Japan, a must visit! While you may have to dodge some tourists, which comes as no surprise in Japan, the Snow Monkey Park is well worth your time.
Officially known as the Japanese Macaque, these red-faced primates live in Jigokudani Yaen-koen, sometimes referred to as “Hell Valley” for its harsh conditions year round.
Whether they’re bathing in the onsen (hot spring), messing with tourists, or wrestling each other for food, you never know what the daily show may bring. My warm weather visit consisted of monkey’s parkouring off my camera, a baby monkey taking a selfie and two small avalanches within the park.
If you are looking for more, occasionally you can join the monkeys in the nearby onsen of the 150-year-old lodge just before the park. You may or may not have to pay and sometimes you have to wait for the monkeys but one thing is for sure, drop your drawers, Japanese onsens are all nude!
Whatever route you take, be sure to remember that Jigokudani Yaen-koen is the only place in the world to see these Snow monkeys. If you visit during a snowstorm you may be lucky enough to see these characters bath in the steaming spring with snow on their head. It can be quite majestic and a treat for the camera.
When traveling there, try to visit in the morning or afternoon. The approach is a thirty minute hike in and the trail head can be accessed by an easy hour bus ride from Nagano. Be sure to give your self plenty of time though, you will want to spend a few hours there.
Watch the live camera here: http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam/monkey/index.htm