Formed by the lava flow from a massive ancient eruption of Mount Fuji, the Izu Peninsula is close enough to Tokyo and has enough to see and do to make it a great place for a long weekend or a relaxed couple of days' exploring. In no particular order, here are eleven of the sights to see:
1. The Seven Waterfalls
A short bus ride inland from Kawazu station, there's a peaceful kilometer-long trail through the forest with (you guessed) seven waterfalls to admire along the way, and an onsen at the end. You can read about it here, and see more photos here.
2. Mount Omuro
The highest peak on the peninsula, Mount Omuro is a small extinct volcano, where you ride up to the top on a fun little ski-lift. From the path around the rim you have a fine view of the hills, the ocean and Mount Fuji, and you can try archery in the crater; read more here.
4. Naka-Izu Winery
Not far from Shuzen-ji, at Naka-Izu Winery you can tour the facilities, have lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking the vineyards, try your foot at grape-stomping, and of course sample and buy the wine.
5. Kisami Omaha Beach
A little way down the coast from Shimoda, this beach lies in a truly striking setting and has beautiful white sand, clear water, and the potential for good waves if you're a surfer, all expertly photographed here.
6. K's House Ito Onsen
One of the best accommodation bargains I've had in Japan, K's House Ito is a wondrously atmospheric hostel and guesthouse, in a renovated hundred-year-old ryokan that's also a registered cultural property.
7. The Jogasaki Coastline
A short way south of Ito, there's an easy, fun walk down the coast, which takes you past the dramatic scenery that resulted from the peninsula's violent formation, photographed here (the scenery, not the eruption). If you're feeling energetic, you can continue on along the full nine-kilometer trail.
8. Toi Gold Mine
Across on the west coast, Toi Gold Mine is a fun, unusual place to visit; you can go into the tunnels to learn about the area's mining history, touch the world's largest gold bar, and try panning for gold yourself!
9. Shimoda Ropeway
Take the ropeway from Shimoda station to the top of Mount Nesugata and you'll be treated to a beautiful view of the ocean, the town and the surrounding hills, which you can see and read about here.
10. Dogashima Orchid Sanctuary
As well as thousands of orchids and other tropical plants and flowers, you can enjoy outdoor observation decks, suspension bridges and a handsome ocean view, all photographed here.
11. Nishi-Izu Wild Monkeys' Paradise
Tucked away in Izu's south-western corner, Wild Monkeys' Paradise is what it sounds like; you can watch the monkeys frolic on the beach, and feed them yourself, from safe behind a mesh.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.