Hokkaido accounts for 22.1% of the landmass of Japan.
It is well-known for the ski resort, Niseko, and having a never-ending territorial dispute with Russia over some islands to the north.
Besides the delicious seafood, friendly people, and the skiing, there are tons of natural sites to see there as well.
Here are a few exceptional areas to explore:
Shiretoko Peninsula is a World Heritage Site that protrudes out of the north eastern part of Hokkaido. Roads only go part-way up the peninsula, so it is a perfect spot to explore unspoiled nature by trekking or boating.
The peninsula is reachable by rental car or bus.
Popular sights in the peninsula are Shiretoko Five Lakes, Kamuiwakkayu Falls (a natural hot spring outdoors), Oshinkoshin Waterfall, and the ice drifts in winter.
Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park
The two islands make up the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Rebun is known for its lush nature, beautiful views of the Rishiri volcano, and its rare flowers.
Rishiri is known for the giant volcano that protrudes from the center of the island and has cycling trains, nature walks, and beautiful views. Both islands are extremely far north, so they are best visited during the summer months.
Like any self-respecting active volcano/onsen site area, Noboribetsu has a Jigokudani (“Hell Valley”) and it has a corresponding onsen town. The minerals in the onsen water are said to be extremely good for your health. I am not a scientist and cannot guarantee anything, but most problems I have get solved by onsen.
There is also an extremely good Ainu museum close by: http://www.ainu-museum.or.jp/en/
Daisetsuzan National Park
This is the largest piece of unspoiled, protected land in all of Japan. The national park spans about 230,000 hectares. This is a must-see spot for hikers. There are 7 waterfalls, 13 hot springs, ski courses, cross country courses, 2 ropeways, 7 official scenic lookouts, 6 major lakes…and the list goes on. It is a very extensive park.
I put this in the list because this pond is world-famous for extremely strange reasons. One is of course that the water contains aluminum hydroxide that reflects the light differently, thus changing the color to an unnatural hue. The other is because a photo of this pond is a wallpaper preset that came with OS X Mountain Lion wallpaper. The picture was taken by photographer, Kent Shiraishi
This pond is 2 hrs away from Sapporo by car, so you have to be motivated to make it out here.
Several of these places are on my Japan bucket list. Let’s see if it pans out that I can check them off!