How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?


Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO

Mt. Koya (Koyasan=高野山) has been getting popular destination recently. The fastest way to get Mt. Koya is using Nankai Railway line (=南海電車). They take you to Gokurakubashi (=極楽橋) station where is the nearest station to Mt. Koya and easily transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya. But you cannot use Japan Rail Pass to take Nankai Railway. So I show you how to get Mt. Koya by Japan Railway as much as we can. Then let’s see the difference of cost and time between using Japan Railway and using Nankai Line.

Using Nankai Railway line

Average time required: 1 hour 20 minutes (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 1,230 yen + Express surcharge 760 yen

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya
Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya

Limited Express train

Nankai Railway operates the Limited Express train “Koya (=こうや)” from Nanba (=難波) station. Nanba is one of two biggest downtown core in Osaka. Koya takes you to Gokurakubashi station directly. Gokurakubashi station is the gate station to Mt. Koya. You will transfer to Nankai Koyasan Cable Car lline (the funicular line to Mt. Koya) at Gokurakubashi.

Koya is operated 4 to 5 round trips a day. It takes 1 hour 30 to 45 minutes to get Gokurakubashi. It takes another 10 minutes to get Mt. Koya by the funicular. The basic fare to Nanba to Mt. Koya via Gokurakubashi is 1,230 yen one way. The express surcharge is 760 yen. This train does not have any non reserved seat. So try to book your seat as early as possible.
Sample schedule
09:15 Dep Nanba station by Koya 1
10:36 Arr Gukurakubashi station
10:44 Dep Gukurakubashi station by funicular
10:49 Arr Koyasan station

Koya interior
Koya interior

This image shows you how to read Nankai Railway timetable in Japanese.
This image shows you how to read Nankai Railway timetable in Japanese.

Nankai also operates Limited Express train “Rinkan (=りんかん)” to Hashimoto (=橋本) station. Hashimoto is 9 stations away from Gokurakubashi. You can simply transfer to the local train at Hashimoto. This combination, Rinkan+Local train, is not slow. The time is almost same as using Limited Express Koya. Limited Express Rinkan is operated almost once an hour. The express surcharge is 500 yen. If you cannot catch Limited Express Koya, you can take Limited Express Rinkan. You can get the timetable of both Koya and Rinkan at Nankai Railways official website English page.

Nankai Railways have a discount pass for the tourists who want to get Mt. Koya. It is called Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket. It includes a round trip to Mt. Koya by Limited Express train, some of bus service at Mt. Koya and some discount coupon for some attractions and souvenirs shop. Please see the details at here.

Ordinary trains

If you don’t care to take a commuter train, Rapid Express and Express trains are available. Some of Rapid Express trains are as fast as Limited Express Koya with no express surcharge. If you want to save money, the commuter trains may be considerable.

If you want to get a timetable, please access these following links. You will see PDF file. Unfortunately it is in Japanese. But you will find how to read this timetable in the image to the right.


View How to get Mt Koya (Koya San) in a larger map

Using Japan Railway line Route 1, Osaka / Oji / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Average time required: 1 hour 45 minutes (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

You cannot access to Mt. Koya by only Japan Railway. Japan Railway can take you to Hashimoto. So you need to take Nankai line from Hashimoto to Mt. Koya via Gokurakubashi.

You have two ways to get Hashimoto by Japan Railway. The first one is using Rapid train to Nara from Osaka station. Get off the train at Oji staion and transfer to Wakayama line. You will not have any express or rapid train to Hashimoto from Oji. Wakayama line is very local. The trains to Hashimoto are operated once or twice an hour. Some of the trains make you need to transfer the train at Takada station.

It takes about 45 minutes to get Oji from Osaka, 25 minutes from JR Nanba. And another 1 hour to Hashimoto from Wakayama station.

Then you transfer to Nankai Railway line at Hashimoto. It takes another 45 minutes from Hashimoto to Gokurakuzaka.

You can save the money. But it is long long way… to get there!

Using Japan Railway line Route 2, Shin-Osaka / Wakayama / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Limited express train Ocean Arrow
Ocean Arrow service operates by newer train 287 series than Kuroshio.

