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Planning the Ultimate Kyoto Itinerary is Actually Super Easy

Planning the Ultimate Kyoto Itinerary is Actually Super Easy

How do you propose the good Kyoto itinerary? This is a query I’ve requested myself regularly over the previous half-decade, which has seen me return to Japan’s erstwhile imperial capital greater than half a dozen occasions. In Kyoto, as is the case with many locations in Japan, creating the good journey is typically a strategy of elimination, whittling down a seemingly infinite bucket record to one thing that’s truly executable.

Consistent with this, at this time’s submit helps you break any journey to Kyoto right down to its element elements. After selecting a lodge or ryokan visitor home, you’ll have to type out Kyoto sightseeing (particularly temples) and determine what time of yr you’re going to go to. After including a day journey (or two—or none), you’ll be able to determine what number of days to spend in Kyoto, and put all of it collectively.

You then’ll see—planning a visit to Kyoto is not truly that onerous!

The place to Keep in Kyoto

One place many vacationers get caught is the very basis of their Kyoto journey. In any case, Kyoto ryokans run the whole gamut of lodging in Japan, from luxurious properties like Yachiyo (which is truly situated on the grounds of a wonderful Kyoto temple) to easy ones like Ryokan Kyoraku, whose truthful worth and closeness to Kyoto Station has made it a perennial favourite of mine.

Kyoto is in all probability the hottest place in Japan to remain in a standard Japanese visitor home, which is why my subsequent piece of recommendation might sound sacrilegious: Let go of the concept that you need to keep in a ryokan in Kyoto! Certainly, lots of the prime inns in Kyoto function ryokan parts like tatami mats and kaiseki meals however in a extra trendy setting. This is true each on the excessive finish, resembling with Kyoto Granbell Lodge, in addition to with the progressive Ryokan Hostel Kyoto, which presents a standard tackle a futuristic capsule lodge at an ideal worth level for backpackers.

Issues to Do in Kyoto

Uncover Historic Higashiyama


Most each Kyoto itinerary begins in the historic Higashiyama ward—or will get there inside the first day. Personally, I really like starting journeys to Kyoto with a go to to the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji (which is not, notably, in Higashiyama), then heading over to the Silver Pavilion (aka Ginkaku-ji) and strolling down the Philospher’s Path to Nanzen-ji and Eikan-do. Then it’s time for sundown at Kiyomizu-dera, whose perch on the aspect of Higashiyama (which suggests “Eastern Mountain” in Japanese) gives the good panorama of Kyoto metropolis, together with Yasaka Pagoda, the place I like to recommend going as soon as night time falls.

Discover Lush Arashiyama


After Higashiyama, the subsequent place on many a Kyoto vacationer map is Arashiyama, situated simply northwest of Kyoto’s metropolis middle. Benefit from your Japan Rail Cross and journey the JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama, and comply with up your stroll round Tenryu-ji backyard with a wander amid dramatic Sagano Bamboo Grove. Duck into the personal (however expensive!) Okocho Sanso Villa for a cup of scrumptious matcha and considered one of Kyoto’s greatest panoramas, or just comply with Togetsu-kyo Bridge southward over the Hozu River and climb as much as Iwatayama Monkey Park.

(Attempt to) Spot a Geisha in Gion


I’m completely satisfied to announce that I lastly noticed a Geisha in Kyoto, although it took me half a decade. For those who don’t have the endurance to discover a Geisha “in the wild,” because it have been, you do produce other choices—although not, notably, Minamiza Theatre, which is for Kabuki performances moderately than Maiko ones. Dozens of eating places and ryokan in Gion, which is the place most of Kyoto’s Geishas may be discovered, supply dance performances, typically accompanied by a standard kaiseki type dinner.

See Cherry Blossoms or Autumn Colours


Kyoto cherry blossom season is in all probability the hottest sakura expertise in all of Japan; the similar might be stated for having fun with autumn colours in (and round) the metropolis. To place it one other approach, when you ought to anticipate supernatural magnificence when you spend spring or autumn in Japan in Kyoto, you also needs to be ready for oppressive crowds, whether or not you’re at foremost sights like Nanzen-ji, or chilling out alongside the often tranquil Kamo River. Remember that Kyoto is a spot you’ll be able to take pleasure in all yr, so when you can’t come throughout one in every of these peak durations, all is not misplaced.

Greatest Temples in Kyoto

The Golden and Silver Pavilions, Heian Shrine and Kyoto Imperial Palace


As I alluded to earlier, I often begin each Kyoto itinerary with a visit to each of those buildings—gold and silver go properly collectively rhetorically, and so do these buildings. Apparently, whereas they each date again to the similar interval (late 15th century), Kinkaku-ji needed to be rebuilt in the early 1940s as a consequence of arson.


In the event you don’t stroll to stroll the Thinker’s Path (as I really helpful above), an alternate (and underrated) route from the Silver Pavilion to Higashiyama will take you thru Kyoto Imperial Palace and Heian Shrine, the latter of which was inbuilt 1895 to commemorate Kyoto’s 1100th birthday.

Nanzen-ji and Eikan-do


Even should you don’t go to the Golden and Silver Pavilions (during which case you’ll in all probability additionally skip the Thinker’s Path), I like to recommend visiting the aforementioned Nanzen-ji and Eikan-do, which sit adjoining to at least one one other are are each amongst the greatest Kyoto shrines and temples. Word that these locations are a completely mad home throughout the autumn shade season, and each ban tripods as nicely.

