Soller, Mallorca, Spain | Three Mountain Tops with Incredible Vistas over the Serra Tramuntana and the Island.

Jerome’s favourite hike over three mountains and a long descent back to Soller.

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Last year was the first time we attempted to hike the route known locally as the “Three Peaks”, which is high up in the Tramuntana Mountains. The hike is known for being rather strenuous, my parents had walked it many years before without any younger ones in tow, but we were always keen to try new walks in the area and with Jerome older it seemed a good adventure.  The previous year not only did we climb the three mountaintops, we also took the long scenic route home. Instead of heading back to the Cuber water reservoir and the car park there we added the trek down along the famous Barranc de Biniaraix to the ordeal. Jerome had clearly enjoyed the adventurous route a lot. In the time leading up to our trip to Mallorca this year he had constantly asked, “Are we going to do the Three Peaks again?”. I believe part of the motivation is to test his limits and hike the maximum for a boy of his age.

The hike up to the three mountaintops is not very well sign posted, unlike many other walks on the island. However it is one of the most visual stunning hikes, with incredible views over the whole island and the sea beyond. Due to the lack of signposts, the hike must only be attempted on a fine, sunny day with no chance of clouds, fog and rain! Without a clear line of sight finding the right path in mist could be a big problem, if not really dangerous at some points. If you are planning to go anywhere on the upper reaches of the Tramuntana Mountains always check the local weather forecast the day before and on the morning of your planned hike again, to make sure that you will not be surprised by clouds and showers during your day! In most places the path can only be found by spotting the stone cairns ahead on the mountainside and top, or the occasional red dot on a stone. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to have a clear view of your surrounding area. If you do embark on the walk and you can see mist rising or low clouds form turn back to the start to avoid getting lost or even hurt.

The way starts from the car park by the Cuber reservoir. It is a lovely drive from Soller or Lluc direction, with amazing views of the mountains and the sea in the distance. You also have the option to take a taxi or the bus from Soller to the start of the hike if you do not have a car or want to make it a one way walk back to the Soller valley. The hike is usually recommended as a circular tour and therefore using your own car is a good way of reaching the start point.

The drive up into the mountains takes around 30 minutes and we always play a game of counting the cyclists that pass us on the way. Jerome chose to count the cyclists riding up the mountains, while my Mum looked out for the ones coming downhill. When we parked our car on the roadside, next to the entrance to the Cuber lake, Jerome had won with a narrow head count more, and we had passed nearly two hundred bikes! The reservoir, thanks to the heavy rains over the winter months was full again after last year’s drought and makes a beautiful vista. The lake is surrounded by mountains to all sides and a dam was built years ago to serve as a main water reservoir for Palma and the other villages and towns on Mallorca. Lake Cuber is a popular starting point for many other walks in the Serra Tramuntana so the car parks nearby can get busy. It is also a great spot for bird watching and we could see a few bird watchers in the grassy fields with their equipment on their stake out.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre donkey

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre puig major

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre cuber reservoir

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre dam

We first walked along the gravel road towards the dam, from there we could already see the first of our three mountains, SaRateta, to the right side of the dam on the south side of the Lake. Just before the dam we turned left onto a narrow hiking trail, which runs through the long, scraggly pampas grass. Here, you will not fail to notice the constant humming of the water rushing down the pipeline towards Palma. The pipe has been encased in concrete above ground and you will come across it a short while later. First the path leads you up to the left side of the narrow valley then, once the path drops downhill, you might notice a tunnel to your left. This is one of the tunnels used for the water pipes of the lake. There are a few more, further down the mountain, however you will not pass these on the walk to the three peaks. They are part of a different walk that we can highly recommend as well. The first tunnel to the left is sometimes used as a stable for the sheep and whilst it is accessible to curious hikers the amount of sheep’s poo might scare you off.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre valley

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre path

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre water pipe

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre mountainside

After the col near the tunnel you will descend for a few meters, be careful here as part of the rocks and gravel are rather slippery. At the bottom you will notice a pipe running across the mountain stream and the pipeline below. Jerome and I usually balance across this pipe, just for the fun of it. The hiking trail then runs alongside the water pipe, you might even notice a valve on your climb up the next stretch. Close to the valve you need to keep an eye out for the stone men and blue spots that indicate where the trail to the Three Peaks turns off. If you have reached the top of the hill and the trail descends again you have already missed the signs and need to turn around.

