Beppu-Nagasaki Road Trip: exploring north Kyushu

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The Kyushu island of Japan has always been my favourite place to travel in Japan. This might be because I had stayed there for a considerable portion of my 4 years in the “Land of rising Sun”. Or might even be because Kyushu has some of the most scenic landscapes in Japan. During my stay in Oita city (northern part of Kyushu; or kita-kyushu in Japanese), I got multiple opportunities to explore Kyushu by road – thanks to my friends & colleagues. This blog post is about one such time when we embarked on a road-trip from Beppu to Nagasaki city (yes, Nagasaki! – the city about which you must have read a lot in your history books)

beppu bagasaki road trip

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About Kyushu

Beyond Tokyo’s urban landscape and Kyoto’s teeming temples and shrines lies Japan’s hidden gem of Kyushu. Kyushu (九州, Kyūshū) means “nine provinces” in Japanese – the island comprises of 9 prefectures/provinces. It is also the third-largest island of Japan and is located in the south-western part of the mainland.

kyushu map
Kyushu island and its provinces [1]

Since Kyushu is the southernmost of Japanese islands, it’s also the warmest. But, it also boasts of the most beautiful landscapes with active volcanic peaks, rocky, lush and near-tropical coastlines, and great onsen (hot springs) virtually everywhere.

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Why explore Kyushu?

An early centre of Japanese civilization, Kyushu offers many historic treasures, modern cities and natural beauty. Blessed with subtropical climate, rolling mountains and seaside cliffs, the natural beauty of Kyushu is simply breathtaking. From powerful waterfalls to serene forests to volatile volcanoes, even the most ardent city dwellers will be impressed. The awe-inspiring adventure starts with Kyushu’s active volcanoes. And this is the main reason why I love Kyushu among all the islands – the natural beauty. That’s why I believe the best way to explore Kyushu is by road. (or even by train)

EPIC landscapes that you will find in Kyushu! ?

Here are some of the best Kyuhsu road trips that I have taken:

  • Oita – Beppu – Nagasaki (this one)
  • Aso-Kuju National Park
  • Oita – Fukuoka (Kyushu National Museum)
  • Beppu – Yufuin (including – Mt. Tsurumi hike)
  • Oita – Taketa during Autumn (one of the most epic fall-colours in Kyushu)

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Our Beppu-Nagasaki road-trip

Now, coming to our own Beppu-Nagasaki road trip – we did it during the summer (July). If I remember it correctly, there was a 3-day-weekend; and my friends – Ankit, Sehej and Saswata – who were staying in Niihama city (in the neighbouring island of Shikoku) planned to give me a visit. So, we thought why not take a day off making it a 4-day-weekend and do a nice road trip covering Beppu and Nagasaki.

Ankit already received his Japanese driving license and hence we decided to rent a car from Oita or Beppu. But after a bit of research, they found out that the ferry port nearest to Niihama was actually pretty and it would be much easier if they rented the car from Niihama itself. So that’s what we did. They rented the car from Niihama, took the ferry and reached Beppu. Yes! You definitely can take your car on the ferry.

On the other hand, for me, reaching Beppu was too easy – only 15 kms. I took a local-train and within 20mins I was in Beppu. 😛

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Before we start with Beppu, here is a quick introduction to the city. For detailed information, kindly check our Beppu travel guide.

Beppu is by turns quaint and touristy, modern and traditional, solid and rickety, but the charm of this hilly, hospitable city grows on visitors as sure as the waters are balmy.

Lonely Planet

Beppu is a small town in the Oita prefecture, just 15 kms from Oita city. Although being a small city, Beppu is popular all over Japan for its natural hot-spring baths (onsen in Japanese) and hot-spring resorts. You will know that you are very near to Beppu when you see steam rising from vents in the earth.

beppu city japan
Steam rising from natural hot springs in Beppu [2]

There are many ways to reach Beppu – land, air and sea. You can take a flight to Oita airport and then drive to Beppu or take a bus. Beppu also has a port, so you can even take a ferry from Shikoku or Honshu islands – just like my friends did 🙂 .

Hotels and Restaurants in Beppu:

Being pretty popular in Japan due to its hot-spring baths, Beppu has many hotels and restaurants, serving a plethora of cuisines. Most of the hot-spring resorts are absolutely stunning and some of them also include private hot-spring baths. Apart from these, there are generic hotels and Airbnb’s too. (Click here to get $35 discount on your Airbnb stays)

? Places to visit and things to do in Beppu – the onsen hub of Japan!

On our 2nd day (considering arrival-day as the 1st day), we tried to explore Beppu city. We started with Umitamago – the Aquarium. From there we went to the Takasakiyama Monkey Park – a monkey reserve, home to around 1,500 wild Japanese macaques.

Takasakiyama Monkey Park Beppu Japan
Takasakiyama Monkey Park (Beppu, Japan)

For lunch, we went to a traditional Japanese restaurant and had rice-with-fried-chicken – a speciality of Oita prefecture. After lunch, it was time for the main attraction of Beppu – Jigoku Meguri; a.k.a. The “hells” of Beppu! These are the seven spectacular hot springs, but only for viewing, not bathing. Thermal mud, fumarolic gas and hot springs have been gushing of these “hells” for over 1,000 years.
Must try – onsen eggs (eggs boiled in these hot springs) !!

Hells of Beppu and the ‘onsen eggs’!! ?

