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Kyoto tours & trips.
Find the right tour for you through Kyoto. We've got 349 adventures going to Kyoto, starting from just 5 days in length, and the longest tour is 33 days. The most popular month to go is March, which has the largest number of tour departures.
250+ Kyoto tour packages with 3,082 reviews
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Japan One Life Adventures - 10 Days
"Japan 🇯🇵, June 2023: In 9 days, across 5 towns, via the bullet train, metros,..."
- In-depth Cultural
8 Days Japan Delight with Hiroshima(3 star hotels)
"The tour route was very well chosen and included many inner city Japan sites worth..."
10 Days Splendid Japan with Nagoya(3 star hotels)
"we decided to give it a shot, Although we’d never heard of Stunning Tours before,..."
"Nice affordable tour. But sometimes you’ll have to waste too much time sitting..."
- €100 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.
"Andri was an outstanding tour leader during my 13-day journey in Japan. His calm..."
- Train & Rail
Japan Express: Osaka to Tokyo
"Wonderful trip. Had a great time!"
- Active Adventure
Japan: Tokyo Nights & Kyoto Temples
"Mack is the best tour guide ever!!!! We had such a fantastic trip because of him!"
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Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
"I had an amazing time and our tour guide was amazing! So patient, organised and helpful...."
- Book With Flexibility This operator allows you to rebook your dates or tours with them for free, waiving change fees.
Highlights of Japan
"This tour was amazing , wonderful experience that left me wanting to return to this..."
- €150 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.
"Loved seeing Japan. Very busy itinerary - 55 miles walked in 8 days but really enjoyable."
Japan One Life Adventures - 14 Days
"Hands down the BEST tour we have ever taken, and I truly think this is down to our..."
Epic 13-Day Japan Budget Tour: Odyssey Across the Land of the Rising Sun
"The trip was really fun and we got to see a lot! It’s a good way to meet some fun..."
- Festival & Events
Tailor-Made Best Japan Tours with Daily Departure and Private Guide
Tailor-Made Best Japan Private Tours with Daily Departure
Kyoto trip reviews.
"This was an amazing trip taking us through the highlights of Japan! The tour was..."
"This was the best tour I have ever been. The tour guide was very friendly and very..."
"I can’t say enough good things about my tour in Japan. Once we actually went on..."
"Amazing tour. First time visiting Japan, I went by myself and although we had 3 different..."
"This was one of the best tours I've ever done. Our team leader made this trip. Jeremy..."
Tours starting from Kyoto
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- Deutsch: Kyoto Rundreisen
- Nederlands: Kyoto Rondreizen
Kyoto Transportation Guide
Kyoto Sky Bus – Sightseeing Bus Tour of Kyoto
In the autumn of 2015 the Keihan and Myojo Bus Companies introduced an open top, double decker touring service called the Kyoto Sky Bus. This Sky Bus tour of Kyoto provides an excellent introduction to Kyoto’s major sites, and is also an enjoyable way to learn a little about Kyoto’s history and culture.
There are two separate tours:
- 90 minute “Drive Around” tour with no stops
- 4 hour circuit of the city which stops at Kyoto’s two most iconic sightseeing locations: Kinkakuji Temple and Kiyomizudera Temple.
In this article we will look at the 4 hour Sky Bus tour .
The Kyoto Sky Bus
The Sky Bus tour begins outside the north central exit of Kyoto Station. You can find the sightseeing bus stand directly in front of the Isetan department store. Boarding the bus you will be given a set of earphones for your audio guide and be directed up to the top deck.
Two tickets for the Kyoto Sky Bus
All seat numbers are preassigned and printed on your ticket, so you don’t get to pick your own seat. However, all the passenger seats are on the top deck of the bus, so you can be assured of a good view. Once settled into your seat, plug your earphones into the audio guide, fasten your seat-belt and prepare to enjoy the ride!
Each passenger receives a set of earphones for the journey
To listen to the audio guide, simply pick your channel: English is on channel 2, Chinese on channel 1, and Korean on channel 4.
The guide is full of interesting information, not only about the sites you are passing, but also more general information about Kyoto’s history, geography, culture and climate. If you listen carefully, then by the time the tour has finished you’ll be quite the expert on all things Kyoto: whether it be the local dialect, Kyoto festivals, or the traditions of Kyoto’s geisha.
In addition to the audio guide for foreign visitors, there is a Japanese guide at the back of the bus
Heading north from Kyoto Station the Sky Bus heads north passing famous locations like Nishi Honganji Temple , Nijo-jo Castle and Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine before making a first stop at Kinkakuji Temple.