Once you are on the trail you will be able to see where other people have trodden on the path before you. It is still advisable to constantly keep an eye out for the signs or the trail ahead as the path cross rocky patches and in places the way can be a little unclear but the foot wear marks from other walks give a good guide, and occasional cairns and blue spots lead you up the steep hillside. From there on you will quite quickly gain on height, walking through a forest of Mediterranean oaks and the rocky mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana. Keep an eye out for the majestic black vultures that circle high above in the sky and are known to nest in the area. Jerome and my Dad always bring their binoculars along to watch these rare birds in flight.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre rocks

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre trees

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre uphill

As you approach the end of the oaks at a col watch out for the sign where the hiking path divides, the left leg would lead you to Orient, it is the right trail you want to take heading up hill through the last clump of larger trees. Shortly after you will leave most of the trees behind and you will have the rocky mountainside in front of you. If you concentrate your eyes you will recognise some of the path, winding itself up to the top in a set of zigzag lines. You might wonder why anyone would make trails going up the mountains of this height, so far away from any civilisation with no trees or anything in sight. Men made these tracks to access the snow huts, which were built high up in the mountains, where snow was kept in order to turn it into ice. The ice would then be used to keep food from being spoiled by the hot summer temperatures on the island and to keep the richer folks cool in centuries past.

You will pass the ruin of one of these snow huts on your way to the first mountaintop, also the highest of the three, the Puig de Sa Rateta at 1113m. Be aware that near the hut you might find deep caves, it is important to keep away from these holes as some of them are more than a few meters deep. Stop frequently on your ascent to take in the ever changing, amazing views over the south side of the island. If you know the geography of the region, you will be able to see Mount Alaro, Inca and eventually Palma and Alcudia, plus the sea in the distance. Once you have passed the snow hut to your left you will have to find your way through a plain of pampa grass and rocks before you finally reach the last slopes of Sa Rateta that heads up to a lonely tree and the back right towards the peak across a sea of stones and rocks punctuated by the odd small cairn.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre view alaro

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre mountain goat

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre sa rateta

Pick a spot near the highest point and take a break to enjoy the incredible views over the Serra Tramuntana in all directions. We found a comfortable rock for us to sit on, protected from the wind and unpacked our lunch. Down below we could see the Cuber reservoir glistening in the sun, behind to the north the second reservoir Gorg Blau, a much deeper blue and across to Puig Major, the highest mountain on the island. You will not fail to notice the zigzag road leading to the Spanish military base at the top of this biggest peak and the radar on top. Sadly Puig Major is off limits to non-army personnel and cannot be hiked. To our surprise another family with two boys, similar age to Jerome, turned up. They came from of the opposite direction and had already climbed the other two peaks. They did not seem to linger for long and left shortly afterwards.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre orient valley

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre Alcudia bay

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre water reservoirs

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

We packed our backpack and left for the second mountain, Puig de Na Franqesa, 1067m. The descend is an easy one, only 200 meteres downhill where you will pass through a grassy area and you might notice the remains of the occasional log fire. It seems that people spend the night here sometime, wild camping in the mountains. The path up to the second mountaintop is partly protected by the shade of some stunted oak trees and you might encounter some bigger boulders that need to be crossed but none that prove to be of any major difficulty. The climb is not as hard as the way up but it does stretch the muscles again. The hike then leads you along the top of the ridge of Na Franqesa for a while, not for the faint hearted or someone with fear of heights, before descending again. This downhill section is much more difficult than the last one and you should carefully consider your route down the slippery rocks and rubble keeping an eye on the route up marked here and there by cairns.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre wall

