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- 25 Sep 2020, 3 nights
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The mountainous town of Hakone, Japan, is a serene retreat located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, 100km west of Tokyo. With views of the mighty Mount Fuji, it’s home to traditional hot springs and the idyllic waters of Lake Ashinoko. Culture seekers can explore the many temples, ornate shrines and museums, while the nearby hills are a haven for nature lovers. For a relaxing experience based on centuries of Japanese tradition, soak in the hundreds of open-air onsen baths surrounded by cherry blossom trees and tranquil gardens.
Most of the hostels in Hakone are in cosy buildings with a choice of minimalistic private rooms or capsule-style dormitory beds. You can stay in a Hakone hostel that has a natural outdoor bath to take a restorative dip with other backpackers, or look out for somewhere that has the traditional Japanese tatami rooms with natural rice-straw mats. Many Hakone hostels in the area have modern features and comforts such as free Wi-Fi, air con and toiletries. Some have stylish wooden-clad bars, fire pits or ping-pong tables for socialising.
The area around Hakone-Yumoto Station is the gateway to Hakone where you’ll find traditional ryokan inns, ramen shops and souvenir stalls. The lakeside hub of Moto-Hakone is the place to take in the area’s mountain sights and use as a base for forest trails and shoreside onsen spots. Get off at the final stop on the scenic Hakone Tozan railway and you'll be in Gora, a hot-spring mecca nestled in countryside.
The area has plenty of interesting things to do. In the Hakone Open Air Museum, you’ll find sculptures, works by Picasso and a hot-spring footbath. Take a boat tour of the lake to marvel at Mount Fuji or walk a lantern-lined forest path that leads to the mist-shrouded Hakone shrine. At Ōwakudani, you'll be up close to the huge crater from the last volcanic eruption. For a wellbeing fix, indulge in the natural onsens at Tenzan and Hakone Yuryo, or visit Yunessun, a hot-spring theme park with more than 20 therapeutic baths.
The area’s nearest international airport is Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. You can get to Hakone from Tokyo on the Odakyu line train from the city's Shinjuku train station. If you take the Limited Express Romancecar, it takes roughly 90 minutes. Once in the region, a fuss-free way to get around the main hotspots is with the Hakone Free Pass. This covers the picturesque mountain railway, bus routes, cable car and the boat crossing the centre of Lake Ashinoko.