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Beppu to Nagasaki

After one-and-half days of exploring Beppu city, we started our road trip from Beppu to Nagasaki.

beppu nahasaki road trip map
Beppu-Nagasaki route map

Beppu to Nagasaki is 240 km and should take you 3.5~4 hours depending on your number of breaks. After coming out of Beppu city, we took the Oita Expressway. Passing through Saga and Fukuoka prefectures in central Kyushu, we reached the western part of the island. We then took the Nagasaki Expressway and reached the city.

Similar to many other road trips in Kyushu island, even this route was heaven for any landscape photography enthusiast. I distinctly remember asking Ankit to pull over on the service-lanes 4-5 times just to admire the natural beauty and take some photos.

beppu to nagasaki route

Since we had left from our hotel in Beppu after having a heavy breakfast, we had only stopped once during the journey for a coffee break; apart from the photography halts 😉 . Once we were pretty near to Nagasaki city, we started looking for lunch options. We found a nice Indian restaurant called ‘Bishnu’ and headed straight to it.

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I guess, Nagasaki will need no introduction. Highly likely that if you would have heard only 2 places of Japan, they are Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the unfortunate victims of A-bomb explosions. The city has been a world leader in calling for peace ever since.

Nagasaki hypocenter
THE Hypocenter – ground zero of the ‘A-bomb’ explosion!

But, when you see Nagasaki today, it’s extremely difficult to believe that this city was once completely demolished. Today, Nagasaki is just like any other modern city.

On one hand, travelling to Nagasaki gave us an opportunity to learn first-hand about the city’s previous struggles. On the other hand, being 21st-century travellers, we also found it to be a vibrant and compelling location full of diverse charm. It was like embracing the past while looking towards the future.

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One-and-half days in Nagasaki

Post lunch, we headed straight to the Nagasaki Peace Park and the museum. The Peace park, the Hypocenter Park and the Museum are all located next to each other. There are several things in the museum that will remind of the tragic event during the 2nd World War. And then there is the Park – an artistic symbol of the enduring struggle for peace.

The Peace Statue @Nagasaki Peace park
I was absolutely mesmerised when I took this photo – primarily because of the symbolic importance of the pose.
(I have mentioned the details of the symbolic importance of this statue in the instagram-post)

The entire afternoon we spent in that area, patiently going through most of the things in the museum and the parks. After 3-4 hours, we went to our hotel to take some rest, because we had plans for the night! Well, no party plans – something scenically spectacular.

As dusk gave way to the night, we took the famous cable car to the top of Mount Inasa – perfect way to get a true sense of the city. From this spectacular vantage point you have a near-panoramic view of Nagasaki, with the dancing lights of the urban grid bisected by the glistening waters of the harbour. Nagasaki-yakei (night-view of Nagasaki) is said to be among the top 3 most beautiful night-cityscapes in Japan (Kobe and Hokkaido being the other two), and it is for a reason.

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I was prepared and had also taken my tripod with me. We stood there and admired the spectacular night-cityscape of Nagasaki. It was indeed worthy of being among the top 3 night-cityscapes of Japan. We spent a good couple of hours there and called it a day.

? Places to visit and things to do in Nagasaki – the detailed travel guide

Completing our beautiful Road Trip from Beppu to Nagasaki

The next day was the final day of our trip. We decided to spend half a day exploring the city, then have lunch and start our return journey.

Nagasaki has a lot to offer. But since we were short of time, we checked out only a few places in the city. We started off by visiting the Oura Church – one of the oldest and famous churches in Japan. It’s a Catholic church that dates from 1886 and which was first erected in Nagasaki by French missionaries. Next on our list was to check out the Chinese and the Dutch influence on the city’s architecture. There was this stone-paved street leading up a hillside – known as “The Dutch Slope”. And then we went to the elegant Meganebashi bridge – a stone bridge over Nakashima River that looks like ‘spectacles’ (megane = eye-glasses in Japanese). By then, it was time to have lunch and hit the Nagasaki expressway.

Meganebashi bridge nagasaki
Megane bridge in Nagasaki (looks like ‘spectacles’, isn’t it ?)

With that, I come to the end of our Beppu – Nagasaki road trip and I hope you liked reading it. If you have been to the Kyushu island, let us know in the comments below about your experience. And if not, I hope this will inspire you to add it to your ‘bucket-list’. Also, feel free to check out other beautiful Kyushu road trips on our blog.

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30 thoughts on “Beppu-Nagasaki Road Trip: exploring north Kyushu”

  1. Never knew Nagasaki is so beautiful. I would love to explore. Especially night view is amazing. Thank you for sharing pictures and your experience.

  2. I visited Fukuoka and Nagasaki in 2016 and loved it. Have you tried Champon, which is a local food from Nagasaki? I loved it when I visited a small Champon restaurant by the Nagasaki bus station. It is popular all over Japan but Nagasaki is the place to eat Champon.

    1. Wow! Great to hear that you have been to Fukuoka and Nagasaki..
      Yes, I love champon, and there are many small restaurants in Nagasaki (as well as a few in Fukuoka) that serve really yummy champon! 🙂

  3. Japan is one of my dream places to visit someday and I would add Nagasaki for my list travels I love their view it look so beautiful and stunning Awesome photos!

    1. Woohooo!! thank you so much for those kind words!! yep, we love to travel, explore and click, and then – narrate stores 🙂

    1. Exactly! most of us only think of Japan like Tokyo and other hi-tech mega-cities! But the countrysides of Japan are super scenic! 🙂

  4. Great article, Mainak!
    Love your personal experiences and insights on the country. These would help to travel the country even outside the touristy spots. Keep writing!

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