Flying past Seimei-jinja – a shrine dedicated to the mystical geomancer Abe no Seimei
As the bus only makes two stops throughout the tour, you may want to make a note of locations that interest you along the way, in case you want to visit them properly yourself later. The arcane pentacle at Seimei-jinja certainly excited my curiosity!
Inner city Kyoto
In terms of scenery, the initial part of the tour between Kyoto Station and Kinkakuji Temple is the least satisfactory part of the route. Though there are many sites of interest along the way, this part of the city has not been well preserved, and the rather drab urban landscape may disappoint you. Don’t be too discouraged though, because after visiting Kinkakuji Temple, the bus travels east, and crosses the Kamogawa river into Kyoto’s best preserved and most beautiful scenic areas.
After stopping at Kinkakuji Temple, the surroundings become more leafy and scenic…
…and the bus will pass through more traditional architecture
If you take the tour in early spring, you may even be rewarded by a glorious view of the cherry trees in Higashiyama!
Travelling through a tunnel of blossom in Higashiyama. Passengers are asked not to stand up or touch tree branches – but some people couldn’t resist!
At Kinkakuji, the Sky Bus will stop for 40 minutes and your guide will lead your tour group to the gates of the temple. Entry into the temple grounds is included in the price of your ticket.
The tour guide will show you the way to Kinkakuji Temple
As you get off the bus, be sure to check the time by which you need to return to the bus
Kinkakuji Temple is the site of the famous Golden Pavilion, and so it is a super popular location, and almost always crowded. However, 40 minutes should be plenty of time for you to make a circuit of the grounds and take lots of memorable pictures.
The famous Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji is one of Kyoto’s most popular locations
Following the visit to Kinkakuji Temple the Sky Bus cuts east across the city, past the Imperial Palace Park and crosses over the Kamogamo Delta at a point where two rivers meet. In terms of natural scenery the view here of the two rivers, the mountains beyond them and the sky overhead is one of the best in Kyoto.
The Kamogawa Delta
The Sky Bus then continues on to the scenic Higashiyama district , crossing over and running alongside the canal and its cherry trees and passing Heian-jingu Shrine.
Passing Heian-jingu Shrine
Approaching Heian-jingu Shrine’s colossal torii gate
Going south you will pass too many ancient shrines and temples to mention, but one stand out location is Chion-in Temple. The massive Sanmon gate is the largest gate of its kind in Japan.
Passing Chion-in’s giant Sanmon gate
The bus will then enter the Gion district , passing by the famous Yasaka-jinja Shrine, which sits at the hub of many of Kyoto’s seasonal festivals.
The double decker Sky Bus is still a novelty in Kyoto, so many people will stop and wave as you pass them by. Be sure to wave back!
The Sky Bus then runs along the Kamogawa river for a stretch before driving up into the eastern mountains and making a stop at Kiyomizudera Temple . Unlike the earlier visit to Kinkakuji Temple, entry into Kiyomizudera temple is NOT included in the price of your tour. If you want to, you can just take pictures from the outside of the temple, grab a bite to eat, explore the quaint streets of the area or do some souvenir shopping. In fact, when passengers first board the bus, they are actually given coupons for pickles and sweets which can be used at a souvenir shop close by Kiyomizudera temple.
Coupons for pickles and sweets can be redeemed at a store close by Kiyomizudera Temple. You will also receive a handy map of the area
However, entry into Kiyomizudera Temple is only 400 yen, and it is such a beautiful and extensive complex of temple buildings that it is well worth the extra expense to explore it. The spectacular sight of the “butai” or stage of Kiyomizu, and of the city beyond it is one of the must see views of Kyoto and it really would be shame to miss it.
Kiyomizu no butai
The Sky Bus stops here for about an hour before heading back to Kyoto Station, but if you want to stay longer in this area, just tell your tour guide that you won’t be returning to the bus. If you do decide to leave the tour here, then you can explore the temple and the surrounding area at your leisure. This is actually a very good jumping off point for exploring southern Higashiyama and the Gion district, before strolling back into the center of town.
The prospect from Kiyomizudera Temple. The city awaits you!
Ticket Reservations & Other Details
This article is about the current 4 hour Sky Bus tour which includes stops at Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera Temples. Tour details and its pricing are subject to change. At present there are two tours every day which depart at 10:00 and 13:00 . The tour costs 4000 yen for adults and 2100 yen for children. Discounts are also available for groups of 8 people or more.
