A Day Trip To Takachiho Gorge
01 WHEN TO VISIT
02 HOW TO GET THERE
03 BOAT RENTALS
04 HIKING TRAIL
Tucked away in the northernmost part of Miyazaki Prefecture is the hidden gem known as Takachiho Gorge. Imagine rowing a boat in emerald green waters to a cascading waterfall surrounded by volcanic basalt columns and lush greenery. If that’s something that sounds interesting to you, then keep on reading to learn how to make the most out of your visit to this beautiful area.
01 WHEN TO VISIT
The best time to visit Takachiho Gorge is between the early Spring and late Fall (April to October). Visit earlier in the year to see the area surrounded by green foliage or visit later in the year to see the gorge illuminated by red, orange, and yellow leaves. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
We visited in the middle of May and, although a little muggy, the weather was perfect (not too hot, not too cold). I was able to wear shorts comfortably and brought along a cardigan for when it cooled down later in the day. I would advise wearing some sturdy sandals / waterproof shoes if you plan to do the boat ride and / or hiking.
If your schedule allows, try to plan a visit on a week day instead of the weekend to avoid crowds. We visited on a Thursday and only had to wait 5 - 10 minutes for a boat. I’ve heard that the wait times can get pretty lengthy during the summertime / holidays / weekends. Also, try to get there early if you plan on driving because the parking lot can fill up fast.
Note: Keep an eye on the forecast in order to determine which day to visit. If it has been raining a lot, the hiking trails can get muddy and the boat rentals might be closed due to high river levels.
02 HOW TO GET THERE
I’m going to tell it to you straight: unless you’re staying in the sleepy town of Takachiho itself, Takachiho Gorge is far enough away from everything else that it should be a day trip. You can probably squeeze in another thing or two along the way but for me, personally, I like to take my time and soak in a place rather than rush through just to say I’ve been there.
There are multiple ways that you can get there: a combination of trains and buses or by car. The length of your travel also relies heavily on where your starting point is so please keep in mind that these directions are very general and Google Maps will be your best friend :)
TRAIN / BUS / TOUR BUS
Sadly, there is no direct train to Takachiho Gorge anymore. The Takachiho Line was discontinued after a typhoon destroyed two bridges along the route back in 2005. In order to get to the gorge today, visitors have to take a combination of trains and buses.
The closest large transportation hubs include Kumamoto and Miyazaki. From Kumamoto, you’ll want to catch a bus to the Takachiho Bus Center which can take roughly 3 hours. From Miyazaki, you’ll want to catch a train from Miyazaki Station to Nobeoka Station (about an hour) and then catch a bus to the Takachiho Bus Center (about an hour and a half). Keep in mind, this is only for ONE WAY.
Once you get to the Takachiho Bus Center you can either walk, take a tour bus, or catch a taxi. According to Google Maps, the walk from the bus center takes about 26 minutes.
Trying to reach Takachiho Gorge via public transportation seemed like the hardest and longest way to get there which is partly why we ended up renting a car for this duration of our trip. We started our drive from Aoshima in Miyazaki and it took us around 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to there. We had to rely heavily on Google Maps since a lot of the signs are in Japanese and have no English translation.
One thing we weren’t expecting to encounter on our journey were the toll roads. We were confused on what to do and accidentally went through the wrong lane. Luckily the workers had signs with pictures and English captions on them to help explain what we had to do (a lot of tourists must have made the same mistake in order for them to create signs haha).
So without further ado, here’s the low down on toll roads in Japan. There are three lanes that you can use: a general lane (indicated by a green sign), an ETC lane (indicated by a purple sign with the letters “ETC” on it), and combination of both. ETC cards should be available for rent at car rental offices however, if you don’t plan on going through too many tolls it’s easier just to use the general lane. You can read more about the ETC system here.
If you plan on using the general lane, make sure to have a credit card and some cash handy on you. On our way back, our credit card wouldn’t work for some reason so we had to use cash to pay the fee. The toll fees each way were around 2,000 yen (around 20 dollars US).
There is parking available at Takachiho Gorge for 500 yen (around 5 dollars US). There’s no time limit on how long you can park there which is really nice if you want to spend the day exploring the area. Try to get there early in order to secure a spot.
03 BOAT RENTALS
One way to get up close and personal with Takachiho Gorge is by rowing straight through it. Luckily, there are boat rentals available! We got there around 2:20 PM on a Thursday and only had to wait 5 - 10 minutes for a boat to become available, which is not bad at all.
Once out on the water, we realized that the available rowing area along the gorge is not very big at all. We were able to row from one end to the other at a leisurely pace and still make it back to the dock in 30 minutes.
While the gorge itself is very beautiful, prepare to share it with everyone else. Half the fun was trying to navigate through the river without bumping into other people. One of the biggest highlights for me was being able to see Manai Falls up close.
- Boats are available first come, first serve.
- It costs 2,000 yen (around 20 dollars US) for 30 minutes.
- Each boat sits up to 3 people.
- Regular hours are 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Summer hours are 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM.
- Boat rental office might be closed if the weather is bad / water level is high.
- Life jackets are provided and everyone in the boat must wear one.
04 HIKING TRAIL
After rowing through the gorge, we decided to walk through town where we discovered the Takachiho Course. This hiking trail is 12.3 km (around 7.6 miles) and starts at the Tourist Information Center in the center of Takachiho. Along the way you can see the Takachiho Shrine, views of the gorge, several bridges, and a tea plantation.
We only walked along the trail for a bit but in that time we got to see different parts of the gorge that we wouldn’t have from just the boat ride. If we we had more time I would have loved to explore more of the trail.
If you plan to hike the entire trail make sure to have basic hiking gear on you as well as some bug repellent to ward off mosquitos.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you plan a day trip to see Takachiho Gorge. For those of you who have been here before, what did you think of this place? Let me know in the comment section below!