A Travel Price Comparison for Japan Nikko vs. Dewa Sanzan for Attractions, Couples, Food, and Hiking

Should you visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Nikko and Dewa Sanzan can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Nikko

Nikko is a peaceful, natural, and rural town. You'll find plenty of local activities in this small town. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. Visitors also love the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Dewa Sanzan

Dewa Sanzan is a traditional, religious, and sacred religious site. Other reasons to visit include hiking and museums.

Nikko and Dewa Sanzan: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Scenic old town
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
  • Very walkable
  • Small town charm
  • Impressive beauty
Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with couples
  • Public transit not as usable
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Nikko. Although Nikko and Dewa Sanzan are popular destinations, Nikko has more sights and attractions for tourists. Nikko is more touristy than Dewa Sanzan and is known for its Shinto and Buddhist mountain temples, its tranquil hot spring baths, and its peaceful natural setting. It is also well known for the Toshogu Shrine. Dewa Sanzan is famous for its traditional religion, three sacred mountains, and the Shukubo Pilgrim Lodges.

How is Nikko different from Dewa Sanzan?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Dewa Sanzan and Nikko. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an unbeatable place for its museums and history. Also, Dewa Sanzan is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its museums and landmarks.

The museums and tourist attractions in Nikko are world-renowned. The town sits on the edge of Nikko National Park, where you'll find shrines and temples. Toshogu Shrine is lavishly designed. Other notable temples in the area are Taiyuin, Rinnoji Temple, and Futarasan Temple.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Dewa Sanzan. This is a sacred religious site that is at the heart of the Shugendo folk religion. The religion combines Buddhist and Shinto traditions and there are several temples in the area including the most sacred sights at Yudono-san, Haguro-san, and Gas-san, as well as the Churenji and Dainichibo Temples.


Is the Food Better in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an excellent place to visit for its restaurants. However, Dewa Sanzan is lacking in options for its restaurant scene.

Nikko has a huge number of terrific restaurants. There are many traditional dishes in the area, but one of the most famous is yuba. Yuba is made from a part of soy milk, and you'll find it in places all over town. You'll also find sushi, tofu, and tea everywhere.

Dewa Sanzan may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. In your guesthouse you'll be given "Shojin cuisine", which is the traditional cuisine that has been handed down through the generations. It is strictly vegetarian and is heavily influenced by whatever vegetable is currently in season in the area. Traditionally, the cuisine focused on sustenance and not taste, but for the purposes of hospitality, the dishes are more flavorful than is typical in the traditional cuisine.

Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Nightlife?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Neither Nikko or Dewa Sanzan offer decent nightlife.

The nightlife scene is quiet in Nikko The town is about relaxing in a tranquil setting and soaking up nature, so you won't find much in the form of nightlife.

People don't go to Dewa Sanzan for the nightlife. This is a religious site that is remote and focused on mountain worship and devotion. Nightlife is non-existent in the area.

Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for its Old Town?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an unbeatable place for its old town. However, Dewa Sanzan does not have a historic old town.

With a famous historical old-town, Nikko offers plenty to see. The ancient town is filled with giant cedar trees that line walking paths that take you to the many shrines and temples in the area.

Dewa Sanzan does not have a historic old town.


Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Hiking?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Both Nikko and Dewa Sanzan are destinations which offer superb hiking.

Many visitors go to Nikko for the hiking trails. The town is surrounded by beautiful nature that you can explore on the many walking paths. The forests are well-preserved and they're filled with large cedar trees, dramatic waterfalls, and beautiful hikes. The area embraces the Japanese practice of "forest bathing" where you "bath" yourself in a beautiful natural environment.

Dewa Sanzan is a popular spot for hiking. Experienced hikers can climb Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono in one day and do Mt. Haguro separately. For Mt. Gassan, you'll want to take the bus to the 8th station and climb from there.

Is the Shopping Better in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is very good for its shopping opportunities. However, Dewa Sanzan is lacking in options for its shopping areas.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Nikko. There are places in town where you can pick up local handicrafts and traditional items.