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre pause

At the bottom, take notice the wall to your right, with a gap in its midst, this is one of the main ways back to the reservoir. Just to the left is the entry point for the track up to the third and last mountain, the L’Ofre, which peaks at 1091m. This is one of our favourite mountains as it looks like the ideal image of an imaginary mountain of a child, when seen from Soller – an almost perfect rocky triangle surrounded by trees. The path up to the top is easier to spot as there are more hikers climbing L’Ofre on average than the other two, plus the way is less rocky and has more stretches of earth. The first part of the path is fairly easy but as the summit is approached the way leads off the left (south) side and the sharply right and steeply climbs to the last run in to the peak. At this sharp bend another way up from the south side joins. Be aware that the top is very narrow and has drops on three sides. I could imagine if it is very crowded it can get claustrophobic to stay too long but if you are lucky with us it a great place of a pause and a view. The vistas are among the finest on the island, you can see the town of Soller down below and the stunning surrounding landscape.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre downhill

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre soller

There are two ways to walk down L”Ofre, either the way you came and then through the gap in the wall, and along the path which ends back at the reservoir. Or instead take the right hand track at the sharp bend just below the summit and walk the route that is slightly longer round the mountain past the Coll de L’Ofre to the reservoir which provides a pretty, if rather steep decent.

We took the right track and descended the steep path down through the trees, then at the col where a path comes up from the Orient valley we walked back right to the Coll de L’Ofre. The col is the joining of several ways, the one up we had just come from, another leads back to Cuber and the third was our planned way forward – and we followed the sign for Barranc de Biniaraix to Soller. Luckily for us my parents had taken the shorter route back skipping L’Ofre so we did not need to worry about getting back to the collect the car.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

The Barranc de Biniaraix is an old pilgrim path that leads right across the Serra de Tramuntana from Valldemossa to Lluc. The section down to Biniaraix follows the side of a steep valley, almost a gorge cut by the torrent with hundreds of stony steps through dry stone terraced olive groves. Every hiker should at least once hike up and or down the Barranc. I have followed the route a few times and I am still amazed at the steps, there are so many of them and cannot imagine how long it must have taken for men to build them. You will notice some small casitas and olivars (huts used to gather the crops) among the olive groves, locals come and stay there during the warmer months of the year. Imagine all the food, drinks and other necessities they have to carry up the mountain for just a few days…

I could definitely feel my feet on the way down the many steps, even the best of hiking shoes at some point make your feet ache. The sun was just setting behind the mountains and the light was that magical, early evening light that gave everything around us a golden glow. The three of us were all a bit weary. We had left my parents behind to walk back to the reservoir and to drive the car back to Soller, but at least we knew we would soon be getting a hot meal in front of our noses the minute we walked into the door. Jerome still seemed to have the most energy left and he mostly ran ahead, he would wait for us to catch him up every now and then, even moaning when we were a bit slower.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

Eventually we reached the old water channel built between the path and the torrent. It must have once carried the water downhill, past some of the huts, into the valley of Biniaraix below. Jerome and I balanced on it for a while, the curves of the tiles made it quite difficult to walk on though. The torrent next to it was empty except for a few puddles where the sunlight rarely penetrates. We crossed the streambed of the torrent a few times, before we finally reached the old washhouse of Biniaraix. From there it was another 2 kilometers along the road back to Soller, reversing part of the route we had walked as a warm up to Fornalutx earlier in the holiday.

We arrived back at Soller exhausted but happy to have accomplished the hardest walk of our holiday. Jerome was especially very proud of himself to have walked this long hike for a second time in his life. He has already said, that he wants to do it again next year, but we will see…

This strenuous hike has a total length of more than 12 km if walked as the original circular route and takes at least 5 to 6 hours if you are fit. Our addition of the walk down the Barranc de Biniaraix adds a further 8 km or more to the hike. The total ascend and descend is around 700m from Cuber, and if walking back to Soller the descend adds more than a 1000m to the total. The route should only be attempted in good, sunny weather, it is dangerous to hike in bad weather conditions, even with a GPS, there are many sharp drops and the path can be hard to find in good light let alone bad. Never set out without all the critical hiking provisions and a clear plan. Make sure you have a detailed map and description of the route with you. Take plenty of water, food and warm, wind proof clothing, as the temperatures on the mountaintops can be considerably colder than in the valley, plus may change sharply. There are no opportunities along the way where you can buy drinks or food, so take more than you will need just in case. Wear proper hiking boots and carry a mobile and first aid kit with you at all times. It is advisable to do this tour only in groups of two or more in case something happens. Children under the age of 10 should probably not be taken on this hike, it is definitely not a casual walk, being really a route for more experienced mountain walkers.

