Staying in a Ryokan by Lake Toya-ko

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
62 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 200
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
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How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
199th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 60% SUMMARY RATING: Great experience


Staying in a Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn with woven matt floors, sleeping on futons and eating all your (local and delicious) meals in the room – is one of those classically Japanese things to do.  Doing so in the northern island of Hokkaido by a classically round active volcanic lake in the snow is also a very nice addition.  Only issue is you should chose wisely on the location
We stayed in the Toya-ko Onsen town, which was easy to reach from Niseko / Sapporo, and the Daiwa Ryokan was great fun, but it’s not the most attractive town.  I would suggest trying to find somewhere else, maybe a bit more isolated.  Considering just how beautiful the surroundings are, it would be worth a bit more of a detailed search, even if you have to plough through the Japanese sites!
For something a bit unusual (more unusual) – head up to the Windsor Hotel, which is still on the rim of Toya-ko, and is an uber 5 star hotel that hosted the G8 summit in 2008.  It’s nice to walk around and has superb views of the lake, but also bizarrely has 2 Michelin 3* restaurants on the top floor which, based on what we saw, are largely empty.  Bear in mind there are only 135 Michelin 3* restaurants in the world, so you get the idea how random this is.  We tried the French one which was great
Unless a bit desperate for something to do (you mean you’re bored sat in one Ryokan room for 2 days?), don’t bother with the ferry ride around the lake.  My girlfriend likes to say it’s the worst date we’ve been on.  Instead, head up to the Usa-zan viewing platform


#1 Going full-on Japanese style in the basic but ever-so-nice-and Japanese Ryokan

#2 The views across the volcanic Lake Toya

#3 The view and fine dinning from the uber luxurious Windsor Hotel

#4 Ferry round the lake - if you are 10/10 bored and want to give your partner ammo for future "worst date" discussions

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone