Go For A Drive (Or Ride) In Niseko
Planning to rent a car during your stay here in Niseko? Keen to go for a scenic cycle while you're here? Check out some of our top routes in the area!
Scenic Mt Yotei Drive
This route is great any time of year. Mt Yotei is a spectacular sight to see and is a big reason that many people come to the Niseko area. The volcanic mountain that stands alone and is surrounded by kilometres of sweeping farmland and forests. The mountain is shaped in a near perfect cone, with a beautiful crater at it's peak. It's shape has earned it the nickname of Ezo Fuji or Hokkaido's Mt Fuji due to the likeness it bears to Japan's most famous mountain.
During spring, there are a number of wonderful places you can take photos of Mt Yotei with the blooming cherry blossoms or fields of pink moss phlox. In summer, sweeping farmer's fields are ripe with crops and the forests are bursting with life in the mountain's shadow. In autumn, the mountains slopes explode into a fiery mix of colours as they creep down from top to bottom. In winter, the landscape becomes quiet and still and Mt Yotei stands above all the rest, it's pure white cap catching the sunset on clear days.
The course is just over 50 km, so it is not too challenging for many beginner and intermediate cyclists. The course is primarily flat, it has inclines and declines, but none that are too overwhelming. It is a long course for new riders and is not recommended for those who have never been on a ride that is over 30 km.
The Niseko Panorama Line
This route runs through the Niseko United resort area and then along Route 66. After coming out on the west side of the resorts, it then turns north along the Niseko Panorama Line. There are a number of places along the climb where you can safely stop, pull your car over and step out to take in the view. You can take Route 66 all the way to Iwanai Town if you are heading there for a day trip, but we have marked our drive/ride to turn back to the Niseko resorts a before reaching Iwanai Town.
This drive is only open in summer and autumn. Once the snow starts to accumulate, Route 66 is closed off just passed the Chisenupuri Ski Area. There are a number of great places to stop off for a bite to eat, but once you get up into the Panorama Line itself, there isn't much until you get back to Route 5. Keep that in mind when you plan out your trip!
This is a much tougher cycle than our first route. It is a longer course which runs just under 75 km and has plenty of inclines and declines. For an intermediate to advanced cyclist this would be a great ride, but it might be a bit overwhelming for someone not used to long rides or tough climbs.
Niseko to Toya
Lake Toya is a popular summer destination for many travellers here in Niseko. Fortunately, the drive is also quite scenic. Our route takes you past Mt Yotei, down past Rusutsu Resort Amusement Park around the lake before heading back. It makes for a great day trip and can be combined with all kinds of wonderful summer activities, like an afternoon on the lake with some stand up paddle boards (SUP) or just a regular dip in the lake for a short swim.
Lake Toya also has a number of great onsen that offer day visitor use, so you can take a dip in a hot spring, too, if you are in the mood. Lake Toya is an ideal destination during the summer as there are many activities to do both at the lake and along the way.
This is the longest cycle, coming in at 125 km. There are a number of alternative routes that can be taken to add more variation to the ride as much of this ride comes back along the same roads. For many cyclists, a 125 km ride would be a bit too long to handle, so this course is only recommended for experienced riders who are used to a long day on two wheels.
General Driving Tips for Niseko
Here are just a few general tips to keep you safe on the road here in Niseko. Regardless of what season, they are all good ones to keep in mind. Given the slightly increased risk of driving during the winter, we have added a few winter ones to keep in mind!
- Make sure you have the appropriate driver's license. You will need either a Japanese driver's license or an international driver's license along with your driver's license from back home (wherever that may be). To get an international driver's license, you will need to find out where you can get one in your home country, before you come to Japan.
- Follow the traffic signs and regulations. There are times where you might feel that the speed limits are a bit lower than you are comfortable. They are set due to the road conditions and are set lower in dangerous areas.
- What are those red marks? If you see red lines on the road, you will feel them as you go over them. They are placed in particularly dangerous places, typically leading up to curves or corners and are a warning to slow down.
- Bring a pair of sunglasses to help reduce the glare. This can be important in winter as well, as the glare will be amplified by the snow.
- In winter, drive slow! There can be ice under the snow in unexpected places and driving slowly and carefully is your safest bet.
- In winter, apply your brakes gently to reduce the risk of sliding.