Dewa Sanzan has some shopping areas for those that seek them out. This is a sacred sight that is devoted to worship and a simple life. As such, shopping in not available in the area with the exception of a couple of convenience stores.

Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Families?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an excellent place to visit for its kid-friendly activities. However, Dewa Sanzan is lacking in options for its family-friendly activities.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Nikko is very family-friendly. The area offers a unique way for kids to experience Japanese culture. A highlight for the little ones is a ninja show at Grand Ninja Theatre and the Mizugei-za water magic show. Kids will also enjoy staying in a traditional ryokan and floating in the hot spring baths.

Dewa Sanzan is not such a family-friendly town. The remote location make this a challenging place to access. It's a religious destination and its sacred and historic past is often lost to children. Out of respect for the strict religion, this site is best visited as an adult.


Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Couples?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an unbeatable place for its romantic activities. Also, Dewa Sanzan is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for couples.

For those traveling as a couple, Nikko has plenty to offer. While many visitors come to see the shrines and temples, they often end up falling in love with the area's natural beauty, waterfalls, and "forest bathing" (surrounding yourself with nature). Couples will also enjoy dining on the local food and relaxing in a pool fed by a natural hot spring.

Dewa Sanzan is a good town for couples to visit. Couples who want to do something that's a bit different from mainstream Japan will appreciate a visit to this religious site.

Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an excellent place to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Dewa Sanzan is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

Many backpackers visit Nikko. There are hostels in the area that combine affordability with traditional Japanese customs.

It's common for backpackers to visit Dewa Sanzan. This is an off-the-beaten-path destination for backpackers, and it can be difficult to reach by public transit. Once you're there, if you want a traditional experience, you can stay at a Shukubo Pilgrim Lodge.

Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an excellent place to visit for times when you don't have a car. However, Dewa Sanzan is lacking in options for its public transit.

Nikko has some very good public transit options. There are buses that run from the main train station to the many tourist sights in the area.

Public transit is generally limited in Dewa Sanzan. There is public transit from Tsuruoka Station to Mt. Haguro and the accommodation in the area. There are also buses to the top of Mt. Haguro, Mt. Yudono, and Mt. Gassan 8th Station.


Is Nikko or Dewa Sanzan a more walkable city?

Nikko
Dewa Sanzan

Nikko is an excellent place to visit for its high level of walkability. However, Dewa Sanzan is lacking in options for its ease of walking around.

Nikko is a very walkable town. While the town is relatively walkable and there are walking paths through the forest and to most of the temples and shrines, if you want to get further into the region, it's helpful to have a car.

Dewa Sanzan is generally not very walkable. Everything is very spread out so walking can be challenging. Experienced hikers will enjoy hiking to each of the three shrines.

For even more information, also check out Is Nikko Worth Visiting? and Is Dewa Sanzan Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Dewa Sanzan or Nikko?

How long in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Nikko and Dewa Sanzan. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Nikko than in Dewa Sanzan. Usually, 1-4 days is a good amount of time for Nikko, and 2-3 days is enough time in Dewa Sanzan.

Families should spend more time in Nikko than Dewa Sanzan. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Nikko, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Nikko than Dewa Sanzan. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Nikko that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Nikko than Dewa Sanzan if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Nikko.


  • How many days in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan? Ideal Length of Stay
    Nikko 1-4 
    Dewa Sanzan 2-3

One day in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Nikko is a small town with plenty to do. The old town is one of the main draws for visitors. Most people visit for the museums. One day should give you a good understanding of everything this town has to offer. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

In Dewa Sanzan, many people enjoy the museums that this traditional destination offers. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. This religious site offers a variety of activities to choose from. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

A weekend in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Nikko might be a small town, but there's plenty to do in the area. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. This town offers something for everyone. Plenty of people spend a weekend in the area when traveling. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Dewa Sanzan. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.


Five days in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Because Nikko is a small town, it's easy to explore in a short amount of time. Make sure you visit the old town while you're here. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

Dewa Sanzan is a fun place to experience. Travelers enjoy the museums when visiting the destination of Dewa Sanzan. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything.

