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Destination inspiration: Yufu, Japan

Why to go?

Water is everything in Yufuin. Hidden away in the forests of Ōita, this small mountain town is famous for its scenic lakes, rivers, waterfalls – and of course its hot springs. Head here for the most peaceful getaway of your life, where you can spend days relaxing in traditional onsen gazing out at the misty mountain views. Set against the twin peaks of Mount Yufudake, the town’s cute shopping street is lined with noodle joints, woodworking shops and locals selling contemporary crafts. After a short stroll, you’ll come across the rice paddies and farm houses that define this rural landscape.

Despite the quaintness of the town, there’s plenty of accommodation – most of the ryokans have their own hot spring baths, with a range of family rooms on offer. During your stay, you’ll find that taking the waters will be your main activity, but there are also many outdoorsy pursuits for those looking to explore Yufu’s natural beauty. You can head up into the mountains for some picturesque hiking, or take a trip to nearby Yufugawa Gorge, famous for its mossy waterfalls, steep cliffs and canyoning adventures. This beautiful countryside also produces delicious sake and local specialties, such as yuzu pepper, slow-cooked sweetfish and crackers made from the fragrant herbs of the surrounding highlands.

When to go?

Thankfully Yufuin’s healing waters stay hot year round, so you can treat yourself whatever the season. To get the most peace and quiet out of your trip, head here in February or June, when the town feels practically deserted. Expect a bit more competition for your perfect ryokan in spring and late summer, when spa-goers start arriving in droves.

Where to stay?

Ryoso Yufuin Yamadaya – Yufuin, Japan

If you’re after a luxurious spa experience but want to stay close to town, this beautiful ryokan is for you. With an unbeatable location in the heart of Yufuin, it offers guests private and public onsens, which you can enjoy in your very own kimono. The mountain views from your balcony make appreciating the natural scenery a delight in any weather, and you’ll love the delicious meals – in particular, guests praise the tender beef BBQ.

Shimizu Ryokan – Yufu, Japan

Located just a ten-minute train ride from the centre of Yufuin, this traditional inn is about as peaceful as it gets. You’ll get the authentic ryokan experience, with warm, hospitable hosts and beautiful rooms looking out onto the leafy banks of a mountain creek. Spend your days enjoying the cave and open-air bath, and in the evenings you’ll be treated to mouth-watering meals – all accompanied by locally-made plum wine.

Yufuin-Sanso Waremokou – Yufuin, Japan

There’s only one way to experience this heaven-on-earth: spend the night. Tucked away in the mountains, this five-star ryokan is beloved for its incredible views, luxurious rooms and attentive service. Expect nothing but the best from this elegant retreat – and that includes the price. Rooms feature mountain views, private onsens and massage chairs, all decked out in flawless traditional style.