Need to escape Tokyo? Follow locals & expats alike to Nikko, a rejuvenating retreat a couple hours from the Japanese capital. Choosing where to stay in Nikko is a cinch. Instead of tackling it as a rushed side trip from Tokyo, why not slow the pace & prepare for relaxation?
Nikko’s claim to fame is its ancient moss-covered temples & shrines. It’s also chock-loaded with towering waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and dramatic mountain scenery. Nikko fulfills every wayfarer’s dream of Japan at its most spiritual & natural.
Get the most out of your trip with this complete guide to the best places to stay in Nikko for travellers…
Best places to stay in Nikko
Whether you’ve got 10 days in Japan or a month, there’s no excuse for skipping out on Nikko.
This lovely area is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Japan. (Even if it lacks the brand recognition of other top destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or even Nara.)
Unlike other popular Japanese travel spots, figuring out where to stay in Nikko isn’t much of a challenge. There’s a limited accommodations inventory here. It can, however, feel spread out at times.
For travellers, the most popular areas to stay in Nikko include:
- Nikko Town
- Chuzenjiko Onsen
- Yumoto Onsen
- Kinugawa Onsen
Where you choose to stay will depend on what exactly you’re looking to accomplish on your trip to Nikko.
Looking to hop between ancient temples? Want to chill out in a relaxing onsen? Keen to hike through forested mountains among breathtaking natural scenes? Whatever you choose to do, there’s an area (or two) that’ll be perfect for your stay!
✔ Best area to stay for sightseeing & time-crunched Nikko itineraries
With many of the top Nikko attractions within earshot, Nikko Town (for lack of a better term) is the most popular place to stay in the area.
You’ll find the highest concentration of hotels around Nikko Station and the UNESCO World Heritage area. The selection isn’t large though, especially when compared to the bigger Japanese cities.
For sightseeing, staying in Nikko Town can’t be beat. In laying your head down here, you’ll be face-to-face with many of the must-see temples & shrines. It’s the perfect launching pad for the ultimate Nikko itinerary.
Attractions in & around Nikko Town: Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Rinno-ji Temple, Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko Futarasan Shrine
Where to stay: The best hotels in Nikko Town
The popularity of Nikko’s UNESCO sites means that the accommodations pool here features a little of everything. The selection ranges from budget hotels to luxurious retreats spelling out the classic Japanese hospitality experience.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Nikko Town:
- Sanga Nikko: This guesthouse is one of the best places to stay on a tight budget in the Nikko area. It’s located just steps from Tobu Nikko Station. Rooms are laid out in typical Japanese style. They feature tatami floors, futons & shared bathrooms.
- Nikko Tokinoyuu: This lovely 3-star ryokan sits on the doorstep of Shinkyo Bridge, the gateway to Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Classic Japanese style rooms are on offer. They include a separate sitting area featuring modern furnishings and extras like TVs. Both shared & private bathrooms are available.
- Nikko Hoshino Yado: From this mid-range ryokan, it’s a pleasant 15-minute stroll to Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The property features its own on-site onsen. The onsen peers out upon a lovely Japanese garden, for a relaxing & memorable stay in Nikko.
- Nikko Kanaya Hotel: Another hotel knocking on Shinkyo Bridge’s door. It’s popular with foreigners thanks to its Western-style accommodations. Rooms are more spacious than the Japanese standard and include private bathrooms.
- Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa: This luxury ryokan occupies a stunning location outside of the town centre. It’s set amidst lush greenery. Rooms offer beautiful private terraces with breathtaking views to the hotel’s Japanese garden. Upgrade to one of the higher-end rooms for a relaxing open-air bath.
✔ Best area to stay for lakeside relaxation close to waterfalls & hiking trails
If you’re all templed-out and are looking to relax, the next choice of where to stay in Nikko might be what you need. Chuzenjiko Onsen is located about 20 kilometres from the main town centre. It flexes its beauty by delivering some of the most magnificent scenery in the area.
The onsen’s namesake, Lake Chuzenji (Chuzenjiko), is a spectacular sight. It appear in deep contrast to the mighty Mount Nantai rising up from its shores.
In choosing to stay in Chuzenjiko, there’s plenty to do. You’ll have a chance to swing around the lake’s shores leisurely along a 25-kilometre circuit. The trail unleashes gorgeous views from every angle. Lake Chuzenji boat cruises are also a popular way to enjoy the area’s scenery.
This is also a popular area for travellers wanting to experience Nikko’s incredible waterfalls. A few of lie close to the Lake Chuzenji’s shores. Visit in autumn for extra colourful views that are among the finest in Japan.
Attractions in & near Chuzenjiko Onsen: Lake Chuzenji, Mount Nantai, Kegon Waterfall, Ryuzu Waterfall, Futarasan Shrine, Chuzenji Temple
Where to stay: The best hotels in Chuzenjiko Onsen
As you’d expect from the town’s minuscule stature, there isn’t a huge selection of choices for where to stay in Chuzenjiko Onsen. Most of what you’ll find in the area occupies the mid-range and above.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Chuzenjiko Onsen:
- Little Forest Inn Nikko: This small guesthouse offers the best budget accommodations in the Chuzenji area. It features amazing views of the lake and Mount Nantai from the property. Rooms are Western-style with private bathrooms.
