How to access to Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

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.

114 thoughts on “How to access to Mt. Koya (Koyasan)”

  1. Does the Koyasan World Heritage ticket cover round trip transport from Osaka to Koyasan? I wasn’t clear based on their website. It lists “Round Trip Discount ticket” and also “Koya limited express outward ticket”. Is it one way or a round trip ticket?

    1. Hi Joy,

      Koyasan World Heritage ticket covers round trip Namba (Osaka) to/from Koyasan. But this pass does not cover limited express fee. Koya limited express outward ticket is an option plan which includes Koyasan World Heritage ticket and one way limited express ride from from Namba to Koyasan. Reverse option (Koyasan to Namba) is not available.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you for clarifying! The ticket does include round trip to Osaka (Namba), it just takes a longer time than that Limited Express train – correct?

        Can I get your recommendation for the best option for me, Word Heritage Ticket or Kansai Thur Pass? I’ll be going from the Osaka airport straight to Koyasan, spending 1 night, then going to Kyoto for 3 days. I won’t be doing any day trips to Nara or Kobe. I’ll be using the metro in Kyoto so I was thinking of getting a 2 days metro/bus card there.

        1. Hi Joy,

          Kansai thru pass is better choice because you can start using Kansai thru pass from the airport. But if you use Koyasan World Heritage ticket, you have to get Namba first and then start using it. When you go to Kyoto from Koyasan, you can get Kyoto by Kansai thru pass but Koyasan World Heritage ticket does not. I think you can go for Kansai thru pass 3-day for airport-Koyasan, Koyasan-Kyoto and one day in Kyoto. Because Kyoto subway is not very convenient. You will take a train but it’s not subway. You will use Hankyu, Keihan, Randen. These are covered by Kansai thru pass.
          https://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 also you may get most of places by bus. So after using Kansai thru pass, just add city bus pass at 600 yen for one day.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. thank you Takeshi!

            Do you know if I can buy tickets from Namba to Koyasan the same day, or should I reserve in advance? I’ll be going in June.

  2. Hello Takeshi,

    I will be travelling from Nankai Namba Station to Wakayama via the following route. Kindly advise if the Kansai Thru Pass will cover the route

    11:45 am Namba Station
    (Platform 3)

    Nankai-Koya Line 区間急行 towards Rinkanden-entoshi

    1. 11:47 am
    11:52 am Shin-Imamiya Station
    Osaka Loop Line 紀州路快速 towards Wakayama
    1:07 pm Wakayama Station

    Walk
    51 m (1 min)
    1:07 pm JR Wakayama Eki
    Your help is very much appreciated. Thank You.

    1. Hi Serene,

      Train from Shin-Imamiya to Wakayama is JR train which is NOT covered by Kansai thru pass. You have to take Nankai Railway train from Namba to Wakayamashi. But Wakayamashi is a bit away from Wakayama.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/wakayama-and-wakayamashi-stations-guide-the-difference-of-these-stations-and-which-station-is-more-convenient-for-travelers.html

      I think you got this result by Hyperdia. Please input Namba at departure station and Wakayamashi at arrival station.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    We will be traveling to Koyasan from Osaka and will be staying 2 nights as follows:
    Apr 30: Osaka-Koyasan
    May 1- Koyasan
    May 2- Koyasan-Osaka

    The World Heritage Pass is only valid for 2 days. Is that 24 hour periods?

    What would be the most cost effective way to complete this itinerary?

    Thanks!

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    I need your kind help. We will travel to Japan in July. Here is our plan.
    Day 1 Tokyo
    Day 2 Tokyo
    Day 3 Tokyo
    Day 4 Tokyo + Travel to Kyoto
    Day 5 Kyoto
    Day 6 Kyoto
    Day 7 Nara
    Day 8 Mt Koya
    Day 9 Shirayama
    Day 10 Shirayama
    Day 11 Shirayama – Osaka
    Day 12 Osaka to Hiroshima
    Day 13 Hiroshima
    Day 14 Miyajima
    Day 15 Miyajima
    Day 16 Flight to Tokyo and back home

    Do you know what is the best way to join Koyasan Mountain and to travel from Koyasan to Shirayama ?
    What is the best way to save money on train tickets ?
    What about a taxi from Koyasan to Shirayama ?

    Thank you in advance for your help.
    Kind regards,

    Sonia

    1. Hi Sonia,

      Are you going to take the flight to Tokyo from Hiroshima? If so, there is no deals to cover whole part of the trip. You may pick several deals to cover your trip:

      In Tokyo
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

      Tokyo to Kyoto
      Single ticket or Platt Kodama
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      Kyoto
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Nara and Koyasan
      Kansai thru pass 3 days
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Kansai Hiroshima area pass for day 9 to 13
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/kansai-hiroshima-area-pass-perfect-deal-for-the-traveller-who-wants-travel-both-kansai-and-hiroshima.html

      You should go back to Osaka to get Shirahama from Koyasan. I have no idea about taxi fare but I think it’s super expensive, like 20,000 yen.

      Single ticket is okay after using Kansai Hiroshima area pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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