Takayama Itinerary: Travel Back in Time to Old Japan (2024)

by Feb 14, 2024Itinerary, Japan, Travel

When you visit Takayama, it feels like you’re stepping back to a time when Japan was ruled by shoguns and samurai. Many of the beautifully-preserved wooden houses, shops, cafes, shrines, and temples were in fact built 400 years ago. It’s often referred to as “Little Kyoto.”

Located about 5 hours by train from Tokyo, the small city is nestled in the Japan Alps.

You’ll also find some of the most delicious food in Japan in Takayama. Don’t leave the city without trying the Hida beef and mushrooms.

Overall, the city exudes charm, and it is worth spending at least 2 days touring the city. However, I recommend staying longer and using Takayama as a base to explore the Japan Alps, the plethora of onsens scattered around the area, and the fairytale villages of Shirakawago.

In this Takayama itinerary, you’ll find out how to spend 2 days visiting the most historically important attractions and eating some of the best food in Japan.

By the way, you might see Takayama referred to as Hida-Takayama. The reason is in order distinguish it from the other cities named Takayama in Japan.

BONUS: I've created a FREE PDF version of my Japan itinerary guide. It includes detailed day-to-day itineraries for Tokyo, Kyoto, and 9 other destinations in Japan.  You'll also get step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.

Click here to get lots of great tips for traveling around Asia as well as my FREE Japan itinerary guide. 

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Takayama itinerary: Day 1

1. Tourist Information Center

Let’s say that you arrive in Takayama at around 12:00 pm from Tokyo. Even if you’re coming from Kyoto or Kanazawa, you’ll probably be arriving at this time as well.

The first thing to do is to visit the tourist information center to get a map, some brochures, information about the surrounding area, and bus schedules for visiting the attractions outside of Takayama. You’ll want to get a bus schedule for Kamikochi which includes the Shin Hotaka Ropeway, the onsen town of Hirayu, and Shirakawago.

The town has only about 88,000 people, but the center of the town and the friendly people make it feel like it’s even smaller. It took me 10-15 minutes depending on how heavy my bags were or how tired I was to walk from the train station to my hotel. The other tourist attractions mentioned in this Takayama itinerary should be about 20 minutes from the train station.

2. Lunch

After dropping off your bags, head to one of the restaurants in the old part of town that is serving local beef or soba noodles.

A bowl of soba noodles should cost around  ¥1,200 (US$8 | £6.35 |€7.44).

Here are a few popular restaurants that serve these noodles:

SumikyuGoogle Maps – I had excellent soba with a variety of mushrooms. Soooooo good! Very good location!

Miyabi an Soba – (Google Maps) – Another excellent soba restaurant

Kofune – (Google Maps) – Another good soba restaurant; near the train station

3. Old Town Area of Takayama

COST: free; OPEN: 24/7 but stores are open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Next, spend the afternoon exploring the Old Town area, also called the Sanmachi area. It’s the merchant district of Japan during Edo and Meiji periods. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there from the train station.

The Sanmachi area consists of three streets of old merchant houses that have supposedly remained untouched over the past 400 years. It is pretty cool, and it does feel like you’re in another era.

traditional wooden building in the old part of Takayama

In Edo times (1603-1868), society was divided into four levels:

  1. Samurai and their lords (daimyo) – lived on higher ground
  2. Farmers and peasants – they produced food so they were considered above artisans and merchants
  3. Artisans 
  4. Merchants – the lowest class of society, so they resided in the lower levels of Takayama; that’s why you’ll see so many merchant homes in the center of Takayama

Each group lived in its own section of a city, and they did not mingle socially with each other.

However, during the Edo times, there was an increase in trade as well as money and credit, resulting in an elimination of the barter system. The merchants started to become wealthier, while the samurai became poorer and in debt to the merchants.

Takayama merchants were particularly wealthy. One reason was that Takayama was famous for its high-quality lumber and carpentry. As a result, the city was considered strategically important, and thus it came under the jurisdiction of the Shogun in Edo (Tokyo), giving it opportunities to acquire more wealth.

old wooden buildings along Kamiichinomachi Street

Takayama is famous for its sake breweries. Make sure to drop by the many breweries to do sake tastings. 

