Kumano Kodo, Japan

Spreading over the lower half of the Kii Peninsula south of Osaka, the Kumano region a pristine land of river, waterfall, mountain and forest. Referred to as the “abode of the gods” in Japanese, it has been a sacred site since prehistoric times, and is widely regarded as the origin of Japanese spirituality.

Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004, the Kumano Kodo is a spider’s web of pilgrimage trails that criss-cross the Kumano region, connecting the three major shrines. It was along the Kumano Kodo’s moss-clad paths and shady stairways that Kyoto’s emperors once walked, following the same routes into the mountains every year to purify themselves. The Kumano Kodo is one of only two pilgrimage route networks in the world registered to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.