Innoshima, Japan – Mystic Mountain Temple

Our visit to mystic Shirataki-san

 

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For our next day we decided at breakfast that we would take a break from cycling, do some sight seeing, followed by a swim on one of the beaches or back in the outdoor swimming pool.

As a first objective for our tour we drove up some steep winding slopes to the parking lot near the top of Shirataki-san 白滝山 五百羅漢. When I consider that some people cycle this road it makes me break out in a sweat just thinking about it as it is a long twisty route up.

innoshima shiarataki road sign steep hill

innoshima shiarataki temple buddha

innoshima shiarataki shrine path fern

innoshima shiarataki shrine office

innoshima shiarataki shrine bell

We went on to climb to climb for about 20 minutes to the top of Mount Shirataki-san in the excruciating heat, humidity and with the sun glaring down on us. There was barely a tree that could have provided us with shade. Ascending higher we started to get glimpses of the view, which kept us moving on. At last we turned a corner and saw the entrance to the shrine.

innoshima shiarataki shrine seto inland sea view

innoshima shiarataki shrine rock view

innoshima shiarataki shrine view express way

There was no one else around and we rested for a short while taking pictures of the villages and the islands in the glistening Seto Inland Sea against the perfect blue sky. If we hadn’t known before we might have thought that the shrine was everything to see but we saw some Buddha statues and ventured further on, awed by the sheer vastness of the area leading to the mountaintop.

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddha statues

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas close up

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddha statue

There were hundreds of stone-carved Buddhas lined next to each other along the path. In total we could see about 700 Buddha (if you believe the signs) statues, all carved in 1830 by one man over the lost love of his life and hauled on his back to the top. No mean feat!

innoshima shiarataki shrine bell mountain top

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas mukoujima

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas galore

innoshima shiarataki shrine row of buddhas

innoshima shiarataki shrine scenery

Finally we reached the topmost part of Shiratakizan with the 360-degree viewing platform at 227 meters high. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, no words can describe such beauty and I think I can say that I had never seen anything else like this before.

innoshima shiarataki shrine mysyic place

innoshima shiarataki shrine close up buddha

innoshima shiarataki shrine vanessa

It was time to leave this mystical place and move on if we wanted to go for a swim and make our way over to Setoda where we would stay the next two nights. Jerome wanted to go back to the swimming pool with the slides. We didn’t mind as we had a lot of fun too going down the waterslides. Again the pool was busy with local families and there were lots of children queuing to go down the two slides. In japan everybody seems to be wearing a long sleeve top or UV vest over their swimsuits and trunks, more to protect themselves from the sun than any other reasons. It is strange to still consider this fashion, as I would have thought that the younger generations like to show off a tan too, like us westerners. Better safe than sorry and we always used high factory suntan cream instead throughout our trip.

Innoshima outdoor pool guests

innoshima outdoor pool bench

innoshima outdoor pool slide

innoshima outdoor pool kakigori shaved ice

After about an hour going down the slides we bought some hot udon from the kiosk in the pool, followed by kakigori, shaved ice, with sticky sweet mango syrup.

innoshima outdoor swimmingpool changing room

innoshima outdoor pool curtain

Before we went back to the car, I wanted to take pictures of the weird looking dinosaur and the imaginative playground rides.

innoshima park brontosaurus

innoshima park dinosaur

innoshima park whale slide

innoshima park playground birds

innoshima park penguin playground

innoshima park playground ride

Yugejima, Japan – Cycling On An Island Lost In Time 

A day of cycling through rural Yugejima

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innoshima hotel futon

Innoshima Shimanami Kaido ship building dock crane

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village bus stop

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village shop

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village rooad mirror

According to the pre-planned cycle route that I had worked out before the trip we should have headed to Ikuchijima today, but instead we decided to take the ferry across to Yuge-jima, the island that let off the fireworks the previous night. We had seen it looked interesting on the map and could not resist exploring off the beaten tourist trail again!

