One day Hakone loop itinerary – with a twist

If you’re thinking of spending one day trip to Hakone, this Fuji Hakone pass itinerary should be exactly what you’re looking for.

We have made – and actually done – this Hakone loop itinerary. It covers most of the must-see spots in Hakone and can easily be done in a day. Although we do not recommend only a day for it – read on to see why.

You can actually call it a Hakone Free Pass itinerary, too, if you wish. For enjoying these locations and activities, the Hakone Freepass is quite a must – it makes the whole trip cheaper and more convenient.

Anyway, our guide here covers information on what and where is Hakone, how can you visit it, where to stay if you’d like to, and the itinerary itself, as well as additional activities to do in the area. Enjoy!

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Where is Hakone?

hakone torii gate - part of the hakone loop itinerary

Hakone is a part of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It is the most visited national park in Japan and for a good reason.

It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, easily reachable from Tokyo and offering a superb mix of some of the quintessential Japanese experiences. There are many onsen (natural hot baths) to enjoy and plenty of great ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) to stay at. And, as the name of the national park suggests – there is the iconic Mt. Fuji dominating the skyline.

While the whole national park is rather big, the Hakone area itself is rather compact. It offers a lot of sights and experiences in a relatively small area which makes it very suitable for visiting, especially for first-time visitors to Japan.

In fact, it is possible to visit it on a day trip from Tokyo, however, we would recommend staying for a night or two.

Like this, the whole experience will be more relaxed. We stayed two nights in Gora, a mountain village in the heart of the Hakone area.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in a ryokan, relaxed in its in-house onsen, feasted on incredible kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) meals and explored the beauty of the whole place on a 1-day Hakone itinerary using no less than five different means of transportation.

It was our favourite part of the whole 10-day Japan itinerary and also its most relaxing part. 

Why should you visit Hakone?

view from the hakone loop with snow and autumn foliage, japan

To slow down. To unwind. To immerse yourself in the beauty of Japanese nature. To experience Japanese hospitality and cuisine in a luxurious ryokan. To dip in the healing waters of natural hot springs which are abundant in this area. To admire the majestic Mt. Fuji.

Sounds tempting?

Not only tempting! I dare to say this is the hottest and steamiest place we visited in Japan.

No pun intended – part of Hakone is a live volcanic area 😊

What is a Hakone Freepass?    

Hakone Freepass allows unlimited travel within the Hakone area. It is a convenient single ticket that also saves you money – if you’re following our 1-day Hakone pass itinerary, it definitely is a good value.

It’s available either as a 2-day or a 3-day pass and may cover only the Hakone area or a round-trip between Tokyo Shinjuku and Hakone (for a surcharge). It also allows discounts at numerous tourist spots in the area.

You can get it online or in one of the Odakyu sightseeing service offices located at the train stations in Shinjuku (Tokyo), Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto. But we strongly suggest that you get it online. First of all, it’s actually cheaper than getting it at the Odakyu sightseeing offices. And second, it’s less hassle than purchasing it at the station – you just need to exchange your voucher for the pass.

How to get to Hakone?

Shinkansen in Osaka station
Shinkansen in Osaka

The most convenient way to get to Hakone is by train. There is a direct train from Tokyo Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto operated by Odakyu and is covered by Hakone Freepass (for a surcharge).

This is a convenient option if you’re visiting from Tokyo and also returning to Tokyo. The train journey from Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto lasts approximately 80 minutes.

However, if you already have a valid JR pass, or if you’re coming from (or continuing to) Kyoto instead, we recommend using the JR trains to travel to Odawara (Shinkansen trains from Tokyo and Kyoto stop here). At Odawara station you may get your Hakone Freepass (the cheaper one only for the Hakone area) and hop on the local Hakone Tozan train to Hakone-Yumoto and further on to Gora (or wherever you’re headed to in the area). This is the best option if you’re following our 10-day Japan itinerary.

How to get around Hakone?

The great news is that getting around Hakone is not only super easy but also super fun. The area boasts no less than five different means of transportation – a really scenic train, a cable car (sort of a funicular, if you will), a ropeway (a gondola), a sightseeing boat and a bus.

Hakone Tozan train

waiting for a train in the hakone train station to do our hakone loop itinerary
Cranky Kristine waiting for a train which was delayed because of the snow

The Hakone Tozan train connects Hakone Yumoto and Gora. This journey takes about 40 minutes and is incredibly scenic. The train gains more than 400 m on this journey, winding its way through a narrow valley. There are several switchbacks where it changes direction – an interesting engineering idea that was needed to help the train overcome the steep terrain. It also connects Hakone Yumoto to Odawara, where one can change for a Shinkansen to Tokyo or Kyoto.

