Snow Monkeys of Nagano - Tips for a great daytrip!

I was lucky enough to spend the Christmas holidays in the snow in Japan! It was one of my best trips in Japan so far, and i've been thinking about it constantly since I got back to Okinawa. Before I get to my posts about our time staying at Nozawa Onsen, I couldn't resist sharing with you our trip to see the famous snow monkeys of Nagano at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. I always had the snow monkeys on my Japan bucket list, but I wasn't really too sure what the experience was going to be like in reality. Trust me when I tell you - this is a MUST if you visit Japan in winter!
Because we were staying at Nozawa Onsen, which is only about an hour away, we booked into a half day tour organised by our hotel. It was extremely laid back, and included a stop for 100yen sushi lunch on the way, and was a good amount of time for the trip!

One thing that I think surprised me the most and that people never seem to mention is that seeing the snow monkeys is not the only fabulous thing about visiting the monkey park. One of the highlights for me was the walk there and back. The walk before you actually get to the monkeys is actually 1.6kms each way through forest, and it was magical. Even though we had a 3 kids in tow, it wasn't a difficult walk and everyone enjoyed walking through the trees with the occasional falling of snow.

When we arrived at the actual monkeys, there were a lot of people there, however there was still plenty of room to get good photos and get up close with the monkeys.

All in all, if you are in Japan during the winter and can spare a half day (or a full day from Tokyo), I thoroughly recommend making the trip to see the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen. Scroll down toward the bottom for my essential tips you need to know before you go!

The 1.6 km walk to the snow monkeys

winter wonderland!

Monkey onsen times

Seriously! Look at these guys

This view is everything!


Tips for getting the most out of your visit:

  • DO go when there is snow - I honestly don't think the trip would have been anywhere near as beautiful without the snow. Apparently the snow monkeys don't get in the onsen if it's not cold enough, and everything might look a bit bleak without the snow
  • DO wear waterproof shoes - preferably waterproof boots! The walk is long, and wet and muddy. Thankfully we were all wearing waterproof boots, as this was a MUST. They were covered in mud by the time we got back to the bus
  • DO enjoy the walk - 1.6kms sounds like a long walk, but enjoy it! Look up at the trees and appreciate the view. It's truly magical.
  • DO wear plenty of warm clothes - It is really cold, and you want to be comfortable to enjoy the experience. I found Uniqlo Heat Tech layers were amazing.

Have you ever been to see the snow monkeys?
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Rachael Brennan