Sapporo is one of Japan’s oldest and largest northernmost cities that was settled by the Ainu people more than 15,000 years ago. Situated along the Toyohira River (where it derives its name サッ・ポロ・ペッ meaning “dry, great river”) the city is overlooked on its southwest corner by Gotenzan Park, Mt. Moiwa, and Mt. Sapporo, and is a cultural ambassador of sorts bearing the name and brand behind many of Japan’s famous food and drinks- Sapporo Beer and Hokkaido crab, events- The Sapporo Snow Festival and the 1972 Winter Olympics and parks- Odori Park and Maruyama Park.
But touching down on Sapporo is experiencing only the tip of the iceberg of Japan’s most famous prefecture that is home to over 5.2 million people. So we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the prefecture’s best day trips from Sapporo. Be sure to take in these gems as you’re making your way around Hokkaido.
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Furano Farm Tomita
One of Hokkaido’s most photographed spots, this location doesn’t just rank in at number one on here for its spectacular views, it’s also one of Hokkaido’s largest tourist attractions that brings in over 1 million visitors worldwide. The beautiful fields are famous for their lavender but guests who visit this site are also dazzled by the beautiful rainbow Irodori fields boasting of purple lavender, white baby’s breath and red poppies. The farm is made up of 14 fields, the most famous being the Irodori and Lavender Fields.
The gorgeous and world-famous traditional lavender field is nestled by the Tokachi and Furano Basin rural Mountain Landscape as its backdrop. Although the flowers in this field start blooming from late June to early August, the best viewing season for this field is from early to mid-July.
Visitors here can also stop by the Farm’s many shops and cafes offering beautifully scented dried flowers and delectable sweets like the lavender soft-served ice cream that only costs ¥300. It takes two hours and close to 40 minutes to get here from Sapporo Station. It is only a 5-minute walk from JR Furano station and a mere seven minutes from the JR Lavender Farm Station. Guests who travel here from June to Mid-September can ride a special “Furano-Biei Norokko-go” train which runs between Asahikawa and Furano and stops at the special Lavender Farm Station.
A historical port city brewing with the rich history of Hokkaido’s past is a must see if and makes a wonderful day trip if you’re around Hokkaido’s northern port. Visitors here can take a walk down its promenade streets lined with gas lamps providing a nostalgic glimpse into the northernmost part of Japan’s 150-year-old history.
The Otaru Canal also offers visitors a cruise that takes them down its dreamy canal providing an especially beautiful night view when its gas lamps are lit up. And fans of Hokkaido`s infamous snow season can take in the breathtaking “Otaru Snow Light Road” every February. This festival showcases tens of thousands of candles and glass lanterns that bathe the canal in warm lights giving the canal a storybook Christmas feel. Visitors here can also stop by one of the canals, cafes, or restaurants. The Otaru Canal is only an hour’s distance from Sapporo Station.
Shirogane Onsen in Biei Town
This onsen is just a three-hour trip from Sapporo Station and it’s no wonder this Hot Spring resort located in the southern part of Asahikawa City boasts three hundred thousand visitors every year. If you want to check out the Tokachidake Mountain Range and its trailheads it’s recommended to stop here to rest, relax and regroup. The hot spring resort hosts five accommodations that are nestled in a white birch forest.
The onsen is said to help relieve muscle pain, fatigue, shoulder pain, and neuralgia. Visitors here can also stop by the Aoiike (blue) pond just over 40 minutes away, the Shirahige falls are just one minute away and the Shirogane Fudo Falls all of which offer free admission.
The Jozankei Onsen
Also known as Sapporo’s Parlor, this onsen is situated along the Toyohira River and is one of Hokkaido’s most well-known onsens. It is nestled in some of Hokkaido’s most beautiful natural fall scenery. In fact, visitors can take a walk to the Futami Suspension Bridge planted along the edge of the Toyohira River that is open to the public during Hokkaido’s peak seasons spring to fall.
The onsen offers free footbaths and its famous Snow Light Winter event. This onsen contains over 50 hot springs that stem from the Toyohira River. The water from this river has natural salts in it leaving skin feeling smooth and your insides warm after getting out.
The onsen also offers a onsen in a Japanese-style garden, Kokoro no Sato Jozan, that also offers a lounge. Afterward visitors here can relax at a free lounge with delicious tea and cakes or you also have the option of bringing your own food. The onsen and all its splendors are located only an hour outside of Sapporo and makes a perfect daytrip destination.