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto port

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto bollard

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto ferry yugejima

Innoshima shiamanami kaido ferry car

The ferry to Yuge-jima went from Karoto not Habu and runs a few times every day. It was a short ride to the ferry stop past some shipyards with huge cranes, which Jerome found really interesting. Once we arrived at Kamuyuge on the island we noticed that time seemed to have stopped years ago. Life seemed to be at a different pace and the houses all looked more quaint and older than we had seen so far on our trip.

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima flowers

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima architecture

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima flower powerWe pedalled along the sea front, next to Yugeseto straight towards the northern end of the island. Yuge-jima is famous for it’s seawater onsen, which we cycled past after coming off the ferry. The hot seawater is said to have beneficial effects on the skin. As it was a hot day we decided to go for fresh colder seawater instead, and went to a beach in the next village along the coast.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima cycle path

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima roadside

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima shed

After lazing on the beach and a swim we cycled back towards Yuge town and went to a small café. A mother and daughter run the café. They offer small set menus for lunch and breakfast. Jerome went for the breakfast burger, ordering a second one as he was still hungry and it was so good! Chris and I had a rice bowl with pork. The daughter of the cafe spoke very good English and told us that she had studied abroad and that came back because she missed the island and to help her mum with the café. Before we left, they asked us if they could take a picture of the three of us which I guess would go up on the wall with the others from guests. We didn’t mind at all as they were so friendly to us.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima cafe

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

We continued our cycle ride onwards towards the first bridge of the day’s ride and spotted a small beach on Kamijima which we went to cool off before heading onto the second bridge connecting to our third island of the day, Ikina-jima.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima bridge

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima beach

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima sea defence

Here we could see the big dockyards on Innoshima that we had cycled past in the morning on our way down to Karoto. Completing a pretty cycle route through islands less often frequented by tourists.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima bridge crash barrier

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima shipyard

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima ferry habu

innoshima shimanami kaido cycling done

We took the ferry across to Habu port and went for a little shopping spree in the Daiso store. Daiso stores can be found all over Japan. Daiso’s nearest equivalent is an English Pound or German Euro shop almost everything costs only 100Yen. Except that the range and quality in Daiso far surpasses any European pound or Euro shops. We bought swimming goggles, playing cards, Japanese sweets and much more. It’s a great place to pick up some toys for kids. When Jerome was younger we bought him a Shinkansen train set which he would play with in our hotel room for hours on end, and every time we came back to japan we used to extend it with more track, trains and coaches.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima daiso

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

innoshima shimanami kaido habu port architecture

innoshima shimanami kaido no parking

That evening we went through the same routine as the last two nights, first a hot bath, looking out the big windows to the islands where we had cycled, followed with a delicious Kaiseki dinner.

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido sunset

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido kaiseki dinner eel

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido dinner kaiseki cuisine

Onomichi, Japan – The Famous Temple Walk

Our last day in Onomichi

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The following day, after having checked out of Onomichi Hotel U2 Cycle we stored our luggage in the car and walked past the station, we crossed the train tracks to the start of the Onomichi Temple Walk for which the town is rightly famous.

Onomichi japan temple walk umbrella

Onomichi japan train station

Onomichi temple walk shop

The walk is one of Onomichi’s sights that shouldn’t be missed. It consists of 25 temples that suffered little from the bombing in Word War II and is linked today by a well sign posted trail.