Cable car – Hakone ropeway

hakone ropeway with snowy mountains and steam from volcanoes

The cable car connects Gora to Sounzan where one can change for the ropeway (gondolas) operating between Sounzan and Togendai. The ropeway has several stops on its way including the active volcanic area of Owakudani. The part between Owakudani and Ubako offers breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji.

Hakone sightseeing boats

Lake Ashi with a traditional Japanese ship and a Torii gate in Hakone area.

The sightseeing boats connect Togendai on the north of Lake Ashinoko with Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi on its southern shore. Several companies operate the boats, please note that Hakone Freepass is valid only on Hakone Sightseeing boats. Cruising on these boats that resemble ancient pirate ships is a very pleasant experience. Beautiful views open up from the upper deck – including those of Mt. Fuji from the southern part of the lake. The cruise takes about 30 minutes.


on a public bus in japan

Several local buses operate in the area.

Can you visit Hakone in winter?

view from the hakone loop with snowy houses

Yes, you can. Actually, we kind of accidentally did it.

If you’ve seen our Japan photo diary, you might know that we visited Japan in November.

Well, just when we were going to Hakone, it snowed in the area. And it was the first time in 40 years that the snow came in November (at least that’s what we were told).

All of the transportation up to Gora just… stopped, as the buses or cars (taxis) didn’t have chains on yet, and the trains… even the trains didn’t run. We were planning to enjoy the romantic Hakone Tozan train, and that didn’t work out for us.

We were delayed from arriving at our hotel for the whole afternoon, just trying to figure out how to get there.

But on the other hand, the trip the next day – the Hakone loop – was more interesting because of the snow. Albeit a bit colder than Kyoto the previous days.

Anyway, the answer, again, is yes, you can visit Hakone in winter. Just make sure to pack accordingly so that you’re not cold.

Can you do a day trip to Hakone?

As I’ve mentioned already in this article, yes, it’s quite possible to do a Hakone day trip from Tokyo.

You don’t even have to wake up at dawn – but don’t sleep in, either. The best time to leave Tokyo is around 7am. It takes just under 2 hours to get from Tokyo to Hakone, thus giving you basically a full one day there.

If you take the Odakyu limited Express romancecar, the journey takes approximately 80 minutes but is a tad bit more expensive. Although it does give you better views – there’s a huge panoramic window.

Take the express train from the Shinjuku station to the Odawara station (it’s the Odakyu Line), then change to the Hakone-Tozan Line to go to the Hakone-Yumoto station.

But we do really recommend that you spend a night or two in the Hakone area so that you can have one full day in Hakone. And so that you get to enjoy a ryokan, as Hakone is one of the best places in Japan to enjoy a ryokan with an onsen.

Should you do a Hakone day trip or overnight?

sunset on lake ashi japan hakone
I rather watch the sunset on Lake Ashi

In case you’re still wondering if you should do a Hakone day trip or overnight there, then again, we definitely recommend a stay in Hakone.

That way, you don’t have to worry about catching a train back to Tokyo and can enjoy everything at a more leisurely pace.

Plus, this gives you time to enjoy more of Hakone than a day trip would allow!

Where to stay while visiting Hakone?

If you do decide to stay a night or two in Hakone there are several mountain villages in the area. Each offers a choice of hotels and ryokan, as well as restaurants, cafes and other tourist attractions.  And they are all very well interconnected by the local transportation.


Hakone-Yumoto is the gateway to the whole area, with a direct train to Tokyo. It has a wide selection of hotels and ryokan, stores and restaurants. You’ll also find numerous public onsen here – the largest choice in the whole area. Other attractions include a golf course and a Forest Adventure Park.


Couple having a kaiseki dinner in a ryokan
Our kaiseki dinner in a ryokan in Gora

Gora is a picturesque mountain resort and offers the largest choice of hotels, especially ryokan, ranging from budget to luxury. It is easily reachable by the local Hakone Tozan train and boasts nice mountain views (not of Mt. Fuji, though). This is a great base for exploring the Hakone area. There’s also a Western-style park and a splendid Open-Air Museum.

Gora is where we stayed when we visited Japan. We stayed in the Tensui Saryo ryokan in Gora and enjoyed our stay, so can recommend it to you, too.

Moto-Hakone or Togendai

Moto-Hakone and Togendai are two mountain villages right by the lake Ashinoko. The village of Moto-Hakone offers amazing views of Mt. Fuji and is also home to Hakone Shrine, with one of its torii gates being in the lake itself. The choice of accommodation is a bit smaller compared to Gora and Hakone-Yumoto.

Here are some of the best Ryokans to stay in the Hakone area.

Our 1 day Hakone Loop itinerary

A perfect way to enjoy Hakone is to follow a round course itinerary. It encompasses all the main places of interest and uses all the five means of transportation. Actually, six – your feet as well 😊

You can start this 1 day Hakone itinerary at any of the local villages, returning to the same one – it’s a circuit. Altogether, it would take around 8 hours to complete, however, that depends on how fast or slow you prefer to enjoy the various places.

