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Pretty Places to Visit in the Kiso Valley of Japan

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Pretty Places to Visit in the Kiso Valley of Japan

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Japan’s Kiso Valley is the perfect combination of traditional Japanese life and gorgeous natural scenery. The river valley runs from Shiojiri to Nakatsugawa across Nagano and Gifu Prefectures and is dotted with old-fashioned post towns that used to accommodate travellers taking the Nakasendo Way, a historic highway from the Edo Period.

Following my time in Matsumoto, not far from the region, I spent several days exploring the Kiso Valley. While I didn’t get to trek the Nakasendo Way – a new future goal of mine – I did visit a variety of places in the region, including some of the prettiest post towns in Japan.

Now, don’t get me wrong. What follows aren’t the only places to visit in the Kiso Valley (I sadly didn’t get to stop at Nezame-no-toko Gorge), but these are the popular ones to get you started. These Kiso Valley towns will definitely get you excited to visit the region yourself and show why the Kiso Valley is so worth visiting.

 

Narai-juku

Probably the most recognizable place in the Kiso Valley among tourists is the town of Narai-juku. Sitting at the northern end of the valley, Narai is an easily accessible and easily likeable place to go. Narai may be a small town, but this post town feels mostly unaltered from the Edo Period.

Visiting Narai-juku is not complicated. The Old Nakasendo Way runs right through the town and it only takes a minute or two to walk a from the train station to reach the main street. Right along this long street, you’ll see wall to wall wooden houses that have retained their traditional design. Walking through Narai feels like you’re in an open-air museum, albeit one where people still live and work.

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Narai-juku sits deep within the Kiso Valley, meaning the town runs right along the Narai river and there’s no real incline to speak of. But head just one street back from the main street and you’ll find the valley’s hills. It’s there that you can visit various Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. In the forest there’s even the odd viewpoint if you go high enough.

A half day spent in Narai-juku is definitely long enough. Besides admiring the town’s scenery and taking photos, your main activities here are going to be shopping and eating at the town’s cafes and restaurants. There is the Narakawa History and Folklore Museum, but it only seems to be open on weekends.

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Magome

Post Towns in the Kiso Valley of Japan

Narai may have been the Japanese post town I saw the most photos of, but in terms of tourist crowds, Magome was the busiest. Stepping off the bus in town, it was a real surprise to find so many other visitors wandering through this small hilltop town.

Magome lies just outside the city of Nakatsugawa and is the only one of these towns in the Gifu Prefecture. Rather than being down in the Kiso Valley, it instead sits up among farmland in the hills overlooking the valley. This elevation means that Magome offers some fantastic views of the region, especially from the Magome-juku Lookout Point.

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Magome sits along the Old Nakasendo Way and was my starting point for the Magome to Tsumago walk. But fair warning, you’re likely to begin your visit at the low end of town, whether you’re arriving by bus or car. This means it’s all uphill from there.

Fortunately the scenery makes the climb worth it. Magome centres on a pristine pedestrian street lined with large traditional homes and lots of greenery. As first impressions go, it definitely had me excited to explore what else the Kiso Valley had to offer.

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Tsumago

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Often combined with Magome as neighbouring stops on the Nakasendo Way is the town of Tsumago. Found on the far side of the Magome Pass much closer to the Kiso River, Tsumago is another extraordinarily well-preserved post town.

Entering Tsumago from the southern end, you’ll first cross the Araragi river, which itself has some pretty rural scenery to admire. As is typical of post towns in Japan, Tsumago is designed as a row of houses along one main winding street. What’s interesting here is that unlike Narai, the look of the town changes as you go.

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Tsumago is perhaps the town with the most old-fashioned feeling of the ones I visited, especially around its southern end. This is the area where you’ll most see in photos. But continue going north and the town becomes more lively, as you start finding a lot of shops, kiosks, and restaurants.

The atmosphere changes again at the northern end of town, becoming quiet and more residential. Still, it’s also very pretty if you follow the Old Nakasendo road as opposed to going down to the Tsumago-juku North Entrance. Following the Old Nakasendo Way you can walk through forest to reach Nagiso, the next entry on this list.

