In a country balancing on five tectonic plates, Kyushu is the region where the earth’s activity surfaces. To the south the rugged mountains of the stunning Kirishima volcano chain. Smouldering Sakurajima looms over the port city of Kagoshima, at times showering the town with fine ash which the residents casually respond to with open umbrellas. Unzen, Japan’s first national park (1934). The eerie volcanic landscape of Aso-san, Japan’s most active volcano. Numerous onsen hot springs provide a soothing side effect of all this violence.
Duration: 6 days / 7 nights. Pre and post trip accommodation can be booked.
View Land of Volcanoes in a larger map
Disclaimer: the Google Maps route is only a rough outline. The detailed route is a Garmin Mapsource .gdb file.
Day 0: You arrive in Kagoshima the day before the trip starts.
Day 1 – 70km: The guide meets you at 9am, after breakfast, in the lobby. We transfer to the ferry port and take a ferry across Kinko Bay. The first unforgettable vista on our trip: Kagoshima’s enigmatic Sakurajima volcano.
Time for fitting and testing the rental bikes. Feels good ? Ok, then we’re off on the slopes of the volcano, ash grinding between our teeth. Once we leave the Sakurajima peninsula behind and follow along Kinko Bay, we have a chance to rinse our throats at the Kurosu vinegar brewery. Then we head inland and start climbing towards the Kirishima Highlands. Shinmoedake vulcano is particularly active recently. Soon we reach Myoken Onsen, our stop for the night.
Day 2 – 70km: You won’t see the sea today, it is an inland ride. The road continues up and down until we reach Maruike pond with its beautiful flower garden. For a while we ride along Sendai river. In season, the cherry blossoms at Tadamoto park are truly spectacular. Then we climb up Uwaba highlands and finally our legs bring us to Izumi, home of Siberian cranes and Japan Biking.
Day 3 – 70km: On the rugged shoreline and through valleys of green rice fields and with the blue ocean under our wheels, we bike down Nagashima island, hop on the ferry to Amakusa island. In the 17th century, Japan’s persecuted Christians found a hideaway on the islands of Amakusa. You will surely meet their hero Amakusa Shiro.
Day 4 – 70km: Two beautiful little climbs carry us across Amakusa to the ferry port in Oniike. A ferry brings us to the Shimabara peninsula. We climb 700m to Mount Unzen. In the late 19th century, Unzen was a favorite summer resort for European and American residents of Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila. Unzen Hell is the number one attraction of Unzen and can easily be located by its high, dense clouds of steam. When the then rulers began their crackdown on Christianity, many Christian converts were thrown into the boiling Unzen Hell, which made them escape to Amakusa.
Day 5 – 70 km:
We say goodbye to the fumes of Unzen and head down. A quick visit to Shimabara’s samurai neighbourhood and castle, and another ferry ships us back across the Ariake Sea to Kumamoto. We skirt south of the city and see Mt. Aso looming ahead. Aso is the world’s largest caldera. Legend is that the outer crater was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break (through which rail and bus pass) emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation. We sneak through the break and stay at the foot of the climb to Nakadake.
Day 6 – 60km: Today is our big Aso tour. The steaming, active vulcano crater of Mt. Nakadake in the central cone group of Mt. Aso is unique because it is the only place in the world where tourists can look down into the mouth of an active vulcano. The crater is even now steaming with white smoke and the surrounding area is covered with vulcanic lava, creating an unworldly scene with no greenery at all. On the descent we pass by the famed Jigoku Onsen hot springs. Then back through the break in the caldera rim and into the city of Kumamoto for our sayonara dinner.