The tour can be booked online up to 3 months in advance, but unfortunately at present the online booking system is only available in Japanese. However, you can make inquiries about reservations at this number: 075-672-2100 (open: 7:40 -20:00). If you wish to book the tour in person, you can do so at the Sightseeing Bus Reservation Center which is located directly in front of Isetan department store on the north side of Kyoto Station. Same day bookings are possible, but the tour is popular and fills up quickly, so it is a good idea to book the tour in advance.
The Sightseeing Bus Reservation Center
There are a number of other seasonal and event based Sky Bus tours. Ask for more information at the Sightseeing Bus Reservation Center. They have a number of brochures there with up to date information on both Sky Bus tours and regular bus tours.
The reservation system is a little quirky. Once you make your reservation, you will not be given your tickets directly, but will be given a slip that you can exchange for your tickets on the day of the tour. Because of this system, you will have to stand in line a second time at the ticket office just to get the tickets that you have already reserved. This might take some time, so be sure to get there well in advance. It is recommended that you get there at least 15 minutes prior to departure.
One final piece of advice is about clothing! Unless it is high summer, it will probably get very breezy at the top of the bus, so you might want to bring a jacket to keep yourself warm. If it rains, the staff on the bus will distribute raincoats, but they ask that people don’t use umbrellas as this will obstruct the view for other passengers. Passengers are also asked not to stand up when the bus is in motion and not to use selfie sticks.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.
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Kyoto City Walking Tour: Concrete, Jungles and Kyoto’s Oldest Shrine.
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If you’re looking for a relaxed-pace walking tour in the lesser-known northward districts of Kyoto city, look no further. Today’s half-day walking tour can utilise the best of the fine, fresh weather of Kyoto’s spring and autumn seasons. Starting at the lush jungles of the Botanical Gardens, you’ll next visit legendary architect Tadao Ando’s Garden of Fine Arts. Next, after admiring the clean concrete lines at this architectural labyrinth, you’ll finish your tour at Kyoto’s (joint) oldest shrine: Shimogamo Jinja. Best of all, today’s tour can start with cakes for breakfast and enormous (vegan-friendly) falafel platters for lunch!
Kyoto City walking tours: nature, culture, cake .
For those of us who require food as both sustenance and motivation: this is your tour. Fatefully, opposite the entrance to Kyoto’s Botanical Gardens is the most amazing ‘ pan-ya – san ‘ (Japanese style bakery). Perhaps you’re already aware that Japanese bakeries are an altogether different beast from the simple bread-bakers of yore. This bakery, Briant , sells everything from healthy salad sandwiches to chewy French Canelé – even breaded fish-dogs! You’ll be walking around a lot today, so load up on carbs and coffee here first.
First Stop: Kyoto City’s Botanical Gardens
Starting at Exit 3 Kitayama subway station on the Karasuma line, cross to the far side of the road to stock up on breakfast goods at Briant, following this short map. Afterwards, return to the front entrance of Kyoto’s Botanical Gardens. To the left of the entrance gate are several wall-mounted ticket machines, which operate in Japanese. The gate is also manned by garden staff, who also operate in Japanese. Luckily, they’re very willing to try their English on visitors and will offer you a great chance to practice some basic Japanese!
Entry to the main garden is ¥200 and showing your ticket to the entry staff at the Garden of Fine Arts will allow you a ¥100 entry to the latter. Entry to the greenhouse is ¥200, paid at the separate greenhouse entry. Finally, be sure to keep all of your ticket stubs in order to show them to the right people!
Welcome to the jungle!
If you want to stretch out your time at Kyoto’s Botanical Gardens, you can walk through all of the site’s winding paths and dense woodlands . However, the greenhouse is a must-visit all year round, especially on colder days when some tropical warmth would feel welcome. Conveniently, it even has baggage lockers at its doorway. Go ahead and store any winter coats you won’t be needing as you bask in Amazonian warmth.
The greenhouse itself is a winding labyrinth of verdant plant life , enchantingly overgrown and genuinely ‘wild’ feeling. Although built in 1992, the greenhouse takes its design inspiration from classic British Victorian styles. As such, expect dizzyingly high glass ceilings and vertiginous trees that stretch to the building’s upper limits. Endearingly, the entire plantation is left to grow somewhat freely, with creeping plants and enormous leaves climbing gregariously into pathways. Here, you’ll truly feel as though you’ve become lost in a jungle. Beyond the central dome, there’s also an arid cactus room, a temperate orchid forest and a small nocturnal room.