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Nagiso

Nagiso, Kiso Valley

The easiest starting point for visiting the towns of Tsumago and Magome is the town of Nagiso. Unlike those post towns, Nagiso is right on the Kiso River and has its own train station. From Nagiso, you can walk or take the local bus to both Tsumago and Magome.

But is Nagiso worth visiting on its own? I’d say that if you’re already passing through, why not spend a little time there. To me, the big appeal of Nagiso is the town’s riverfront. It’s there that you can see the immense Momosuke Bridge spanning the river. Head out onto the bridge and you’re treated to nice views of the valley and surrounding hills.

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Unlike the other towns mentioned here, you won’t find a traditional post town at Nagiso. It’s just not that kind of place. Instead though, there are some neat spots, such as the SL Park with a steam train parked in it. Nagiso adds a nice bit of variety when visiting all the post towns of the Kiso Valley, one after another.

 

Kiso Fukushima

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One last town that you may want to know about is Kiso Fukushima. It’s probably the least popular of the post towns here for sightseeing, because while Kiso Fukushima is a little larger than the other towns, only a small pocket reflects its traditional side.

The historic buildings and homes are located along a small street on a hill overlooking the meeting of the Kiso and Yaza rivers. You can walk around the area in 10 minutes without rushing. But while it may be compact, there’s no denying it’s a pretty spot, especially with a little viewpoint pavilion at its river end.

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I’d mainly recommend checking out this part of Kiso Fukushima if you’re staying in town or passing through on a hike. The historic part of town is an intermediate stop on the Nakasendo Way, but didn’t feel as lively as places like Narai or Magome.

Beyond the Nakasendo Way, I’d recommend walking down to the town’s scenic riverfront. There you’ll get views along the valley, but there are also free public foot bathes, where you can soak your feet in warm water. I’d also recommend the Kumata cafe, mainly because of the sweet old lady who runs it.

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Travel Tips for Visiting the Kiso Valley

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Working out where to stay in the Kiso Valley is one of the biggest challenges of visiting. Not only are there multiple towns to pick from, but most accommodation is only bookable through their individual websites or even require a phone call.

To stay in more traditional ryokan, it’s best to look at Magome or Tsumago, while Narai-juku is home to a luxury option.

I stayed at Kiso Mikawaya in Kiso Fukushima for my time in the Kiso Valley. Kiso Fukushima seemed to have the easiest transport connections and this was the most affordable accommodation I could find. This is because I didn’t book accommodation far enough in advance, but if you do, you’ll definitely have a wider range of options.

Travelling around the Kiso Valley can be done by train using the JR Pass or Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass.

The Shinano Limited Express is only really useful for getting to Kiso Fukushima from Matsumoto, Shiojiri, and Nakatsugawa, as they rarely stop at other valley stations. For those stations (e.g. Nagiso and Narai), you want the local trains on the Chuo Main Line, which aren’t too frequent. Again, there’s also the local bus which is useful for getting to Tsumago and Magome from Nagiso station.

 


Have you heard of the Kiso Valley in Japan? Which of these post towns in the Kiso Valley do you want to visit most or first? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Emma Catherine grew up on the beautiful Southern California coast. She loves surfing, writing, and hanging out with her adorable dog, Henry. Her debut YA Contemporary, Love Letters, comes July 2017.

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Cultural destinations

These Are The Top 7 Beach Destinations In 2024 According To Travel And Leisure

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mallorca spain coastline

A comprehensive list of the top destinations for 2024 has been put together by the Travel and Leisure experts.

Numerous magazines have released their favorites for the upcoming year, and they all appear very different. While some are fully off the grid, others are popular hotspots.

In the end, you have to determine what interests you enough to plan a fantastic trip. Travel & Leisure divided up their best recommendations by category rather than covering all 50 locations.

Let’s examine the top 7 “beach vibes” for 2024 as listed by Travel & Leisure:
Florida’s Anna Maria Island
There are several locations in Florida that make for the perfect vacation, which is why the state continues to draw enormous numbers of visitors.

Miami and other major American beaches and cultural centers are located in this sunny state. However, a lot of people decide to take the ideal family vacation to Orlando.

