Travelers looking to get away from Japan's mainstream tourist traps will love the underrated Nikko - a significant UNESCO World Heritage Area and a serene spot just two hours from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo that has managed to remain off the crowds' radar. Made famous for its picturesque autumn scenery, tranquil mountain wilderness, and beautiful World Heritage shrines and temples, Nikko - located in the picturesque prefecture of Tochigi - is a tranquil place where traditional Japanese culture and nature combine to offer a unique getaway.

Whether Japan-bound travelers are in search of a quick break away from the capital, or a longer retreat in a peaceful part of Japan, they need look no further than historic Nikko and its unique attractions.

10 Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park

Tamozawa Imperial Villa was built in 1899 to serve as a summer retreat for Emperor Taisho. Later during the Second World War, it was even used as a hideout by Emperor Hirohito. However, today, the property is a gorgeous museum and memorial park offering a fascinating insight into the imperial family and their historic way of life. Guests can explore 106 rooms that showcase traditional Japanese architecture and artisanship, with Edo, Meiji, and Taisho time periods all featured for admiration. Interestingly, the establishment is also one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in all of Japan.

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9 Nikko Strawberry Park

Tochigi prefecture is the number one producer of strawberries in Japan, which have become famed for their exquisite, fresh flavor and high quality. Being a strawberry fan or not, a visit to the Nikko Strawberry Park - the only one of its kind in Nikko - promises a unique day out picking fruit and tasting sweet strawberry treats whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery that has seen many foreign television series being filmed here.

Guests can even take part in the farm's special strawberry-picking course, which also involves a 30-minute all-you-can-pick and all-you-can-eat strawberries run. People can also enjoy the produce that they pick right on-site; the helpful staff offers condensed milk as a delicious topping for the freshly picked strawberries.

8 Tobu World Square

One of Nikko's most unique attractions is Tobu World Square, where visitors can discover the world's most famous structures, monuments, and places from all corners of the globe all under one roof. Travelers who've always dreamed of seeing the most iconic attractions can do exactly that, but with a twist; from the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building to Vatican St. Peter's Basilica, the Egyptian Temple of Abu Simbel, and so many more, there are 102 well-known landmarks from 21 countries and 45 World Heritage Sites to witness - but in their small scale, miniature forms. The intricate attention to detail in each and every mini monument is phenomenal, with every model closely resembling its large-sized, authentic counterpart so much that guests almost feel like they're visiting the real deal.

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7 Edo Wonderland

At this fun and cultural theme park, curious Japanophiles can catch a real-life glimpse into the history of the Edo Period from 1603 to 1868. The entire place is a historic and cultural experience that allows guests to see what life was like during this time. As soon as one walks through the gates, it feels as if one has traveled back in time; the old-world Japanese architecture and décor of the grand government buildings and samurai residences all exude an authentic and ancient feel, which is made even more magical by the enthusiastic staff donned in traditional attire who re-enact the daily life of the citizens that lived throughout the Edo period.

In between dressing in traditional Japanese yukatas and kimonos, or wearing ninja, samurai, or geisha outfits, guests can experience classic Japanese activities such as archery, shuriken throwing, and customary hair accessory crafting, and can even practice ninja skills. There are also plenty of festivities and parades taking place in the Edo-era streets, as well as Mizugei-za performances and Oiran shows in any one of the park's seven traditional theaters.

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6 Shinkyo Bridge

Shinkyo Bridge is considered to be amongst Japan's three greatest bridges, which includes Saruhashi Bridge in Yamanashi prefecture, and Kintaikyo Bridge in Yamaguchi prefecture. In old times, only the most important officials were granted to cross the bridge, however, it has since been open to the public and mere mortals since 1973.

For photography-worthy vistas and the glorious scenery, the best time to visit the vibrantly vermillion-colored bridge is in autumn from late October to early November when the rich autumnal leaf colors blend with the bright blue water of the Daiya River.

5 Toshogu Shrine

As one of the most extensive and striking of all Nikko’s Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, the Toshogu shrine complex is a stunning sight to behold, comprising over a dozen individual, intricate buildings that are all nothing short of jaw-dropping. The entire place is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the original founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the first shogun (meaning leader) of Japan.

His mausoleum is modest and simple, however, all the other grand and elaborate structures are overly decorated, showing off fine samples of truly breathtaking architecture beaming with Shino designs that mix majestically with Buddhist elements. In addition, one of the most memorable features of the premises is the stupendous pagoda that's five stories high, along with the impressive Yomeimon Gate.

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4 Lake Chuzenji

Formed during the eruption of Mount Nantai some 20,000 years ago, Lake Chuzenji is one of Nikko's most sensational natural attractions that shouldn't be missed by those scoping out the region's most spectacular scenery. It is the biggest lake in Tochigi prefecture and is also Japan's highest lake at an elevation of 269 meters above sea level.

As it's at such a high altitude, the climate is cool even during summer, which makes it a lovely retreat in the hottest season. There are many ways to enjoy the lake; one can take a sightseeing boat as part of a day out, or simply stroll along the lakeside for a quiet, intimate, and best of all, free experience.

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3 Kegon Waterfall

As the most famous waterfall in Nikko, it's no surprise that Kegon is placed in the top three most beautiful waterfalls of Japan, along with Fukuroda Waterfall in Ibaraki prefecture, and Nacho Waterfall in Wakayama prefecture.

The 97 meter-high waterfall surrounded by several other smaller streams is supplied by the iconic Lake Chuzenji, and explorers can enjoy the most bucket-list-worthy views of it from the free observation deck near the car park, or by taking an elevator ride down to a viewing deck for a fee.

2 Akechidaira Plateau

Situated near the top of the Irohazaka Slope, visitors can head to this magnificent observation platform to take in incredible vistas of the landscapes, marveling at such highlights including Lake Chzenjiko, Kegon Waterfall, and Mount Nantai all at the same time.

The panoramas are stunning throughout the year, nevertheless, many visitors and locals allege that the very best time to sightsee here is during autumn - when the golds, reds, and browns of the trees and foliage decorate the dramatic mountainous landscape.

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1 Irohazaka Winding Road

Amongst the most extraordinary things to do in Nikko is also one of the cheapest - in fact, it costs nothing at all (except for gas money of course). A scenic road connecting to Nikko City and the mountainous region of Oku-Nikko delivers mesmeric sights of the prolific landscapes and is particularly pretty during summer and autumn - each with contrasting colors. It doesn't matter if one appreciates road trips or not; this exquisite drive through Nikko city to the mountains is nothing short of surreal and is an idyllic and personal way to soak up the scenery in this stunning part of Japan.

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