You can also visit the Takayama Museum of History and Art to learn about the history of Takayama and the Takayama Showa Museum to learn about Japan’s modern history from 1926 to 1989.

4. Takayama Jinya

the entrance to Takayama Jinya

Entrance of Takayama Jinya, the former home of the governor of Hida province, is one of the most visited historical buildings of Takayama

  • COST: ¥440 (US$3 /£2.33 /€2.73); Free (high school and below)
  • OPEN: 8:45 am – 5:00 pm (Mar 1-Oct 30); 8:45-4:30 (Nov-Feb)

For history buffs, visit Takayama Jinya, the government administrative offices and the home of the governor during the Edo period.

You can see the hall used for receiving important guests, the living quarters of the governor and his family, an interrogation room, a courtroom, and a storeroom for holding the rice that peasants used for paying their taxes.

5. Dinner – Wagyu Beef

Japan is famous for its high-quality beef known as Wagyu beef. The most well-known Wagyu beef is Kobe beef, which can cost an arm and a leg in some restaurants.

Did you know Japan has other kinds of Wagyu beef?

Takayama’s Hida beef is a type of Wagyu beef. And it’s sooooo delicious. Don’t leave Takayama without trying its beef.

⇒ If you’re interested in learning more about Hida beef, visit this website here.

Try Hida beef by having a traditional Japanese barbecue called a yakiniku at Kyoya (Google Maps).

I had a set meal, which was perfect for one person.  It included two kinds of beef that you grill yourself. The staff can help guide you through the grilling process.

My set meal included the following

  • beef with vegetables (carrot, cabbage, and onion) barbecued over one small grill
  • beef with miso grilled on a leaf over another small grill.
  • miso soup
  • rice
  • tofu
  • pickled cucumber and ginger

The set meal cost me ¥3,000 (US$20/£15.88/€18.59).

I also ordered a draft beer which cost ¥600 ($4/£3.18/€3.72).

If you’re alone, you can get a seat at the counter and not feel so conspicuous.

Interesting History of Beef in Japan

For 1200 years, eating meat was considered taboo in Japan.

Influenced by Buddhist beliefs against the killing of animals, in 175 CE the Emperor prohibited Japanese people from killing animals like cows and chickens for consumption. They were allowed to hunt and eat wild animals, though. As time went on, eating meat also became socially taboo.

But then when the Jesuit missionaries came to Japan in the 1500s and local lords started converting to Christianity, eating meat slowly became more acceptable.

Although Christianity was eventually banned, some people continued this new custom. However, overall, for most people, it was still considered taboo.

Finally, in an attempt to make Japan more Westernized, the Emperor lifted the ban on eating meat in 1872. Gradually, the consumption of meat spread throughout Japan.

Takayama itinerary:  Day 2

On your last day in Takayama, get up early so that you can wander around the morning market. Then tour a traditional Japanese merchant house before making your way to the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall. The rest of the afternoon will be spent doing the Higashiyama Walking Course.

map of the Takayama itinerary day 2 morning walking route

1. Miyagawa Morning Market

  • COST: Free
  • TIMES: 7:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • LOCATION: Google Maps
Food for sale at Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama,

Begin your second day in Takayama with a stroll through the Miyagawa Morning Market.

Located next to the Miyagawa River, this farmers’ market has been around since the Edo period (1603 – 1868). It sells fresh fruits and vegetables. The market is also a great place to buy local handicrafts and sample locally-made snacks.

2. Yoshijima Heritage House

After the morning market, visit the Yoshijima Heritage House to see what the home of a wealthy Takayama merchant was like over 100 years ago.

Built by a famous carpenter in 1907, this traditional home belonged to the Yoshijima family, who were famous sake brewers and moneylenders.

These other merchant houses are also open to the public for touring:  

3. Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall

  • COST: ¥900 (US$8.20/€7.17/£6.28)
  • OPEN: Mar-Nov 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Dec-Feb 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
  • LOCATION: Google Maps

One of THE top three festivals in Japan is the Takayama Matsuri, which takes place twice a year: April 14 and 15 and October 9 and 10.