Tampa is one place that gets overlooked despite having so many beautiful beaches close by. Travel and Leisure declares Anna Maria Island to be the greatest in Florida because of its friendly locals, breathtaking sunsets, and lack of skyscrapers that obstruct the view.

Your stay will be more enjoyable and accessible with new hotels and more flights to nearby Sarasota.
Italy’s Campania coast
This striking area is experiencing a hotel boom on some of the most picturesque coastline in the nation.

With four destinations to pick from for your European beach getaway—Amalfi, Positano, Capri, and Sorrento—Coastal Campania offers quadruple the pleasure.

Italy’s breathtaking beaches will wow you; many visitors associate the nation with ancient sites and excessive wine and pasta consumption.

You can still indulge in excessive amounts of delectable food and drink locally produced wine, but why not do it against the breathtaking backdrop of azure waters, undulating hills, and classic architecture?
There are several hotel alternatives available to travelers, ranging from luxurious accommodations with cliffside pools to intimate boutique styles.

Soon, American and Delta will begin offering direct service to the neighboring Naples.
There isn’t a single Costa Rican beach that Travel and Leisure recommended visiting in 2024. T and L essentially advise you to “just pick one” beach because they are all so lovely.

Any beach in Costa Rica is a good choice, however some are busier and more well-known than others.
While some may choose for more quiet spots to have a wonderful beach all to themselves, many small towns have a thriving surfing community that gets together to surf the waves.

Travelers adore visiting the land of pura vida, despite the fact that it is usually more expensive than nearby nations.

Travel & Leisure also adore it. Indeed, they have selected Costa Rica as the “Destination of the Year” for 2024. Whether traveling alone, with company, or on a family vacation, everyone will find their place in this stunning nation.

There are plenty of enjoyable excursions to discover the breathtaking beauty and culture of the country, and lodging options ranging from cozy hostels to opulent hotels are easily accessible.
Dominica  Over the past year, Dominica has been increasingly popular. Travel is on the rise, and more people are looking to discover bright new places to visit.

This Caribbean island features picture-perfect waterfalls, verdant jungles, and unspoiled beaches, making it a veritable paradise.

trekking enthusiasts should prepare their trekking shoes, as the breathtaking Waitukubuli National Trail spans more than 100 miles across the island.

More lodging facilities, including upscale establishments like InterContinental, are opening up. A major lure for tourists is sustainability, with charming eco-lodges.
Hawaii Island 🙠
We are all aware of the destruction Hawaii experienced earlier this year. After a wildfire decimated Maui, there has been debate in the travel industry over whether or not it is still safe to visit.

Travel and Leisure claims that Hawaii is prepared for tourists to return. Without requiring a passport, Hawaii offers one of the most unusual environments.

Stunning beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, and cliffside vistas are just a few of the main attractions for tourists.

Travelers are urged by the tourism sector to treat any island as if it were their own home and to be careful of their stay.
Mexico’s Los Cabos
With the cleanest beaches in all of Latin America, Los Cabos is among the most picturesque locations in Mexico.

“Is Cabo worth the price?” is the query that vacationers should be asking themselves. The top hotels, according to reports, are now charging an astounding $1000 a night on average!

With its boujee resorts, immaculate beaches, and exciting entertainment, Cabo is among the most opulent vacation spots that are accessible to most people.

In 2024, more opulent resorts are planned to open, and more flights are leaving from American airports.
Spain’s Mallorca
This gorgeous island in Spain is ideal for a romantic beach vacation. It is the location of the lovely city of Palma, which is overlooked in favor of Spain’s other major towns. Outside of the city are some of the most tranquil beaches the country has to offer, complete with dazzling waters, wide-open areas, and relaxed residents.

In between beach days, explore the amazing downtown streets for an abundance of tapas and mouthwatering wine. From boutique lodging to a Four Seasons resort, the quaint hotels will win your heart.

With United’s new direct route from Newark, getting to Mallorca is now easier than ever.

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Cultural destinations

These Are 5 Of The Top Destinations In Southeast Asia’s Cheapest Country

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Aerial View Of A Beach Area In Nha Trang, Central Vietnam, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, sometimes abbreviated as SEA, is the ideal destination for backpackers.

