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Fukuoka, Japan

Best of Kyushu

16-day tailor-made holiday from £6,425 pp


Short description

Look beyond tropical coastlines and ultramodern cities to find a Meiji Restoration past as violent as the island’s volcanoes


  • Look beyond tropical coastlines and ultramodern cities to find Meiji Restoration castles and traditional ryokan stays
  • Explore a volcano-studded landscape manifested in rainforest islands and sulphur valleys, a backdrop to helicopter flights and ranging hikes
  • Make use of bullet trains, jet foil ferries, island drives and private tours as you discover traditional onsen and degustation feasts

In Brief

  • 2 Nights Fukuoka
  • 2 Nights Nagasaki
  • 1 Night Unzen
  • 1 Night Kumamoto
  • 1 Night Kurokawa
  • 1 Night Aso
  • 2 Nights Kagoshima
  • 3 Nights Yakushima
  • 1 Night Fukuoka


Recommended for:
City | History & culture | Natural world

Kyushu’s dramatic scenery is one formed out of conflict both geographic and anthropological. Once-powerful castle cities provide evidence of feudal unrest while Nagasaki still bears the scars of more recent events. However, it’s the natural world that takes centre stage. Kyushu’s volcano-studded landscape extends onto nearby islands where walks through ancient rainforests reward with hidden wildlife and pretty beaches. And, throughout, the Japanese have channelled their country’s violent activity into more civilised hot spring baths; you’ll have the chance to make the plunge in traditional ryokan inns before being treated to local delicacies in indulgent degustation dinners. In between, you’ll have the chance to experience modern Japan in Kyushu’s city ports, complete with cutting-edge architecture that does nothing to overshadow traditional gardens. And, on helicopter sightseeing flights, bullet trains, island drives, jetfoil ferries and private guided tours you’ll explore it all. 

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
Depart UK

Your trip will start with included airport lounge access before your overnight flight to Fukuoka, arriving on day two.

Day 2

On arrival at Kyushu’s largest city, a private car will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your central hotel. A modern prefectural capital, Fukuoka features ultra-modern architecture, pretty waterfront developments and a lively island entertainment district complete with neon bars and yatai street vendors. Don’t miss out on colourful Canal City, a giant shopping complex where there’s even a ‘Ramen Stadium’. Here you can sample the local specialty – hearty egg noodles. Otherwise, indulge in a more contemporary Japanese tradition with a trip to a SoftBank Hawks baseball game.

Stay: Royal Park Hotel (Standard) 

Meals: B

Day 3

On your second day in Fukuoka, we recommend an optional day trip out to some of the nearby sites. In Dazaifu – once a 7th century political powerhouse – you’ll find an idyllic leafy backwater famed for its collection of beautiful temples and shrines while Nanzoin features a 41m long, reclining Buddha said to contain ashes of the man himself. It’s a giant bronze statue among the largest in the world. Perhaps ahead further afield to Yanagawa, 45 minutes southwest of Fukuoka, where you can punt on a traditional donko bune boat around the moat of Yanagawa Castle.

Stay: Royal Park Hotel (Standard) 

Meals: B

Day 4

From Fukuoka, a scenic express train journey will bring you past quiet villages and seaside towns to Nagasaki, often described as one of the prettiest cities in Japan. And, it’s not hard to see why, with a picturesque harbour backed by green mountains and cobbled streets leading to possibly the country’s most diverse collection of religious sites. During Japan’s period of isolation, Nagasaki was the only city open to the West, meaning Shinto shrines are complemented by Catholic church spires and European architecture.

Stay: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel (Superior) 

Meals: B

Day 5

On your second day, a private guide will tailor-make an 8-hour tour to your interests. Perhaps you’d like to see the sights or sample the local speciality – shippoku – where European, Chinese and Japanese cuisine comes together in multi-course round table meals. We recommend heading out to enjoy the view from Dejima – the city’s once-Dutch trading post island – or the idyllic Clover Gardens, before tracing Nagasaki’s heartbreaking WWII past in the superb Peace Park and Museum.

