How to access to Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

Kansai Area
There are lots of places to see in Mt. Koya. ©JNTO
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Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Mt. Koya (Koyasan) is one of very popular destinations in Kansai area. Most common way to Mt. Koya is Nankai Railway line. It takes you to Gokurakubashi station where is located at the base of Mt. Koya. You may transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya.

If you use JR deals, such as JR Pass (nationwide pass), Kansai area pass, Kansai Hiroshima area pass and other JR West passes, you cannot use the pass because Nankai Railway is not JR. If you do not use these JR deals, you may use other deals, such as Kansai Thru Pass, Koyasan World Heritage Pass.

You may use these JR deals partially to get Mt. Koya if you want.

In this post, I would like to show you the way to get Mt. Koya and also tell you how you use the deal.

Nankai Railway line

As I mentioned at the beginning, Nankai Railway is most common way to Mt. Koya. Nankai Railway operates a rapid train and a limited express train between Namba and Gokurakubashi. Namba is one of the biggest downtown core in Osaka as you probably know.

Limited Express “Koya”

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya (Namba – Gokurakubashi).

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

Nankai Railway operates Limited Express train “Koya” between Namba and Gokurakubashi. This is the easiest and the fastest way to get Gokurakubashi. Koya is only train which connects Namba and Gokurakubashi directly.

Gokurakubashi station is the gate station to Mt. Koya. You will transfer to Nankai Koyasan Cable Car line (the funicular line to Mt. Koya) at Gokurakubashi.

Koya interior
Interior of Limited Express Koya

Nankai also operates Limited Express train “Rinkan” between Namba and Hashimoto. Hashimoto is 9 stations away from Gokurakubashi. You can simply transfer to a local train to Gokurakubashi at Hashimoto. If you want to get a comfortable seat, you can take Limited Express Rinkan. Rinkan is operated by same fleet as Koya. The express surcharge is a bit cheaper than Koya at 500 yen. But the trip time between Namba and Gokurakubashi is not much different from the trip time by Rapid Express and Local train which I explain in next chapter. Limited Express Rinkan is not a good choice to shorten your trip time.

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Hotels and Ryokans in Mt. Koya
Hotels in Wakayama

Rapid Express and Express

Interior of rapid, rapid express and local trains. Usually train is more crowded.

If you are okay with taking a commuter train, Rapid Express and Express trains are most affordable. Accommodation is completely different from Koya and Rinkan. You have to change the trains at Hashimoto. But you are able to get Gokurakubashi in 90 minutes with no express surcharge. However this is a commuter train. You cannot secure your seat. You may have to stand up in the train.


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

Cruising train “Tenku”

All seats towards to the valley side

Nankai Railway operates Tenku between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi. Tenku is operated as a rapid train on this segment by specialized fleet.

I have taken “Tenku” and rapid express to Koyasan in 2017. You can find my trip report in the link below. You will find my day trip to Koyasan and many information about the stations, transportation and sightseeing spots in Koyasan. I believe this trip report gives you many ideas to build your trip plan.

Two days trip to Koyasan (Mt. Koya) and Wakayama from Osaka, Part 1 – Namba to Koyasan

Taking JR train

If you will use JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass or other JR deals, you might think using the pass to get Mt. Koya. To go straight to the bottom line, you cannot get Mt. Koya by JR trains only. The nearest JR station is Hashimoto. You have to take Nankai Railway train between Hashimoto and Koyasan via Gokurakubashi which is not covered by JR deals. You can use JR Pass or other JR deals to get Hashimoto and save your trip cost. But you have to spend extra minutes in exchange for saving the cost and you have to pay for Nankai Railway.

I will show you the route and trip time. You can compare the cost and the trip time.

Route 1, Osaka or Tennoji / Oji / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Average trip time: 2 to 2.5 hours (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

You have two ways to get Hashimoto by Japan Railway and Nankai Railway.

The first option is taking Rapid train to Oji from Osaka or Tennoji. And then transfer to Wakayama line local train. You may have to change trains once more at Takada station.

If all train connections are very smooth, the trip time to Hashimoto from Tennoji is around 90 minutes. And then you have to spend 40 to 45 minutes for Nankai Railway from Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi and another 10 minutes from Gokurakubashi to Koyasan by cable car.

