Top 13 Year-Round Activities in Niseko (Updated)
Niseko treats travellers to an amazing set of attractions, ranging from cultural and historical riches to a smorgasbord of adventure offerings.
The Niseko area spans well beyond the borders of just Niseko Town. The Niseko resort area encompasses Niseko Town and Kutchan Town, but also spills over into Rankoshi Town and Kyowa Town as well. However, Niseko's borders don't stop there, in fact they continue to spread and more and more area is becoming a part of the area that makes up the Niseko travel destination.
Niseko has been a popular travel destination for years, but it has continued to garner international attention over the past few years. Part of Niseko's success has been due to the rise in popularity of Hokkaido as a travel destination like the acclaim the island received from the Lonely Planet, but Niseko itself has seen plenty of time in the spotlight, attracting praise from big names like National Geographic and Trip Advisor in the past year alone.
Given all this attention, we thought we might go back and update this article as it will be a powerful tool to travellers thinking about visiting Niseko. Here are our top picks (in no particular order).
13. Enjoy Season-Specific Activites
We have to start with this one to tick it off the list. Each season here in Niseko comes with a range of activities that are best or which can only be done at a certain time of year. You could come back to Niseko during each of the four seasons to enjoy the new activities each time, never doing the same activity more than once. Or, visit in and try out the same ones each time and re-discover them across the seasons!
12. Check out Local Art and Culture
There are a number of great local museums ranging from art to natural history. Spread out across the Niseko area, they can be a great way to learn about life here in the area and to witness something new.
11. Get a Massage
There are a number of spas and wellness centres here in Niseko that only are open during the winter season, but there are plenty that are open year round. Lay down for a round of Japanese shiatsu massage and let the professionals work out all of those knots in your back and shoulders. Combine your massage with number 5 on our list for the best results! A real recipe for relaxation.
Hiking is a great activity that comes in any number of difficulty levels and can be done in any season here in Niseko. Whether you are fit and capable of hiking from dawn until dusk or just keen to get out for a leisurely walk and some fresh air, there is a place you can go in Niseko for just that.
During spring, summer and autumn, Niseko has dozens of hiking paths and trails that can be explored. Those like the Arishima Memorial Footpath make for an easy hour or two walk, while others such as Mt Yotei can take a full day. If you are really into hiking, there are a number of popular trekking courses that run from the Niseko area out to the Sea of Japan and back.
In the winter season, hiking is usually for the sake of finding fresh, untouched powder snow. Whether you have a pair of skins on your skis or a set of snowshoes, you will need to have all the right gear to hike through Niseko's deep powder snow.
9. Ice Cream
Hokkaido is known for it's dairy products and this is actually a huge draw for many travellers from across Asia. Whether the weather is hot or cold, sometimes a nice cone of ice cream is just the treat! There are a number of great places to get your icy fill, we've listed a few below but don't be afraid to get out and find new ones!
- Ruhiel - Serving Italian gelato on Route 343 between Kutchan Town and Grand Hirafu Resort.
- Niseko Gelato - Serving Italian gelato and wonderful waffle cones at the Niseko View Plaza.
- Milk Kobo - Serving a range of ice cream flavours made fresh with milk from Niseko Town's Takahashi Dairy Farm by Niseko Village Resort.
- Mita Dairy Farm - Serving fresh ice cream made fresh with milk from Mita Dairy Farm off of Route 5 in Kyowa Town.
8. Take in the Views
With so many mountain peaks here in the Niseko area, there is no better place to go and experience new heights. Whether you are keen to climb all the way to the peak yourself, or just want to take a ride up on one of the gondolas (summer or winter) the Niseko landscape offers many spectacular views.
Whether you are looking out across the Niseko Panorama, towards the Sea of Japan or at Mt Yotei and it's surrounding landscape either way you will want to give yourself a moment or two to take it all in.
Which leads to the next best activity...
The Niseko landscapes are a thing of natural beauty and wonder. Whether it is all of the scenic sights mentioned above or any one of the many others to discover, you could snap hundreds of photos a day without running out of stunning subjects for a year here in Niseko with ease. The incredible beauty of the area has resulted in many professional studies cropping up in the area, but you don't need to be a pro to take a few great photos to throw up on Facebook or Instagram and share your memories with your friends! Don't forget to follow us on both and leave us a #experienceniseko or two on Instagram.
6. Go for a drink
The Niseko resort area has a number of great places to go for a late-night drink. It is true, there are more options during the winter season, but even in summer there are still plenty of places that stay open into the late hours of the evening.
During spring, summer and autumn, many of the places that are open into the evening are great for a quiet drink, but there are plenty of places that still cater to groups and which offer a more energetic vibe.
During winter, around the Niseko resorts and especially in Grand Hirafu, there are options of just about every type to choose from. Grand Hirafu has the largest selection of places ranging from high-end whiskey bars to full out night clubs and dive bars.
5. Soak in an Onsen
The Niseko area used to be an onsen resort. It was only from about the 1960s that it started to become a winter skiing travel sensation. It's reputation as an onsen hot spot hasn't faded away. With over twenty amazing hot springs to choose from within driving distance of the Niseko resort area, there are plenty of new places to explore. Each onsen will have its own atmosphere and no two will be the same. Whether they have a rotenburo (outdoor bath) or perhaps a mud bath, Niseko is an excellent place to dip into Japan's bathing culture.
Hokkaido produce is number one! Not just in Japan, but even in many places across Asia, Hokkaido produce is highly sought after. There are hundreds of farms across the Niseko region that produce all kinds of crops and livestock. The best part about visiting the area is that the majority of restaurants in the area use all of that locally grown food to whip up some wonderful dishes. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, so don't be afraid to try new places when you visit!
3. Spend the Night
Niseko has dozens of great places to spend the night. Whether you are coming in winter's peak skiing season or the lazy summer months, there are plenty of options ranging from the very affordable to high-end luxury!
If you are travelling here in winter we highly recommend that you look into booking well in advance! Most accommodation providers, hotels and management companies, here in Niseko start taking bookings for the following winter season in March and April. Finding a place to stay during winter peaks, such as during Christmas, New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year can be challenging, especially if left to the last minute.
In summer, there is usually less competition when it comes to short stays. If you are looking to stay for a couple nights or a week, finding a great place to stay is typically quite easy. That said, if you are looking for a summer long-stay, spanning one, two or three months, it can be a bit harder if you are looking for a specific resort home or room. Many of the Niseko long-stay guests come back each year, booking their favourite place to stay each year months before they arrive.
With all of the activities listed above, a trip to Niseko can hardly be called work! Niseko has become one of the most popular destinations in Asia. During winter, Niseko is regarded as a world-famous international ski resort. In summer, Niseko has become Japan's cottage country and is growing more and more popular with travellers from Southeast Asia.
Sit back and enjoy the landscapes over a drink. Enjoy gourmet food at Michelin star restaurants. Relax your bones and muscles in a steamy hot spring.
Relaxing is probably the one activity you will do most here in Niseko!
1... Choose Your Own Adventure
Lastly, we leave you with a bit of an open end. Because there are so many things you can come and do at any time of the season and so many more that can only be experienced at specific times, Niseko is the perfect place for a choose-your-own-adventure-style trip. Explore the Niseko area and find all kinds of hidden treasures ranging from new landscapes to new cultural experiences.