Stay: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel (Superior) 

Meals: B

Day 6

Today, a direct intercity bus will bring you to Unzen, an area of outstanding natural beauty best known for its hot springs. Walking through the town, you’ll watch as billows of sulphuric gas rises from Jigokudani, translating literally as 'Hell’s Valley'. But it’s not just for show with the region – your hotel included – harnessing the volcanic power in heated onsen baths, the perfect way to end a hike up the surrounding maple tree covered mountains. They’re even meant to have numerous health benefits.

Stay: Unzen Hotel, Kyushu (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 7

After a direct bus and short ferry hop, you’ll arrive in seaside Kumamoto. This historic city is famed for its eponymous castle, built more than 400 years ago by a warring clan. And, despite the best efforts dissident samurai, challenging the Meiji government, its delicately balanced tiered roofs have been faithfully restored. It’s worth noting that public access can be hampered by the structure’s vulnerability to earthquakes. In this case, head to the mountain gardens of Suizen-ji Temple or to Kamitori Street where traditional izakaya pubs, sushi restaurants and yakiniku grill restaurants give you an authentic taste of Japanese life.

Stay: Nikko Hotel Kumamoto (Superior) 

Meals: B D

Day 8
Kurokawa Onsen

Pick up your hire car to make the hour’s drive to Kurokawa enjoying views out over Mt. Aso along the way. Today, we recommend walks through Suzume Jigoku – a bubbling valley of sulphur pools – or a hike up to viewpoints over what is the world’s largest caldera. In the evening, enjoy a typically Japanese kaiseki meal in your traditional ryokan inn where, over multiple courses, local specialities are immaculately presented and flavours are carefully balanced. End the day with a hot spring soak.

Stay: Takefue, Kurokawa Onsen (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Day 9
Mount Aso

This active volcano marks the centre of Kyushu and combines enough geographical features to fill a textbook. After its giant crater – measuring 25 by 18 kilometres – there are five mountain peaks whose slopes give way to open pastures and grasslands. The only way to truly appreciate its vast beauty is from the air, so we’ve arranged for a helicopter ride to take you directly over its volcanic summit. Steep drives, gorge walks and cable cars are available for those wanting to get closer. 

Stay: Takefue, Kurokawa Onsen (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Days 10-11

Make the drive back to drive back to Kumamoto where you’ll board a Shinkansen bullet train to bring you to Kagoshima at Kyushu’s southern tip. Thanks to its coastal setting and skyline dominated by Sakurajima volcano, it’s no surprise that it’s often dubbed the ‘Naples of Japan’. You’ll have two days to explore, making use of a private guide service on the second. You might want to visit a nearby volcanic island, try a hot sand bath at Ibusuki, sample the local tipples at the Mejiguru Brewery or simply take time out in Senganen’s traditional Japanese gardens, speckled with diminutive stone lanterns. You’ll also find the city’s rich history documented in its museums and evidenced in castle ruins.

Stay: Shiroyamo Kanko Hotel (Superior) 

Meals: B

Days 12-14

A jetfoil ferry – the bullet train’s nautical counterpart – will bring you to Yakushima Island. A true natural wonder, its moss-covered cedar tree forests dating back thousands of years make for stunning walks over impossibly twisted roots and past indigenous monkeys and deer. And, moving away from its mountainous interior, you’ll find a sublime coastline dotted with sandy beaches and hot spring baths. For your time on the island, we’ve included car hire to help you explore Yakushima’s quiet roads. On your second day here, a private guide will tailor a hiking route depending on your fitness and interests, taking in hidden wildlife and secret waterfalls. He’ll even provide you with a bento lunch box. The last day is spent at leisure.

Stay: JR Hotel Yakushima (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 15

On your last full day in Japan, start off by exploring any of Yakushima you might have missed (after a last onsen soak, of course), before boarding a flight back to Fukuoka. Perhaps head into downtown Tenjin for a last cup of sake, where you can sample otherwise poisonous fugu blowfish, prepared by specially trained chefs.

Stay: Royal Park Hotel (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 16
Depart for UK

A private transfer will bring you the twenty minutes to Fukuoka’s airport where you’ll board your flight back to the UK, arriving the same day. 

Meals: B



Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

Accommodation rating: Standard Superior

16-day tailor-made holiday
from £6,425 pp

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