In Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern island, you’ll find serene, soaring vistas unparalleled anywhere else in this beautiful nation. To picture the beauty in its entirety, think infinite fertile land, volcanoes, natural hot springs, sprawling national parks, ancient forests and gorgeous ocean views. Besides basking in its scenery and serene hiking trails, travellers can also indulge in the freshest and most palatable cuisine in Japan, as Hokkaido is also considered the centre of Japanese agriculture and aquaculture.

And while, travellers may associate it with winter bonanza and first-rate skiing, this visually-breathtaking island with its treasure trove of summer fun definitely does justice to any warmest-months vacation! We take a peek at some of the best summer experiences.

Hokkaido hor-air balloon rides

To get a bird’s eye-view of Hokkaido’s scenery, experience a ride in a hot-air balloon. Image credit: JNTO

1. Get adventurous in Niseko
Niseko may conjure up images of a white wonderland and a playground for skiing and winter sports, but this lovely resort-town has a lot of secrets up its sleeve in summer as well.

When the weather warms up, from April through October, travellers can experience a slew of activities such as white-water rafting, horseback riding, canyoning, fishing, hot-air balloon rides and mountain biking and hiking. Plus, the volcanic hot springs are open year-round! The Hot Air Balloon Festival in August is also a main drawcard for Hokkaido’s ballooning enthusiasts.

Lake Toya, Hokkaido

In summer, Lake Toya boasts scenic spots and activities galore. Image credit: Kentaro Ohno

2. Try canoeing at Lake Toya
With majestic views of dominant, active volcanoes such as Mt. Usu, Mt. Showa Shinzan and Mt. Komagatake, and dotted with pristine patches of forest, Lake Toya is a visual delight in summer, when the scenery bursts with colour. Part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, this glittering lake offers superb access to hidden scenic spots. Hop on a canoe to bask in the tranquility of the area and you catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset for Instagram-worthy photo ops.

Jigoku Matsuri Festival in Noboribetsu

In July, Jigoku Matsuri Festival transforms the streets of Noboribetsu in a vivid spectacle. Image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 (Christophe Richard, 2006)

3. Experience Jigoku Matsuri Festival in Noboribetsu
At this cheerful festival,  a red ogre and a blue ogre come to town, creating a vibrant atmosphere where travellers and locals alike gather. Yama-shaped floats and humongous ogre-shaped portable shrines parade around town as ogres dance in groups and local folk groups perform for the crowds. In 2016, you will be able to catch the event on 27th and 28th July.

Freshly picked cherries in a basket

Adults and children can enjoy cherry-picking tours and even get to purchase the delicious fruits for an extra fee.

4. Go cherry-picking at Ohashi Cherry Farms
Hokkaido is famous for its agricultural bounty, and locals swear that the best way to experience it is by literally getting your hands on the fruits. At Ohashi Cherry Farms, located about 30 minutes from Furano, the orchards teem with delicious cherries during the season (mid-July to August). Pop by with your family and little ones to enjoy a session of cherry picking from more than 1,500 trees, which boast 30 different varieties of fully-ripe cherries.

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido juts out into the Sea of Okhotsk and is said to be the last unexplored region of Japan. Image credit: Yasufumi Nishi / JNTO

5. Spot elusive wildlife in Shireteko National Park
Known as the “waterfall kingdom” for its myriad beautiful waterfalls — Kamuiwakkayu gives off steam; Furepe waterfall is known as the “maiden’s tears”; Oshinkoshin flows alongside a road and drops magnificently towards the sea — Shireteko is considered one of the last unexplored regions of Japan. Picture rugged peaks carpeted with pristine forests and an impressive variety of wildlife! In the summer season, to experience the peninsula’s dramatic coastline, go on a boat cruise, which is the easiest way to take in the scenery as well as spot deer, wild foxes and Higuma bears and their cubs. Whales, dolphins and sea lions can also be seen from the boat.

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