Kiyomizu-dera (and Neighborhood)


In case you aren’t presently conscious that Kiyomizu temple Kyoto is the metropolis’s most well-known attraction, you’ll understand it once you’re climbing up the hill to it. You also needs to remember, nevertheless, that you need to use it as a jumping-off level for exploring Higashiyama ward. The aforementioned Yasaka Pagoda however, different worthwhile points of interest close to Kiyomizu-dera embrace Kodai-ji and Maruyama Park. I’m additionally a fan of the view you’ll be able to take pleasure in from Ryozen Gokoku Jinja Shrine.

Fushimi Inari Shrine


Probably the most well-known Kyoto shrine is no doubt the one you discover close to Inari Station named, unsurprisingly, Fushimi Inari Shrine. Nevertheless, strolling underneath its tons of of orange gates (that are arguably the most Instagrammed sight in all of Japan) are usually not the solely cause to make the southward journey from Kyoto Station. Fushimi Metropolis itself, for one, is considered one of Japan’s largest sake producers. Whether or not in Fushimi or far past, head over to Japan Begins Right here for a extra in-depth take a look at issues to do in Kyoto.

Day Journeys from Kyoto



I’m beginning with a Nara day journey from Kyoto as a result of this is in all probability the hottest choice. However I’ll additionally embrace a caveat: The town’s well-known Nara Deer Park is solely the starting of what there is to find right here. In reality, when you really feel that historic picket buildings like Todai-ji and sprawling inexperienced areas like Kasuga-taisha are an excessive amount of to discover in a morning or afternoon, you can even plan an in a single day journey to the metropolis, utilizing my new Nara itinerary.



Though it’s actually on the solution to Nara, Uji is a metropolis that not often makes it onto a Kyoto itinerary. This is a disgrace for numerous causes, as Uji is a gem that’s considerably hidden in plain sight. Though it’s principally well-known amongst the Japanese as a producer of matcha inexperienced tea, Uji is additionally house to some architectural treasures. The perfect-known of those is in all probability the orange-bridge that results in the smaller-than-you’d-expect 13-Tiered Pagoda on the Uji River, whereas Byodo-in is arguably as spectacular as any temple you’ll discover in Kyoto, however an incredible deal much less crowded.

Hikone and Nagahama Castles


In search of a barely extra obscure Kyoto day journey choice? Board a practice on the JR Biwako Line (ideally a speedy service) and head for Nagahama and/or Hikone. In every of those cities, that are each situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, you’ll discover a citadel. Hikone Citadel, whose hold is certainly one of solely 12 unique such buildings remaining all through Japan, is in all probability the most visited, and is undoubtedly the extra spectacular of the two. Even discounting the undeniable fact that Nagahama Fort was re-built simply 30 years in the past, it’s merely a smaller, much less imposing fortress by comparability.



Clearly, in the event you go to Wakayama prefecture’s Mt. Koya on a day journey from Kyoto, you gained’t be capable of take pleasure in a Koyasan temple keep. Nevertheless, as long as you’re not set on that, or climbing up the mountain (which undoubtedly requires greater than a day journey), you possibly can go to key Koyasan points of interest like Danjo Garan temple complicated and Okuno-in Cemetery in a day from Kyoto. The quickest strategy to attain Mt. Koya is to experience JR Strains to Osaka, take the subway to Namba and board the Nankai Koya Line to Koyasan station, by way of Gokurakubashi (and in addition, in some instances, Hashimoto).

How Many Days Ought to You Spend in Kyoto?

For a few years, I had a three days in Kyoto itinerary on this website, as I felt that was the common period of time I (and, thus most of my readers) would need to spend in the metropolis. Nevertheless, as time has gone on, I’ve develop into much less committal. For vacationers who love taking day journeys, every week in Kyoto (or near it) is in all probability a extra applicable period of time. In case you’re a enterprise traveler in Osaka for work, on the different hand, a day or two in Kyoto may be all you’ve, and that’s definitely doable.

Ask your self two essential questions to find out what number of days in Kyoto you must spend. Initially, how lengthy are you able to afford to spend? When you have three weeks in Japan, for instance, you’ll be able to realistically afford 5-7 days in Kyoto and the surrounding Kansai area. Secondly, how deeply do you need to discover? If you wish to see all of Kyoto’s temples and take day journeys to Nara to Hikone, you’ll need to spend as many obtainable days in Kyoto as attainable. Nevertheless, when you’re content material staying a pleasant ryokan, strolling by means of the Bamboo Grove and watching sundown from Kiyomizu-dera, as few as two days in Kyoto may suffice.

The Backside Line

Planning a Kyoto itinerary requires group and self-reflection, nevertheless it’s truly not that troublesome. As soon as you identify the place you need to keep, what you need to see, what time of yr you need to go to (autumn in Japan is superb in Kyoto!) and whether or not you need to take a day journey (or two, or three), you’ll be able to decide what number of days you need to spend in Kyoto, and start manifesting your journey into actuality. Nonetheless feeling harassed? To not fear! Let me stress the particulars—rent me to create your customized Japan itinerary, for Kyoto and in all places else you propose to go to.

informs, evokes, entertains and empowers vacationers such as you. My identify is Robert and I am comfortable you are right here!