The Garden of Fine Art
When you’ve had your fill of greenery in the Botanical Garden, head towards the Garden of Fine Art. Here, you’ll swap vibrant plant life for the clean architectural lines of concrete, mixed liberally with… giant Renaissance paintings. Admittedly, the Garden of Fine Art isn’t something you’d expect to come across in Kyoto City’s residential northern district. However, the juxtaposition of flowing painted figures and minimalistic concrete marry together in a uniquely Japanese way. Created by Osaka -born master architect Tadao Ando in 1994, it serves as a means of blending Renaissance art with restrained, industrial architecture and living waterscapes.
For fans of Tadao Ando’s architectural work, the Garden of Fine Art is a must-visit site. Fascinatingly, the three separate floors of the interconnected structure facilitate the viewing of the immense painting reproductions. The centrepiece of the entire site is an almost-to-scale reproduction of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement . Naturally, at 14.3 metres tall, it requires 3 vertical floors to fully appreciate its vast scale. Of course, the Garden includes masterpieces such as Da Vinci’s The Last Supper along with Renoir’s Along The Terrace and many more.
From here, your walking tour takes you on a leisurely stroll to the incredibly beautiful Shimogamo Jinja. The most scenic and enjoyable route follows the straight line of the Kamo River, mapped here .
The oldest shrine, an ancient forest.
The best way to approach Shimogamo Shrine is along its paved ‘ san-do ‘ (formal approach path). This way, you can appreciate the historical and cultural importance of one of Kyoto’s oldest Shinto shrines. Crucually, it sits at the point where Kyoto’s principal Kamo river divides; this is also the site of ‘ Tadasu No Mori ‘ [糺ノ森]. Unsurprisingly, there’s no direct English translation of ‘ Tadasu .’ Conceptually, it relates to ‘correctness’ or ‘rightness’, so think of it as ‘ The Forest of The True Way .’ Here, you’ll be walking through the remains of Kyoto city’s only primeval forest. The forest has existed for hundreds of thousands of years and has never been managed or shaped by humans. Through its middle, a spring-fed stream of the purest water intersects the ancient trees. Every inch of Tadasu No Mori is sacred and is a highly revered ‘place of the spirits.’
Shimogamo Jinja: Forever 21!
Surprisingly, Shimogamo Jinja is actually one half of an entire shrine. Its second half is named ‘ Kamigamo ‘ and is roughly a 40 minute walk along the Kamo river along its north-western tributary. Conveniently, the shrines have been sensibly named: ‘Kamigamo’ [上賀茂] means ‘above the Kamo’ and ‘Shimogamo’ [下鴨] means ‘below the Kamo.’ Importantly, Shimogamo Jinja belongs to the ‘ Shikinen Sengu ‘ system of Shinto shrines: it is rebuilt every 21 years. As such, the central shrine you see is not the same shrine originally built in AD 678. Crucially, reconstructing shrines in the Shinto faith is an act of purification. After 21 years, a Kami (Shinto spirit) has been on one site for too long, making it impure. Thus, rebuilding a shrine is also an act of re-consecration. Additionally, a new generation of traditional craftsmen can gain hands-on experience in creating the highly unique architecture of a sacred building.
Shimogamo Jinja is a packed site! It has its own sacred stream, which is entirely spring-fed. Beyond, in the central courtyard, multiple shrines dedicated to the twelve animals of the eastern zodiac stand before the private prayer hall. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to buy zodiac-themed o-mamori before taking a peaceful walk alongside the small stream leading away from the shrine. The inner grounds are abundant in beautiful trees and a condensed selection of architectural styles unique to Shikinen Sengu shrines.
Last stop on your Kyoto City Walking Tour: food!
What a day! You’ve undoubtedly discovered so much on your Kyoto City Walking Tour and must be hungry. Naturally, we’re including some lunch recommendations. Best of all, the Demachiyanagi neighbourhood of northern Kyoto is a melting pot of amazing international food and culture. F alafel garden is just outside Shimogamo Jinja and has options for vegetarians, vegans and those on Kosher diets. The owners of the restaurant are a friendly Israeli-Japanese family who easily make the best falafels and pitta in all of Japan.
Salut-ya (pronounced ‘Saru-ya’) sells a curious mix of curries and burgers, alongside some excellent shakes, smoothies and cakes. Take a look at this area map for an idea of what Demachiyanagi has to offer.
Post by Japan Journeys .
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Kyoto City | Kyoto Travel Guide
Kyoto is an essential city on anyone’s Japan itinerary, as this is the city where you can find most cultural and historical highlights. Tokyo is great for experiencing Japan’s more modern face, but Kyoto is still the capital when it comes to history. What sights and experiences should be on your to-do list for a trip to Kyoto?
