Immerse Yourself – Enjoying The Hot Springs of Miyoshi’s Iya Valley (Part 2)



Soaking in an Iya Valley hot spring is one of the nicest ways to enjoy the area, particularly in an outdoor “rotenburo” bath that offers great views among the natural splendor. In this series we visit three of Iya’s hot springs that are open to day-time visitors as well as overnight guests.

Riverside bathing at the bottom of the Iya Valley at Hotel Iya Onsen

Located in the beautiful Iyakei Gorge, which takes up the first third of the Miyoshi City’s Iya Valley, the Hotel Iya Onsen sits perched on the steep mountainside with spectacular views of the uninhabited gorge area. Minutes from the breathtaking Hi-no-Ji Bend viewpoint and cliff-edged Peeing Boy Statue, riding in to the hotel along the one-laned “Iya Highway” is a sublime experience unto itself.

Steaming water has been naturally bubbling out of the ground at the bottom of the gorge here since times immemorial. Back in the day, local people traveling along the old “Iya Highway” would trek down on foot to reach the springs, but now the naturally-fed open-air baths are much more easily accessed by the hotel’s cable-car.

At the upper cable-car station beside the hotel, views abound from the recently extended “Kumo-no-ue Terrace” (“Terrace Above the Clouds”). Aside from being in awe by the panorama of the Iyakei Gorge, it is also thrilling to see the river flowing by hundreds of meters below from this protruding viewpoint.

When here it be sure to get some of the sunflower seeds they have available and hold them out over the edge. Soon enough, a wild but docile mountain bird (or three) will appear, and take one right from the palm of your hand.

The cable-car ride to the riverside baths takes about 5 minutes from the terrace, traveling 170m down into the steep gorge. Surrounded by virgin forest that changes with the seasons, its particularly stunning in the autumn, but just about any day of the year is spectacular. 

Down at the bottom, the open-air baths are surrounded by rocky crags, with the beautiful emerald green Iya River flowing by right beside you. It’s almost unreal.

The hot spring water comes naturally from the earth, which is rather rare in Shikoku. And since it is not further heated artificially, the only mildly hot water allows for a long, tranquil bathing experience, which also lets you skin absorb the rich minerals and provide a deep moisturizing that continues well after drying off.

But then again, you won’t want to get out!

Yet once back up at the hotel, be sure to also experience their indoor baths, which of course have outstanding views. Of note is their new “infinity bath”, where the waters of this tub seem to melt into the mountainous landscape beyond.

Day-trippers can enjoy the hot spring baths of Hotel Iya Onsen daily from 7:30am to 6:00pm (last entry at 5:00pm). For the riverside baths together with the indoor baths, the fee is 1700 yen per person (children 900 yen). Or if only wishing to take the indoor baths, it 900 yen per person (children 300 yen).

Special lunch/bath sets that showcase authentic Iya cuisine can also be enjoyed from their (of course) panoramic restaurant “HANA” from 11:00am to 2:00pm. These sets (reserve in advance) included the full range of baths and start at 3800 yen per person. Alternately, you can order directly from their lunch menu (last order 1:30pm), and/or just enjoy drinks and views from the restaurant until 3:00pm without reservation.

And for those seeking the overnight offerings of the hotel, with extended bathing hours and full course meals, the hospitality here is exceptional. Some rooms even feature their own private baths right out on the room’s balcony.

Not merely unique, the timeless bathing experiences of the Hotel Iya Onsen are truly unforgettable.

For more information, check the Hotel Iya Onsen website.

(By: Shaun Lamzy)

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