It is long way and complicated but you can save only 400 yen.

But if you travel to Mt. Koya from Nara, this is not a bad way.

Route 2, Shin-Osaka or Tennoji / Wakayama / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Many of Limited Express Kuroshio is operated by newer 287 series.

Average trip time: 3 hours (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 Mt. Koya is Wakayama route. You may take Limited Express train Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka or Tennoji to Wakayama. And transfer to JR Wakayama line local train. Even if you take Limited Express to Wakayama, trip time is longer than the first option. Again this option is not a smart way even if you use JR deals partially. Simply it is a big detour. Trip time is much longer than Nankai Railway route.

But if you look for the route from Wakayama to Mt. Koya, this is the best and the fastest route. It takes just one hour from Wakayama to Hashimoto. And you will spend another one hour from Hashimoto to Koyasan via Gokurakubashi.

Suggested deals

There are some deals for the trip to Mt. Koya.

Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

This deal includes round trip fare between Namba and Mt. Koya, unlimited ride of local bus in Koyasan and discount coupon for major attractions and souvenir shops. It is valid for two days but you can get the worth by day trip too.

You can find the details about this deal in the link below:

Nankai Railway official site – Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

In this link, it shows the deal which includes one way limited express fee to Koyasan at 3,400 yen. But the deal which does not include limited express fee is available at 2,860 yen.

Kansai Thru Pass

If you visit Mt, Koya as day trip and visit other place(s), such as Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Kansai Thru Pass is the perfect choice. It covers Nankai Railway and bus in Koyasan area. Please see the link below to learn more about Kansai Thru Pass.

How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare

Assessment

As I explained, JR train does not offer good access to Mt. Koya. Nankai Railway is a realistic choice. Even if you use JR pass or other JR deals, please try to avoid using it.

Comments

  1. Iris says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    I hope you can help me out as good as you helped out all the others here 🙂

    I will arrive at Osaka airport at 9:15 am and need to travel directly to Koya San.
    There I will stay for 2 nights

    So
    1. Arrive in Osaka- travel to Koya San
    2 .Koya San
    3. Koya San – Osaka

    A Heritage Pass is only valid for 2 days so no use to me I think?
    Would it be best to buy the Kansai Through Pass for 3 days?
    And is that pass valid on the Koya San cable car and the buses too?

    After Koya San I will stay 2 days in Osaka and 2 days in Kyoto before flying home again. So a JR pass is of no use to me.

    Also: what is the fastest way to get from Kansai airport to Koya San? Is it through Namba? Or should I just switch trains at Tengayachaya? I do want to use an Express train so maybe Namba is better?
    Thank you

  2. June Lee says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    I would like to know which Kansai pass suitable for my itinerary
    Osaka Kansai airport -> takayama -> shirakawa-go-> Kanazawa -> Kyoto -> mount koya -> Osaka -> Kansai airport.
    From 3-13/1/17.

  3. Elaine says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I will be staying in Osaka for 5-nights, and is planning to make a 1-day trip to Koyasan, 1-day trip to Kyoto, 1-day trip to Himeji/Kobe and 0.5-day trip to Nara. I already have a JR National Rail Pass (because I will also be travelling out of Kansai region), but I understand some of the travelling in Kansai region is not covered by JR Pass. I am thinking if I should also get both Kansai Thru Pass and also the Mt Koya Heritage Pass. Which is a better deal in your opinion?

  4. Lana Mito says:

    I enjoyed reading your advice to others. I will be arriving at Kansai International at 18:30 on Nov. 6, staying overnight at Monterey Grasmere in Osaka, and then going to Koya-san the next morning. I will be staying overnight at Koya-san, and then leaving late morning/early afternoon to go to Kii-Tanabe via Hashimoto to Wakayama Station. Which would be better to buy: The Kansai Thru Pass or the Koya World Heritage Pass? I have a JR 14-day pass but will not activate it until Nov. 13. Thank you.

    • Hi Lana,

      It depends on other part of your trip. If you use Kansai thru pass, you can use the first day of trip to Koyasan. Because you will take train to Hashimoto only. Train after Hashimoto is not covered by Kansai thru pass anyway. Kansai thru pass is minimum 2 days. So if you have any other trip, such as trip to Nara, Kyoto or Kobe from Osaka later, you can use one of two days for one of these trips. It’s not a good idea to use one day of the pass for just short ride from Koyasan to Hashimoto.

