Watch Jigokudani's snow monkeys
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You know the photos of monkeys sitting against a snowy background in steaming water? Like the one above. Pretty cute don't you think? Well these world famous snow monkeys love to warm up in the warm water in Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan. This park is located north of Nagano, in the heart of the Japanese Alps.
The Nagano Prefecture region recently became popular and became known as a ski resort due to the heavy and prolonged snowfall. These Japanese Alps are characterized by snow-capped mountain peaks, geysers, ski runs and small villages with natural hot springs. These so-called 'onsens' are public baths where you can bath in volcanic water. A wonderful tradition, especially during the cold winter months. But not only tourists and locals like to go to an onsen, the warm, volcanic water also has a special attraction to the Japanese macaque monkeys.
Visitors from all over the world come to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. This started when the park was opened in the 1960's. The macaques, who live here all year round, are friendly and there is no fence that separates them from their visitors. Yet the park management constantly points out that monkeys are wild animals.
How to get there
From Nagano a train departs several times a day to Shiba Onsen station. From there you can take a taxi to the park.
Where to stayWe recommend staying a few nights at Aburaya Tousen. A great hotel if you're looking for a short break at an high class Japanese ryokan near the mountains. It is a great place to stay if you'd like to enjoy yourself in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.
Wonderful, soothing, and warm natural hot spring water in private open air baths. You have a private bath as well as you can use the public bath. The public onsen has a panoramic view over town and mountains which is just phenomenal. On booking.com they get an average rating of 9.1.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit the snow monkeys is in winter, especially in the months of November till March. During these winter months the temperature can drop to -7 degrees (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Bring good shoes because a meter of snow is not a rare phenomena. Click here for more climate information about Yamanouchi (Nagano), Japan.