Kyoto is the former capital of Japan rich in history, culture and a number of world heritage sites. This city is full of colorful Shinto shrines, temples, gardens, palaces and traditional houses. Never miss it in your itinerary when visiting Japan. It’s a convenient short bullet train ride from Tokyo or Osaka. Check out my Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Kyoto.
Use the search box below to find the best day trips in Kyoto, Japan
The best way to get to Kyoto is through Shinkansen or what mostly know as the bullet train. You can buy a 7-day pass prior to your arrival in Japan from any local travel agency in your country. It is a few hours train ride from Tokyo or Osaka. Once in Kyoto, get a bus pass from Kyoto Station that is valid for 48 hours. This is the most practical way to reach the must-visit sites in the city. Stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese house which is widely available in Kyoto. (Related Article: Ultimate List of the Best Hostels in Japan)
EXTRA TIP: If you’d like to travel by train around Japan then you should get a Japan Rail Pass! Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use discounted ticket, valid for travels on all JR national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express. You can select 7, 14 or 21 consecutive validity days.
Trip highlights: Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan
Kinkaku-ji (The Temple of Golden Pavilion)
Kinkaku-ji is one of the more popular temples in Japan. This beautiful Zen temple built facing a huge pond is mostly coated in gold leaf and the view as it reflects on the waters in front is living in a postcard moment. Though the history of this place dated back hundreds of years ago, the present structure was only built from 1955 which is a replica of the original. It is visited by thousands of tourists daily so expect a crowd when you get there.
How to get there: Take bus numbers 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station to the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop. If you are coming from other parts of the city, just follow the bus route and check which numbers are stopping at the same bus stop. Ticket price is ¥400.
Popular with it’s other name, the Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji is a Zen temple surrounded by amazing traditional Japanese landscape. The best time to visit is early in the morning or just before it closes where there is less crowd to enjoy walking around. Follow the trail all the way up to the viewpoint and enjoy the amazing views of the whole compound and some parts of the city.
How to get there: 102 bus goes to and from Ginkaku-ji Temple via Kinkaku-ji Temple and Daitoku-ji Temple in a loop of the northern part of the city from east to west and back again. Ticket price ¥400.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Primary reason for many on visiting the site of Fushimi Inari Shrine is to explore its mountain trails. But if you think you’re not fit for a long hike, the place itself is a good spot to see traditional Japanese symbols and architecture. The main attraction is the thousands of Torii gates along its trails. Torii gates serves as entrance to a Shinto Shrine. Crowds are passing by from time to time and everyone is giving turns to take an awesome picture of this beautiful site.
How to get there: Fushimi Inari Shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station. Entrance is free.
Ninnaji Temple is one of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites, famous for its iconic 17th century 5-storey pagoda and late blooming cherry trees. We arrived in Japan at the last week of Sakura season and we’ve seen not too many late blooming Sakura trees since we arrived. We were delighted to see countless number of cherry trees all in full bloom at this awesome place, I couldn’t stop staring at this beauty and taking tons of pictures.
How to get there: Take bus 26 from Kyoto Station or Bus 59 from Keihan Sanjo Station, alight at Omuro Ninna-ji stop. Entrance to the temple grounds is free.
The dramatic scene in the river and the mountains on the backdrop are not to be missed. Walk along Togetsukyo bridge, the river banks and go to the main streets with a lot of shops selling souvenirs and street foods. You must have seen the picture of Arashiyama’s famous bamboo grove from several travel articles and some says it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Yes, it’s beautiful and really captivating. You can walk to the bamboo grove from the main streets of Arashiyama and visit the famous Tenryu-ji temple.
How to get there: Take a train from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station.
Arriving at Kyoto Station, buy your Kyoto Sightseeing two-day pass.
Checkin at the hotel. Travel to Kyoto Imperial Palace by train (subway). Explore the huge grounds of Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Take a train/bus to Northern Higashiyama and explore the sites and temples in this area.
From Kyoto Station take a train to JR Inari Station and visit Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Go back to Kyoto station and take a bus to visit Ginkaku-ji. Walk through Philosopher’s path all the way to the site.
Take a bus to visit Kinkaku-ji and Ninnaji respectively. On the late afternoon, take a train or bus to Arashiyama and explore the town before walking your way to the amazing Bamboo grove.
Head back to Kyoto Station by train from Arashiyama and explore the city at night before heading to your next destination via Shinkansen (bullet train).
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About the Writer
Jaypee Licudan is a Filipino Expat based in Singapore. He’s a traveller and writer for Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog and has been to over 30 countries across 4 continents. He’s major long term goal is to go back to the Philippines for a long time travel to discover the hidden gems of his home country. Follow his personal blog: The Rustic Nomad
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