A popular feature of the festival is the parade of floats. If you can’t be in Takayama during the festival, you can still view the floats at the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall (Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan).

Four of the twelve floats are on display in the Exhibition Hall. The hall rotates the floats on display three times a year.

In April, the purpose of the festival is to pray to the gods for an abundant harvest. In October, the purpose is to thank the gods for their harvest.

A parade is held twice a day each time: during the day and at night.

4. Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine

Next to the Festival Float Museum is the beautiful and peaceful Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine.

The shrine goes back to the fifth century, making it the oldest shrine in Takayama.

5. Lunch

Take a break from your Takayama itinerary for lunch.

I had bought food earlier from a convenience store and had that near the shrine and Matsuri Exhibition Hall.

There aren’t many restaurants nearby.

6. Higashiyama Walking Course

Nestled on the upper level of Takayama is the Higashiyama Walking Course, a 5.5-kilometer (3.4-mile) trail that winds its way from the Higashiyama temple area to Shiroyama Park, where the remains of Takayama’s castle are located. It’s a great way to take a leisurely walk and escape the hordes of tourists in the town center.

The route from the Sakurayama Shrine to the beginning of the walking course passes by some lovely buildings. 

And the sound of rushing water is everywhere in Takayama whether it’s from the river that flows through town or the drains along the side of the road.

The path for the Walking Course is well-marked–great for those like me who are directionally challenged.

There are no restaurants along the route so you probably want to do lunch before you start.

After you pass under the gate in the above photo, you’ll arrive at the first of many temples: Unryuji Temple (Google Maps).

This temple was first built in 720 and rebuilt in the 1300s near the town’s castle.

Then in the 1600s, it was moved to its present location at the request of a local samurai named Kanamori Nagachika. He loved Kyoto so much that he wanted Takayama to be filled with beautiful temples like those in Kyoto.

After leaving the Unryuji Temple, continue up a path to Higashiyama Hakusen Shrine, the oldest shrine structure in Takayama (719 AD).

This temple is small and simple. The highlight is its peaceful surroundings, its view of the city below, and the nearby cemetery.

After visiting this shrine, walk back down the stairs and turn left at the bottom of the stairs. You’ll come next to what looks like a newer temple called Daiou Temple.

This temple was also transported to Takayama by Kanamori. 

The next stop on the route is Dounin Temple.

What’s the difference between a shrine and a temple?

  • A shrine is a Shinto religious structure, and a temple is Buddhist.
  • Shrines have torii gates, but temples do not.

However, it’s difficult to tell the differences because temples borrow features from Shinto and shrines have Buddhist features.

You have two choices. You can go up some stairs to Higashiyama Shinmei Shrine or keep going straight to the Tenshoji Temple.  As my feet were killing me, I chose Buddhism and went to the temple.

Which religion is more popular, Shinto or Buddhism?

The Japanese tend to follow a bit of both Shinto and Buddhism.

Japanese generally pay attention to their religions during major events like births, marriage, and death rather than during their everyday lives.

There is a common saying in Japan: Japanese are Shinto when they’re born and when they get married and then become Buddhists when they die.

The next temple, the Hokkeji Temple, is the perfect example of a Buddhist temple complex with a Shinto shrine. Above is the main hall of the temple.

There’s a pond and a stone arched bridge on the temple grounds. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll come to a Shinto shrine, the perfect example of how the two religions coexist side by side.

You can leave the Higashiyama walking route anytime you want. I exited after Hokkeji because it was getting late and I was tired and hungry. I had seen enough temples and I wasn’t that excited about seeing anymore.

But if you continue this route, you’ll see a few more temples and shrines and then you’ll come to a park with the remains of a castle.

7. Dinner

Not too far from Hokkeji Temple is Center 4 Burger. This is an excellent place to have dinner.

Get the burger made with Hida beef! The restaurant only serves 30 to 40 of these per day, so make sure you arrive early. It’s a bit pricey at ¥2,850 (US$19/£15/€17.66), but it is sooooo worth it!