It would be doable as a 1-day round trip from Tokyo as well, even though that would make for a really long day.

That’s why we recommend staying in one of the many ryokan Hakone offers to savour this amazing place at a slower pace.

Cablecar from Gora to Sounzan and Hakone ropeway from Sounzan to Owakudani

Owakudani steam vents japan hakone

If starting in Gora, hop on the cable car for a 10-minute ride to Sounzan. In Sounzan change for the ropeway and get off at Owakudani.

Owakudani is an active volcanic area – in fact, it is a crater that was created some 3000 years ago during an eruption of Mt. Hakone. Numerous steaming vents spewing sulfurous fumes and bubbling hot pools are found here. Owakudani is also the source of water for many of the onsen in the Hakone area. Mt. Fuji is visible from here on clear days as well.

A peculiar experience not to be missed is the local black eggs (kurotamago). They are boiled in sulfurous water that dyes the shell black and supposedly have more umami flavour than normal hardboiled eggs.

A legend has it that each black egg that you eat adds seven years to your life. While the extra umami flavour has actually been scientifically confirmed, the latter hasn’t 😊.  

The eggs are sold only here in Owakudani and make for a perfect snack, so why not try them? And as a dessert, try a black bamboo charcoal ice cream (yup, a typical Owakudani snack is black 😊).  

washing hands in a spring in Japan
Michal washed his hands in the sulfuric water

Hakone ropeway from Owakudani to Togendai and the Pirate cruise ship!

departing on a sightseeing cruise lake ashi japan hakone

From Owakudani, hop on the ropeway again and continue down to Togendai, enjoying the views of majestic Mt. Fuji on the way (if the weather cooperates, that is 😊).

Togendai sits on the northern shore of the picturesque Laki Ashi and offers several restaurants. By the way, just like Owakudani, Laki Ashiniko also owes its creation to the last eruption of Mt. Hakone 3000 years ago.

When ready, board a pirate ship here and savour the scenic half-an-hour cruise to Moto-Hakone. There are beautiful views from the open upper deck, including Her Majesty Mt. Fuji from the southern part of the lake.

Next up – Moto-Hakone or Hakone-machi

arriving on a sightseeing cruise lake ashi japan hakone
There’s Fuji somewhere behind those clouds…

Get off the Hakone sightseeing cruise boat at Moto-Hakone or Hakone-machi.

Both Hakone-machi and Moto-Hakone are situated at the southern tip of the lake and are about a 20-minute walk apart. They boast several interesting places to visit and also offer several good options for lunch.

going to hakone shrine japan

We definitely recommend visiting Hakone Shrine. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful shinto shrine located about 5-minute walk from Moto-Hakone. The shrine buildings are hidden among tall trees; however, your first clue will be the vermilion torii gates. There are three of them that lead to the shrine, the first one actually standing in the lake itself. From there, follow the steps up into the dense forest to experience the magical atmosphere of the shrine. We were lucky to catch glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding here, perhaps you’ll be as well.

The southern shore of the lake is another great spot for admiring views of Mt. Fuji. Our 1-day Hakone itinerary offers several opportunities to enjoy the magnificent vistas of Japan’s tallest mountain. And it’s good to bear in mind that even if Mt. Fuji is often hidden in the veil of clouds, they usually come and go during the day, so if even you didn’t spot Mt. Fuji an hour ago at Owakudani, you might spot it an hour later from Moto-Hakone. A great place for this is Onshi-Hakone Park which lies between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi.

Hakone Checkpoint

Hakone used to be an important checkpoint on the ancient Tokaido road, linking Kyoto and Tokyo (then called Edo) many moons ago. The historical checkpoint, along with part of the ancient highway, was reconstructed in 2007 and can be visited.

It’s located between Hakone-machi and Moto-Hakone, right next to Onshi-Hakone Park. Even better, you can walk a part of the old Tokaido route – from Moto-Hakone to Amasake Chaya. It’s about a half-an-hour nature walk, partly on cobbles, that will take you to over 400-year-old teahouse Amasake Chaya.

Amasake Chaya teahouse

Amasake Chaya has been welcoming visitors – travellers on the old Tokaido road since the 1600s. Its recipe for amasake – a non-alcoholic sweet rice drink – has been unchanged ever since it opened. Enjoy it cold if it’s hot outside, or warm if it’s cold outside, accompanied by mochi – traditional Japanese rice cakes that are handmade here every morning. This is a perfect stop for your afternoon snack.

hakone shrine torii japan

Bus for Hakone-Yumoto and Hakone Tozan train

From here, hop on the bus (line K) bound for Hakone-Yumoto. The bus stop is right in front of the teahouse.

