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!
How to spend winter in Japan
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Among the top 3 things people get specific for a trip to Japan
- JR pass for quick and easy long distance train travel (see price here and see here how to calculate train routes to figure out it's worth it for you)
- Pocket wifi to make travel in Japan easier (see price here)
- Travel insurance for natural disasters just in case especially for travel disruptions (see price here and see here for past natural disaster that affected foreigners)
Food in JapanIf you are in Japan for FOOD, then be sure to see where to try different types of Japanese food! (Sometimes for cheaper!)
And also have a look at some of these cooking classes in Japan too.
If you're looking for a route for winter in Japan, here are some ideas!
- 10 day Japan winter itinerary
- Tokyo to Nagano bus
- 2 days in Nagano with snow monkey pass // Stay at this Nagano hostel (private rooms available)
- A few days in popular ski resort area Hakuba (go here for at least a day even if you don't ski for the winter landscape in the mountains!) // Stay at this Hakuba hostel (private rooms available)
- Hakuba to Takayama (Hakuba to Matsumoto train / a few hours in Matsumoto / Matsumoto to Takayama bus)
- A few days in Takayama with day trips: Shirakawago / Shinhotaka ropeway on a sunny day // Stay at this Takayama hostel (private rooms available) and eat regional Takayama ramen
- Takayama back to Tokyo OR Takayama to Nagoya airport to fly to Hokkaido for more winter landscapes!
Hokkaido winter itinerary (train to get around - there are JR Hokkaido passes available, and you can use a regular JR pass too)
- Sapporo to Asahikawa (Asahikawa for penguin walk at zoo)
- Asahikawa to Abashiri (Abashiri for drift ice cruise)
- Abashiri to Obihiro (night in Obihiro and go to Lake Shikaribetsu ice village the next day)
- Obihiro to Sapporo
- Sapporo to Noboribetsu onsen hot spring town (day trip)
- Sapporo to Hakodate // Stay in this Hakodate hostel
- Hakodate to Tokyo on shinkansen bullet train through the underwater tunnel! (Regular JR pass will be worth it if you take this train ride along with one more long distance train ride within 7 days)
When the JR pass is worth itIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure. See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon. There have been a few typhoons that have hit Japan in the past couple of years and they can cause real travel disruptions!
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
More for your Japan itinerary
- 5 days in Kyoto
- Cost of climbing Mt Fuji from Tokyo
- Where to go for famous Mt Fuji views as seen in pictures
- Know before you go to Hiroshima
- One day in Miyajima with famous floating torii views
- 3 days in Okinawa, Japan's tropical islands
- Cherry blossom photo walk
- When is the JR pass worth it for train travel?
- Tokyo to Kyoto train
- Hostels in Japan