When to travel?

If your aim is to climb mountains, definitely go during summer time.  Nagano also has so much snow, so that it could be a good idea to visit during winter if you want to enjoy winter activity.

Best season:  May-Sep if you are going for hiking.
Snow activity: Dec-Mar
Cherry blossom: mid Apr
Foliage: Oct-Nov

Events / Festivals

Jan: Dosojin festival (道祖神祭), Nozawa Hot spring (野沢温泉)
Apr-Jun (every 7 years): Onbashira festival (御柱祭り), Suwa Lake (諏訪湖)
Apr: Suwa Lake fireworks festival (諏訪湖祭湖上花火大会), Suwa Lake (諏訪湖)
Aug: Matsumoto bon bon (松本ぼんぼん), Matsumoto 松本市

Touristic spots

Capital: Nagano (長野市)

Nagano is a touristic prefecture, whose capital city is Nagano city (長野市).  The fact that the access from Tokyo, Kanazawa or Toyama is easy makes it more attractive sightseeing spot.

The most famous sightseeing spot in Nagano city is Zenkoji temple (善光寺).  The Buddha of the temple is said to be the oldest in Japan, which was made in 7th century. The temple was once burnt down and the main temple was reconstructed in 18th century.

National Treasure of Japan, Zenkoji.
Old traditional street in front of Zenkoji.  You can stay at one of these inns.
Togakushi shrine (戸隠神社) is said to have been built back in B.C. 210.  Togakushi shrine is one of the three most important shrines, the other two shrines are Hieizan and Koyasan, which both of them are nominated as World Heritage Sites.
Forest adventure (フォレストアドベンチャー) is a newly opened spot, where people can enjoy athletic activity in the forest.  There are several hanging bridges between trees, and you can feel as if you are floating from the ground.  Even kids can enjoy the activity.

Matsumoto (松本)

Matsumoto is a city of history.  Starting from the National Treasure Matsumoto Castle (松本城), the city is full of touristic spots where you can feel history.

Matsumoto Castle is also known as a castle of crow, because of the impressive black color.  The castle is one of the only five castles with original roof, which is so valuable in Japan.

Matsumoto castle, which was called previously Fukashi castle (深志城).
Street in front of Matsumoto castle is Nawate Dori (縄手通) where all traditional shops are available.  Nakamachi Dori (中町通) is also full of Japanese warehouses.
Former Kaichi college (旧開智学校), one of the oldest schools in Japan whose building is under Preservation Law.

Iida (飯田)

Iida is a small city, but it could be a hub to other small cities.

Shimoguri no sato (下栗の里) is a small village located at the altitude of 800-1000 meters, from which a panoramic view of the Japan Alps can be enjoyed.
Tenryu gorge (天竜峡) is known as a great view which was created by the river.  One of the 25 best views of Japan.  It takes only about 20 minutes from Iida city.

Kamikochi (上高地)

Kamikochi (上高地) is one of the top touristic spots in Chubu area.  Taking around 1.5 hours from Matsumoto, the extraordinary scenery awaits you in the mountain.  The place is within Chubu Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園) and it is the highlight of the park.

The view is amazing throughout a year however, from mid of November until the end of April, there will be no bus service, which means you have to walk to reach.

Tsumago (妻籠)

Tsumago is a small village which was located on the way that connected Tokyo and Kyoto.  The village is still attracting so many tourists who are fascinated with the tranquil Japanese medieval ambiance.

Time travel to old times.

Shiga Plateau (志賀高原)

For some of you, the most iconic picture of Japanese hot spring may be the one with monkeys!  Monkeys used to be considered as harming animals as they mess the people’s field, however, by feeding them enough food, monkeys started to live in the park and we can enjoy watching them bathing.

Winter may be the most typical image of the park, but you may enjoy the view throughout a year.  If you would like to encounter more baby monkeys, visit after spring.

Jigoku Dani wild monkey park (地獄谷野猿公苑)

Nezame no Toko (寝覚ノ床)

Another viewpoint on the way to Tsumago.  There are many huge rough rocks on the gorge, the scenery has appeared in many old poetries.

Takatou (高遠)

Takatou is known for a place of cherry blossoms.  There is also a castle, and the surrounding area is now served as a park, where many people gather to enjoy cherry blossoms.

Entrance of Takatou castle.
Even mountain from the city is amazing.

Bessho Hot spring (別所温泉)

The oldest hot spring in Nagano.  The surrounding area has so many temples, which is the reason why the area is called Kamakura in Nagano, just like Kamakura city in Kanagawa.

This is a perfect place for you to relax and chill in the traditional ambiance.

Jorakuji temple (常楽寺)