Mount Koya (or Koyasan) is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the location of a historic monastic settlement, a popular tourist location, and a center of spiritual retreat.
The Nankai Koya Line provides the best connection between Osaka and Mount Koya. Using this line you can travel from Osaka’s Nankai Namba Station to Gokurakubashi Station at the base of Mount Koya in 90 minutes or less. At Gokurakubashi Station you can transfer directly to the Koyasan Cable Car which will take you up the mountain in 5 minutes for 390 yen. From Koyasan Station you can then take a bus to the main tourist and accommodation areas.
In Osaka you can join the Nankai Koya Line at Nankai Namba Station, Shin-Imamiya Station, or Tengachaya Station. Which station you will join depends on your departure point. Here are the best routes from the main transportation hubs in Osaka.
Traveling from Shin-Osaka Station
From Shin-Osaka Station take the Midosuji Subway Line to Namba Subway Station. The journey takes 15 minutes and costs 280 yen. From there you can walk to Nankai Namba Station in approximately 8 minutes.
Traveling from Osaka Station or Umeda Subway Station
There are two possible routes from the Umeda area around Osaka Station. Traveling from the Umeda Subway Station you can take the Midosuji Line to Namba Subway Station. The journey takes 9 minutes and costs 240 yen. From Namba Subway Station you will then make the 8 minute walk to Nankai Namba Station.
An alternative route is to take the Osaka Loop Line from Osaka Station to Shin-Imamiya Station. This takes 13 minutes and only costs 180 yen. This second route is advantageous if you want to make the best use of your Japan Rail Pass. Also you can join the Nankai Koya Line directly at Shin-Imamiya Station.
Traveling from Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport is directly connected to the Nankai Railway Network by the Nankai Airport Line. There are two services you can use to join the Nankai Koya Line at Tengachaya Station.
The Nankai Airport Express will take you to Tengachaya Station in just 38 minutes for 920 yen. This is the cheapest of the two Nankai services and the travel time is reasonable, but the train does get crowded during peak periods and there is no designated luggage space.
The Rapi:t Airport Express will take you to Tengachaya Station in just 33 minutes. However this is a Limited Express service with reserved seating, so the fare is higher at 1,430 yen. This train is only 5 minutes faster than the Nankai Airport Express, but you are guaranteed a seat, the seating is more comfortable, and there is designated luggage space.
Traveling from Osaka Itami Airport
It is possible to travel by rail from Osaka Itami Airport to Namba, but the route is convoluted with many transfers, takes 45 minutes and costs 660 yen. It is much easier to take a Limousine Bus from the airport that will take you directly to Namba in just 25 minutes and cost only 640 yen. The bus terminal in Namba is a 10 minute walk from Nankai Namba Station.
Travel Times and Fares from Osaka to Mount Koya
The Limited Express runs directly from Osaka to Gokurabashi Station without any transfers for a fare of 1,650 yen. If you take the Rapid Express, it will cost just 870 yen you will normally have to transfer to a local train at Hashimoto Station. The fares from the following stations are the same. Use English language route finders like Jorudan or Hyperdia to find the best train times for your journey.
|Stations||Rapid Express & Local Train||Limited Express|
|Nankai Namba > Gokurakubashi||92 minutes||80 minutes|
|Shin-Imamiya > Gokurakubashi||90 minutes||78 minutes|
|Tengachaya > Gokurakubashi||87 minutes||75 minutes|
The Nankai Railway is a private company, so it is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, there are alternatives. There are two options for saving money when traveling to Mount Koya. The Kansai Thru Pass will cover the cost of the Nankai Koya Line and also cover other private rail, bus and subway journeys in the Kansai region. Please note that it does not cover JR trains.
Nankai Electric Railway also offer a Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket which covers the Nankai Koya Line, the cable car, and all bus travel in Koyasan. It also includes discount coupons for some of the sites, and restaurants on Mount Koya. 2-day round-trip discount tickets are available which can be used from Nankai Namba Station (2,860 yen for an adult or 1,440 yen for a child) or Kansai International Airport (3,710 yen for an adult and 1,870 yen for a child).
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.