Vietnam is a very diverse subcontinent where foreigners are welcomed and hyperinflated Western prices are not a regular concern. This year, its popularity has increased due to lax visitation laws and less bureaucratic tourist visa processes, but no nation has shown itself to be as fashionable as Vietnam.

This tropical treasure borders the turquoise East Sea and is considered the cheapest destination in the South East Asia region. With extremely low consumer costs and a devalued national currency that enhances the spending power of the typical Westerner, it’s your best choice for an off-the-beaten-path tropical holiday that won’t break the bank.

After spending a lot of time exploring Vietnam, we have selected the top five places to go this winter that are affordable and rich in culture:
Mui Ne
Mui Ne, a tranquil fishing hamlet in South Vietnam, is undoubtedly the most underappreciated coastal location in the nation since it offers culture and wellness all in one place.

It’s got an emerging development strip with new resorts opening every few months, including the delightful boutique hotel The Anam that we featured earlier this year, as well as pristine reserves, sand dunes, family-run eateries, and historic Cham towers that date back hundreds of years.

With nightly rates as low as $114 and a prime location near Mui Ne’s high street rather than in a far-off place away from the activity, The Anam is the perfect starting point for visitors wishing to explore the town and the larger province.

The area is well-known for its seafood, particularly its fish sauce, and there are several authentic restaurants outside the resort complex that serve Vietnamese specialties, like rice noodle soup and sea snails, for as little as $5.
As Hoi An
Hoi An, the crown jewel of Vietnam, is a superbly maintained medieval river port with dwellings that have a yellow tint, winding alleyways, and a history that dates back more than 2,000 years.

A reminder of the successive colonization periods and the multicultural nature of Hoi An, it is situated in Central Vietnam, halfway between the country’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Its eclectic architecture, influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and European styles, is evident throughout its bustling streets, which are home to medieval Sino pagodas, striking displays of colorful, brightly painted paper lanterns, a Japanese temple bridge that spans a picturesque canal, and several French-built civic structures that date back to the French Indochina period.

Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit location if you’re traveling from North to South Vietnam or the other way around. Like other Vietnamese hotspots, it fits your budget—a three-day stay typically costs about $50, not including lodging.

Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and the political and cultural center of the former capitalist state of South Vietnam. Despite no longer serving as the country’s capital, it is still known by this name.

Still the most Westernized and outward-looking city in the nation, HCMC has changed with the times thanks to the support of a strong expat population, making it one of the top investment and business destinations in Southeast Asia.

HCMC, home to 8.4 million people, is a popular destination for digital nomads and young entrepreneurs. With its impressive French colonial architecture, war museums, and exciting nightlife, it’s a vibrant city that visitors shouldn’t miss when exploring Vietnam.

Cu Chi Tunnels, used by Viet combatants during the War, the Independence Palace, the former South Vietnam Government’s headquarters, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a French Neo-Gothic structure, are just a few of the city’s top attractions.

When compared to other major cities in the subcontinent, HCMC is surprisingly affordable. Budget tourists could anticipate to pay a meager $30 per day, not including lodging.
Ha Trang
With over 500,000 residents, Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s largest cities and the nation’s go-to sunny spot. Holidaymakers tend to flock there during the peak travel season, which runs from November to February when less precipitation is recorded.

Nha Trang is the new favorite digital nomad destination in Southeast Asia. It is another well-liked beach resort and bustling coastal metropolis lining the East Sea, where tall hotel towers and skyscrapers are bounded by a long stretch of white sand.

Not so well-known Nha Trang is fast rising to prominence as one of Southeast Asia’s most sought-after options for a seaside city break, thanks to its array of opulent hotels surrounding the shoreline and its abundance of top-notch restaurants serving traditional seafood from Central Vietnam.

In general, visitors should budget only $41 a day on average in Nha Trang, plus an extra $27 per night for lodging.

In addition to the stunning beaches and commercial malls, tourists may fully immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture by visiting the nearby Po Nagar ruins, an old temple that was established as early as the eighth century by the now-extinct Cham civilization.