- Hatago Nagomi: This newly-renovated 3-star hotel rocks a prime location. It’s situated across the street from Lake Chuzenji. Rooms are spacious, clean & modern. Rare for the area, they’re set up with Western- rather than Japanese-style accommodations. They even include private bathrooms. The on-site natural hot-spring bath is a huge bonus.
- Chuzenji Kanaya Hotel: This delightful mid-range hotel, like its namesake in town, features Western-style rooms. It’s located in a serene location close to hiking trails & waterfalls. The on-site onsen and fireplace lounge make an excellent case for an evening in.
- Hotel Shikisai: This luxury ryokan hotel sits in a quiet location amidst dense forests & magnificent scenery. Japanese-style tatami mat & futon accommodations with private spa tubs are offered.
✔ Best area to stay for a classic remote Japanese onsen experience
Looking to escape the crowds in Nikko? Head up to Yumoto Onsen. This small hot-springs town is located north of Lake Chuzenji on the shores of Lake Yunoko.
Yumoto Onsen is as serious an escape from the stresses of travelling in Japan as they come. Besides relaxing in the comfort of an onsen ryokan or hotel, the scenery is spectacular. Highlights including Yudaki Waterfall and the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail.
Attractions in & around Yumoto Onsen: Lake Yunoko, Yudaki Waterfall, Onsen-ji Temple, Yunodaira Marsh, Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail
Where to stay: The best hotels in Yumoto Onsen
Given the town’s size, there isn’t much selection for accommodations in Yumoto Onsen. Most of what’s available falls into the mid-range.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Yumoto Onsen:
- Manzo Ryokan: This ryokan is the best place to stay for those on tighter budget. It features Japanese-style rooms with shared bathrooms. Plenty of walking trails nearby make this a great choice for hikers.
- Okunikko Park Lodge Miyama: This mid-range budget hotel delivers spectacular mountain views. It features both Western- and Japanese-style rooms with private bathrooms. Yumoto Ski Resort is six minutes away by foot.
- Shiunso Ryokan: This comfortable mid-range ryokan pulls out all the stops for a memorable stay. Reservations include a superb breakfast & dinner. You’ll also get access to a steaming private hot-springs bath.
- Yumoto Itaya: This lovely ryokan hotel is a step above others in the area. Both the Japanese and Western rooms are offered here. They’re sophisticated & refined while offering spectacular mountain views.
✔ Best area to stay for a luxurious onsen experience in Nikko
Next to Nikko itself, one of the most popular places for travellers is Kinugawa Onsen. This onsen town was once the darling of the area. It saw a building boom in the 1970s that brought a handful of large ryokan & hotels to the banks of the Kinugawa River.
When the tech bubble burst in 1990s, Kinugawa Onsen fell out of style. It appears to be gaining steam again though. Japanese visitors are returning as rising air travel costs keep them closer to home.
Besides its hot-springs baths, Kinugawa Onsen features a few kitschy theme parks & amusements. The whole family will enjoy attractions like Nikko Edomura and Tobu World Square.
Attractions in & around Kinugawa Onsen: Nikko Edomura, Tobu World Square, Grand Maze, Hana Ichi-monme Botanical Garden
Where to stay: The best hotels in Kinugawa Onsen
With Kinugawa Onsen experiencing a revival, prices at the top places to stay are rising. High quality budget accommodations & hotels are difficult to find here. The mid-range and luxury segments are well represented though.
Here are a few of the best hotels & places to stay in Kinugawa Onsen:
- Sudomari Hotel Roman Tsutsuji: This guesthouse is one of the best budget picks in Kinugawa Onsen. It stands out more for its excellent service & value than its looks. The Japanese-style rooms are clean & spacious. They’re even fitted with private bathrooms, a rarity at this price point.
- Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura: This mid-range ryokan is surrounded by lush greenery in a quiet part of town. Rooms exude a modern Japanese sophistication and include private bathrooms. The views from the relaxing on-site onsen are spectacular.
- Tsuganoki: This 3-star ryokan is chock-loaded with character. The Japanese-style rooms are affixed with both modern & traditional touches. It gives them a look all unto their own. Upgrade a deluxe room to unwind on your balcony in a private open-air bath to jaw-dropping mountain views.
- Kanaya Hotel Kinugawa: This world-class onsen hotel is the top luxury pick in Kinugawa Onsen. It features spacious Japanese-style rooms. In your room, you’ll get to marvel at river and mountain views from your private balcony. All reservations include breakfast & dinner. Be sure to sample the delightful French-Japanese fusion of chef John Kanagawa at the on-site restaurant Dining John Kanaya.