Average time required: 3 hour (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

Another option to use Japan Rail Pass to get Koyasana, take Limited Express train Ocean Arrow or Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka. Get off the train at Wakayama staion and transfer to Wakayama line. Once again you will not have any express or rapid train to Hashimoto from Wakayama. You take same Wakayama as Route 1 from the other side. The trains to Hashimoto are operated once or twice an hour.

It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get Wakayama from Shin-Osaka. And another 1 hour 15 minutes to Hashimoto from Oji station.

Then you transfer to Nankai Railway line at Hashimoto. It takes another 45 minutes from Hashimoto to Gokurakuzaka.

You can save the money, even though taking Limited Express train. But it is long long way… to get there too!

Conclusion

If I go to Mt. Koya, I will give up to use Japan Rail Pass and take Nankai Railway. But If you access from Kyoto, you can take Limited Express Ocean Arrow from Kyoto. you don’t need to transfer the train between Kyoto and Wakayama.

Eve though you will stay in Osaka, when you use Nankai Railway, you have to think about taking subway from Osaka (Umeda=梅田). You will lose 15 minutes to transfer the trains and another 10 minutes to get Nanba. Then you need another 10 minutes to transfer the trains at Nanba. So if you stay near Nanba, Nankai Railway is very accessible. But if you stay around JR Osaka station, keep these extra times in your mind.

And also, if you go to Mt. Koya and another spot in UNESCO world heritage, “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”, you can use the part of Route 2. After you stay in Mt. Koya, you can take Wakayama line from Hashimoto to Wakayama. Then you can transfer the trains at Wakayama to go to Shingu or Kii-Katsuura.

45 thoughts on “How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?”

  1. Takeshi san

    Can you please advise on my itinerary
    as to what train Passes to buy.

    April 2015

    2- 4th. Kyoto
    5th. Osaka Namba to Himeji and Okayama
    6th. Osaka Namba to Mt Hiei , Otsu & Shiga
    7th. Osaka Namba to Yoshinoyama
    8th Osaka Namba to Mt Koya
    9th. Osaka Namba to Kansai intl Airport

    Appreciate your advice.

    Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy,

      First of all, please see my sample itinerary.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/visit-kyoto-osaka-nara-and-kobe-for-5-to-7-days-sample-itinerary.html

      Follow this itinerary for Kyoto part of your trip.

      I think you know that Mt. HIei, Otsu and Shiga is closer to Kyoto than Osaka. But if you don’t have a time in Kyoto, you can access there from Osaka.

      You can use Kansai WIde Area Pass for Himeji, Okayama and this Shiga part.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/the-newest-jr-west-rail-pass-for-kansai-and-okayama-kurashiki-kinosakai-and-shingu-area-kansai-wide-area-pass.html

      Unfortunately this pass does not help for your trip to Yoshino and Mt. Koya. I recommend to use Kansai thru pass 2 days for these trips.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You may use Kansai Wide Area Pass to get KIX from Namba. But if you want to have direct access, you can use Nankai Railway’s deal:
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Dear Takeshi,

    Thank you so much for your great website! It has so much useful information I haven´t found elsewhere.

    As it is to be expected, I´m travelling to Japan from late March (arrive on the 21st) to early April (5th). Our itinerary will be as follows:

    Days 1 through 7: Tokyo- with day trips to Nikko, Kamakura and Mount Fuji (Fuji Five Lake area).

    Day 8: Tokyo to Osaka

    Day 9: Osaka to Mount Koya

    Day 10: Mount Koya to Kyoto

    Days 11 to 13: Kyoto -with day trips to Nara and Hiroshima -Miyajima

    Days 14 to 16: Tokyo

    We are considering buying a 14-day JR Pass since we think it will be worth, do you agree? If we do so, it won’t cover 2 days of our trip, so we have two options: activate it as soon as we arrive in order to be able to use it from Narita to Tokyo, or activate it on the 23rd so we can use it from Tokyo to Narita for our departure. Is there any of the two options better than the other?

