond providing a pristine location for relaxing.

Day 3

Noboribetsu – Lake Toya

Start your morning with a private guided tour, where you can learn about the Noboribetsu area from a local expert. On the top of sharing insider knowledge, the guide will take you to places you would not be able to find on your own, outside of the main tourist areas. This is a good chance to catch some impressive pictures of the volcanic gases and unique crater and forest scenery. After the sights of famous “Hell Valley” and a relaxing forest walk, you can dip your feet into the warm and soothing foot bath in the middle of a forest.

Day 4

Lake Toya – Otaru

Ride a cable car to Mt. Usu and enjoy panoramic views of Lake Toya and the neighbouring Mt. Showa Shinzan. The Mt. Usu Ropeway brings you close to the volcano’s summit, and with a short walk from the upper observation deck, you can appreciate views of the Ocean and Mount Usu’s largest crater. Afterwards make your way north stopping at the dairy farms of Niseko. You can’t miss the opportunity of trying some of their local produce. Afternoon has you ending the day at Otaru at Yoichi Nikka Distillery. Appreciate historical buildings of the surprisingly large distillery area and learn about the interesting life stories behind the brand. Masataka Taketsuru , the first Japanese who mastered making whisky, studied the art in Scotland. Masataka and his Scottish wife Rita chose Yoichi town for making this brand of Japanese whisky as it was in many ways like the Scottish Highlands.

Day 5

Otaru – Sapporo

Start the morning at your own pace visiting Otaru Sakaimachi Street. Enjoy shopping, eating and sightseeing along the long and well-preserved merchant street in central Otaru. When you’re ready to continue, head southwest to the final destination of your journey, Sapporo city. Sapporo offers many opportunities to view the autumn colours of Hokkaido, the most popular being Odori Park – full of lush foliage and many events being held throughout the year, such as Sapporo Snow Festival & Sapporo Beer Garden in the summer.

Day 6


Known as one of the best spots to appreciate the beautiful autumn leaves in Hokkaido, you should not miss Hokkaido University’s Ginkgo Avenue. You can also see amazing autumn leaves in peaceful Nakajima Park and Hiraoka Jugei Center, which is known for its radiating red maple tree tunnel. The autumn leaves peak in Sapporo is between mid October and early November.

Another place you can’t miss for panoramic sightseeing is Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium – The stage for the 90 meter ski jump competition at the 1972 Winter Olympics. Visitors can ascend all the way to the top of the mountain via the ski lift. Looking back down after you have reached the top, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city. There is also Sapporo Olympic Museum, where you can learn more about competitions through game simulations. The museum is the perfect place to see, touch, experience winter sports.

Day 7

Sapporo – New Chitose Airport

Your last day warrants a special visit to the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market to watch the authentic local fish auction with an English-speaking guide. The tour starts from the most spectacular auction of giant tuna. This market recorded the highest sales of tuna in Japan in the last 20 years! The tuna weighed 344 kilogram and sold for more than $56,000 Australian dollars! The tour will also take you to a famous Japanese knife shop between the auctions. Inside the market, there are local restaurants where you can have very fresh seafood at a reasonable price for lunch. It’s the perfect way to end your time in Hokkaido before your departure from New Chitose Airport.

*All auctions are held on the 1st floor and are watchable from the 2nd floor only. Tuna auction might be canceled due to the sea conditions. The ingredients of auctions are depending on the catch or harvest conditions.

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Map and Itinerary

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