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Japan travel: Best time to visit Niseko and things to do

Niseko attracts thousands of visitors each year, especially during the winter season. Check out what's the best time to visit and things to do.

Mount Yotei is a must-visit when travelling to Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan.
Mount Yotei is a must-visit when travelling to Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo: Gettyimages)

Niseko is a popular tourist destination located on Japan's Hokkaido island, a two-hour car ride from Sapporo City or a two-hour bus ride from New Chitose Airport. Renowned for its world-class ski resorts and picturesque landscapes, Niseko has gained international recognition as one of the top ski resorts in the world. It attracts thousands of visitors each year, especially during the winter season.

The area around Niseko is characterised by its abundant snowfall, which creates excellent skiing and snowboarding conditions. The region is home to Mount Niseko-Annupuri, a 1,308-metre-high peak.

The enormous mountain features four interconnected ski resorts (Annupuri, Niseko Village, Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu (Aya Niseko), and Hanazono) with multiple accommodation choices, collectively known as the Niseko United. With an impressive range of slopes and terrains suitable for all skiing and snowboarding levels, it’s no wonder why beginners and experts favoured Niseko.

The real gem, though, is Niseko’s powdery snow, known to be one of the best “Japow”—a portmanteau of “Japanese powder.” The exceptional quality of the snow has even earned Niseko praise as one of the few places in the world with the best powdery, fluffy snow.

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Twin cherry trees and Mt Yotei, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo: Gettyimages)
Twin cherry trees and Mt Yotei, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo: Gettyimages)

Best time to visit Niseko

Winter (December to February) is the peak season for skiing and snowboarding in Niseko. The area receives abundant snowfall, and the slopes are in prime condition. If you're an avid skier or snowboarder, this is the ideal time to visit. Keep in mind that this period can be crowded, so it’s best to make your travel arrangements well in advance.

For those who prefer to avoid the crowd, Spring (March to May) in Niseko offers a mix of winter and spring activities. Even when the snow starts to melt, there is still a good chance for skiing and snowboarding in early March. As the season progresses, you can enjoy milder temperatures and explore other outdoor activities like hiking or cycling. March and April are known for “spring skiing,” which can offer excellent conditions for both on-piste and off-piste adventures.

Things to do in Niseko

Aside from skiing and snowboarding, Niseko offers a range of other winter activities such as snowshoeing that lets you enjoy peaceful walks through forests or hike to frozen waterfalls; snowmobiling that offers you an exciting ride with panoramic views; snow tubing where you can slide down snow-covered slopes in an inflatable tube—suitable for all ages; and winter rafting that lets you navigate through the icy rapids on a specialised inflatable raft.

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The region also has hot springs, better known as onsens, where you can relax and rejuvenate after a day on the slopes. Foodies can indulge in Hokkaido specialities such as seafood, ramen, soup curry, Jingisukan (grilled mutton dish), and soft serve.

On days when you want to take it easy, you can also explore Niseko Village where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and cafes. The village also hosts cultural events, including traditional music performances and art exhibitions.

Otherwise, just immerse yourself in the scenic beauty that Niseko has to offer, whether it is the stunning views of Mount Yotei (known as Mount Fuji of Hokkaido), a serene hike through forests, or the picturesque Hangetsu Lake.

More Japan inspirations:
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Japan travel: 11 things to do in Hiroshima
Japan travel: 15 things to do in Tokyo
Japan travel: 13 things to do in Hokkaido
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Japan travel: 12 things to do in Saga prefecture, Kyushu

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