A week in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Since Nikko is a small town, it's easily explored when your time is limited. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Most visitors spend time around the old town while in the area. Most people visit for the museums. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

You'll find museums around the remote destination of Dewa Sanzan. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 10-Day Tours in Japan, The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in Japan, The Best 2-Week Tours in Japan, and The Best Bicycle Tours in Japan.


Which place is cheaper, Dewa Sanzan or Nikko?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Nikko is $82, while the average daily cost in Dewa Sanzan is $65. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Nikko and Dewa Sanzan in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Nikko $46
    Dewa Sanzan $28
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Nikko $92
    Dewa Sanzan $56
Compare Hotels in Nikko and Dewa Sanzan

Looking for a hotel in Nikko or Dewa Sanzan? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Nikko


Hotels in Dewa Sanzan


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Nikko Hotel Prices and Dewa Sanzan Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Nikko -
    Dewa Sanzan $22

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Nikko

Also for Nikko, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Narita Airport to/from Nikko City Private Transfer: $623
  • Kinugawa Osen to Tokyo Narita Airport Private Departure Transfer: $267
  • Kinugawa Osen to Tokyo Haneda Airport Departure Private Transfer: $267
  • Haneda Airport to/from Nikko City Private Transfer: $623

Is it cheaper to fly into Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Prices for flights to both Dewa Sanzan and Nikko change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Nikko $31
    Dewa Sanzan $24

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Nikko $21
    Dewa Sanzan $9.24

Tours and Activities in Nikko

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Nikko.

  • Full-Day Private Nikko Tour with English Speaking Driver: $610
  • Nikko Custom Full Day Tour: $229
  • Nikko Custom Half Day Tour: $144
  • Nikko Full-Day Private Tour with Government-Licensed Guide: $138
  • Nikko Private Full-Day Sightseeing Day Tour: $482
  • Nikko Toshogu, Lake Chuzenjiko & Kegon Waterfall 1 Day Tour: $462
  • Nikko self-guided tour app with multi-language audioguide: $4.35
  • One Day Private Tour to Nikko from Tokyo with English Driver: $405
  • Special experience)Traditional culture Taishu-Engeki at Nikko: $8.52
  • Visit the Unexplored Regions of Lake Chuzenji-Scenic Trekking and Rafting Tour: $77
  • World Heritage Nikko Walking Tour - Toshogu Shrine, Kanmangafuchi: $59

Tours and Activities in Dewa Sanzan

For Dewa Sanzan, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Tsuruoka & Dewa-Sanzan Full-Day Private Tour with Government-Licensed Guide: $229

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Nikko $15
    Dewa Sanzan $7.28


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Nikko and Dewa Sanzan, we can see that Nikko is more expensive. And not only is Dewa Sanzan much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Dewa Sanzan would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Dewa Sanzan and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Nikko would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Nikko than you might in Dewa Sanzan.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Nikko Expensive? and Is Dewa Sanzan Expensive?.



When is the best time to visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Nikko and Dewa Sanzan. Many visitors come to Nikko in the summer for the hiking, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences. Also, most visitors come to Dewa Sanzan for the hiking during these months.

In the summer, Nikko is around the same temperature as Dewa Sanzan. Typically, the summer temperatures in Nikko in July average around 25°C (77°F), and Dewa Sanzan averages at about 23°C (74°F).

Nikko usually receives more sunshine than Dewa Sanzan during summer. Nikko gets 136 hours of sunny skies, while Dewa Sanzan receives 124 hours of full sun in the summer.

Dewa Sanzan receives a lot of rain in the summer. Nikko gets a good bit of rain this time of year. In July, Nikko usually receives less rain than Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 171 mm (6.7 in) of rain, while Dewa Sanzan receives 191 mm (7.5 in) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Nikko 25°C (77°F) 
    Dewa Sanzan 23°C (74°F)

Should I visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Nikko as well as Dewa Sanzan. Most visitors come to Nikko for the hiking trails, the shopping scene, the small town atmosphere, and the natural beauty of the area during these months. Also, the autumn months attract visitors to Dewa Sanzan because of the hiking trails.

