Railways express line two stops to Shin-?saka Station. We check into our nearby hotel and meet our fellow travelers and guide later that evening. Dinner is a short walk away at one of our favorite local sushi restaurants, where everything is meticulously prepared by sushi masters with years of practice. Overnight in a hotel. Dinner included.
Dressed for the ride ahead, we follow the Seto Inland Sea southwards by train to Onomichi. After prepping our bikes, we embark on a short bike ferry to our first island ride. The Shimanami Kaido cycleway is a Japanese favorite for its scenic network of bridges, linking six smaller islands to the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Our custom route takes us into a shaded bamboo forest, then down through orchards, vegetable gardens and along the tranquil coastline. A gently rising circular cycling path leads us up to the first bridge, crossing over to Innoshima Island. Nearby we break for a sit-down lunch, choosing from fresh udon, sushi or tempura. Next, we cross over to Ikuchi Island, riding a coastal route until we reach our ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) in the late afternoon. You can relax in the onsen until dinner or go for a stroll to the nearby Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art. All meals included.
Cycling: 26 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,435'/-1,460'; Train transfer: 1.5 hours
Early risers can hike up a stone pathway to a nearby Shinto shrine before breakfast. After which we get back in the saddle, headed for our next series of islands. Following a spirited climb across Ikuchi Island, we descend and cross over to ride the Omishima coast. Our guide fills us in on the culture and history of this region as we pass quiet farmlands, citrus groves and small boatyards. A quick snack break and then we cut across the hills of Hakata Island before stopping for lunch on Omishima Island. Here?s your chance to order deliciously prepared food from those high-tech vending machines Japan is famous for. After seven more miles, we reach the massive Kurushima-Kaiky?, the world?s longest suspension bridge at 2.5 miles. From Imabari, we take a short train ride to the small city of Matsuyama, located in the idyllic Ehime prefecture. We enjoy a lovely dinner and a well-deserved sake (or craft-brew) tasting. Overnight in a hotel with optional onsen. All meals included.
Cycling: 40 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,600'/-2,600'; Train transfer: 40 mins
Folded ribbons of schist, granite and limestone have been carved over millennia by the Shimanto and Yoshino river systems into a series of dramatic gorges and forested peaks. This is where ascetic monk K?b? Daishi began creating a temple network which would ultimately include 88 temples in total, encircling the island. Our route today follows the river until we peel off onto a cedar-lined stretch of pavement that seems way too good to have all to ourselves. Fortified by a bento box picnic lunch and a restful break, we have our first proper climb. Following a mountain road, we wind through small towns, riverways and farms until we begin our climb into the forest-lined mountainside, gaining 2,100' over 10 miles on a 6% grade. From the top, we cruise the remainder of ride down into the sleepy mountain town of Yusuhara. Overnight in a hotel. All meals included.
Cycling: 39 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,620'/-2,930'; Train transfer: 1 hour
Yusuhara is the perfect little town to spend a rest day. Explore the nearby Mishima Shrine, walk by the whimsical whale-themed wind turbine or spend the afternoon at the onsen. In the morning we have the option to visit the home and backyard studio of master washi maker Rogier. The interactive activity is a wonderful blend of cultural history and creativity. We gather local ferns, flowers and leaves to create our own artwork. Then we return to town where the rest of the day is on our own. A traditional kaiseki-style dinner is included at the sister hotel of the onsen property. You could also head into town where more restaurant options are available. You?ll want to make time to visit the Kumo no Ue Community Library, an incredible structure designed by architectural savant Kengo Kuma. Overnight in a hotel. Breakfast and dinner included.
With a day of rest for our legs, we?re ready for another day of mountain riding. Leaving out of Yusuhara, we follow one of the main tributaries of the Yoshino River before splitting off for another choice mountain ride. After a solid climb over 7 miles at a 4-6% grade, we run through a short 2.5 miles gravel section before an incredible descent through the river gorge, where the road snakes along steep sidewalls draped with ferns and forest mist. We break for a sit-down lunch at a local restaurant and hotel with a variety of food options. The rest of today?s ride, along the open highway with low traffic, is mostly flat, with a final descent to our lovely Japanese resort overlooking the Pacific. Don?t miss out on an onsen soak here, as it offers incredible views of the Kure harbor and the great Pacific Ocean. All meals included.
Cycling: 45.3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,510'/-3,755'
Our route today begins with a stunning section of coastal riding. Hear the waves crash below as we follow the headlands north to Susaki, a port town famous for its loveable mascot Shinjo-kun. From here, our route follows the coastline out along the Meitoku peninsula. Riding up to a tabletop summit, we lean into graceful bends with beautiful ocean views. After a restaurant lunch, a short ride away lies Shoryu-ji, temple number 36 of the 88-Temple Henro Pilgrimage. Steep stone steps lead past a meditative waterfall to the main temple plaza. Our guide will provide insights into the history of K?b? Daishi and the Shingon school of Buddhism he introduced in the 9th century. Afterward, our ride is mostly flat with a few short climbs until our final descent into the lively port city of Kochi. Overnight at a hotel. Dinner is on our own, with many restaurant options near the hotel. Breakfast and Lunch included.
Cycling: 41 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,760'/-2,835'
Today we tackle a substantial climb with a huge payoff. A short train ride out of Kochi takes us to our starting point for the day's ride. After a short distance, we break off the main road and begin a long ascent into the mountain valley. Below us, cool blue waters rush over white limestone, and every few miles we pass through another bucolic farm. Villagers are often spotted walking their Akita dogs, which are very popular in this area. From the summit we can see Mt. Tsurugi, the second-highest peak in western Japan. Depending on the weather, we either have a bento lunch here or descend into the valley for lunch. The descending road is a bit rough for a few miles, so we take our time and exercise caution. Once we reach the Iya Valley, though, we have 10 miles of smooth sailing along winding river bends to our accommodations. Overnight in a Ryokan with optional onsen. All meals included.
Cycling: 34 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,545'/-3,135'
We finish up our mountain riding with a scenic ride out of the Iya Valley. A short climb is followed by a nice, long descent with multiple viewpoints. We?ll have access to a few day-use hotel rooms near the station for changing into leisurewear for lunch and the 2.5-hour bullet train to Kyoto, the capital of Japan from 794?1869. Dinner is on our own this evening, with lots of options within a short walk from our hotel. Overnight in a hotel. Breakfast and lunch included.
Cycling: 18 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +877'/-1,750'
On the final ride of this tour we visit some of Kyoto?s iconic sites on a wide loop through town. Setting off from the hotel, we head to the Katsura River, riding alongside it to the famed bamboo groves of Arashiyama. Continuing on, we then visit Kinkakuji, called the Golden Pavilion because its top two stories are covered in glinting gold leaf. Along the way, our guide will highlight other points of interest which we can return to in our free time later this afternoon. Lunch today is a fun one, as we visit one of Kyoto?s unique ?sushi train? restaurants. Our final stop is the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which has a series of gravel cycling paths that wind through the grounds. We wrap up our riding back at the hotel in the early afternoon and meet up for a farewell dinner in the evening. Overnight at a hotel. All meals included.
Cycling: 19.3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +770'/-770'
We bid our fellow travelers and guide goodbye this morning. Checkout time is at 10am and our guide will be on-hand to help with your travels back to the Kansai International Airport or other destinations. Breakfast included.