JAPAN Inspiration Gallery 11 Japan
Back to Listing

Mount Koya

Deep within the majestic mountains of the Wakayama Prefecture, not too far from Osaka or Kyoto, lies Mount Koya (known as ‘Kōya-san’ in Japan). While this town is tiny in size, it is huge in spirit as it holds great Buddhist significance and radiates a palpable atmosphere.

This sacred beauty spot is revered by many as a renowned Japanese monk (named Kobo Daishi) created a Shingon Buddhist temple complex in this secluded alpine basin in 805 AD.

A spiritual, almost mystical, atmosphere envelopes you as soon as you wind your way up along the picturesque roads to the mountaintop – especially if you take the charming funicular from the local train station – as you are met by complete tranquillity, save for the odd ringing of a temple’s bell as the pilgrims come to pay their respects. Surrounded by nothing but pristine scenery, pure fresh air and sharp sunlight, you genuinely feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of built-up city life here.

As Mount Koya is home to a handful of special cultural sites, it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004. Without a doubt, our favourite of these is the evocative Okunoin Cemetery, which we recommend visiting at both day and night: the mossy gravestones and memorial pagodas glow in the crisp sun yet retain their magic in the shadow of the night, creating an ethereal atmosphere. As you walk down the central 2km pathway surrounded by towering cedar trees, you cross a stone bridge to the acclaimed Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. This is a mesmerising place, home to beautiful details and more than 10,000 perennially lit lanterns.

The holy temple complex (Danjo Garan) is also well-worth a visit: from the ancient wooden Kongobuji Temple with its gilded painted screens and perfectly raked rock garden, to the quintessential bright orange Konpon Daito pagoda. Delve into the region’s rich history with the help of our expert local guide and learn about particular cultural practices before heading to your temple lodging for the night. Staying within a Buddhist monastery is truly unmissable here as it brings the beauty of Japan to life: monks forge connections with you despite not speaking much - if any - English, the perfectly presented vegetarian food is surprisingly rich in flavours and colours and the manicured gardens with their bonsai trees create a calming Zen atmosphere. The real highlight of a visit here is attending a morning prayer ceremony – a meditative experience that's bound to form long-lasting memories. 

Mount Koya is one of our absolute favourite hidden gems in Japan and guarantees an authentic cultural experience, making it a great addition to a tailor-made tour for those interested in getting under the skin of this wonderful country.

Mount Koya (1).jpg Mount Koya (1).jpg
Mount Koya (2).jpg Mount Koya (2).jpg
MountKoya (4).jpg MountKoya (4).jpg
MountKoya (14).jpg MountKoya (14).jpg
MountKoya (7).jpg MountKoya (7).jpg
MountKoya (12).jpg MountKoya (12).jpg
MountKoya (3).jpg MountKoya (3).jpg
MountKoya (5) - Copy.jpg MountKoya (5) - Copy.jpg
MountKoya (9).jpg MountKoya (9).jpg
MountKoya (8).jpg MountKoya (8).jpg
MountKoya (11).jpg MountKoya (11).jpg
MountKoya (13).jpg MountKoya (13).jpg
MountKoya (6).jpg MountKoya (6).jpg
MountKoya (10).jpg MountKoya (10).jpg
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
Susan Heller

Client Testimonials

I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India

Let us keep you up to date

Sign up to our newsletter and never miss out on unmissable exclusive luxury experiences