In October, Nikko is generally a little warmer than Dewa Sanzan. Daily temperatures in Nikko average around 16°C (61°F), and Dewa Sanzan fluctuates around 13°C (56°F).

In the autumn, Nikko often gets more sunshine than Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 167 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Dewa Sanzan receives 149 hours of full sun.

It's quite rainy in Dewa Sanzan. Nikko receives a lot of rain in the autumn. Nikko usually gets less rain in October than Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 117 mm (4.6 in) of rain, while Dewa Sanzan receives 152 mm (6 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Nikko 16°C (61°F) 
    Dewa Sanzan 13°C (56°F)

Should I visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan in the Winter?

Both Dewa Sanzan and Nikko are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. The winter months attract visitors to Nikko because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Also, the museums and the cuisine are the main draw to Dewa Sanzan this time of year.

It's quite cold in Dewa Sanzan in the winter. The weather in Nikko can be very cold. Nikko is much warmer than Dewa Sanzan in the winter. The daily temperature in Nikko averages around 3°C (37°F) in January, and Dewa Sanzan fluctuates around -1°C (30°F).

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Nikko. Nikko usually receives more sunshine than Dewa Sanzan during winter. Nikko gets 212 hours of sunny skies, while Dewa Sanzan receives 149 hours of full sun in the winter.

It rains a lot this time of the year in Dewa Sanzan. In January, Nikko usually receives less rain than Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 26 mm (1 in) of rain, while Dewa Sanzan receives 206 mm (8.1 in) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Nikko 3°C (37°F) 
    Dewa Sanzan -1°C (30°F)

Should I visit Nikko or Dewa Sanzan in the Spring?

Both Dewa Sanzan and Nikko during the spring are popular places to visit. The small town charm and the natural beauty are the main draw to Nikko this time of year.

In the spring, Nikko is a little warmer than Dewa Sanzan. Typically, the spring temperatures in Nikko in April average around 13°C (55°F), and Dewa Sanzan averages at about 9°C (47°F).

In the spring, Nikko often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 191 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Dewa Sanzan receives 188 hours of full sun.

It rains a lot this time of the year in Nikko. Nikko usually gets more rain in April than Dewa Sanzan. Nikko gets 108 mm (4.2 in) of rain, while Dewa Sanzan receives 100 mm (3.9 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Nikko 13°C (55°F) 
    Dewa Sanzan 9°C (47°F)

Typical Weather for Dewa Sanzan and Nikko

Nikko Dewa Sanzan
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 3°C (37°F) 26 mm (1 in) -1°C (30°F) 206 mm (8.1 in)
Feb 3°C (38°F) 44 mm (1.7 in) -1°C (30°F) 151 mm (6 in)
Mar 7°C (44°F) 74 mm (2.9 in) 2°C (35°F) 116 mm (4.6 in)
Apr 13°C (55°F) 108 mm (4.2 in) 9°C (47°F) 100 mm (3.9 in)
May 18°C (64°F) 139 mm (5.5 in) 15°C (59°F) 96 mm (3.8 in)
Jun 21°C (70°F) 206 mm (8.1 in) 20°C (67°F) 120 mm (4.7 in)
Jul 25°C (77°F) 171 mm (6.7 in) 23°C (74°F) 191 mm (7.5 in)
Aug 27°C (80°F) 195 mm (7.7 in) 25°C (77°F) 174 mm (6.8 in)
Sep 22°C (72°F) 201 mm (7.9 in) 20°C (68°F) 154 mm (6.1 in)
Oct 16°C (61°F) 117 mm (4.6 in) 13°C (56°F) 152 mm (6 in)
Nov 10°C (50°F) 62 mm (2.4 in) 7°C (44°F) 207 mm (8.1 in)
Dec 5°C (41°F) 32 mm (1.2 in) 2°C (35°F) 231 mm (9.1 in)


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