1. From Sapporo: Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Otaru Day Trip
Join a Hokkaido tour from Sapporo, exploring the wonders of Noboribetsu Hell Valley, Oyunuma Pond, and Shikotsu Toya National Park. Witness the spectacle of Showa Shinzan's volcano, enjoy panoramic views of Lake Toya, and delve into the charm of Otaru with its canal, glass arts, and winter festival. Start your tour from Sapporo, making your way to the first stop of the day, a relic of a crater in that was formed about 10,000 years ago in Noboribetsu. See Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, with its boiling sulfuric hot springs and volcanic steam plumes. Visit the Oyunuma Pond, the remains of a volcanic crater formed by the eruption of Mt Hiwa. Head to an observation deck to see the steaming lake. Walk to see its blue-green waters up close. As you take a stroll around the lake, smell the sulfur and see the steam rise from the source of hot springs. Watch yellow spherical sulfur floating on the surface of the water. If you wish to unwind at the outdoor foot bath, follow a long mountain road along a hot sulphur river in the woods (closed due to road reasons in winter). At noon, continue to the Lake Toyako area, a volcanic caldera lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Get 2 hours of free time for lunch and sightseeing. Then, it’s onward to Showa Shinzan, an active volcano that erupted in the early years of the Showa era (20th century). Witness white smoke and sulfurous fumes erupting from the reddish-brown mountains. While you cannot enter the mountain, you can feel the overwhelming energy of the earth simply by looking at it. Then, make a stop at Lake Touyako Observatory. Gaze out over a broad panorama encompassing the entire volcanic lake and the surrounding natural wonders scattered throughout Shikotsu Toya National Park, including Mt. Usu, Mt. Yotei, Mt. Showa, and Nakajima Island. Continue to Otaru, an atmospheric port town with a romantic canal. Take a stroll through the ancient canal streets, surrounded by warehouses built from red bricks and gray tiles from the Meiji era. Visit Kitaichi Glass workshop to see the exquisite glass arts and crafts that the city is famous for. Explore Otaru Music Box Museum, Japan's largest music box store with thousands of music boxes from all over the world on display. Taste Hokkaido's famous cheesecake at the LeTAO Head Store. In the winter, check out the Otaru Snow Light Path festival which lights up the city with shimmering lights and glowing snow statues (about 10 days in early February from 5 PM-9 PM). Additionally, many locals put lantern displays in front of their shops and homes, adding to the festive spirit. Also around February is the season of snow drifting for thousands of miles. You can see glass floats (floating balls) that used to be tied to fishing nets floating down the Otaru Canal. The mirror-like water of the canal shines with candles, lending a romantic ambience with the snowy scenery. After a day full of exploration, head back to Sapporo.