Itinerary in brief:
- 2 nights Kyoto
- 2 nights Kobe
- 1 night Osaka
- 3 nights Tokyo
- 5 nights Maldives
Day 1: Depart UK
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
Included: International flights
Day 2: Arrive Kyoto
On arrival in Japan, you’ll be met at the airport and taken by shared shuttle to your hotel in Kyoto. The rest of your evening is free – we’d recommend going to Gion for an evening walk in the geisha district. This area is one of Kyoto’s flower towns, where the geishas live and work, known to be the most popular street in Gion because of its lavish ochaya lining up the old street. It’s the perfect spot to sample some kyo-ryori (traditional Kyoto cuisine)
Included: Transfers, 3* hotel, breakfast
Day 3: Kyoto and Nara
After breakfast, you’ll meet your local guide who will accompany you today on your day trip to Uji and Ikaruga in Nara. First, you’ll explore Uji, the tea capital of Japan. Here, you can visit several ancient temples and teahouses, as well as witnessing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. From there you will take the train to Ikaruga, which, during the 8th century, was the capital of Japan. Your guide will lead you through the architecture, including Horyu-ji Temple, one of Nara’s Seven Great Temples. It’s a pretty incredible temple - it houses some of the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures – the main hall and the five-story pagoda, which are both located in the western wing of the temple.
Included: 3* hotel, breakfast, private guide
Day 4: Travel to Kobe
Enjoy your final morning in Kyoto, visit Nanzen-ji, one of the largest Zen temples in Japan. Its vast grounds are free to explore and are especially beautiful during the colourful seasons of spring and autumn. Nearby is the famous Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-michi), which is lined with cherry trees on both sides and follows a tranquil canal. Many cafés and local shops can be found along this path while some of Kyoto’s popular shrines and temples are also located nearby. After a short stroll, head west to Yoshidayama, a hill that is home to two of Kyoto’s loveliest and least visited temples – Kurodani and Shinnyodo.
This afternoon, you’ll travel an hour by train from Kyoto is the harbour city of Kobe. Head to Chinatown), the centre of the Chinese community in the Kansai region and one of the only three Chinatowns in Japan. Explore the wide array of Chinese dishes, sweets, and other merchandise spread across its one hundred or so restaurants and shops. You can also enjoy Kobe’s modern architecture – the Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum.
Included: 3* hotel, train tickets
Day 5: Himeji and Kobe
After breakfast, you’ll meet up with your local guide and head off for a day of sightseeing in Himeji and Kobe. You’ll travel by train to Himeji Castle, the famous white castle that was originally built in 1333. Also called as “Shirasagi-jo” (the White Heron Castle) or “Hakuro-jo” (the White Egret Castle) by some of the locals, Himeji Castle resembles a white bird in flight due to its white exterior and distinctive roof design. Next, you’ll head to Koko Garden, which was built in 1992 as a commemoration for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Himeji municipality.
Travel back to Kobe and visit Ikuta Shrine, a quiet Shinto shrine in the heart of the city. Believed to be built around 3rd century AD and probably one of the oldest shrines in the world, this shrine has survived many events in Japanese history, including the Genpei War, WWII raids and the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
You can also explore the beautiful architecture of Kitano-cho, where ijinkan houses can be found (the houses of Kobe’s first foreign residents), before heading up to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Japan. Fifty meters above sea level is the Maiko Marine Promenade, a set of observatory hallways beneath the bridge’s platform.
Included: 3* hotel, breakfast, train tickets, private guide
Day 6: Travel to Osaka
This morning you’ll leave Kobe behind and dive into the colourful world of Osaka. Take the whole day to discover Japan’s 3rd largest city - famous for its amazing street food, the city’s motto is kuidaore, which literally means “eat-till-you-drop”.
Why not start in Dotonbori - a restaurant mecca which has long been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district. Well-known for its bright neon lights, friendly shop owners and food stalls that are filled with some local Osakan delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls).
