Photo of Zao Onsen

About Zao Onsen

Famed throughout Japan for its splendid skiing and rejuvenating hot springs, Zaō Onsen is a hugely popular weekend destination for those looking to escape the city. With records dating back to 110 AD, this ancient community has an intriguing history, as well as access to a plethora or outdoorsy attractions and activities. The best places to stay in Zaō Onsen range from smart mountain hotels to charming ryokans, perfect for couples, families and friends.

Set 800 metres above sea level, this historic resort town is surrounded by verdant forests. These promise wonderful hiking routes in the summer months, and striking ski slopes in winter, when high winds and heavy snowfall coat the trees in ice. Three cable cars zip guests up the mountain to Zao Onsen Ski Resort, which promises pistes for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. In warmer months trek up Mount Zaō — admiring the Zaō Jizoson statue en-route — or marvel at the Okahama Crater, an unusual blue volcanic lake. Half moon-shaped Dokkonuma Swamp is especially beautiful in the late summer and autumn.

Return to town for long soaks in the area’s natural hot springs. Long believed to have healing properties, the onsens are a favourite with Japanese travellers — despite the whiff of sulphur! Round off your evenings with multi-course kaiseki feasts at the best places to stay in Zaō Onsen.

The Best Places to Stay in Zaō Onsen

For Active Families or Groups

  • Takamiya Hotel Lucent has large rooms with multiple futon beds for families or groups to share. The karaoke area will be a sure-fire hit after days of skiing and hiking. Other highlights include the relaxing onsen and excellent regional cuisine. A well-priced choice.
  • Zao Shiki No Hotel is a big mountain hotel with a selection of both contemporary Western and more classic Japanese rooms. Guests can enjoy the swimming pool, onsens and spacious guest rooms with beautiful views. Families and groups will appreciate the easy access to outdoorsy activities.

For Romance

  • Miyamoso Takamiya is an historic ryokan, offering an intimate, traditional experience. Unwind in one of the property's nine onsen baths, dine on delicious kaiseki cuisine and stroll to the slopes in winter or summer. One for romantic couples looking to kick back in absolute tranquility.


  • If you'd prefer a self-catering option, we suggest that you visit our online partner Booking.com.

Travel Information

  • Fly to Tokyo's Haneda International Airport or to Narita International Airport and travel to Yamagata by rail, before hopping on a bus to Zaō Onsen.
  • The Tochigi region is wonderful to explore by road! Contact our online partner Rentalcars if you would like to hire a car.
  • Keen skiers should travel between December and March. With temperatures peaking at around 26°C, summers are best for outdoorsy activities like hiking and mountain biking. The changing red, yellow and golden leaves of autumn, however, make this the most picturesque time to visit.

Still Not Sure?


Monthly Weather in Zao Onsen

Best Hotels in Zao Onsen

  • Takamiya Hotel Lucent Zao Onsen from £113

    Families  -  Large family rooms are great for travelling with little ones, who will love the chance to ski nearby - and the evening karaoke
    Active Holiday  -  Brilliant for skiing holidays, the hotel has equipment for hire, ski storage and a sauna for post-ski bliss
    Skiing  -  Hire ski geat from the hotel and set out for the Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort, five minutes' walk away
    Hotel Entertainment  -  Book the karaoke room to belt out your favourite tunes with family and friends
    Air conditioningRestaurantDisabled accessViewsParkingNo pets

    A chic hotel located in the Zao Onsen hot spring area. Light and airy rooms are clean and contemporary and dressd in the traditional Japanese style; think paper screens, floor level beds, polished wooden floors and tatami mats. Exemplary regional dishes are served in the restaurant. Fabulous. See More

    Check Availability
  • Zao Shiki No Hotel Zao Onsen 48 rooms from £182

    Skiing  -  The Zao Onsen Ski Resort is just a one-minute walk away, making this a top choice for those looking to hit the slopes
    Total relaxation  -  Enjoy rejuvenating soaks in the hotel's natural hot spring baths after big days of skiing or hiking
    Active Holiday  -  Ski, hike, wildlife-spot or mountain bike in the area: an active base for adventurers of all ages
    Trekking  -  Follow wonderfully scenic hiking trails through the mountains in the summer and autumn
    Air conditioningRestaurantViewsParkingNo pets

    A mountain property boasting spectacular views. Interiors mix traditional Japanese styles with contemporary design. Rooms are light and airy with large expanses of glass, clean lines and light polished wood. Find tranquil surrounds, healing onsens and attentive service. A spoiling stay. See More

    Check Availability
  • Miyamaso Takamiya Zao Onsen (Yamagata-City) 18 rooms from £306

    Skiing  -  Located a short walk from the Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort lifts, this is a top spot for sporty travellers
    Romantic Break  -  A restful, romantic choice for couples eager to unwind in hot springs and feast on delicious cuisine
    Total relaxation  -  Experience the authentic bath culture of Zao Hot Spring at this traditional Japanese ryokan
    Riding  -  The International Horse Riding Club offers scenic guided treks for all abilities
    Air conditioningRestaurantViewsParkingNo pets

    A historic and luxurious ryokan situated in the Zao Hot Spring area. Traditianal rooms are atmospheric and authentic with floor level dining tables, delicate paper shutters and tatami mats. Unwind in the healing onsens and feast on regional Hana no kaiseki cuisine. A spoiling stay. See More

    Check Availability