    Since one trip to the airport will not be covered by the JR Pass, I thought a good alternative would be the Keisei electric railway? Or is it better to get a ticket for the NEX?

    Also, for our stay in Tokyo, what would you think will be the best option for metro tickets? This also applies for Kyoto, should we buy a metro pass?

    Going to Mount Koya, we won’t use the JR Pass because as you made very clear, it will be a long long way… to get there! (jajaja), instead, we’ll use the Nankai Railway Line. However, you talk about a “Koyasan World Heritage ticket” and add a link to it. In the website it says that the ticket is sold at the major Nankai Line Stations windows, so I understand this can’t be purchased online? Also, I couldn’t figure out how to buy regular Nankai railway line tickets online neither; is it possible through their website? Because I’m worried about the seat reservations you say need to be done in advance.

    Lastly about train seat reservations, do you think it is necessary to reserve seats once we get to Japan, or right up to train departures?

    Sorry about the long reply and thank you so so much in advance!!

    Carolina

    1. Hi Carolina,

      !4 days pass is a good choice and I recommend you to use it for last 14 days. Because there are lots of options for arrival day but it’s not for departure day. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

      If you want to have subway pass, Keisei skyliner and subway combination is a good choice. But if you will stay in west part of Tokyo, like, Shinjuku, Shibuya, N’ex direct ticket is better choice. It depends on your location to stay.

      In Kyoto, you may need to purchase bus or subway deal. Because JR Pass does not cover whole part of Kyoto. You may need to add it in Osaka too. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Regarding Koyasan ticket, you can purchase it online. But you cannot book limited express reserved seat. Because the ticket that is sold online does not include limited express charge fee. You can find more info at the following link:
      http://www1.nanka-e-tabi.com/NEREN/itemlist.aspx?sk=1&ib=KYT

      It’s hard to say you can book it or not. In worst case, take common train to Koyasan. There are lots of trains and you can reach Koyasan anyway.

      I usually book all ticket when I exchange JR pass. Even if you don’t start to use JR Pass right away, you can book in in advance. If you want to have flexibility, you don’t need to. But you can change reserved seat ticket later in case that you change your mind.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Dear Takeshi, thank you very much for your response!

        I just have one more thing to ask, regarding the Koyasan ticket.

        The website offering the “Koyasan world heritage ticket” says that when you take the Limited Express, you need to purchase a reserved seat ticket; so that means that this ticket is not for the Limited Express train? and if so, when I exchange the ticket, this is an additional fee that has to be paid?

        Kind regards,

        Carolina

        1. Hi Carolina,

          Yes. You have to pay additional 780 yen for express surcharge with reserved seat.
          If you don’t want to pay, you will use common express train, it takes 95 minutes from Namba to Koyasan. On the other hand, if you pay additional and take limited express, it takes 80 minutes. Actually trip time is not much different. But accommodation is quite different. Common express train is a sort of commute train. Limited Express has comfortable seat.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Konnichiwa! Takeshi-San,

    Thank you so much for your great website, it is so informative, however, can you please advice me how and what ticket I should purchase for my following itinerary arriving OSA from 12th Mar 2015 to 20th Mar 2015.

    Day 1 – Arrive OSA from ITAMI Airport at 1240pm (taking airport limousine bus to Namba)

    Day 2 – Dep Namba at abt 10am by train to Wakayama Station (pls advice how and which train to take), will be renting a car for travelling to Kii Tanabe and Hongu.

    Day 3 – Driving

    Day 4 – Return car at Wakayama Station East Exit and taking train to Koyasan (pls advice single trip or heritage Ticket), staying overnight at Fudoin Temple.

    Day 5 – Dep Koyasan abt 10am for Namba (pls advice single trip or heritage Ticket) will be spending the rest of the day shopping at Shinsaibashi/Dontobori/Namba/Umeda.

    Day 6 – Day trip from Namba- Kyoto-Namba (pls advice if I should get a 2 days JR pass?)

    Day 7 – Day trip from Namba-Kobe-Namba (as above)

    Day 8 – Spending time around Osaka visitng Kaiyukan/USJ/Osaka castle etc.

    Day 9 – Sayonara to OSA.