The décor of the restaurant is also pretty cool. The walls are covered in Americana. And I spotted a copy of the Twin Cities City Page free newspaper, my hometown’s weekly free newspaper. The owner said that he got the newspaper when was visiting friends who were living in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, there’s a sign saying you’re not allowed to take photos of the restaurant for fear of others copying it.

Day Trips from Takayama

There are a lot of great day trips that you can take from Takayama, so it’s a good idea to stay longer than 2 days. I visited Shirakawa-go and Kamikochi.

1. Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a charming village located an hour by bus from Takayama. It’s special for its Gassho Zukuri houses. You’ll need a full day to visit the town. To learn more about the village and what to see, where to stay, and how to get there, read this article, Shirakawago Itinerary: Enter a Japanese Fairy Tale.

2. Kamikochi

Another great and easy day trip is Kamikochi, a park located in the Japan Alps. It’s special for its beautiful landscape–mountains, rivers, forests. You’ll need a whole day to visit the town. It’s only an hour and a half away from Takayama.

I tried to squeeze in a visit to the hot springs along with Kamikochi, but it didn’t work out. I wouldn’t have caught the last bus back to Takayama. To learn more, read this article, Kamikochi itinerary: The Perfect Day Trip from Takayama.

3. Shin-Hotaka Ropeway

Another option is to do the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. The ropeway takes you to the peak of one of the mountains in the Hotaka mountain range. I’ve read that there’s a 2.5-hour hiking trail from the ropeway station to Kamikochi.

4. Okuhida Onsens

Situated near Takayama in the Okuhida Valley are five hot springs (onsen) towns:

  • Hiraryu Onsen
  • Shin-Hirayu Onsen
  • Shin-Hotaka Onsen
  • Fukuji Onsen
  • Tochio Onsen

For some onsens, you can enjoy the hot springs just as a day trip, while for others, you’ll need to book a room and stay overnight. Most of them have great views of the Japan Alps. I tried to do half a day at Kamikochi and half at Hirayu Onsen, but I couldn’t manage it. Schedule a full day at one of the onsens.

Where to eat in Takayama

As a recap of where I suggested eating on my Takayama itinerary, the following restaurants are

  • Hidatakayama Kyoya – Eat here for traditional barbecue Hida beef (¥3,000)
  • Center 4 Burger – Eat here for an amazing burger also with Hida beef (¥2,600)
  • Sumikyu – Soba noodles with 7 kinds of mushrooms (¥1,200)

Where to stay in Takayama

I stayed at the Rickshaw Inn  (Booking.com | Agoda) a cozy traditional Japanese-style hotel. You get the whole Japanese experience of floors covered in tatami mats and comfy futons for beds. However, there are modern conveniences like a coin-operated washer and dryer, a small kitchen for simple cooking, and a cozy lounge to hang out in.

  • It’s close enough to walk to the train and bus stations even with luggage (10-15 minutes), and it’s just a five-minute walk to the main tourist sites.
  • The owner and staff have lots of great advice on where to eat.

If Rickshaw Inn doesn’t fit your needs, here are some other popular places to stay in Takayama. For more info on different sources for finding a place to stay, check out my post on preparing for your trip to Japan. 

$ – Under US$60 | $$ – US$60 – $200 | $$$ – US$200 – $400 | $$$$ – Over US$400

(1) Auberge Hidanamori($$$) – This hotel is a bit far from the center of Takayama. It’s located in a forest with lots of nearby trails for hiking; amazing dinners; free pick-up service from the Takayama station. RATING: 9.5/10 | READ REVIEWS &  CHECK RATES: AGODA | BOOKING.COM

(2) Oyado Koto No Yume ($$$) – Centrally located; Japanese traditional inn; hot spring bath RATING: 9.3/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES: AGODA | BOOKING.COM

(3) Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan ($$$$) – Located in the heart of old Takayama; a traditional Japanese inn; indoor hot spring bath. RATING: 9.1/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES: AGODA | BOOKING.COM