Japan’s Cultural Highlight
For more than 1200 years, from the move of the capital to Kyoto in 794 until the 20th century, a splendid, delicate and unique culture originated that is considered the mother culture of Japan. This is why Kyoto is often called “the heart of Japan”. And it is said that it would be impossible to get to know the country without visiting this wonderful city. Kyoto is home to some 1600 temples, 250 tombs, 60 gardens, 24 museums, 2 imperial villas, and some of the most photogenic places in the country.
Many of its temples were founded about a thousand years ago. They have been destroyed by earthquakes, fires, and wars, to be rebuilt again and again. Because of its historical significance , the city was spared most bombing during WW2. This makes Kyoto one of the few major Japanese cities with still plenty of traditional cityscape intact.
Ways to Enjoy Kyoto
Kyoto can be broadly subdivided into five areas. Rakuhoku (north), Rakusei (west), Rakuchu (center), Rakuto/Higashiyama (east), and Rakunan (south). There are many ways to enjoy the unique features of this historic city. We recommend spending at least 3 full days in the city and sticking with one or two areas per day. This way, you can see and do most spots without losing too much time with traveling. Of course, we are happy to assist you with creating your itinerary if you book something with us.
In Kyoto, you can enjoy many components of Japanese culture and history. Traditional architecture , Japanese gardens , Buddhist traditions, festivals , Kaiseki ryori (Japanese-style course meal), tea ceremony , arts, and crafts are just some examples. One of the best ways to tour the city is by walking or cycling. Besides seeing the highlights, trying to get off the beaten track is also recommended.
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we create perfect Japan package tours including destinations like Kyoto. Check out our group tours and private tours , or contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country. Japan is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!
Kyoto Area Map
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- 7-Day Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Tour
Begin your trip in Tokyo, a bustling metropolis teeming with modern energy, then immerse yourself in the cultural richness of Kyoto, renowned for its historic temples and traditional arts. Finally, experience the vibrant urban life in Osaka, known for its modern architecture and bustling street markets. This well-structured itinerary offers the perfect blend of tradition, history, and contemporary allure, ideal for travelers seeking a concise exploration of Japan's diverse facets, from the modernity of Tokyo to the cultural depth of Kyoto and the lively ambiance of Osaka. Book now for an immersive adventure through Japan's iconic cities.
We can customize this trip by adding anything you're interested in and scheduling days to fit your pace. We would happily organize a unique theme or activities for birthdays, young children, anniversaries, etc.
- Best For: Slow Pacers and Couples
- Departure date: Up to you
- Sample Price: From US$3150p/p, (2 per room)*
* The price is based on a private tour for 2 people.
Here are the fantastic attractions, the most must-do activities selected by Asia Highlights (AH Hand-Picked), and exclusive cultural experiences offered by Asia Highlights (Only With AH) included in this tour:
Delight in the captivating panorama of Tokyo city from the heights of the renowned Sky Tree Tower .
Learn about japanese emperors by visiting the imperial palace and the meiji shrine., dive into japan's vibrant traditions with sushi-making, a matcha tea ceremony, and ukiyo-e printing., enjoy an exciting journey aboard the famous shinkansen bullet train ..
China Highlights , Asia Highlights, and Global Highlights collaborate to provide families and couples with personalized and stress-free experiences in diverse destinations.
Suggested Itinerary for Inspiration
The itinerary serves as a mere example of a personalized tour, designed exclusively for you. Your preferences will shape the authentic journey. We are fully prepared to craft an tailor-made tour that fulfills your desires.
Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall in Tokyo. A comfortable private car with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.
Meiji Jingu Shrine: Stroll through the tranquil grounds of Meiji Jingu Shrine, an oasis of calm in the heart of bustling Tokyo. The serene forest paths and the shrine's peaceful ambiance offer an enchanting escape. Immerse yourself in Shinto traditions by making offerings, selecting charms, or inscribing wishes on ema plaques. Witness the grace of traditional wedding processions on Sunday mornings, an authentic and charming sight.
Sensoji Asakusa: Delve into Tokyo's ancient heritage by visiting Sensoji, the city's oldest temple. Marvel at the sacred Kannon statue and the temple's grandeur, enclosed by majestic gates and an iconic five-story pagoda. Traverse Nakamise Dori's vibrant stalls, where you can soak in the spiritual aura, experience the aroma of holy smoke, and seek your fortune, making it a must-visit on your Japan trip.
Anime Cafe Experience: Engage in the excitement of Japan's renowned pop culture with a visit to an anime-themed cafe in Tokyo. Whether you're a die-hard anime enthusiast or simply curious, these cafes offer a unique experience, blending trendy themes with delicious treats. It's a chance to savor a bit of Japan's creative and fun side that's hard to find elsewhere.