    Could you please kindly advice if I need to reserve seats for the recommended train that I wil be taking. Hoping to get your reply as soon as possible. Arigato Gozamasu!

    1. Hi Patricia san,

      I recommend you to use Kansai Thru Pass 3 days for day 4 to 6. It covers all part of your trip in Wakayama, Koyasan, Kyoto and Osaka during this period.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      http://www.surutto.com/images/ticket/kansai_thru_pass/english/en_map.pdf

      Single ticket is okay for day 2 and 7. You can take JR local train to get Tennoji and take Kishuji Rapid train to get Wakayama.
      On day 4, you will start to use Kansai thru pass. This pass does not cover any JR trains. So you have to take JR train to get Wakayamashi station. it’s two stations away from Wakayama. And then you will start to use Kansai thru pass. Nankai Railway has the lines both Wakayama and Koyasan. It’s easier to get Koyasan from Wakayama even though you have to go back to Osaka. Please find the location at the map above.

      Kansai thru pass covers subway and bus in both Osaka and Kyoto. This is much better than any JR deals.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      And you may add subway 1 day pass in Osaka on day 8.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Dear Takeshi San,

    I will arrive at the Kansai Airport on 6th Sept early morning

    thinking about going to Namba for breakfast first then head to Mt Koya to stay for 2 nights there. Then I will spend a full day in Osaka before leaving Japan.

    What would you recommend I get? the Kansai thru 2 day pass or the Koyasan World Heritage ticket?

    Thank you so much for your help, these are so confusing…

    1. Hi Joyce,

      Do you want to take limited express train to get Koyasan? If so, World Heritage ticket is better. You can use other deals for KIX-Namba trip.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/

      Meanwhile Kansai thru pass cover whole part of your trip from KIX-Koysan-KIX. You can drop by Namba and this pass covers Osaka subways too. You can visit other places in Osaka too. But it does not include limited express surcharge. So if you don’t intend to take limited express train, Kansai thru pass is better choice.

      Limited Express Koya is much more comfortable than other local trains. Other trains is a commute train.

      Cheer,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Hi Takeshi san,

    I have a question about Koyasan World Heritage ticket.

    I will be going to Koyasan straight from Kansai International Airport. May I know if the Koyasan World Heritage ticket covers this route? or do I have to make a stop at Namba / Gokurakubashi station before going to Koyasan?

    The next day, I will be going from Koyasan to Kumano. How can I use the Koyasan World Heritage ticket in this case?

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Rach

    1. Hi Rach,

      There are two types of the pass now. You can purchase it online.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/koyasan.html
      But you have to make round trip between KIX and Koyasan. No stopover is allowed. If you stay in Osaka or other than Koyasan after trip to Koyasan, you should purchase Namba departure pass.

      This pass covers the bus service in Koyasan townsite only. If you go to Kumano, you have to pay fully.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Dear Takeshi,

    Good day. Thank you for such an informative website.
    We are going to visit Japan from 9-May-2014 to 17-May-2014.
    After going through your website, we found out that actually there are many choices and passes to get around Japan and we were a bit confused.
    We appreciate if you could advise us on the most economical ways to travel around Japan.
    Our itinerary is as follows:

    Day 1: Osaka [Kaiyukan pass+overnight bus to Hiroshima]
    Day 2: Hiroshima
    Day 3: Miyajima [ovenight bus to Osaka]
    Day 4: Koyasan 1 day trip [World heritage pass or Kansai Thru Pass Day 1?]
    Day 5: Osaka [singe fare or Kansai Thru Pass Day 2?]
    Day 6: Universal Studio [single fare]
    Day 7: Kyoto 1 day trip [single fare or Kansai Thru Pass Day 3?]
    Day 8: Nara 1 day trip [Nara Ikagura 1 day pass]

    We really hope that you can solve our following queries:
    1. Can we use the Kaiyukan pass (3010 yen) for airport transfer to Namba station and travel to Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi and Kaiyukan?
    2. Is it worth the price if we purchase the Kansai Thru Pass 3 days (5200 yen) and use it for Koyasan, Osaka and Kyoto? (or single fare is better)
    3. Does the Kansai Thru Pass include the cable car to Koyasan?
    4. Does the Kansai Thru Pass include the buses in Koyasan?
    5. Is it not good to use the Kansai Thru Pass if we make a 1 day trip to Nara?