(4) Residence Hotel Takayama Station ($$) –  This highly-rated hotel is located a short walk from the train station. It has Western-style beds. RATING: 9.0/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES: Agoda | Booking.com

(5) HOTEL WOOD ($$) – This beautiful hotel is located on the edge of the historic center. It has an onsen. RATING: 9.0/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES: Agoda | Booking.com

(6) K’s House Oasis #2 ($) – You cannot go wrong with this Japanese hostel chain (I stayed at one in Hiroshima). The hostels are friendly, comfortable, and well-located. The hostel has a shared kitchen. RATINGS: 8.8/10 | READ VIEWS & CHECK RATES: Booking.com | Agoda

(7) Guesthouse Tomaru ($) – This budget-friendly place is perfectly located in the center of Takayama. It has both dorm rooms and private rooms with shared baths for less than US$100. (RATING: 9.1/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES: Agoda | Booking.com

(8) Guesthouse Ouka ($) – This fabulous guesthouse is perfect for solo travelers on a budget who want a private room. RATING: 8.9/10 | READ REVIEWS & CHECK RATES:  Agoda | Booking.com

Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?

Are you wondering whether the Japan Rail Pass is worth it?

In this guide to the Japan Rail Pass, I break down the transportation prices for each of the destinations in this Japan itinerary of 3 weeks. Then I compare them to the 2024 price of a Japan Rail Pass.

You'll also find out where and how to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, how to activate the Pass when you get to Japan, and how to use the Pass. Check out the current Japan Rail Prices from my favorite travel agency in Japan or book your pass through Klook.

How to Get to Takayama

You can get to Takayama by train in about 4.5 hours or by bus in 6 hours. 

From Tokyo to Takayama By Train

Two train routes get you to Takayama from Tokyo Station.

  1. Tokyo – Nagoya – Takayama (4 hours 41 minutes)
  2. Tokyo – Toyama – Takayama (4 hours 5 minutes)

For both routes, you will need to change trains. You won’t have much time to change trains, so it’s important to pack light. Check out this AMAZING guide on packing light for Japan.

Check Navitime website for train times.

1. Tokyo – Nagoya – Takayama

This route will take 4 hours 41 minutes on a non-Nozomi train. If you have a JR Pass, you can’t use the Nozomi train. On a Nozomi train, it will take 4 hours 26 minutes.

If you don’t have a JR Pass, expect to pay around ¥14,190 (US$94.30|£75|€88).

The times below are just an example. They are for non-Nozomi trains departing on February 16, 2024.

Tokyo – Nagoya Nagoya – Takayama
7:33 – 9:14 9:39 – 12:14
8:33 – 10:14 10:48 – 13:12
9:33 – 11:14 11:43 – 14:14
10:33 – 12:14 12:48 – 15:12
12:33 – 14:14 14:48 – 17:13

I took the 7:33 train, so I was able to get in a half-day for my Takayama itinerary.

2. Tokyo – Toyama – Takayama

The last time I was in Japan, I tried to take this route, but the tracks were flooded so no trains were running.

Without a JR Pass, it may cost around ¥9,230 (US$61.34|£49|€57.19).

Tokyo – Toyama Toyama – Takayama      
7:20 – 9:28 9:54 – 11:25
10:24 – 12:29 13:02 – 14:36
14:24 – 16:56 17:14 – 18:41

For an up-to-date schedule and additional times, visit Navitime Website.

3. Bus: Tokyo to Takayama

If you want a cheaper and more direct way, take the bus. As of February 16, 2024, a one-way ticket costs ¥7,500  (US$50/£40 /€46.50).

The bus leaves from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (Google Maps), and arrives in Takayama at the Nohi Bus Terminal, which is right next to the train station and tourism office.

 You can look up bus times on Navitime

Tokyo Shinjuku Takayama Nohi Bus Station
7:05 12:50
8:15 114:00
11:05 16:50
14:35 20:20
22:55 4:50

From Kyoto to Takayama

You can travel by train or bus to Takayama from Kyoto.

1. Train: Kyoto – Nagoya – Takayama

A one-way ticket from Kyoto to Nagoya costs ¥9,350 (US$62.14|£49.48|€58).