The bus will take you to Hakone-Yumoto, a lively resort town with many hotels and ryokan, numerous public onsen as well as a plethora of restaurants and shops. You might stroll around, perhaps get a souvenir, and then get on the scenic Hakone Tozan train that will take you back to Gora.

It is Japan’s oldest mountain train, winding its way from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora through a densely wooded valley over bridges and tunnels and changing its direction three times at switchbacks. It’s an utterly scenic 40-minute ride. And here we are, back to Gora, where we started in the morning.

If you’d like to create a Hakone 2 day itinerary…

There are loads of things to do in the Hakone area, so if you’d like to create a Hakone 2 day itinerary, it’s easy!

Different – many different – museums in Hakone.

The most prominent things to do that we didn’t really include in our 1 day Hakone itinerary are visiting different kinds of museums, of which there are really many in Hakone. Let me mention just a few of them.

Hakone GeoMuseum

hakone geo museum japan

If you’d like to learn more about the Owakudani volcano, make sure to visit the Hakone GeoMuseum. It’s located right at the Owakudani station, so this museum might be a perfect addition to your Hakone itinerary. And it’s especially good if you’re visiting Hakone in winter, as it’s a good way to warm up a bit.

And if you’re worried about costs, know that there’s a free exhibition in the museum – we actually went to that one.

Hakone Open Air Museum – discounted entry with the Hakone freepass!

As we already mentioned, the Hakone Open Air Museum is located in Gora. It’s full of artwork and sculptures, including 300 hundred pieces by Picasso that are housed in the aptly named Picasso Pavilion. This museum is the first one in Japan where you can enjoy artwork against the backdrop of nature.

Hakone open-air museum is good for families with children, too. Kids can enjoy attractions like Soap Bubble Castle or Net Forest.

Narukawa Art Museum

The Narukawa Art Museum was opened in 1988 to show entrepreneur Minoru Narukawa’s collection of Japanese-style paintings (Nihonga) from the mid-1950s onward. It’s located on the hill overlooking Lake Ashi, the bright orange floating torii gate of the Hakone Shrine, as well as, of course, mount Fuji. There’s a permanent exhibition of the hidden treasures of China in the Narukawa Art Museum, as well as significant masterworks by contemporary Nihonga paintings.

Hakone Botanical Gardens of Wetlands

Unless you visit Hakone in winter, consider going to the Botanical Gardens of Wetlands. Yes, wetlands, plural, as in this garden, you get to see different types of marshlands – bogs, fens, swamp forests, and others. And there are some 1200 different types of plants that you get to enjoy, both Japanese and from different other countries and areas.  

Hiking Lake Ashi

autumny walkway near lake Ashi and many ryokans in Hakone with private onsen

Yes, it’s possible!

There’s a trail by Lake Ashi called Ashinoko Loop Hiking Trail. Although I don’t know why it’s called “loop” everywhere, though, as it’s basically just on the West bank of the lake.

Anyways, it’s an easy-to-moderate and long trail through forests. You can see most of the attractions mentioned here in the itinerary, as well as enjoy beautiful views of the lake.

You can go point-to-point and just take the Sightseeing cruise to get back.

Hiking the Hakone caldera

If you’re in great physical shape, why not spend a day hiking around the Hakone caldera? The caldera traversing takes approximately 4-5 hours and the trail is approximately 9km long. The ascent has a 500m altitude change, and it takes approximately 90 minutes.

During this hike, you get to see Mount Fuji (if it’s not hiding behind the clouds, of course), as well as a bamboo field, Sakura in the spring or autumn foliage in, well, autumn.

Have lunch in a local Japanese restaurant and at the end of the tour, relax in an onsen. Both included!

Book your tour here.

Hakone forest adventure

If you crave a bit of adventure, there’s an obstacle course available up in the trees! Traverse from tree to tree on moving swings, nets, and ziplines. According to the website, there are no age limits (although they state them on some tracks).

Tours to Hakone

fuji from a train station in hakone japan
We didn’t get a clear view of Fuji on our trip…

If you’d like to visit Hakone, but even after this article feel like you’d rather have someone else take you there, why not go on a tour?

There are many different ones available.

For example, have a guide that helps you create a full 8 hour private tour of Hakone. Or just have a private pre-made tour, if you really don’t want to think too much about anything.

Both of these tours start and end in Hakone, though.

If you’re in Tokyo and would like to have a day trip, check out this one which uses public transport. Or there’s even one which uses private transportation.

For a multi-day tour, you can have a look at the Hakone discovery. It lasts 3 days/2 nights and covers the Hakone area, as well as includes accommodation and food among other things.

In conclusion about the Hakone one day loop itinerary

There are lots of things to do in Hakone that offer both some interesting experiences as well as the ultimate relaxation. Whether you do a day trip to Hakone from Tokyo or decide to spend a few nights there, it’s definitely worth a visit.

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