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AFAR Experiences Tokyo: Pre and Post Trip Ideas

From November 10-13, 2017, AFAR Experiences is heading to Tokyo with World of Hyatt. Travelers who join can expect a unique opportunity to dive beneath the surface of this fascinating destination, as we spend four days with unparalleled insider access; including opportunities to meet the men and women who have made Tokyo one of the most interesting cities in the world.

Among the reasons to visit Tokyo is its geographic location and the ability to travel to many other fascinating nearby destinations. We asked the members of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council to prepare itineraries that make for ideal trips before or after a visit to Tokyo, whether you are visiting as part of AFAR Experiences or at any other time.


Photo credit: AFAR/Erin Bogar

Soak Up the Scenery of Hakone, Japan
Steaming hot springs (onsen), enchanting up-close views of Mount Fuji, and art museums are three of the reasons to head about 1.5 hours west of Tokyo to the mountain town of Hakone. Lauren Maggard of Jet Set World Travel recommends spending two or three nights here, with the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa as your base. You might begin with a morning visit to the surrounding area of Hakone-Yumoto, where a series of narrow-gauge switchback railways, funiculars, and cable cars whisk you over the treetops of the Great Boiling Valley, located close to the hotel. Disembark to explore by foot and pick up some black-shelled, onsen-cooked eggs for a tasty snack that also supposedly increases longevity. At Lake Ashi, there are walking trails that include historic sections of the cobbled Tokaido Road (dating to the Edo Period, it once linked Kyoto with Tokyo). You’ll also want to devote some time to the area museums and temples, including the Hakone Open Air Museum at Chōkoku-no-mori, (“the sculpture forest”). It houses more than 300 works by Picasso alone. Contact Lauren to customize your Hakone visit.

Photo credit: Flickr/Gavin Anderson

Experience What’s New in Beijing, China
Dynamic and trendy may not be the first two adjectives used to describe Beijing, but that’s just what China’s capital has become in recent years, says Michael Holtz of SmartFlyer. You don’t have to search hard to find anything and everything, from brewery tours in the old hutongs to Trappist beer and fresh oyster bars in the trendy Sanlitun district. One of the most exciting developments is the burgeoning art scene. You could spend an entire day browsing the latest talents at the 798 Art Zone, with its unique Communist-era influenced architecture and culture, or at private galleries around the city. Then travel back in time with visits to Beijing’s most impressive historic sights. Michael can arrange an after-hours tour of the Forbidden City or a private dinner on the Great Wall of China. And don’t leave town without sampling the local specialty, Peking Duck (Duck de Chine is his go-to restaurant recommendation). Park Hyatt Beijing is conveniently located at Third Ring Road, or position yourself closer to the Imperial Palace with a stay at Grand Hyatt Beijing. Contact Michael to enlist more of his Beijing expertise for a three- or four-night stay.

Photo credit: Yongyuan Dai

Shake Things Up in Seoul, South Korea
South Korea’s capital city is anything but ordinary. After all, there are few destinations where you can start your day exploring a fortress and end at a cat café. To get an understanding of Seoul’s range, Judy Perl proposes a thrilling and varied first day: browsing the Noryangjin Fish Market; cruising the Han River; admiring the view from N Seoul Tower; and attending K-live, the world’s first holographic K-pop show. Next up could be Gyeongbok Palace and Dongaemun History and Culture Park—two of Seoul’s most prominent historic landmarks. Judy can also arrange immersive activities such as a kimchi-making class and modeling traditional attire with Hanbok Dress Up. She recommends a four-night stay at Park Hyatt Seoul, perfectly situated in the heart of the Gangnam financial district. To elevate your experience from great to grand, you can also visit Grand Hyatt Seoul, which sits atop Namsan Mountain. Not only will you be treated to towering vistas of the city, but you will also enjoy a remarkable outdoor pool in the summer that transforms into a storybook ice skating rink in the winter. Contact Judy to design an inspiring journey in Seoul.

Photo credit: Flickr/Miltos Gikas

Explore the Flavors of Yunnan, China
The southwest corner of Yunnan is China’s most culturally diverse province. It can also make a serious claim to be the country’s most dynamic food destination, given its melting pot of traditions and penchant for spice. Betty Jo Currie of Currie & Co. suggests basing yourself in Lijiang, an unusually well preserved town of tiled-roof buildings, waterways, and cobbled streets. You can spend the day strolling Old Town, with stops including a local nature conservancy and a Naxi papermaking outlet. The Naxi community is descended from Tibetan nomads, and Betty Jo can arrange for you to get a taste of their culture during a music performance paired with a hotpot dinner. She recommends spending two nights at Grand Hyatt Lijiang, which conveniently has two premises – one within the city and one located close to the mountain. Then you might move to its sister property, Grand Hyatt Lijiang Mountain Lodge, nestled on the lower slopes of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain—formed by an ancient glacier and considered sacred. Staying here feels like a serene nature retreat. While in the neighborhood, it’s tempting to continue on to Ringha (aka Shangri-La) or bordering Tibet, and if you contact Betty Jo, she can tailor the trip that’s right for you.

Photo credit: Flickr/Terence Lim

Get Cultured in Kyoto, Japan
Japan’s imperial capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is the classical Japanese city. As you wander its cobblestone streets, you’ll spy autumn leaves, geishas, centuries-old temples, and traditional specialty shops. Begin your visit with a mood-setting morning meditation at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, surrounded by striking red torii gates and wooded mountains. Katie Cadar of TravelStore can coordinate a mix of sightseeing at notable attractions (like Nijo Castle and Nishiki Market) and immersive activities as part of a five-night stay at Hyatt Regency Kyoto, located in the cultural heart of Kyoto, a neighborhood with landmarks including the Sanjusangendo Temple and the Kyoto National Museum. You can attend a private class on sushi making, sake tasting, and pottery appreciation; learn the rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony; enjoy dance and music performances; and visit a local home to try kimono wearing. Katie also encourages her guests to set aside a full day trip to Nara, Japan’s first capital, which is just a short drive from Kyoto station, with stops at Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park, where the

Photo credit: Flickr/Carlos Adampol Galindo

Spend a Whirlwind Weekend in Shanghai, China
Get a memorable first impression of Shanghai during a ride in a sidecar of a WWII-era motorcycle. Shelby Donley of Camelback Mountain Odyssey can book a tour that includes visits to the famous Bund and leafy French Concession neighborhood as well as lesser-known areas and back alleys. Break for lunch and then enjoy an architectural walking tour to understand the influence of the Art Deco 1920’s combined with today’s modern building innovation. After dinner, your guide will meet you at 10PM for an insider’s take on some of the hottest nightclubs. Humming with a mix of expats and locals, Shanghai offers a renowned and unforgettable late-night experience. You’ll spend the next day with a private guide and driver exploring Water Town, Yu Garden, Bubbling Well Road, and finishing with a street food tour. You’ll get to see all of the sights of old Shanghai and come full circle to the present and to your hotel, which could be Park Hyatt Shanghai, Grand Hyatt Shanghai, Andaz Shanghai, or Hyatt on the Bund, which is close the famous Wai Baidu Bridge. To arrange these two nights or more in Shanghai, contact Shelby.