“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it” ~ Sydney J. Harris.
What is Japan famous for? Onsen, of course! This 2 day Gero Onsen itinerary was contributed by Louis from Outdoor Explorer. As he has lived in Japan for several years, I am very excited to present his ideal travel guide for spending time at this gorgeous hot spring town of Gifu Prefecture. Located just 1.5 hours from Takayama, if you’d love to *quite literally* soak up the local culture in Japanese hot springs and take time to relax, look no further. Gero Onsen in the Japanese Alps is a lovely addition to an offbeat Japan itinerary!
Visiting Gero Onsen: One of Japan’s Finest Hot Spring Towns
If you love onsen and like getting off the beaten track in Japan, then Gero Onsen is the place for you! This delightful little town is highly underrated by visitors to Japan, but it is genuinely one of my favourite places in the country.
It is small enough that you can walk to everything easily without needing a car or public transport, yet big enough that there is enough to see and do to occupy the better part of two days.
It’s also a great opportunity to get out of the big cities, take a break from your busy holiday schedule and just relax for a day or two.
Sound good? Let’s get started with this Gero Onsen itinerary!
This Gero Onsen itinerary will cover:
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How to get to Gero Onsen
From Nagoya to Gero Onsen
Most people visiting Gero Onsen do so from Nagoya (another underrated Japanese city). Nagoya itself is a major stop on the bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto, so it is very accessible.
From Nagoya, the best way to get to Gero Onsen is via train. The JR Hida line departs more or less hourly from Nagoya Station and costs around ¥4,500 one way.
It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to make the journey up the mountains to Gero.
Upon arriving at Gero Station, you can either walk to your accommodation, get a taxi, or if you have booked a stay at a ryokan, you can use their complimentary shuttle bus.
If you are just doing a day trip, there are some lockers at the station where you can leave larger bags. Be aware that these fill up quickly on weekends, so there might not be any left if you come later in the day.
From Takayama to Gero Onsen
From Takayama bus terminal, the Nouhi Bus Company operates regular services to Gero Onsen.
Expect to pay around ¥1,000 for the one way trip, which takes around 1 hour and a half. You will be dropped off right in the centre of Gero.
Relaxing Things to Do in Gero Onsen: 2 Day Itinerary
DAY 1: Enjoy cultural experiences and activities around town
Leisurely stroll around town
After arriving in the late morning and dropping off your bags at your accommodation, enjoy a nice stroll across the Gero Ohashi Bridge and around the centre of town. The beautiful Hida River bisects the town as well as some stunning mountain scenery.
In November, the mountains turn red, orange and yellow as the autumn leaves come out, which is an incredible sight.
If it’s a cold day, you might want to go sit down by the ashi-no-yu hot spring bath at the western end of the bridge. If you feel the cold easily, dipping your feet in here will feel like heaven.
Enjoy a delicious local lunch & dessert
By now, you have probably worked up an appetite, so I recommend that you hit the main street and find somewhere to eat. Personally, I love tempura, so I found a small restaurant serving Japanese style tempura bowls.
Make sure you save some room for dessert, as there is a famous sweets shop nearby called Yuami-ya. They are famous for their onsen tamago, which is egg soft boiled in onsen temperature water. They serve this on top of soft serve icecream and cornflake style cereal.
It sounds like a very bizarre combination but it’s actually quite delicious! Even better, you can enjoy it while sitting in a hot spring foot bath at the store!
Visit the traditional farmhouses of Gassho-mura
Next up, I recommend that you check out the Gero Onsen Gassho-mura, which is an open air museum with exhibits on what life was like for the original Japanese inhabitants of towns like Gero.
All of the museum buildings are original thatched-roof houses that have been moved there from villages in the surrounding area.
If you go in winter, you might be able to see the snow piling up on the thatched roofs!
Inside each of the houses, there are various exhibits showing the traditional tools that were used for jobs such as farming, cooking, construction and making clothes.
If you are interested in Japanese history or traditional Japanese life, you will enjoy the exhibits here.
There’s also hot spring foot baths, as well as a long slide at the top of the adjacent hill that you can ride back down to the entrance.
How to get to Gassho Village open air museum
It’s about a 15 minute walk from the main street and entry is ¥800 for adults.
Try some street food and sake
Once you’ve had enough at the museum, I recommend that you walk back down to the town and try some street food. The beef from this area (called hida-gyu) is quite famous, and there’s a shop that sells delicious beef sushi on top of rice crackers.
