Shiretoko: UNESCO heritage on the island of Hokkaido

The peninsula of Shiretoko, in the extreme north of the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the Japanese, juts out into the icy Sea of Okhotsk; it is the last unexplored region of Japan, covered with virgin forests inhabited by splendid terrestrial fauna and by sea eagles and cormorants. The very name of the Peninsula and the Park, in the Ainu language (the first inhabitants of the island of Hokkaido), means “end of the world”. To get to the peninsula and immerse yourself in its nature, the solutions are the flight and the bus from Sapporo; the flight from Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo to the airport closest to the Park (Memanbetsu) and then travel by bus for 100 km to the village of Utoro, immersed in the wilderness.

How to visit Shiretoko National Park

The roads inside the Park are all covered with snow, except for the only paved road that crosses the Peninsula, joining the only two villages present: Rauso and Utoro. Visiting the Park can only take place by following the marked paths and getting out is highly inadvisable as well as forbidden: the risk is to meet aggressive bears and foxes and run into ice traps! Excursions of various types depart from the two villages to discover the surrounding wonders.

Excursions in the Park

From Rauso trekking that climbs up to the homonymous mountain of 1660 meters with a tiring path during which to spot the infamous sea eagles; from Utoro boat trips to see the cliffs and spot bears hunting and eating salmon on the shores. Utoro is also a base for taking part in a particular tour for the sighting of drifting ice coming from North-Eastern Russia, even walking on moving ice! From April to November, boat cruises are the best way to enjoy the view of the otherwise inaccessible cliffs and waterfalls.

The incredible wildlife of Shiretoko

From cruises departing from Utoro, bears with their cubs can be seen on the coasts, deer, and foxes near the sea, dolphins, whales, sea lions, sea eagles, and many other flying species. The wonderful fauna, the thermal baths of Utoro, the famous five lakes immersed in the virgin forest, the 80 meters high Oshin-Koshin waterfalls made it possible for UNESCO to include the Park among the World Heritage sites in 2005.

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