From here you could head to Umeda, where most of the city’s most modern buildings are found. The Hankyu Entertainment Park features a big Ferris wheel and is perfect if you want to squeeze in some shopping while the Umeda Sky Building is a pair of skyscrapers connected in “mid-air”, built in an unusual architectural form rarely seen anywhere else in the world.
This evening we’ve organised a street food tour, to enjoy the best of the city’s snacks. Your first stop will be a street food stall, where you’ll taste a traditional Japanese snack food - menchi katsu - a breaded and deep-fried meat patty. Golden and crisp, it’s a local favourite, and you’ll soon see why.
Next, you’ll head to a standing bar to taste a selection of sake and Japanese wine, served with a handful of delicious house specialities. Afterwards, you’ll sit down in a restaurant famous for its wagyu beef dishes. Often referred to as the most expensive beef in the world, wagyu beef is firmly on the wish list of foodies around the globe. Enjoy the melt-in-the-mouth textures with a refreshing cocktail and soak up the atmosphere of Osaka.
At the final stop, you'll try a new style of tempura in an eatery tucked away down a small alleyway. Here, you'll find old favourites such as shrimp tempura as well as more experimental combinations such as asparagus tempura.
Included: 3* hotel, breakfast, train tickets
Day 7: Train to Tokyo
After breakfast, you’ll catch the bullet train to Tokyo, leaving you with the afternoon to get out and explore the city. You’ll be staying in Shinjuku, so why not head out and explore the area and tuck into some fresh sushi for dinner?
Included: Train tickets, 3* hotel, breakfast
Days 8 and 9: Tokyo
You have two days to explore Tokyo, and your time is sure to fly by. Why not start in Tsukiji Outer Market, which is always bustling, as visitors and locals come to enjoy delicious food and shop for traditional ingredients? It’s a great spot to grab a snack before heading over to the 400-year-old Zojoji Temple. Sitting next to the Tokyo Tower, the temple is a great place to get a glimpse of Japan’s ancient history and modern architecture side by side.
You can also enjoy a bowl of ramen for lunch before spending the afternoon discovering the serene beauty of Hie Shrine, a quiet haven in the bustling district of Akasaka. Statues of mythical creatures guard the shrine, which sits at the top of several escalators (a modern addition!). The shrine is famous for the 90 bright red tori gates that divide the human world and the spirit world, as well as being a doorway to a place where the gods can hear our prayers. It’s an extraordinary place to visit, so take your time.
Included: 3* hotel, breakfast
Day 10: Fly to the Maldives
After breakfast you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy Tokyo – why not visit the Studio Ghibli Museum to learn about this icon of cinema or visit a Cat Café to make some new friends? In the afternoon, you’ll make your own way to the airport for your overnight flight to the Maldives.
Included: Breakfast, international flights
Day 11: Arrive Maldives
On arrival, you will be met at the airport and taken by speedboat to your hotel. Check in, head to your room, and relax!
Included: 4* hotel, all-inclusive basis, speedboat transfers
Days 12 - 15: Maldives
Welcome to the Maldives, a lush nation with a big heart made up of nearly 1,200 tiny islands. We’ve booked you an overwater bungalow at the lovely Adaaran Club Rannalhi, so you can jump into the turquoise water for a quick snorkel before breakfast or catch a magnificent sunset from your deck.
Spend your days kayaking through the crystal-clear ocean or learning to dive on the colourful reef. In the evening, settle down for a sumptuous dinner, whether you fancy sushi by the sea or a private candlelit dinner on the beach. This is paradise – just lie back and soak it all up.
Included: 4* hotel, all-inclusive basis
Day 16: Depart Maldives
After breakfast, you’ll be met and taken by speedboat back to the airport, in time for your flight back to the UK.
Included: International flights, breakfast, speedboat transfers
Day 17: Arrive UK