Rich in natural beauty,the Soni Highland area in Uda, northeastern Nara is a popular destination in autumn for hiking, soaking in hot springs and forgetting the stresses of daily life.
The fields of pampas grass that stretch up to Mt. Kuroso offer easy hiking courses and spectacular sunset views across Nara and towards Mie Prefecture. The grasses are at their ethereal best in November. In summer, fireflies can be seen along the Soni River.
Soni Highland is an ideal day trip from Nara City, with easy hiking paths and amazing views. It is easiest to access the area by car, about a 30-minute drive from Murou. To get there by public transport, there are limited bus connections from Nabari Station, running daily during peak seasons. Buses depart around 9.30am from the West side of Nabari Station and the last bus back leaves from Soni Kogen Farm Garden at 3.30pm.
The best place to start exploring is at Soni Kogen Farm Garden, where the buses drop off. The complex comprises a restaurant, fresh produce shop, public facilities and a craft brewery.
Nearby, there is a very popular bakery, Soni Kogen Okome-no-Yakata, which uses rice flour to create light breads and cakes to take on your hike.
After a long day hiking and enjoying the fresh air, you can relax at a hot spring with panoramic mountain views. A hot bath followed by a crisp, cold beer will help you completely relax.
The sunset views of the pampas grass in autumn draw photographers from around Japan to capture the golden glow. During the annual Yama Akari event, the hills and plains are illuminated by hundreds of lanterns, giving the highlands a magical appearance. There are few accommodations in the area, so it’s best to travel by car if you want to visit in the late afternoon or evening.