      World Heritage Pass may not work. But if you will make many trips in Koyasan by bus. it may work.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Bridget Lynch says:

    Hi. I am planning to travel by train from Kyoto to Mt Koya on Mar 21. What is the best way to get there?

    Secondly, I plan to leave Mt Koya on Mar 23 to go to Haneda Airport by 16:00 for a plane departure from Haneda at 18:50.
    How should I go to Haneda – by plane (and, if so, from which airport, Osaka or Kansai?) or can I go by train?

    Many thanks!

  6. Olga says:

    Dear Takeshi, I will be staying at Koyasan for a night 20 February and have to be next day (Sunday 21 Februari) in Kyoto not later than by 1 p.m. What is the best route to chose, considering timing and travelling with a suitcase? I’ve seen several options (by train to Nankai, transfer by subway, then by train from Ukeda to Kyoto, or more transfers via Wakayama or other stations). What would you advice as most reliable and easy with a luggage?

    Also: what is the best way to buy tickets for such a trip where several trains are combined?

  7. Imke says:

    How can we get from Kyoto to Namba Station to take the Nankai Railway line from there, i.e. which trains can we take, which Plattform should we take?

  8. Kelly K says:

    Hi, I will be staying at Osaka and I wish to visit Mt Koya and Nara. But I only have a day free for both places, I really want to visit them. Is it possible to do a day trip from Osaka to Mt Koya and Nara?

    Thank you

    • Hi Kelly,

      It depends on how much you want to see in each places. I think you will spend 4 hours for the trip to Nara and 8 hours for the trip to Mt. Koya.
      You cannot access directly between Nara and Mt. Koya. You have to come back to Osaka-Namba anyway. If you leave early morning to visit Nara, you may be able to come back to Namba around 10:00. But some of temples do not open for public in early morning. For example, Todai-ji temple is open at 8:00 during winter time. So you have to check the time before you go.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Cheng says:

    Please advise on which travel pass combination for my itinerary to the Kansai Region. I will be staying at the same hotel in Gojo, Kyoto throughout my stay.

    Day 1 Arrive Kansai International Airport in the morning. Transfer to Kyoto by Haruka train and sightseeing Kyoto.

    Day 2. Sightseeing in Kyoto.

    Day 3. Day trip to Koyasan from Kyoto

    Day 4. Day trip to Wakayama from Kyoto

    Day 5. Day trip to Himeji and Kobe from Kyoto

    Day 6. Day trip to Osaka from Kyoto.

    Day 7. Day trip to Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara.

    Day 8. Last minute shopping and sightseeing before transferring to Kansai International Airport for flight departing at 2300 hours.

    Is any of the following a good combination of travel passes for my itinerary?
    Combination A:
    ICOCA-Haruka Return Pass for travel to and from the airport.
    3-Day Kansai Thru Pass (Surotto-Kansai Pass)

    Combination B:
    ICOCA-Haruka Return Pass for travel to and from the airport
    4-Day Kansai Area Pass for use on consecutive days

    Any other suggestions will be welcome.
    Thank you

    • Hi Cheng,

      Kansai thru pass is better for day 3, 4 and 5 because this covers subway too. Kansai area pass covers only JR trains and not flexible very much in the city. But I recommend to use Kansai area pass one day for day 5. Because there is no direct train by Kansai thru pass to Himeji but JR has Special rapid. It takes you Himeji directly from Kyoto. If you switch day 6 (Osaka) and 7 (Fushimi, Nara), you can use 2 days Kansau area pass for Himeji and Nara.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Eugene says:

    I am planning 3 days on my vocation transfer on these area.
    Day 1: From Kyoto station to Osaka Shinsaibashi station
    Day 2: Sight seeing in Osaka kaiyukan aquarium and ferries wheel osaka.
    Day 3:From Osaka Shinsaibashi station to Koyasan
    Which pass is suitable for me?
    Surutto Kansai thru pass for 3 days or koyasan heritage ticket and osaka visitor pass?
    Or any better suggestion for me? Thx

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