Harajuku's Fashion & Flavors: Explore Harajuku, a fashion mecca nestled between Shibuya and Shinjuku. Wander through Takeshita Street, where boutiques display the latest fashion trends amidst vibrant, photo-friendly treats. Witness a mosaic of styles, from gothic to colorful decora kei, and punk aesthetics. Stop by for delightful snacks like classic crepes, rainbow grilled cheese, oversized cotton candy, or indulge in Korean hattogu treats. Don't miss Cat Street's hipster cafes, vintage fashion outlets, and international brands towards Shibuya.
Tokyo Skytree: Rise above Tokyo's skyline at Tokyo Skytree, standing tall at 634 meters, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city. On clear days, the vista doesn't stretch into infinity, but it's one of the rare spots where you can catch a glimpse of majestic Mt. Fuji from Tokyo.
Sushi-Making Experience with Lunch: Delve into the fascinating world of sushi from sea to plate in this immersive experience. Embark on a guided tour of one of the world's largest seafood markets, discovering the intricacies of fish procurement, distribution, and sales. Later, under the guidance of a skilled sushi master, learn the art of creating nigiri sushi. Cap off the hands-on experience by savoring your culinary creations during a delightful lunch session.
Shibuya: Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Shibuya, the beating heart of Tokyo, exuding the essence of youth culture. Don't miss the iconic scramble crossing that has become a symbol of the city. It's a bustling area, showcasing trendy fashion, a lively atmosphere, and a dynamic pulse that captures the city's spirit.
Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto by Nozomi Train in Standard Class (Ticket Only): This ticket-only package provides access to the Nozomi Train, enabling you to travel comfortably between Tokyo and Kyoto. Please make your way to the station and utilize your ticket to board the Shinkansen bullet train, known for its efficiency and speed.Travel Duration: Approximately 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Upon arriving at the station in Kyoto, you'll be responsible for making your way to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to enjoy at your leisure.
Nijo Castle: Located in Kyoto, Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the seven Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The expansive site includes two concentric rings of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the remains of the Honmaru Palace, and exquisitely designed gardens.
Nishiki Market: Situated in downtown Kyoto, Nishiki Market spans between Teramachi and Shinmachi, offering a wide array of local eats and traditional goods for visitors to explore and enjoy.
Gion Corner (Geisha Shows): Gion Corner, dedicated to preserving traditional Japanese arts and culture, showcases various daily performances. These include Kyomai Dance, a graceful and traditional dance performed by apprentice (maiko) and professional geisha (geiko) from Kyoto; Bunraku Puppet Theater, a centuries-old puppetry art form portraying historical events and legends; Koto Harp, a 13-stringed zither that has been played for over a millennium; the Tea Ceremony, emphasizing harmony and tranquility; and Gagaku Court Music, featuring ancient Japanese court music with diverse instruments. Performances vary according to Gion Corner's schedule.
Fushimi Inari Shrine: Situated on the outskirts of Kyoto, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a sacred religious site known for its elegant layout, recognized from the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." The lane lined with red-painted torii (memorial arches) provides an excellent backdrop for photos.
Unleash the fun for your family in Osaka after the serene temple visits! Begin at Expocity, an expansive entertainment complex built on the grounds of the 1970 Universal Exposition. It's a historic site from the first-ever world fair in Asia.
Explore Expo Commemoration Park, sprawling over the former fairground. Discover its iconic Tower of the Sun monument, created by the renowned artist Taro Okamoto, within one of Kansai's most extensive green spaces.
Your adventure continues at the NIFREL museum, a creation from the minds behind Osaka Kaiyukan, the world's largest aquarium. NIFREL isn't just an aquarium, zoo, or art museum—it's an innovative experience for all your senses. Featuring over 2,000 animals of 150 different species, including rare Japanese creatures, it offers a unique and interactive environment unlike any other.
Journey to the VS Park, an exhilarating virtual reality sports arcade nearby. Tickets are included, providing you with up to 2 hours of immersive virtual adventures.
For lunch, head to central Osaka for a unique experience. Witness the incredible displays of hyper-realistic food samples outside Japan's eateries. Explore a sample laboratory where these incredibly detailed dishes are crafted from special wax. Follow the staff's guidance to create two sushi-shaped samples, which you can keep as one-of-a-kind souvenirs—one of them even becomes a keychain.
Our guide will help you transfer from your hotel to Osaka Airport for departure with independentcar/van and guide.