Hanoi
A discussion of Vietnam’s most interesting travel locations would be incomplete without discussing Hanoi, which served as the country’s capital after the Reunification War and is now regarded as the country’s second-most important commercial and cultural hub after Ho Chi Minh City in the South.

The main draws of Hanoi are its broad, green boulevards in the European style and its greater degree of social development in comparison to other less developed areas of Vietnam:

Being the government’s capital and a major financial center, it has greater infrastructure than the typical Vietnamese city and is much cleaner, with less hectic traffic.

Not only is Hanoi a popular destination because of this, but visitors also enjoy it because of its high concentration of historic temples, French colonial landmarks, and large, open green spaces that offer a brief respite from the fast-paced city life.

Furthermore, because Hanoi has connections to off-beaten routes in North Vietnam, travelers frequently use it as a base for exploring the region’s wild nature, which includes stunning mountain ranges, the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay, and golden rice fields.

With an average daily cost of $50 for tourists, Hanoi is undoubtedly the most costly option out of the five; yet, even by Western standards, it is extremely affordable and definitely less expensive than other Asian metropolises like Singapore or Hong Kong.

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam soon? Find out more about this Southeast Asian treasure and some of the guidelines for visiting.

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These 5 U.S. Airlines Are Most Likely To Experience Flight Delays Right Now

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Woman Waiting at Airport

The holidays are quickly approaching, resulting in some of the busiest travel weeks of the year. Flight delays are typical this time of year, particularly around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Flying may be a stressful experience in and of itself, but delays can make it even more so.

Booking with an airline that has a high proportion of on-time flights and booking a ticket early in the morning are two of the greatest strategies to avoid flight delays.

According to recent statistics from UpgradedPoints, the following airlines in the United States are most likely to face flight delays right now.

1. Frontier Airlines.

Frontier Airlines is currently the worst airline for flight delays. This low-cost carrier’s flights have a 31.9% risk of being delayed.

Rather of taking a chance and risking a one-in-three possibility of your flight being delayed, it’s best to select a more dependable airline for flights this winter.

Frontier is also dealing with other concerns, including as a class-action lawsuit against the airline’s $599 “unlimited flight” pass, which was introduced earlier this year.

2. Southwest Airlines

Last year, just around Christmas, Southwest Airlines experienced a catastrophic meltdown, resulting in thousands of flight delays and cancellations.

Many tourists questioned if booking with Southwest was safe in light of the complete breakdown of operations. While Southwest is likely to strive extra hard to avoid a similar disaster this winter, you may not want to take any chances.

Furthermore, according to historical statistics, Southwest flights have a 31.8% risk of being delayed, making the airline nearly as unreliable as Frontier.

3. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue is another untrustworthy airline with a significant likelihood of flight delays. When it comes to on-time flights, this New York-based carrier does not have the finest track record.

Although not as awful as Frontier or Southwest, going on JetBlue still means you have a staggering 30.8% probability of experiencing flight delays.

4. Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Air is the next carrier on the list of possible delays. This low-cost airline is not very dependable, so although you may save money by booking your ticket, you may also face unexpected delays.

Allegiant Air flights are delayed 29.2% of the time.

5. Spirit Airlines

Finally, there is Spirit Airlines. Although this low-cost carrier is the brunt of many jokes for being a less-than-ideal mode of transportation, it isn’t as awful as some other US airlines when it comes to delays.

When flying with Spirit, there is a 28.1% risk of a flight delay.

Which Airlines Experience the Fewest Delays?

Now that you know which airlines are most likely to have flight delays right now (and which to avoid! ), here are the airlines with the fewest delays.

Although ultra-low tickets with airlines such as Frontier or Spirit may entice you, it may be worth the additional money to book with a more dependable airline.

The top three airlines with the fewest delays right now are:

  • Alaska Airlines has a 20.3% probability of being delayed.
  • Delta Air Lines has a 19.1% probability of being delayed.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has a 15.6% probability of being delayed.

Flights can be delayed for a variety of reasons, including aircraft faults, personnel concerns, weather, and other factors, but these three airlines have the fewest delays.

There is no foolproof technique to avoid flight delays (as lovely as that would be! ), but you may read this article for further advice on how to avoid the dreaded delay or cancellation.

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