The Yamanami Highway, Route 11, is a scenic route on the island of Kyushu spanning two prefectures, Oita and Kumamoto. It starts in Beppu and traverses Aso-Kuju National Park, passing through the Kuju mountain range and ending in the city of Aso.
For the first time visitor there is so much to see along this route. Beginning with Beppu, the hot spring capital of Japan, following with the more compact but no less famous hot spring resort of Yufuin, and finishing with the volcanic wonders of the Aso caldera – it can easily take up a week. I just wanted to cross the Kuju mountains off my “haven't been yet” list of Kyushu locations. I stayed for two nights at Kuju Kanko Hotel, and had one full day to explore.
This trip turned out to be very spontaneous. I didn’t have anything planned, so I just followed the Yamanami Highway first up north, then down south, stopping wherever I felt like it. My whimsy took me all the way to the Beppu Ropeway and up to the top of Mount Tsurumi (the views were spectacular), then past the beautifully shaped Mount Yufu to Yufuin’s most iconic public bath at Tsukanoma and, of course, I stopped at all the viewpoints and took a boardwalk stroll through the Tadewara Wetlands from the Chojabaru Visitors Center, admiring Mt. Mimata and the surrounding peaks of Kuju. The only downside of this trip was the lack of proper camera (it broke in Aso a couple of days before), so all the pictures were taken with cellphone.
You can start either in Beppu or in Aso, and just follow Route 11.