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9 of the best day trips from Kyoto
Sep 22, 2022 • 8 min read
From the shrines in Hiroshima to the bathhouses and ryokans of Kinosaki Onsen, here are the best day trips from Kyoto © Ruben Earth / Getty Images
Kyoto , the ancient capital of Japan , is captivating in its own right: from the sprawling Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in the western suburbs. But its location at the heart of the Kansai region makes it a great base for exploring farther afield, including nearby castles and fabled hot springs.
These are the very best day trips from Kyoto. Each one is accessible by train in under two-and-a-half hours. If you plan to make several trips within a five-day period, consider buying a Kansai Wide Area Pass . Most routes are also covered by a Japan Rail Pass.
Visit the historic sites of peaceful Nara
Travel time: 1 hour
One of the most popular day trips from Kyoto, tranquil Nara is home to some of the country’s most historical sites. This was Japan's first permanent capital, so it teems with important temples, shrines and Buddhist art. Arrive early and you can see its highlights in a single day.
Don’t miss the massive Todaiji temple and the lantern-lined Kasuga Shrine . While making your way to leafy Nara-kōen, the park famed for its free-roaming, inquisitive deer, stroll through exquisite Japanese gardens at Yoshiki-en . Nearby Isui-en has a prime example of shakkei – the Japanese concept of borrowed scenery – with Mt Wakakusa rising up as the garden’s backdrop.
How to get to Nara from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, take a 55-minute rapid train on the JR Nara line to Nara Station.
Osaka is the best place to try Japanese cuisine
Travel time: less than 30 minutes
Osaka is known in Japan as "the nation's kitchen", so arrive from Kyoto hungry. Its kuidaore motto literally means “to eat oneself bankrupt”. Chow down on okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and takoyaki (fried octopus balls) along the Dotombori River and/or try kushikatsu (fried meat and vegetable morsels on sticks) near the Tsutenkaku Tower in the kitschy, neon-lit neighborhood of Shinsekai.
Wind through the alleys of Ura-Namba to Torame Yokacho (Tiger Alley) too, where you can try myriad favorite dishes under one roof. When full, walk off your excesses in the expansive grounds of Osaka Castle or browse boutique and vintage clothing shops in the hip hoods of Amerika-Mura , Horie, and Nakazakicho.
How to get to Osaka from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, take a JR special rapid train bound for Himeji to Osaka Station. Bullet trains also run between Kyoto and Osaka.
Kōbe is a city on the edge of nature
Kōbe is one of Japan's most attractive cities. At the heart of the city are the popular retail districts of Motomachi and Sannomiya, but head uphill from Sannomiya Station and an area of tree-lined streets with merchant houses, quaint cafes, and unique shops soon unfurls.
Despite a population of 1.5 million, Kōbe offers easy access to nature. Mt Rokko, a popular hiking spot (accessible by cable car too), towers over the city’s narrow streets whilst Nunobiki Falls has been a muse for artists, poets and worshippers for centuries. If you have time, consider a side trip to Himeji-jō , Japan's most magnificent castle.
How to get to Kōbe from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, take a JR Limited Express Super Hakuto train for 50 minutes to Sannomiya Station.
Explore Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park and beyond
Travel time: under 2 hours
Hiroshima may be synonymous with the devastating atomic-bomb attack in 1945, but this leafy, laid-back city has much more to offer visitors these days than just its past. If you want to pay homage to the blast victims, go to the Peace Memorial Park and then take in the haunting Atomic Bomb Dome , one of very few buildings left standing near the epicenter. Its shell has been preserved as a memorial.
A good pick-me-up afterwards is the short trip over to the gorgeous island of Miyajima , home to Itsukushima , a bright orange shrine rising out of the ocean. This celebrated spot is considered one of the three great views of Japan (alongside the Amanohashidate sandbar and the islands of Matsushima). From here, you can wander through streets lined with machiya (old wooden townhouses) and take a cable car up to the summit of Mt Misen for breathtaking views of the Seto Inland Sea.
How to get to Hiroshima from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, take the one hour and 40 minute Shinkansen Nozomi bullet train to Hiroshima. To reach the ferry port from Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line for 25 minutes to Miyajimaguchi Station.
Maibara in Shiga Prefecture is the perfect day trip for outdoor adventure
Travel time: under 30 minutes
Just across the Higashiyama mountains, Shiga Prefecture is dominated by Japan's largest lake, Biwa-ko (Lake Biwa), the bucolic inspiration for centuries of poets. Whilst few today will dream up haikus detailing the kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and cycling that attracts most visitors, it still makes for a wonderful, adventure-fuelled day trip from Kyoto.
