In the Iya Valley, mountain villages cling to the side of improbably steep hills while turquoise rivers rush through the ravines below. This remote region was once so isolated that it became the retreat of choice for Heike clan warriors after they lost an epic battle to their Minamoto rivals in the 12th century. To get to Iya now, you don’t have to string your own vine bridges across ravines like the Heiki did—although
some of the bridges remain—you can access the valley by bus or car. But if you want to feel you’ve escaped modern Japan for a hidden world, you can’t do better than here.
Next to Iya, the Yoshino River roars through Okobe and Koboke gorges, which is where you’ll find Japan’s best white-water rafting. Try your hand at making delicious Iya soba or local crafts, or trek deeper into the valley to hike to the swordlike summit of Mt. Tsurugi.