Kyoto – Nagoya Nagoya – Takayama
7:33-8:25 8:43-10:58
10:08-10:42 10:48-13:11
12:08-12:42 12:48-15:10
14:08-14:42 14:48-17:13

There is also a direct train leaving Kyoto at 8:31 am and arriving in Takayama at 12:24 pm.

For the most up-to-date schedule and for additional departure times, check Navitime.

2. Bus: Kyoto – Takayama

A one-way bus ticket is ¥5,500 (US$36.55|£29.11|€34). 

These are the bus times for February 16, 2024:

Kyoto Takayama
8:30 12:52
16:45 20:57
22:38 4:00 am

For more times, visit Navitime, Willer online booking site or Highway Bus online booking site.

From Kanazawa to Takayama

Another popular way to get to Takayama is to travel from Kanazawa.

There are no trains, but there are buses.

The cost is ¥4,000 (US$26.58 /€21.17 /£24.78) one way.

Kanazawa Takayama
8:10 10:25
11:10 13:25
13:10 15:25
16.00 18:10

For the MOST up-to-date schedule, check out the Nohi Bus Company website.

BONUS: I've created a FREE detailed PDF version of this 3-week Japan itinerary. The guide also includes step-by-step instructions for buying and using your Japan Rail Pass.

Click here to get lots of great tips for traveling around Asia as well as this FREE 3-week Japan itinerary guide. 

Final Thoughts: Takayama Itinerary

You’ve seen Takayama. Now where to next?

I recommend getting on a bus and visiting the fairy-tale village of Shirakawa-go. This is where you can see the famous gassho-zukuri houses. The name of these houses literally means “constructed like hands in prayer” and comes from the fact that the roofs of the houses look like two hands coming together in prayer.

You can stay overnight in one of the gassho-zukuri houses in the village.

Or you can just visit during the day. Store your luggage at the bus station in Shirakawa-go. Then take the bus to Kanazawa in the afternoon. I tell you how to do it in my post on Shirakawago.

Best Resources for Your Trip to Japan

Book Your Flights for Japan

Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Japan. They will turn up results for all airlines including major ones and local airlines. You’re going to find EVERYTHING that’s available and thus get the cheapest price.

Book Your Accommodations for Japan:

The best hotel booking sites for Japan are Booking.com and Agoda. They have the biggest selection, and they consistently churn out hotels and hostels at the lowest prices of any other booking site. Another website for backpackers and budget travelers is Hostel World.

Book Your Tours for Japan:

The three best tour booking sites for Japan are Viator, Get Your Guide, and Klook. Viator has the biggest selection. Get Your Guide has terrific customer service. Klook specializes in tours in Asia.

Get Connected when in Japan:

You’ve got 3 options for staying connected in Japan: a pocket WiFi (what I used), a physical SIM card, or an eSIM. Several companies offer eSIMs for Japan. I recommend getting one through Klook or Airalo.

Book your Japan Rail Passes:

Japan has many different types of passes. The JR Pass is one of the most popular passes. Buy them through Klook before your trip to Japan. There are other passes as well like the Hakone Freepass.

Get Your Rail Pass for Tokyo

Get an unlimited train pass for most metro lines in Tokyo. They’re good for 1, 2, or 3 days. I always get the 3-day pass.

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a meal of Japanese food and a street at night in Takayama Japan
a red bridge surrounded by trees and a river with stone embankment iNT


  1. WOW!! Thank you for the perfect day hike in Kamikochi. Your detail directions were spot on and we were lucky enough to get a table and have soba noodles for lunch!!

  2. Hi! thank you so much for your good ideas for the itinerary. we are going to Japan for 6 week this June and i just booked the Takayama trip for a few days.
    we wanted to rent a car though. do you have any idea if this is hard, driving there? should be ok with google maps, no? thanks!

    • Wow! Six weeks! You are soooo lucky! I do not have any ideas on renting a car. The train and bus system in Japan is so extensive and reaches so many different places (even small towns) that you don’t really need to rent a car. But that being said, a car will give you more flexibility and freedom.


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About the Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.


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