Tour of the Setouchi Sea: Shimanami Kaido & Hiroshima’s Islands of Peace

2019:
Oct 23-30
Nov 25-Dec 2
Dec 3-10

2020:
Mar 22-29
Dec 1-8

Bold Dates are guaranteed to run!

Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures, Shimanami Kaido, Dogo Onsen, Miyajima
Premium Traditional Ryokans
⛰⛰
30-80km
100-800m gain
$5,200 USD
(+$1,000 USD Single Supplement)

The Setouchi Sea region of Japan is steeped in ancient and modern Japanese history. Some of the most unique aspects of Japanese culture and tradition live here, including the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, the Shimanami Kaido, and the ancient Izumo Taisha Shrine.

Since time immemorial, this has been an area of immense historical and political importance. It is also home to the Japan’s historical naval bases, which led to the tragic dropping of the first atomic bomb. Rebuilt upon a vision for a peaceful future, cities like Onomichi and Matsuyama couple their historic machinami (or townscape) with progressive modern culture. The small islands that pepper the sea between Ehime and Hiroshima have become home to some of the most beautiful cafes and bicycle vistas in the world. We’ll explore many of these unique places by way of the Shimanami Kaido, Japan’s much-loved bike route!

Traverse islands on roads and bridges built just for cycling. Relax at a historical seaside onsen. Watch the sun descend behind the mountains in the distance. Experience the Shimanami Kaido, a bright blue path of bike lanes and bridges built across the islands of the Setouchi Sea. Explore the mountains of Ehime, and the famous shrine in the water at Miyajima. Enjoy exquisite meals prepared just for you. We cannot wait for you to soak in the beauty of this often unexplored region!

Bike Tour Japan - Sunset Views

Itinerary

Day 1 – Onomichi

Join the group for lunch on our first day in the quiet seaside city of Onomichi. We will warm-up by riding around the old town area, which is full of small local businesses and coffee shops. Option to extend the route by venturing into an independent chocolate/coffee factory on a mountain in Mukaijima. When we are back in town, we’ll take a stroll around the mysterious cat-filled side streets that wind their way up the hill to Onomichi’s Zenkouji. Spend the day soaking in the atmosphere known for its countless traditional festivals. In the evening, we will reassemble for a celebratory dinner at our ryokan.

Stats: 16km, 150m gain

Day 2 – Shimanami Kaido, Pt 1

Today is the first day of our journey across the Setouchi Sea, the brilliant blue body of water peppered with islands that stretches between Shikoku and Honshu. Welcome to the Shimanami Kaido! You’ll feel like you’re flying across the sea on these roads that are designed and painted specifically for cyclists traversing these gorgeous islands and bridges. We’ll spend the day dipping in and out of seaside towns and coastal roads. Finally we’ll get to our destination, the tiny old port town of Setoda. Take a stroll and explore the breathtaking temple and museum Kousanji before coming back and to enjoy a luxurious, traditional meal at Suminoe Ryokan.

Stats: 64km, 600m gain

Day 3 – Shimanami Kaido, Pt 2

The road continues on through the increasingly wild islands of Omishima, Hakata, and finally Oshima. Choose your own adventure through the various mountains we pass. Whether you take your time along the quiet seaside routes or push your limits up to the various mountain vistas on the islands, you’ll be treated to an experience unique to this world. The final chapter will take us across the longest suspension bridge in the world (though divided into three parts); the whirlpools underneath, coupled with the island filled horizon will blow you away. After reaching the end point of the Shimanami Kaido, we’ll head up to the beautiful Daichouso ryokan. Enjoy both the sunset and sunrise reflected upon the sea we just crossed.

Stats: 65km, 460m

Day 4 – Ehime’s Old Japan

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Today, take on the biggest ride day of the week, climbing up over Mt. Takanawa. We’ll dive into parts of Japan most people never knew existed: quiet mountain roads filled with tiny Japanese houses forgotten to time, and hills lined with bamboo forests that twinkle in golden sunlight. Once we summit, take in the view of the roads we’ve traveled and the roads to come. Then, fly down the mountain through winding forest roads past lakes into the east side of Matsuyama city to the oldest Onsen in Japan, Dogo Onsen. Heal your legs in 1200 years of ancient tradition, absorb the ancient atmosphere, and eat yet another feast in the beautiful Chaharu ryokan.

