Countless kilometres of coastal road make Setouchi a fantastic destination for a cycling holiday. Moreover, bike stores, bike rental services, bike-friendly hotels, stores and restaurants catering to the cycling crowd, as well as local information readily available in foreign languages are available in the region.
Whether you’re a dedicated cyclist or just enjoy the occasionally breezy bike ride, there will be a route in Setouchi to suit you, as well as ample opportunity to combine cycling with many of the other experiences Setouchi has to offer: be that adventure, art and culture, food and drink, or more besides. The three routes we’ve picked below are of varying difficulties, but taken together make up the “Setouchi Triangle” – that is, a triangular route around much of the Setouchi Inland Sea for a truly unforgettable experience.
Shimanami Kaido: Setouchi’s Best Known Cycling Challenge
Must-do Shimanami Kaido is a unique route that takes cyclists across the straits between Japan’s main island of Honshu and the island of Shikoku. Some 70km in total, the cycle path runs between Onomichi (on Honshu) and Imabari (on Shikoku) and passes over six small islands on the way.
This well-maintained and popular route can be tackled by most cyclists, with only small inclines and the length of the route as challenges – those who want to take things at a slower pace can stay at an island or two en route to explore. This is an immersive experience that offers matchless views of the Setouchi Island Sea, bracing sea breeze, and a cycling-friendly community.
Get a sense of life in rural Japan as you cycle across seven islands in the Setouchi region. Take a ferry from Imabari in Ehime Prefecture (the Shikoku side of the Shimanami Kaido) across to Okamura Island. From there, the 30km route combines flat coastal road and five scenic but challenging bridges, taking you to Kawajiri in Hiroshima Prefecture.
It’s not as popular as the Shimanami Kaido so has fewer amenities on the way – although the flip side is you don’t have to share the idyllic scenery: distant mountain views, coastal beauty, small fishing villages lined with traditional buildings, and the lovely harbour town of Mitarai. The Tobishima Kaido is for confident cyclists who are happy to plan ahead in order to enjoy this stunning rural route.
Now you’re in Kawajiri, it’s time to tackle the third side of the “Triangle”, the Sazanami Kaido. This coast-only, mostly flat route is 82km in total and sees you passing through a number of notable towns situated along National Route 185. The route starts in the historic port town of Kure, a down-to-earth city with a history of sake and shipbuilding.
Next up is the time-slip town of Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture’s “Little Kyoto “and home to multiple sake breweries. Then comes Mihara, so-called “octopus town” thanks to its unmissable local speciality – make sure to pass through at a mealtime. Finally, you will reach Onomichi, the starting point of the Shimanami Kaido, and a town famous for its narrows alleys and slopes, populated by countless cats.