The Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan igloo village can be a perfect part of your Hokkaido winter itinerary for your trip to Japan.
In the 2018-2019 winter season, the official dates of the Lake Shikaribetsu igloo village were from January 26 to March 21 in 2019.
So there was no ice village in December and it was only possible to go in January, February, or March.
Now, if you think you want to go to this igloo village that’s built on a frozen lake…
Is it easy to get there?!
Well, the main thing is… TIME!
While there is public transportation that can get you from Sapporo to Lake Shikaribetsu, it does take time to get there.
Here’s how to get to Lake Shikaribetsu from Sapporo:
- Train from Sapporo station to Obihiro (3.5 hours)
- Walk from Obihiro train station to Obihiro bus terminal (1 minute)
- Buy the Tokachi bus pass at the ticket center
- Bus from Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu (1.5 – 2 hours)
- Walk to igloo village! (1 minute)
Well, this is how I went there anyway!
Train timings and bus timings aren’t the most frequent, so you will want to plan ahead by looking at the timings.
Quick list for timings:
- Train timings for Sapporo station to Obihiro station
- See the Sapporo to Kushiro route
- Bus timings for Obihiro bus terminal to Lake Shikaribetsu
- This timetable is for 2019 to give you an idea of what to expect for 2020
You’ll want to check for updated timings when you do this trip.
But just to give you an idea of the time line to get to Lake Shikaribetsu, these were my scheduled timings in 2019:
- 7:54am Sapporo to Obihiro train
- 10:36am Arrive Obihiro train station
- 11:00am Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu bus
- 12:40pm Arrive at Lake Shikaribetsu bus stop
How to make the igloo village a part of your Hokkaido winter itinerary
If you have a JR pass or a JR Hokkaido pass, consider making it a loop around Hokkaido:
- Asahikawa (for penguin walk)
- Abashiri (for drift ice cruise)
- Kushiro (to break up overnight journey)
- Obihiro (for igloo village!)
In this case, you can make an overnight stay in Kushiro as a transit point to break up the journey, and then the next day you can go:
- Kushiro to Obihiro train
- Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu bus (and back)
- Obihiro to Sapporo train
It also is possible to make it a day trip to Lake Shikaribetsu from Sapporo, but it will be a LONG day.
Well, it will be a long day even if you start your day in Kushiro and end in Sapporo too!
If you don’t want such a long day, you might also consider spending the night in Obihiro (kind of a big city with more accommodation options, including hotels right near Obihiro station), or you could even stay at Lake Shikaribetsu which you could say is a slightly more remote area.
Hotels near Obihiro Station
Put in some future dates below (partner website) to get an idea for the cost of hotels near Obihiro Station!
Where is Lake Shikaribetsu located?!
Have a look at the map below, and zoom out to see where Lake Shikaribetsu is compared to Sapporo!
You can also locate Obihiro for a better idea of the route you’ll be taking.
A bit more of what your journey to get to the Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan igloo village might look like!
Train from Sapporo station to Obihiro station
Time on train: 3.5 hours
Cost: Around 7,220 yen ($65) on limited express train (or FREE with JR pass or JR Hokkaido pass)
Walk from Obihiro train station to Obihiro bus terminal
Time: 1 minute
The bus station is basically right next to the train station.
There are signs that will point you in the direction of the exit to the Obihiro bus terminal.
Once you exit the train station, you’ll pretty much see the bus station right away.
Buy the Tokachi bus pass at the ticket center
While it is possible to pay for the bus fare on the bus as you get off, you’ll want to stop by the bus ticket counter to buy the one day Visit Tokachi pass.
If you pay out of pocket for the bus fare on the bus, the cost to go one way from Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu is more than the cost of the bus pass.
So you would end up paying more than double without the pass!
Where to buy the Visit Tokachi bus pass
So once you exit the train station, head to the building that’s located right next to the bus terminal!
It’s here that you’ll be able to buy a bus pass that can basically serve as a round trip bus ticket to Lake Shikaribetsu.
Once inside the bus ticket center, you go to a specific ticket counter based on your destination.
You’ll want to go to the counter for tickets to Asahikawa.
Then you can say you want the Visit Tokachi one day bus pass if you’re making it a day trip.
Or you can say you want to go to and from Lake Shikaribetsu today and they’ll likely offer you the Tokachi bus pass.
You’ll basically get a small booklet of bus tickets.
You’ll hand one of these tickets to the bus driver as you are getting off the bus.
How much does the Visit Tokachi bus pass cost?
There’s a 1 day pass, and there’s a 2 day pass:
- 1 day pass 1,500 yen (US$14)
- 2 day pass 2,500 yen (US$22)
These were prices for early 2019.
How much does the bus from Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu cost WITHOUT the Tokachi pass?
If you get on the bus without the bus pass, you’ll pay the bus fare as you get off the bus.
That will cost 1,650 yen.
And you can expect to pay the same on the way back.
Bus from Obihiro to Lake Shikaribetsu
Time on bus: 1.5 – 2 hours
The bus to Lake Shikaribetsu will be at platform 4.
Then once you get on the bus, you’re on the bus for a couple of hours!
This is basically a local bus.
You’ll start off in the city, and then you’ll be on some rural roads of Hokkaido, and then you’ll be driving through mountain roads!
Walk to igloo village!
Time: 1 minute!
Basically, once you get off the bus, you are there!
The bus drops you off right in front of the lake.
You’ll see the parking lot, and then from that parking lot you can get the (frozen and snow-covered) lake views with igloos!
Then go down the hill for a visit to the winter “village” on a lake!
You can order a drink at the ice bar, soak your feet in mineral-rich water from the hot springs, and even go snowmobiling on the lake!
HAPPY LAKE SHIKARIBETSU IGLOO VILLAGE VISIT!
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
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I've used this booking site for taking the train from Thailand to Malaysia, and it worked out well, so I would expect it to work out well in Japan too!
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So it won't be enough to just buy the tickets online. I had to do this in Bangkok for my train ticket - and it was easy! So again, I would think it'd be easy for Japan train tickets too.
Search for popular routes in Japan here. For example, Tokyo to Kyoto.
If you end up buying train tickets online this way, I would love to hear how it goes! Whether that's good, or if it came with some challenges!
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