Both Shirakawago and Snow Monkey are very popular destinations for foreign tourists especially in winter. But many travelers are probably wondering how they can visit both. There are no package tours that visit both at once.
The key is the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train). The Hokuriku Shinkansen leaves Tokyo, passes through Nagano Station, and reaches Kanazawa Station. Nagano is the starting point of Snow Monkey tour. Kanazawa on the other hand is the starting point of the Shirakawago tour.
Recommended Shirakawago and Snow Monkey itinerary
Wherever you start your itinerary, we recommend that you join a package tour. Public transportation is not convenient in either location.
Snow Monkey tours
Most Snow Monkey tours depart from Nagano Station. Since it is a Shinkansen station, it is easy to join a tour. If you leave Tokyo early in the morning, you can reach Nagano before the tour starts. For example, highly recommended 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake in Nagano Tour meeting time is 9:35 in front of Shinkansen Gate at Nagano Station.
However, from other cities, it will be difficult to join a morning tour. Explore Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park with a Knowledgeable Local Guide is an afternoon tour. So it is easier to join.
Shirakawago tours leaving from Kanazawa Station are the most convenient.
If you are a solo traveler or a couple, then joining a shared package tour is the most affordable option. If you are in a group, then consider private tours.
Others depart from Takayama or Nagoya. If you are planning to visit Shirakawago from Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, it is convenient to use tours departing from Kanazawa.
However, Takayama itself is also a famous tourist destination, so one idea is to add Takayama to your itinerary. At that time, there are tours from Kanazawa or Nagoya that will take you to both Shirakawa-go and Takayama. Alternatively, there are tours that leave Takayama, visit Shirakawago, and continue on to Kanazawa. There are also tours in the reverse order.
Here we will first introduce the itinerary starting from Tokyo. The itineraries starting from Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka will be introduced later.
From Tokyo, you will take the Hokuriku Shinkansen. You will first head for Nagano. If you take the Shinkansen departing from Tokyo at 6:00 a.m., you can join a snow monkey tour in the morning. Some tours will arrange your Shinkansen ticket for you, which is recommended. Of course, you can also enter Nagano the day before and relax in Nagano.
From Nagano, take the Shinkansen to Kanazawa. Again, if you take the bullet train early in the morning, you can join a tour to Shirakawago that day. However, Kanazawa is also a beautiful city and a very good tourist spot. So we recommend staying one or two nights if possible.
There are two ways to visit both Shirakawago and Snow Monkey from Nagoya.
One way is to go from Nagoya to both places and back. There are direct tours from Nagoya to Shirakawago. There is an hourly express train to Nagano. However, leaving Nagoya in the morning will not allow you to catch the departure time of the snow monkey tour. So you will have to stay overnight in Nagano the day before. It is possible to return to Nagoya after the tour.
The other is a round-the-clock route. Take the express train to Takayama and stay overnight if possible. Enjoy Takayama. From Takayama, take a tour to Kanazawa via Shirakawago. From Kanazawa, take the Shinkansen to Nagano. From Nagano, take the limited express train back to Nagoya. Of course, it is possible to go the other way around.
From Osaka or Kyoto
The most efficient way to get around from Osaka or Kyoto is to first take the express train to Kanazawa. From Kanazawa, enter a package tour.
We recommend that you stay in Kanazawa that day. Kanazawa is also a beautiful city with a very rich history. You may want to stay an extra day to see Kanazawa.
From Kanazawa to Nagano, you will take the Shinkansen bullet train. If you take the Shinkansen early in the morning, you can arrive at Nagano Station before the departure time of the Snow Monkey Tour. Of course, you may stay overnight in Nagano the day before.
If you are leaving Nagano for Tokyo, take the Shinkansen. If you are returning to Osaka or Kyoto, one option is to follow the same route you came. If you do not want to take the same route, take an express train to Nagoya and use the Shinkansen from Nagoya.