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CNN Travel: World's best unknown hike: Japan's Kumano Kodo

CNN Travel: World's best unknown hike: Japan's Kumano Kodo

World's best unknown hike: Japan's Kumano Kodo
Text: Hiufu Wong
Published by CNN Travel
May 08, 2013

I knew I was going to have to climb 538 stairs to get to Kamikura Shrine in Wakayama, Japan.

What I didn't know was that those steps -- leading to the lofty highlight of my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage -- would be on a 70-degree incline.

Ever tried climbing a rock face? Or the roof an A-frame house?

Run a rolling pin over your calves a few times and you'll get an idea of what I was looking at. 

Already exhausted from hiking Kumano Kodo's ancient trails in the Kii Mountains -- the route starts about an hour by train from Osaka -- the only things pushing me upward were the encouraging smiles from a grandpa, a girl wearing a long maxi-dress and salarymen in stiff shirts and dress pants who walked past me as if they were taking a stroll to the grocery store.
So, was that uphill torture worth it? Of course -- what great hike isn't? 
Anyway, the rest of the trail was relatively easy to get through -- the biggest obstacle was all the stops for photos.
And there is good reason for that. The views and little stops along the way make this one of the best (and possibly most overlooked) treks on the planet, a glorious march -- or in my case, occasional scramble, that includes hot springs retreats, delicious local food and rich cultural insight into a relatively unexplored part of Japan.

When I say unexplored, I mean for international travelers. Though the pilgrimage has been in operation for more than 1,000 years it remains quite off the map for most visitors to Japan who consider Kyoto or Osaka a far enough detour from the main access point of Tokyo.
And this is a good thing -- because it means a richer, more peaceful experience for those that make it to Wakayama prefecture and the Kumano Kodo. And for those that think Japan is expensive, food and accommodation prices are better than reasonable.

This guide will give you all to know to capture a truly epic adventure. And like most epic adventures, there's a bit to it.

Read more >> 
Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route Information>>

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NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass

NEW Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Tourist Pass
This is an easy way to do a loop of the Kii Peninsula.

From July 15, 2016 (Friday)
PRICE Adult 11,000 yen Children 5,500 yen (Children 6 to 11 years old)
NOTE: This pass is not available for purchase in Japan.
VALIDITY PERIOD Five consecutive days
AREA ●JR conventional lines: Nagoya-Shingu-within Osaka City (via lse Tetsudo Line or Kameyama, via Kisei Main Line/Hanwa Line) ●Nagoya-Kameyama-Nara-within Osaka City (via Kansai Main Line) Taki Toba (Sangu Line) ●Kansai International Airport-Hineno (Kansai Airport Line) ●Bus routes for accessing Kumano Kodo, Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha (Only Kumano Kotsu Bus); and Select bus routes
TRAIN TYPES ●Unlimited use of non-reserved seats on ordinary cars on all JR conventional line trains in the subject section. ●Reserved seats can be used up to four times on ordinary cars of limited express and rapid trains. ●Only non-reserved seats can be used on the limited express "Haruka' between the Kansai Inte…