    Thank you.
    Hope to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,
    Siow Lip Khai

    1. Hi Siow Lip Khai,

      I’m happy to hear that my website is helping you to make an itinerary.

      1. If you use Nankai Railway version (#4 at pdf below), airport transfer is covered. Other kinds do not cover it.
      http://www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/info/2014_kaiyu_ticket.pdf

      2. I think Kansai Thru Pass 2 day is enough. If you use Kansai Thru Pass, you have to make 1800 yen worth or more. When you stay in Osaka, you will take subway most of times. But average single fare for subway is around 200 to 250 yen. Do you think you will take subway more than 8 times? That means you will visit 6 or 7 places. It will be quite tight to visit many places.

      3. Yes.

      4. Yes. So Kansai Thru Pass is better than world heritage ticket.

      5. It’s doubtful. If you intend to visit places around Nara station area, even single fare is fine. Please see the following link:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/how-to-access-to-nara-by-japan-rail-pass-if-you-dont-use-jr-pass-kintetsu-railway-is-more-convenient.html
      If you will visit all part of Nara, Kansai Thru Pass is a good choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. hello Takeshi,
    I would like to ask you a suggestion, I’ll arrive in Osaka airport on May 3rd, the first night I’ll rest in Osaka, the second day I’ll go in Koyasan, the third day I’ll be in Nara and the next day I’ll go to Kyoto. Which pass should be better to buy? Thanks so much

    1. Hi Riccardo,

      Use Kanku Chikato ticket or Rapi:t Tokuwari on arrival day.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/

      And you can use Koyasan World Heritage Ticket for the trip to Mt. Koya.
      http://www.nankaikoya.jp/en/stations/ticket.html

      Trip to Nara and Kyoto, single ticket is your choice. But after you arrive in Kyoto, you can use Kyoto sightseeing card or all day bus pass for sightseeing in Kyoto.
      http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Hello Takeshi san! My friends and I will be in Kyoto from April 27 to May 1. We are right in the middle of Golden Week so I suppose it will be very busy. Our initial plan was for a 1 day tour to Mt. Koya for April 29, Monday. I have been reading the above posts and am looking for the links to the timetables of the trains that will take us from Kyoto Station to Namba, from Namba to Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi to Koyasan. If we leave Kyoto Station very early (7 am) will we get to Mt. Koya before 11 am? We are not planning to stay the night and will leave late afternoon, maybe 4 or 5 pm. Thank you so much for your help!

  9. Hi Takeshi,

    Would you be able to advise me for below itinerary I arrive KIX at 6 am. Will want to go to Koyasan, stay there overnight and from there go to Yuchino, stay for a few hours and reach Naga for overnight stay. From Naga I’ll go to Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto. Total 9 days.

    1) Is there a train that I can take from Koyasan to Yuchino in the morning? Do I need to change? How long would it take?
    2) Should I use my JP rail pass for this part? As I have it only for 7 days and maybe it’s better to save it for remaining days?

    Thank you very much in advance!

    1. Hi Ruta,

      1) Do you mean Yoshino that you mentioned Yuchino. And I want to make sure Naga is Nara. Is it correct?
      If so, Yoshino cannot be accessed from Koyasan directly. If you take the shortest way, you have to transfer twice.
      Gokurakubashi (Mt. Koya) – (Nankai Railway) – Hashimoto – (JR Wakayama line local) – Yoshinoguchi – (Kintetsu Railway) – Yoshino
      Average travel time is 2.5 hours. This route is very tricky. You can find the detailed timetable at Hyperdia.
      http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

      2) If you have single trip from Kyoto/Osaka to Tokyo, single ticket is cheaper. If you want to use JR Pass, Tokyo-Osaka or Kyoto round trip is required at least. If you have only single way, use single ticket to Tokyo and find local deal in Kansai area. The following post may help you.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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