How to Spend 1 Day in Nagano
A mountainous area that’s popular with skiers in winter and hikers throughout the rest of the year, Nagano is also famous for its cute “snow monkeys,” Japanese macaques that bathe in natural hot springs in winter. One day is just enough time to see the local wildlife, soak in the hot springs, and enjoy some local cuisine. Here’s how to get the most out of one day in Nagano.
Morning: Snow Monkeys of Yamanouchi
Head out first thing to Yamanouchi, less than an hour’s drive northeast of Nagano city, to the hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park. The macaques here aren’t trained monkeys, but instead wild animals that love a hot bath as much anyone. Many private and small-group half- and full-day tours visit the park as part of a wider area itinerary, and winter is the best time to see the animals.
Afternoon: Soak or Take a Hike
If you’re visiting in winter, you might want to warm up yourself after seeing the monkeys. While you can’t hop in with the furry mammals, you can indulge in hot springs in the nearby resort towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen. If you’re visiting at another time of year, spend the afternoon hiking or driving in the hills: The nearby Shiga-kogen Highlands are located within Joshinetsu-kogen National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with some lovely walks and valley views.
Night: Dinner at an Izakaya
Head back into Nagano city this evening and enjoy a relaxed dinner at a local izakaya, or Japanese pub-restaurant. Local specialties to look out for include buckwheat soba noodles,oyaki dumplings, pickled mustard leaves, and—although perhaps not to everyone’s taste—horse sashimi. Nagano has a fairly low-key nightlife scene, but if you’re not ready to call it a night, stop for a nightcap at a different izakaya or the town’s popular British pub.