Onomichi japan temple walk painting

Onomichi temple walk shrine architecture

Onomichi temple walk flowers

The walk led us up the steep hills, over seemingly endless stairs in the morning heat past small shrines, big temples complexes including pagodas and cemeteries. The route was marked by a coloured path and with clear signposts. A map for the Onomichi Temple Walk can be collected from the Tourist Information Office by the station, in your hotel or downloaded online.

onomichi japan temple walk graveyard

onomichi temple walk grave

We climbed higher up towards the mountaintop and stopped to take a drink from our water bottles every so often, and took in the view over the city and the Seto inland sea in the distance.

Onomichi temple walk steps

onomichi temple walk post box

onomichi temple walk pothole cover

Jerome seemed to like stroking the many cats along the path, lazing in the shades of trees and houses. Some people also call it the cat walk because of all the cats that can be seen along the path.

onomichi temple walk cat walk

onomichi temple walk shrine bell

onomichi temple walk steps

At one of our many stops to rest we were in awe of a woman pulling a rope with big wooden beads making a clicking sound instead of the traditional bell to bring the deity at one of the temples. Having been to many shrines and temples this seemed to be quite a rare feature.

onomichi temple walk senkoji temple

onomichi temple walk senkoji view ema

onomichi temple walk senkoji ema wooden wishing plaques

onomichi temple walk senkoji temple visitor

Shortly afterwards we reached Senko-ji temple, a bright red structure built among huge rocks that overlooks Onomichi. Senko-ji temple dates back to 806 and according to legend the stone ball on top of the 15 metres high rock Tama no Iwa used to glow at night illuminating the surrounding area.

onomichi temple walk ropeway tama no iwaMany people visit this temple by taking the ropeway that passes the temple literally overhead, but the stairs are perhaps more fun and better exercise!

onomichi temple walk signpost senkoji temple

Here we decided to finish our temple walk, as the heat was getting more oppressive and we had seen enough of the temples.We climbed the last few metres to the observation deck, next to the ropeway station. Using the ropeway might be the best way to enjoy the Temple Walk if you are travelling with small children besides which child wouldn’t love to go on a ropeway? I would advise you to get a one-way ticket and then stroll the route downhill and detour as far as little legs will allow you, but be aware the Temple walk is not accessible with a pushchair!

onomichi temple walk catwalk lovers

onomichi temple walk viewing tower

onomichi temple walk collecting Goshuincho

onomichi temple walk school festival

We took in the full view from the roof of the observation tower on Senko mountain and wanted nothing else more than to cool off. Thanks to the shop just below the peak we bought a Seto orange ice cream and enjoyed it before it melted in the summer heat. Having spotted a local outdoor pool on the map we thought there would not be anything better than to jump into the refreshing water of an outdoor pool. However, we were disappointed when one of the staff told us that it was closing in 15 minutes for their lunch break!  We then made the decision to go back to our car onto the ferry.

onomichi japan ferry guard mukoujima

On the way we bought some fresh sushi in one of the supermarkets on Mukoujima and drove to the beach we had been to the day before for the swim instead. We ate our lunch in the shade of Innoshimahashi bridge and then went to the beach.

Mukoujima park beach lunch

muloujima restaurant bar

Mukoujima island flowers

Jerome played catch with some of the other bathers, children make friends so quickly, while I relaxed in the sun and read the next few pages on my kindle.

mukoujima island beach

mukoujima beach seto inland sea

Check in time for our Ryokan Innoshima was not until late afternoon.The modern ryokan I had booked stands on a hill in the Setonaikai National Park   with views outstanding views of the docks and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Hotel Innoshima offers both western and Japanese style rooms, but when travelling with children and to experience sleeping on a futon on tatami mats it makes sense to go for Japanese style room.

innoshima hotel room tatami floor

innoshima hotel futon

Our room provided us with stunning views towards Ikuchijima and Ikuchi bridge and the sun setting over the hills and into the sea.

innoshima hotel terrace lantern

innoshima hotel lantern

hotel innoshima view sunset

Some people might raise their eyebrows at the architecture of the building; I have always taken a liking to weird architecture. The hotel is housed in a building that probably was built in the 1960/70s but has been recently renovated. The rooms are therefore up to date and they have a super onsen with saunas for both men and women. Jerome was impatiently waiting to go down to the onsen and sit in the hot bathtub with Chris. I went into the female part, where I stored my clothing and items in one of the lockers. The onsen is located on the lower ground floor but has panorama windows looking into field of cherry trees (must be incredible to be there during sakura) and the sound of the cicadas sitting on their tree trunks. After the ritual of having washed myself thoroughly, as you do when going to an onsen, I found myself restlessly sitting in the bath. I cannot, for some reason, relax in the hot bath, so instead got dressed in my yukata and purchased a bottle of my favourite cool Itoen jasmine tea from the vending machine.

