Since it is almost impossible to visit all the areas in Nikko within one day, the suggestion is that you select one or two areas by your preference. Then, schedule a trip with a one- or two-night-stay plan so that you can enjoy several attractions in Nikko. For example, visiting temples and shrines during the day, and stay at a Japanese ryokan (Inn) to have Japanese cuisine and soak at Onsen hot springs in the evening. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, hiking in the Nikko National Park on the first day is a choice.
The area where historical temples and shrines are located in forests. This historic area is reachable on foot from Nikko Station on the Tobu/JR railways. (About 30 or 40 min.) A city round bus is also available, departs from Nikko Station.
2.Chuzenjiko Lake Area 中禅寺湖(ちゅうぜんじこ) エリア
This resort area is known for the Chuzenjiko Lake and the 97m-high Kegon Falls. The bus service is available from the bus terminal in front of Nikko Station (JR/Tobu Railways.)
3.Senjogahara Area 戦場ヶ原(せんじょうがはら) エリア
The muskeg area in Nikko National Park where people can enjoy hiking along the walking trails. The bus is served to travel around this area, available from Nikko Station (JR/Tobu Railways).
4.Yumoto Area 湯元(ゆもと) エリア
A resort area of Onsen hot springs surrounded mountains. Yumoto is also known as a winter sports resort. Along with the Chuzenjiko and Senjogahara areas, the bus is served from Nikko Station (JR/Tobu Railways).
*FYI Yumoto means "a fount of hot spring". So, there are several towns named Yumoto in Japan.
5.Nikko Kinugawa Onsen Area 鬼怒川(きぬがわ) エリア
A hot spring resort town located in the north of the Nikko area, known for amusements like Nikko Wonderland (Ninja shows are performed) or Tobu World Square. The transportation available is buses or trains of the Tobu Railway. If you go to Kinugawa Onsen by Tobu Line from Nikko Station, change train at Shimo-imaichi station (下今市駅) to take Tobu Kinugawa Line and get off at Kinugawa Onsen station (鬼怒川温泉駅).
6.Kirifuri Area 霧降(きりふり) エリア
A resort area surrounded by nature, where Kirifuri Highlands 霧降高原 lay, known for camping sites and the beautiful nature around. There are a number of small waterfalls, and seasonal flowers bloom along the walking path. Kirifuri area is also known as a cottage area, has ski slopes and golf courses.
Tips for traveling in Nikko
If you plan a one-day trip, focus on sightseeing around the historic area, accessible with a 30- or 40-min. walk from Nikko Station. The historic area has 4 famous shrines and temples, include Nikko Toshogu Shrine (東照宮), Rinnoji Temple(輪王寺), Futarasan Shrine (二荒山神社), and Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple (輪王寺大猷院). Along rivers and in the mountains, there are scenic spots and places of historical interest, such as Takio Shrine (滝尾神社), Shiraito Falls (白糸ノ滝） and Kamanagafuchi Abyss.(憾満ガ淵).
If you plan to visit all of the 4 temples/shrines (Toshogu shrine, Rinnoji temple, Futarasan shrine and Taiyuin temple), buying a 1000-yen combination ticket allows you to save some admission fees, which are usually paid at each temple/shrine individually. (FYI The regular admission fee to Toshogu shrine is 1300 Yen, Rinnoji temple is 900 Yen. ) This combination ticket is called Kyoutsu Haikan Ken 共通拝観券, and is sold at the ticket office near the entrance of Toshogu shrine (on the right side)
* This combination ticket is not currently available.
How to get to Nikko on a budget
The best way to go to Nikko from Tokyo on a budget would be to take the Tobu Kaisoku train from Tobu Asakusa station, that takes 2 hours or so, the fare is 1320 JP Yen (one way). An upper-class train "Tobu Limited Express SPACIA” is also available from Tobu Asakusa station, however, the fare is 2720 JP Yen. If you plan to take Tobu Kaisoku, remember it is sooo crowded on holidays (especially in autumn) that it will be like a commuter’s train. Be prepared and wait on the platform of the station at least 20 minutes before the train departures. Otherwise, you will barely get a seat and will have to stand on the train for 2 hours all the way to Nikko. To enjoy your travel more comfortably, it is also suggested you take a train early in the morning as Toshogu Shrine will get crowded in the after noon.
Nikko Yumoto Onsen Hot Springs
http://www.nikkoyumoto.com/ (Japanese website)
Chuzenjiko Lake Cruise
Tobu World Square
Nikko Ice Backs
JR (East Japan Railway)
If you have a JR Pass, you can make the use when traveling to Nikko.
Take a JR Shinkansen YAMABIKO bound for Utsunomiya 宇都宮駅 (*45-min from Ueno Sta.)
From Utsunomiya, take the JR Nikko-sen train bound for Nikko. (48-min ride)