Take the train to Maibara Station and hire a bicycle there. Pedal south to the charming little town of Hikone and climb up to its castle, the 17th-century Hikone-jō , for spectacular views out across the lake. Or cycle north to Nagahama, which perches on the northeast coast, with highlights including the reconstructed Nagahama Castle on the waterfront.
How to get to Maibara from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, take a one-hour rapid train or 20-minute bullet train on the JR line to Maibara Station.
Kinosaki Onsen is the best relaxing day out
Travel time: 2.5 hours
If the Kyoto crowds get a little too much, Kinosaki Onsen on the Japan Sea coast is the ideal stressbuster. With seven public bathhouses and a whole host of private ones, this beautiful willow-lined canal town is awash with relaxing hot springs that are famed for their remedial properties and promises of good fortune.
With an entrance designed to look like the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Gosho-no-yu is the town's most famous bathhouse, and its most busy too. Kinosaki boasts rotemburo (outdoor baths) and single-person baths too. If here in winter, enjoy a feast of snow crab freshly caught from the Sea of Japan. Many of the ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) serve delectable kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) multi-course crab meals, which are delicious works of art.
How to get to Kinosaki Onsen from Kyoto: Take the Limited Express Kinosaki train to Kinosaki Onsen Station.
Take a traditional canal boat tour in Kurashiki
Travel time: 90 minutes
An important trading post during the Edo period (1603–1867), much of Kurashiki’s character comes from its historic black-and-white warehouses that line its willow-edged canal. Those buildings — many now converted into museums, cafes, and art workshops — make up the atmospheric Bikan quarter.
Wander the laneways lined with old wooden houses and shops first, before popping into the popular Ōhara Museum of Art , which has works by Picasso, Cézanne, and Matisse. A traditional boat tour of Kurashiki Canal is a lovely way to pass the afternoon, or else head to Ivy Square , the pretty courtyard that once housed textile factories, but now often has entertainment on.
How to get to Kurashiki from Kyoto: Ride the Shinkansen Nozomi bullet train to Okayama Station then change to the JR Sanyo line. The connection to Kurashiki Station takes around 20 minutes.
See the shrines and museums of Nagoya
Travel time: 35 minutes
Don’t listen to the naysayers who label Nagoya as “Japan’s most boring city.” Most have never even been. This manufacturing powerhouse, just over half an hour from Kyoto, is a cosmopolitan curio that flexes its muscles with some fantastic museums, seafood to just die for, and an unpretentiousness you won’t find in Tokyo and Osaka.
Day-trippers will want to visit the 1900-year-old Atsuta-jingū , one of the most sacred Shintō shrines in Japan, as well as the engrossing International Design Centre Nagoya , which weaves riotously from art deco to postmodernism, Arne Jacobsen to the Mini Cooper.
Birthplace of Toyota, there’s plenty for petrol heads to admire, including two museums that celebrate the world's largest car manufacturer. If you’re short on time, steer towards Toyota Kaikan Museum to see the latest wheels roll off the production line.
How to get to Nagoya from Kyoto: Nozomi trains take around 35 minutes to reach Nagoya.
Wander Okayama's stunning garden before hitting the "Kitchen Runway"
Travel time: 1 hour
A little under two hours from Kyoto, Okayama is often seen as a short diversion before travelers chug on down to Hiroshima, however it can make for a fantastic day trip as well. Most visitors are only here for Kōraku-en , one of Japan's prettiest gardens, but there’s enough here to spare a few hours more.
As gardens go, it’s a corker. In spring the groves of plum and cherry-blossom trees are stunning, in summer white lotuses unfurl, and in fall the maple trees are a delight for photographers. You can explore its expansive lawns, which are broken up by ponds, teahouses, and other Edo-period buildings, in around three hours.
However, what the one-sight wanderers don’t realise is that Okayama also has the best range of restaurants in the region. Those with rumbling tummies should stick around and follow the signs for the "Kitchen Runway", a clutch of modern, casual restaurants.
How to get to Okayama from Kyoto: From Kyoto Station take the Nozomi train to Okayama Station. Bus 18 from Okayama Station drops you outside the garden (Kōraku-en-mae stop) in around 10 minutes.
This article was first published July 2019 and updated September 2022
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Suggested walks and itineraries
At least two full days are needed to get a taste of Kyoto ; however, the city is extremely rich in history and culture, and you could easily spend a week exploring Japan's ancient capital and not run out of first-class attractions to visit.
Suggested full-day schedules
Eastern Kyoto Full Day
Arashiyama Full Day
Suggested half-day schedules.
Higashiyama Half Day
Philosopher's Path Half Day
Arashiyama Half Day
Northern Kyoto Half Day
Suggested side trips.
Questions? Ask in our forum .