If you visit the Kashiwaya Liquor Store, you can try two different types of expensive Japanese sake for just ¥100. You even get a free sake cup that you can keep or give to someone as a souvenir!
They also sell Gero beer, a delicious craft beer that you can’t buy anywhere else.
Soak and refresh in the onsen
In Gero Onsen, there aren’t any public onsen, but rather there are private onsen run by each of the major hotels and ryokan.
If you are staying in one of these establishments, you can use the onsen there for free, otherwise you can visit them as a member of the public and pay a one time entry fee, which is typically ¥500 – ¥1,000.
You can also buy a pass from many of the souvenir shops and hotels which lets you visit any 3 onsen in town for a fixed price of ¥1,200.
Visiting the onsen is the highlight of any trip here, so take your time soaking in the waters and relaxing.
Head out for an early dinner
Restaurants tend to close quite early in Gero, so if you venture out for dinner, I recommend that you do so early.
The main street is beautifully lit up at night, so it’s nice for a stroll and a few photos (especially if you are wearing the yukata provided by your accommodation!).
DAY 2: Local produce, souvenirs and temples
Visit Ideyu Morning Market
The morning market on the edge of town is open daily from 8am to 12pm. The market is mainly focused on local produce like vegetables and mushrooms, but there’s also sake and some unique types of miso, which could make for a good souvenir.
Discover the heritage of Onsenji Temple
About a 15-20 minute walk from the market is Onsen-ji.
Nestled up high on the northern side of the town, this is a temple dedicated to Buddha, who the locals believe restored the flow of hot spring water to the town after it was previously disrupted by an earthquake. The temple itself is small but elegant and provides a fantastic view over the town.
By the time you’ve finished up at Onsen-ji, you’ve seen most of what Gero Onsen has to offer. Consider visiting one of the many souvenir shops in the centre of town to pick up something unique to remember your visit.
After that, head back to the station and make your way back to Nagoya via train.
Where to Stay: Gero Onsen Ryokan
There are two main options when it comes to places to stay in Gero Onsen – either small guesthouses that are cheaper yet don’t have any food or onsen facilities, or larger, full service ryokan with meals and onsen facilities included.
I have stayed at both types and can recommend the following two places:
Despite the word ryokan in the name, this is actually more of a guesthouse than a typical ryokan.
There aren’t any meals or onsen here, but the building itself is lovely and built in a traditional Japanese style. The staff are also outstanding and they speak English as well as Japanese. They are more than happy to give you some recommendations about places to eat or onsen to visit.
They also provide you with a yukata to wear for the duration of your stay (if you wish). I always enjoy wearing one when coming back from the onsen.
- Average Cost: Expect to pay around ¥8,000 per night here for two people. BOOK HERE →
This is a full service ryokan, and indeed one of the best in Gero Onsen. They have 3 separate onsen, including one on the top floor of the hotel which provides incredible views over the town and surrounding mountains.
There’s a buffet breakfast, plus a separate restaurant and other facilities. They even have a small Japanese pond and waterfall just outside the restaurant.
- Average Cost: Expect to pay around ¥20,000 per night for two people. BOOK HERE →
Concluding what to do in Gero Onsen
Gero Onsen is a fantastic option for those who want to take a break from their busy holiday schedule and get out of the big cities. It’s an opportunity to slow down, relax and see some of the Japanese countryside.
Soak in the hot springs and just enjoy the moment.
That’s what I love about Gero Onsen. I hope you enjoy it too!
|Louis is a camping, hiking and general outdoors enthusiast from Australia. He writes all about these topics over at his site, Outdoor Explorer, as well as publishes videos on his YouTube channel of the same name. You can also follow him on Facebook.
Ready to “be invisible” at Gero Onsen?
You may have heard of a 1000 year old log that doubles as a hot spring bath in Gero Onsen? It can be found over on Abroad in Japan featuring the town and more about what to expect when staying as a guest in the ryokan. Search for more accommodation in Gero here.
Will you be planning a trip to Japan in the future? I have many more itineraries and travel guides on my Japan travel blog. For tips on cultural activities in Japan to hidden gems, off the beaten path locations and more, go take a look for plenty of inspiration or join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok for more ways to “be invisible” on your travels!
Until next time,
Do you love Japanese sweets, snacks and candies?
Read my Tokyo Treat Review and get popular Japanese snacks delivered here, or read my Sakuraco review and get traditional Japanese sweets delivered here!
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