Stats: 72km, 1,200m

Day 5 – Hiroshima, The City of Peace

A short ride takes us across the rice fields north of the city, overshadowed by the mountaintop Matsuyama castle. Delving deep into the hills, we will come across Taisanji temple, #53 of the 88 temples that make up the 800 mile-long Shikoku Henro-no-michi, or pilgrimage. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see pilgrims wearing pure white and holding a staff, making their spiritual and physical journey across Japan.

Kick back with a coffee on the ferry across the sea to the river delta city of Hiroshima. Though home to nearly 1.5 million people, you’ll be amazed by the serenity of this place as we bike on riverside paths towards Heiwa Koen (Peace Park). In lieu of a hotel in the city, we’ll boat to the mysterious island of Miyajima, where you can enjoy a gorgeous nighttime stroll along traditional streets to catch a view of the moon silhouetted behind the famous shrine in the water, Itsukushimajinja.

Stats: 32km, 150m gain

Day 6 – The Islands of Hiroshima

After returning to Peace Park, we’ll say our goodbyes to the city and cycle back down to the port for one of our last ferry rides. We’ll wind up in Mitaka, the northwestern tip of the islands of Etajima, home to people living a quiet seaside life while watching the city expand from across the water. These islands are also home to even more beautiful cycling roads, whose flat and smooth surface will carry us on wings around curves, bridges as we soak up the ocean breeze. We’ll ride our way around the historic naval base city of Kure and head across the Akinashi bridge. The cobblestone streets of the tiny island town on the first island Shimokamagari will serve as the preamble for the last leg of our journey, the exotic Tobishima Kaido.

Stats: 80km, 300m gain

Day 7 – The Tobishima Kaido

Our last full riding day! In true spirit of this week, we will visit some of the most remote islands in the country. With a few more hills, these back roads are rarely ridden by non-locals. While this implies less of the usual convenience of Japan, it also means we get to experience the purest sense of rural island life. Take time exploring these green islands, reflect upon the paths we’ve traveled, listen to the soothing waves nearby. Finally, we’ll arrive at Seifukan, and in the onsen, we will experience the meaning of its name – Pure Wind.

Stats: 64km, 460m gain

Day 8 – The Bamboo Town, Takehara

Alas, all good things must come to an end! However, it’s hard to ask for a more fitting finish. Instead of repeating what we’ve done, we’ll head to the north side of the island, and take a short ferry ride into the quiet, historical town of Takehara. Known as the Kyoto of the West, it’s one of Japan’s most scenic places. Take in the zen forests of bamboo that overshadow the quiet streets. After, head up the nearby Mt. Asahi for a glorious view of the sea and islands we have traveled through to get here. Then, it’s a short ride to Hiroshima city or Onomichi, and an even shorter one to Hiroshima Airport. Farewell, and til the next adventure!

Stats: 24km, 230m

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Included

  • Fully-serviced, quality road bike, plus helmet and accessories
  • All accommodations: traditional Japanese Ryokan Hotels
  • Full meals: breakfasts, bento lunches, and dinners
  • Snacks and beverages between meals. We'll have snacks/beverages both familiar and new!
  • Nutritional support before, during, and after each ride
  • All gratuities at hotels, onsens, and restaurants
  • Access to relaxing natural hot spring baths (onsens) each day. (Please note: private onsens are booked separately; if interested, inquire in advance)
  • Expert guides, with extensive cycling and local knowledge, who will go above and beyond to cater to your every need
  • SAG Wagon to support a variety of route options
  • Entry fees to museums, shrines, historic sites, parks, and other attractions
  • Baggage transfers and porterage from trip pick up to drop-off
  • Ability to purchase gifts, local snacks, local sake, etc along the way and put them in the van at any time
  • Gratuities for BikeTourJapan guides (learn why we don't ask for tips!)

Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Transportation to and from the tour.
  • Pre- and post-tour planning (please inquire if you would like assistance in planning your travels in Japan outside of the tour)