Lake Toya (洞爺湖) is one of the best hot spring towns in Japan for budget travelers. The combination of many free hot spring facilities, cheap bus routes and some super cheap accommodation makes the place stand out from the others. It’s also a hotspot for modern art.
Budget travel tips
- Make sure you get to your hotel early, as buses are not so frequent and it can get rather dark!
- Pick up some free maps from the Toyako Visitor Center, or it may get difficult to travel around.
Things to do
Free hot springs
There are about a dozen free hand baths (手湯) and foot baths (足湯) around the town. Pick up a map showing the locations from the Toyako Visitor Center. Some of the free baths are attached to hotels, so if you like the water you can pay a fee and enter the main baths.
Modern art around the lake (FREE)
There is some truly stunning modern art lined around the lake. If you rent a bike (ask at the Toyako Visitor Center) it’s possible to go around the whole lake and see it all in a day. All free of course.
Hiking in Nakajima island
There are hiking routes for all levels on this lovely island, right in the middle of the lake. Super quiet and very easy to find your way around. Take the ferry from the coast near the Toyako Visitor Center (1420 yen).
Disaster Monuments and Buildings (FREE)
After the most recent eruption in 2000 some of the buildings were left to the mercy of the volcano. Now possible to walk around, this area is both very eerie and fascinating at the same time. With a map from the Toyako Visitor Center, it’s possible to do this, the Konpira Craters and Mount Nishiyama together.
Konpira Craters (FREE)
Up the path from the disaster buildings, it’s possible to walk up to see some of the more recently formed volcanic craters.
A must see in Lake Toya, this mountain is just plain freaky! Deformed roads, abandoned houses, lampposts coming out of random locations, all due to the areas last eruption. Path closes at night time.
Volcano Science Museum
Well known museum with a large collection of detailed information about this fascinating volcanic area.
Open: 9 AM to 5 PM (closed for New Year’s)
Price: Adults 600 yen, Children 300 yen
Toya Kohantei Hot Spring (洞爺 湖畔亭)
If you want more of a proper hot spring experience, this is the best in town. With an outside bath that looks over the lake and Nakajima island, it’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time.
Open: 2 PM to 10 AM
Price: Adults 800 yen, Children 400 yen
How to get there
From Sapporo station, go to the bus terminal and take a bus to Toyako Onsen (150 mins, 2780 yen).
From Hakodate, take the train to Toya station (2 hours, 4970 yen), then take a local bus to Toyako Onsen (330 yen).
From other locations, it’s best to get to one of the above hubs or take the train to Toya station and then take the local bus.
Hostels and cheap hotels
Petit Hotel Koizumi
By far the cheapest accommodation we found. Run by a super nice old granny (who speaks no English, so get that phrase book out!), you pretty much get your own little apartment for less than a hostel room in a big city. Check prices at Booking.com