2017 Road Trip day 3: Breathtaking views, frozen lakes, snow monkeys and Nozawa Onsen

We again woke early despite the bed being one of the most comfortable we've ever slept in! We'd planned ahead and bought breakfast from a convenience store on the way back to the hotel the previous night so we ate this whilst watching the sunrise over the mountains from the window:

Today was to be an action packed day - our end point and next hotel location was Nagano which, at the crow flies is not too far from Matsumoto. However, we had a lot to see, and much of it involved slow, winding and picturesque mountain roads. We opted for the scenic, non-toll (and free!) route to our first official stop that was to be the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Yamanouchi - HELLO SNOW MONKEYS!

Serious caveat: from now onwards it’s fair to say that none of our photos do this spectacular scenery justice, it was beautiful beyond words and we will forever be in love with the memories.

Our route took us quickly out of the town and it wasn’t long before hills and mountains surrounded us covered with deep white snow. Prior to our arrival in Japan Tom had been slightly apprehensive that perhaps there wouldn’t be snow based on the warmer temperatures we'd seen when checking the weather– oh how we laughed!

The roads continued to wind and the snow got deeper and we stumbled across a frozen lake. As with everywhere we experienced on this trip; you can be as far from any signs of life as possible and there will still be a car park free of snow, toilets with heated seats and a good old vending machine. It was a great place to try out our snow boots!

The snow was very deep:

Tom was sure to leave his print:

I’d read that the expressway journey from Matsumoto to Nagano was incredibly boring other than the views from Obasute Rest Stop so had called it out as a destination. Having taken the scenic route our journey had been anything but boring but even so, we were in need of a warm drink and a chance to stretch our legs. The views were pretty spectacular:

The rest stop (or service station to you and I) was large and the carpark was full of HGVs but it still appeared deserted from outside.

No idea why I chose not to put my coat on when we were here, it was bloody freezing!

There was a whole corridor dedicated to vending machines:

Tom even found one that did hot food including hot dogs and takoyaki (octopus balls):

Enthused by his positive takoyaki experience on our first night he chose this for 370 yen (around £2.50):

From the rest stop it was around a 40 minute drive to the snow monkeys and by now the time was around 11am. We therefore thought it best to eat before the monkeys, although somewhat early, so grabbed some bento products from a supermarket and headed into the mountains again. In the winter the road that takes you closest to the monkeys is closed so we were ushered to a car park around 1.6km away. We ate in the car and then began the forest walk to the monkeys, the walk was actually one of the highlights, despite being a tight winding footpath and very slippery in some places. Here are some shots we took along the way:

Once inside, we realised the park is actually very small, there was just a stream and a couple of pools. But pleasingly, there were plenty of monkeys to be seen!

The monkeys were super cute:

There are plenty more monkey pictures in our article dedicated solely to the park.
By the time we made it back to the car it was around 2pm, a bit early to go to Nagano where our hotel was so we decided to visit Nozawa Onsen; a charming ski resort and hot spring village that was en route to Nagano.

We parked up and had a wander around to check out the snow and views:

Next it was on to Nagano and the drive back down highlights just how deep the snow was here (despite the roads themselves being perfectly clear!):

This article is starting to get really long as there are so many pictures that I couldn't not include so I'll add a link to a new article as soon as I've written it!