Innoshima hotel yukata

When the boys came back, having steamed in the tub with some of the locals, Jerome insisted on having a Ramune. This is very traditional Japnese lemonade made in glass bottles with a marble stopper. Refreshed, we went for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant still seems to be stuck in a bygone era from the times of the “Japnese Bubble” with brass chairs, orange tablecloths and curtains. The food made more than up for the décor, it was fresh, Kaiseki style and cooked for us by 3 chefs, each of them specialised in their own cuisine. They also prepared a special children’s meal for Jerome and the other children in the restaurant while we got served 7 courses, plus small a dessert. We booked the standard dinner plan and we could only imagine what the deluxe plan must include. Everything was delicious and one of great things about Kaiseki dishes is that we ate food we normally would never dream of ordering.

innoshima hotel terrace party

When we walked back up the stairs to our room we could see outside on the terrace a group of guests having their dinner under the light of red and white coloured lanterns.

Our Drive To Onomichi Via Tomonoura Port

On our drive to Onomichi we stopped in Tomonoura port and a beach for lunch and a swim.

 

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This morning we had to say goodbye to Bingoya and Kurashiki and we moved on to our next destination – Onomichi. I had already bookmarked some places to see on route while I was doing my research for this holiday. Driving for a few hours is never fun, especially children can easily get bored so well planned breaks are always an idea.

Kurashiki japan road

Kurashiki cyclists japan

Kurashiki Japan truck on the road

Half way along is Tomonoura, nestled in a half moon bay in the middle of the Seto inland sea. The town used to be a stopping point for ships going between western Japan and Edo. The town is still largely unspoilt and not a lot has happened here since Edo times. The town has a labyrinth of narrow alleys, where every other building is a designated national asset and an old harbour, which can easily explored by foot. Children might also be interested in the fact that director Hayao Miyazaki stayed here for two months and got his inspiration for the town where Ponyo’s friend Sosuke lives. Ponyo could be seen in many of the shops and bought as souvenirs.

Tomonoura japan port

Tomonoura japan port wave breakers

tomonoura port japan fisher boats

Tomonoura japan fisher man

Tomonoura japan port dry ship building dock

Tomonoura japan port architecture

Our walk around Tomonoura led us through the alleys past the old stone lantern, the Joyato lighthouse, which was built in the Edo period and measures 11 meters, even though only about 2.5 meters can be seen above ground.

Tomonoura japan port stone lantern lighthouse

Tomonoura japan port historical tour map

Tomonoura japan port cafe restaurant

You should head up a little hill to Fukuzenji temple which offers the most famous view of Tomonoura and the Seto Inland Sea from its own veranda.

Tomonoura japan port historical area architecture alley

Tomonoura japan port house architecture

Tomonoura japan port local fisherman at work

Tomonoura japan port shrimp catch

Tomonoura japan port shrimps

Back down in the harbour, depending on the time of day you may be able to watch the fishermen bring in their catch fresh off one of the boats. We got lucky to see an old man cleaning his mountain of fresh shrimps, and putting them out to dry on nets in the open air, all propped up on a wheelbarrow. He then put the dried shrimps into plastic bags ready to be sold on.

Tomonoura japan port Sensuijima ferry boat times

Tomonoura japan port Sensuijima beach ryokan

Tomonoura japan port Sensuijima ferry boat ticket office

 If you have more time than us, you should take the five-minute ride on the pirate ship, children will love this, to Sensuijima, a small island just off the coast. There’s a beach, hiking trails, which are perfect for children as they are not too long and if you’re lucky you might spot one of the many racoons living there.

