Not knowing much about Kyoto, I thought that 2 days would be enough time to spend there. I had a long layover in Tokyo and I decided to instead spend the weekend in Kyoto and come back for my flight. It is really easy to get from Tokyo to Kyoto. The Shinkansen train (2nd fastest in the world) only takes one hour and 15 minutes. The first thing I noticed was how much more touristy Kyoto was. Everyone said it was the most beautiful place in the world but I wasn’t seeing it at first.
On day one I decided to do a tour so I could see Kyoto’s most famous temples as well as Nara. I didn’t want to take the train to Nara and walk to all of the sites. This took the entire day.
Nijo Castle (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
This was the home of the Tokugawa Shogun until the mid-1800s. This World Heritage-listed site, constructed in 1603, is renowned for the contrasts between its intricate interior and solemn exterior façade.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
This was the residence of the Japanese emperors until 1869, when the capital was moved to Tokyo during the Meiji Restoration.
Is the city’s most popular religious site and what is considered by many to be one of the world’s most elaborate Japanese gardens. The temple’s Golden Pavillion is stunning and is a three-story building sheathed in gold leaf and situated beside a picturesque pond.
Nara Deer Park is right next to Todai-ji and is a famous section of Nara Park with free roaming groups of deer you can feed deer cookies to. They even bow to get a treat!
Todai-ji (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Is a religious complex known for housing one of the world’s largest statues of the Buddha (Great Buddha Hall).
Kasha Shrine (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Is renowned for the more than 3,000 lanterns lining its interior.
On Day two I decided to wake up very early to hike Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine and explore the Higashiyama Ancient District. Note: This is a TON of walking for one day so if you can split it up I would.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine
is the head shrine of Inari. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span 4 kilometers and takes approximately 2 hours to walk up. Take pictures closer to the top once the crowd dies down. I would do this early as this is a very popular place.
Higashiyama Ancient District
Kyoto was once the ancient capital of Japan with a 1200 year history. The Higashiyama District is one of Kyoto’s best-preserved areas located on its eastern edge. It holds some of the city’s important and popular temples and shrines. You can spend the day walking around and feeling the zen. You can walk to the Yasaka-Jinja-Protective Shrine, Chio-IN,
Hein Shrine, Shoren-In and Nanzenji.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Is one of Kyoto’s most photographed places because standing amid these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world.
Kyoto was the most zen place I have ever been. The beauty was simply breathtaking. The one thing I didn’t love about it was that it was so touristy. The popular places were always so packed and the food was very westernized. I would highly recommend a visit to Kyoto. Make sure you are well rested as I recommend a lot of walking and early mornings.