This serene blue lake surrounded by Hokkaido’s beautiful mountains hosts an onsen (The Marukoma Onsen) and a ryokan that is open to the public. Visitors here can rent kayaks, paddleboats, canoes and even have the option of partaking in sightseeing boats or ferries. The lake is home to a shop that has everything from ice cream to beer on its menu and it also provides a few restaurants for tourists.
Visitors also have the option of biking here from Chitose City via the Chitose City Terminus and Lake Shikotsu Terminus. Getting here only takes close to two hours.
Just outside central Asahikawa, this zoological garden is one of visitors to Sapporo’s most popular tourists attractions.
Hokkaido’s northernmost zoo hosts over 700 animals and its famed open and glass enclosures that allow visitors to get up close and eye level to animals bring in around 300 million visitors every year. Everything from wolves to lesser pandas call this zoo home. Visitors who come on the weekend can enjoy a ride to the zoo on a zoo express train that has stuffed zoo animals and play areas. The Zoo is only two hours away from Sapporo.
Website (Japanese only): https://www.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/
This majestic and active stratovolcano is right on the southern shores of Lake Shikotsu and is situated in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This volcano is still active with its last eruption being documented in 1981. In fact visitors here can still see smoke rising up from its dome. It takes hikers no more than an hour to reach the summit.
You can also make your way to the eastern part of Mount Tarumae and circle around the crater in 2-3 hours while enjoying a breathtaking view of Lake Shikotsu’s rim and the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Although there is no public transportation, there are highway buses. Getting there from Sapporo takes close to two hours. The recommended hiking season for this mountain is from summer to fall.
Tomamu Ice Village
This spectacular village is made up entirely of- you guessed it- ice. It is only open in the winter but totally worth the trip if you’re visiting Hokkaido and want to see some lesser-known beautiful winter scenery. Impressed against a stunning background of white birch trees, this winter town is hosted by Hoshinu’s Resort and its beautiful ice village features 11 ice domes, an ice crystal park, and a winter cityscape.
Visitors here can choose from an impressive array of activities, like ice skating, skiing, a dog sliding tour, tandem snowmobile riding, an observatory and even a giant ice slide that brings you right back into town after making it to the top of the village. You can even get married at its ice chapel!
This ice wonderland also puts on a wonderful show of fireworks that sends gorgeous bright colors rippling and cascading against Hokkaido’s beautiful winter sky. The village boasts delicious food and even an ice bar. Some shops even offer visitors crafts and items produced by local artists. The village is open from 6 am-19:30 p.m. Adults pay an admission fee of ¥3,850 while children are charged ¥2,750. It takes close to two hours to get here from Sapporo Station.
A must-see if you are a lover of scenic drives. The Peninsula features beautiful jaw-dropping cliffs that are set against the Peninsula’s “Shakotan Blue” jewel-like ocean. The Shakotan Peninsula offers the most spectacular and breathtaking views from its Cape Kamui. This cape offers visitors a trail where they can be completely encompassed by the sea-blue ocean that rivals even Okinawa’s.
When visitors are tired of trekking along the gorgeous cliff sides, they can rest and try the Penisula’s famous “uni” or sea urchin that is available at most restaurants in the area. And onsen lovers will find themselves at home and one of the onsens this peninsula hosts. Getting to the peninsula takes only close to three hours from Sapporo station and is well worth making it a daytrip.
If you want to stay a little bit closer to the city this Mountain may be right up your alley. On the mountain is a ropeway that offers panoramic views of Sapporo and the Ishikari Bay of the Japan Sea. Visitors here can take the ropeway or sightseeing expressway and be transported to the summit. The mountain has a five-route course for visitors. And once at the top visitors can take in one of Hokkaido’s most beautiful night views at the peak observatory.
If you’re feeling romantic you can also purchase a padlock and leave a message for your lover on the top. Visitors here can also have a romantic dinner at a gourmet French restaurant at the top with 270-degree views of the sparkling city below. The restaurant utilizes Hokkaido’s famously delicious local ingredients to make some of Hokkaido’s famous seasonal dishes. The ropeway is open from 10:30am-22:00pm in the summer season with the last available departure at 21:30pm and from 11:00am-22:00 pm during the winter season with the same last departure time. Adults pay a ¥1,800 entrance fee and Children pay a ¥900 fee. It takes an hour to get here from Sapporo Station.