Kitchen natty restaurant tomonoura

restaurant kitchen natty tomonoura music

restaurant kitchen natty tomonoura menu

restaurant kitchen natty tomonoura

We moved on to 小室浜海水浴場  a small beach further along the coast towards Onomichi which I had spotted thanks to google maps and had planned to have lunch at beach cafe Kitchen Natty. We weren’t disappointed, Chris had a chicken terriyaki pizza, which was surprisingly tasty and the view overlooking the sea was very relaxing. A friendly Japanese couple run the café, (please note there’s no English menu and no English spoken) he was the chef and she served us. You should check their website for live music events if you’re staying in the area.

tomonoura beach kakigori

tomonoura beach kakigori

tomonoura beach shop kakigori

tomonoura beach swim rings

tomonoura beach

tomoura beach goers

tomonoura beach japan

Our stomachs filled with pizza we chatted to a lovely Japanese couple, they were in the area for their honeymoon and gave us some tips for the rest of our time in Japan. We then went down to the beach, the boys fancied a swim in the sea to cool off, while I lazed and read a book.

tomonoura beach

tomonoura beach sea

tomonoura beach

When they came out of the water they were covered in a brown film even though the water was clear, which we weren’t able to figure out where it had come from until later, when we drove into Onomichi and passed a huge wood factory Ikagami, which had thousands of logs floating in the bay. The boys decided the brown was bark and dust from all the logs!

Onomichi wood logs factory

Onomichi roadside abondened house

Onomichi factory

From the beach it was about another hour drive through some industrial areas to Hotel U2 Cycle in the port of Onomichi. Hotel U2 Cycle is a cool, modern hotel, where one can even check in with a bike if you want to and store it in your hotel room! The only downside we found was that they don’t provide spare beds for children. The child either has to sleep in your bed or you would need to book a separate room.

Onomichi u2 cycle hotel

Onomichi U2 cycle hotel bisquits

Outside on the boardwalk behind the hotel were plenty of tables and sofas to relax, perfect to watch the ships go in and out of the port. The hotel even invites you to a free drink here when you check in. Breakfast at Hotel Cycle was included for our stay, and it was delicious. There were plenty of western and Japanese choices, which one can select from the buffet. There was also shop selling local products, like drinks, biscuits etc.

onomichi u2 cycle hotel cafe

onomichi u2 cycle hotel ice cream

onomichi u2 cycle hotel boardwalk

After we had checked in we settled ourselves outside on the promenade, with a cool drink and ice cream from the cafe while playing Scopa, an italian card game that is developing into a family favourite since our visit to Venice.

Onomichi is a quaint town, characterised by houses and temples hugging the steep hillside. It is known for a scenic temple walk, but it is also the start of the Shimanami Kaido trail, that was one of the reasons for us having staying there. The Shimanami Kaido is a 70km long cycle route, which passes across the many bridges and islands connecting Honshu and Shikoku, and has become popular with cyclists of all abilities.

When in Onomichi you should try the speciality Onomichi Ramen, which can be tasted in one of the many ramen shops in town. Onomichi ramen looks like any ordinary soy based ramen but at closer look you can see the melted lard floating on top and taste the stronger fish stock. We slurped ours at a small ramen eatery, Onomichi Ramen Tami next to the station.

Onomichi ramen tami restaurant vending machine

Onomichi tani ramen resturant

Onomichi Tani ramen restaurant kitchen

To order food here, as is common in local ramen cafes, we had to buy a ticket from the vending machine by the door. First we selected our dishes from the pictures on the buttons. All very easy and straight forward, a common way in Japan to order food, especially in ramen bars. It made ordering very easy as we didn’t need to read or speak Japanese. We then took the tickets, sat down on one of the stools along the bar and handed the tickets over to one of the staff members. We had some tasty gyoza with our bowl of Onomichi ramen. For my liking Onomichi ramen were a bit too greasy but we always like to try local delicacies if possible.

Onomichi cherry tree

Onomichi shopping archade