If you’re looking for an Asian Switzerland, look no further than Hokkaido, Japan. With its beautiful fields of flowers and lush, green, rice paddy fields, it is a breathtaking experience and a far cry from the neon lights of the rest of Japan.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four islands, is dotted with lakes, national parks and hot springs. Perhaps the most famous of its lakes is Lake Toya, in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The lake was chosen as the location for the 2008 G8 Summit and was prominently featured in the media for its beauty and novelty. It never freezes, even in the coldest winter months, because of its proximity to Mount Uzu, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes.
Hokkaido’s other national parks are just as popular. Hikers will be glad to know that they are well-marked and teeming with wildlife. The parks are famous for the Higuma Bear, the largest mammal natural to Japan. Visitors to parks are also promised glimpses of cranes, eagles, owls and deer grazing freely.
Furano, in central Hokkaido, is known for its pleasant weather throughout the year, and is a popular tourist attraction. In July, fields of lavender bloom and the entire landscape turns into a sea of purple.
Hokkaido is more than just picturesque beauty, however. Activity enthusiasts will find plenty of to do here, including skiing, camping and hiking. In Furano in the winter months, skiiers descend upon the town to try their hand at going down its slopes.
If you travel to Hokkaido in January, you should try the icebreaker cruise from the ports of Mombetsu or Abashiri. The cruise travels to areas with drift ice (ice floating on the surface of water) and lets you see icebreaking operations up close.
Hokkaido’s cuisine predictably involves lots of seafood. Try some of the freshest sushi around at one of the many sushi bars here, and don’t forget to indulge in a plate of hairy crab.
Ramen is extremely popular in the region and are rather different from traditional dishes found in the rest of Japan. Try the Sapporo Ramen, Asahikawa Ramen and Hakodate Ramen.
The island is also big on dairy products, so don’t be surprised to find lots of cheese in every dish!
NATAS Hokkaido Packages
Hokkaido is a popular tourist attraction and getting there is no problem. First time visitors to Japan might want to check out one of the following packages. All these packages will be available at the August NATAS Fair 2013, so stop by if you’re looking for a winter getaway. However, if you prefer sunshine over snow, visit the NATAS Fair in February for Spring and Summer tour packages.
Chan Brothers: 7D5N Bountiful Autumn in Hokkaido ($2,688)
This tour package is designed for families and children, with lots of hands-on activities to keep them occupied, including visits to a cheese factory and a go at ice-cream making. Its most attractive feature is the full day at Lake Akan and the subsequent one night stay at a a hot spring hotel.
JTB: 8D5N Hokkaido Breakaway ($2,988)
Another activity-filled package, it offers buyers a chance to learn how to make authentic Japanese pudding and origami, and a sake tasting session. The package, however, only features a morning trip to Hokkaido’s majestic lakes (Lake Kanayama).
JTB: 4D3N Hokkaido Ski ($1,360)
Tailored for skiing enthusiasts, this package offers accommodation and transfer to a ski resort and a ski lift pass. Speeding down snowy hills might just be the best way to see Hokkaido in a new light.
Hong Thai: 7D6N Charming Hokkaido All Season Tour ($2,599)
This package is interesting if you’d like to see Mount Uzu. You might even have a chance to take a cable car to the crater of the volcano and get an up close look at its geothermal activity.
CTC: 7D6N Hokkaido Flora Trail ($2,688)
Package seems perfect for photography enthusiasts, giving visitors a glimpse of all the natural beauty of Hokkaido.
Follow Me Japan: 8D7N Fly & Drive S Hokkaido Autumn ($3,180)
This Hokkaido Fly & Drive package is designed for people who would like to enjoy a holiday without being rushed from attraction to attraction. Visitors will drive to and from attractions themselves and will have their accommodation settled for them by the company. For more on such fly & drive packages, check out our Follow Me Japan Review here.