The town of Niseko is one of the jewels in the crown of Hokkaido and sits at the bottom of the impressive Mount Yotei which is now a dormant volcano.
As well as providing great hiking opportunities, Mount Yotei offers stunning vistas across Niseko, and you can also check out other top spots like the idyllic Shiribetsu River which has the claim to fame of being one of the prettiest rivers in Japan.
This means that Niseko is truly one of the best places to come in Hokkaido if you want to check out some unparalleled scenery and you will find a huge amount to enjoy here in both the winter and the summer season.
If you like skiing then make sure to come here in the winter, but don’t write off the summer period either as you can still take part in a range of warm weather activities such as horseback riding, boating on the lakes and hiking in the lush hills.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Niseko…
1. Go skiing
In the winter months Niseko is known for being one of the best places to ski in all of Japan.
The reason for this is that the snow here has a very low moisture content meaning that it is made up of crisp powder that is perfect for downhill skiing.
There are a range of different runs here that you can choose from which are perfect for skiers from beginner level to advanced and there are a number of competitions held here as Niseko is starting to make a name for itself in the international ski scene.
You can also go snowboarding on some of the steeper runs if you prefer.
2. Try the noodles
Hokkaido in general is known for its amazing noodles and one of the best places to try them in Niseko is at its most famous noodle parlor which is called Sobadokoro Rakuichi which is known for being notoriously difficult to get to as it is located on the other side of a wooden walkway.
It is worth the effort to find it however as you get to dine on delicious buckwheat noodles which the chef makes by hand and you can eat these in a dish called namako uchi seiro which is made up handmade noodles which are served cold.
3. Go rafting
Niseko is blessed by the gorgeous Shiribetsu River which flows past the town and with that in mind one of the best ways to spend the summer months here is out on the water.
Some of the main activities available on the river include rafting and boating and you can hire a dinghy or a raft and then float serenely downstream and enjoy the pristine waters here.
This is also one of the best ways to take in the scenery for which Niseko is famous without having to go for a walk or a hike.
4. Cycle around town
One of the most popular activities in Niseko is bike riding as this is a great way to check out the amazing scenery both in town and in the surrounding areas.
There are a number of amazing bike paths here for you to try which are also helpfully paved meaning that even if you are a fairly inexperienced rider then you can cycle here safely.
If you want something a little more adventurous however then you can also rent a mountain bike here and go off piste into the more secluded parts of Niseko.
This gives you a chance to take in all the glorious foliage and splendid vistas for which this part of Hokkaido is famous.
5. Eat and drink at Milk Kobo
Hokkaido is known for its dairy products and you can see these firsthand at the peerless Milk Kobo which is located in Niseko Village.
Here you will find a full range of some of the best milk based treats in Niseko and you can sample delights such as ice cream and a variety of creamy cheeses.
They also have other dairy products like yoghurt and are known for their delicious pastries which include cheese tarts as well as sweet cream puffs.
They also serve a range of coffees here made with the local milk so this is a great place to come for afternoon tea.
6. Visit Lake Toya
Lake Toya is located around an hour outside of Niseko but it well worth making the effort to come here if you want to see one of the prettiest outdoor sights in the region.
Lake Toya is known for its spas which are located right on the water and there is also a full water park here which is open in the summer months and has a variety of pools and slides that younger visitors are sure to love.
You can also get out on the surface of the lake and enjoy a boating tour that lets you take in pretty Niseko from the vantage point of the water.
7. Climb Mount Yotei
Mount Yotei is the main peak in Niseko and is located looking over Hirafu.
The summit is located at some 1,898 meters and you can climb to the top in the summer months and also stay there in a charming mountain hut.
This peak is also known as Ezo Fuji as it is said to look similar to the more famous Mount Fuji which is located outside Tokyo.
The island of Hokkaido is known as Ezo in Japanese so this means that Mount Yotei is known as the ‘Hokkaido Fuji’. In the winter months you may not be able to climb the mountain due to the weather conditions so make sure to check this in advance.
8. Go snowmobiling
If you want to indulge in a winter sport in Niseko but don’t want to go skiing or snowboarding then you can have a go at snowmobiling.
This allows you to hire a snowmobile in Niseko and then zoom over the surface of the powder snow and take in all the gorgeous sights at the same time, all from the comfort of your seat.
You can rent snowmobiles all over the region and many come with a driver if you have never operated one before.
9. Visit PURE
PURE is located in Niseko Village and is a kind of nature playground where you can try out a huge range of winter and summer activities.
These include fun adventures such as tree trekking and you can also take a hot air balloon ride here which will carry you high above the trees and let you take in all the scenery over Niseko.
There are also activities for all the family such as tennis courts and disc golf courses, and the signature feature here is the Pure Action course which as 10 different attractions in the form of obstacle courses, all of which are padded with air cushions in case you take a tumble.
10. Go horseback riding
Many of the main activities in Niseko are separated into winter and summer activities, but if you are looking for something that you can do all year round then you can have a go at horseback riding.
You can rent a horse here and go exploring in the summer months but you can also do this in the winter period and for many this is the highlight of a trip to Niseko.
As part of a horse riding tour you can trek across the snow covered plains and enjoy the winter wonderland scenery for which this part of Japan is famous.
11. Enjoy the nightlife
Unlike other parts of Hokkaido Niseko has a swinging nightlife scene for anyone who wants to indulge in a little après ski.
Throughout the week you will find a huge number of events held here at the various bars and pubs that line the main strip and many of these play live music in the evenings.
There are also a number of DJs who play here throughout the season and who are usually internationally famous and you can even enjoy visitors such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra who have visited in recent years as part of the Winter Music Festival which is held every year.
12. Go hiking
If you are visiting Niseko in the summer months then make sure that you check out the opportunities to go hiking in the region.
There are a huge number of hiking paths and rambling trails here and you can go for a hike regardless of your fitness levels and abilities as there is something to suit every one.
These range for short walks into the surrounding countryside, to longer jaunts that will take you through the spectacular Niseko Range.
You can also climb Mount Yotei in the summer.
13. Soak in an onsen
As you would expect, Niseko is also known for its onsen which are traditional heated Japanese baths.
These make the perfect place to come after a long and cold day on the slopes here and you can also visit in the summer months as the onsen are open pretty much all year round.
Some of the onsen here have been open for decades and this is a great way to experience one of Japan’s most famous traditions as well as soothe your tired muscles at the same time.
14. Play a round of golf
If you want to play a game of golf when you are on holiday then you will be in luck when you come to Niseko.
The main golf season here is from April to October and in the summer season you can choose from a number of different courses.
Some of these are set up with families in mind and include mini-golf for younger visitors, but if you are a golfing pro then you can also enjoy full 18 hole ranges which are designed to let you take in the gorgeous views over Niseko at the same time.
15. Try snow shoeing and snow tubing
If skiing and snowboarding sound a little too high maintenance for you, or if you are traveling with younger visitors, then you may want to try some of the other snowy activities for which Niseko is famous.
These include snow tubing where you can hire a rubber ring and then shoot down the slopes in your own tube for a fast paced winter adventure.
You can also try snow shoeing which requires you to strap on snow shoes and go for a walk through the crisp powder snow that covers this area in the winter months.