Suggested Kyoto Itineraries and Side Trips

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 (more details)
A full day exploration of Kyoto's eastern hills, this walking itinerary includes many of the city's most popular temples and shrines including Kiyomizudera, Ginkakuji, Yasaka Shrine, Heian Shrine and Nanzenji. The route also leads through the narrow streets of the Higashiyama District and along the Philosopher's Path.

Arashiyama Full Day (more details)
This full day itinerary includes the major sites in Arashiyama, such as Tenryuji Temple, the bamboo groves and the monkey park, in addition to the quiet streets and small temples in the quaint, rural district north of Arashiyama. Best done by rental bicycle.

Suggested half day schedules

Higashiyama Half Day (more details)
Essentially the southern half of our Eastern Kyoto Full Day itinerary, this half day plan covers the most popular temples of the Higashiyama District plus the popular Gion entertainment district. This is one our most highly recommended itineraries for first time visitors to Kyoto.

Philosopher's Path Half Day (more details)
This is basically the northern half of our Eastern Kyoto Full Day itinerary. This plan leads along the Philosopher's Path and makes stops at Ginkakuji, Nanzenji Temple and Heian Shrine along the way to Gion.

Arashiyama Half Day (more details)
A shortened version of our Arashiyama Half Day itinerary, this walking tour sticks to the main attractions around central Arashiyama including Tenryuji Temple, the bamboo groves and the monkey park.

Northern Kyoto Half Day (more details)
This is another of our recommended plans for first time visitors to Kyoto, as it covers some of the city's most iconic attractions including Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoanji with its world famous Zen garden.

Suggested side trips

Nara (more details)
Nara, less than one hour south of Kyoto, was Japan's first permanent capital and remains full of historic treasures, particularly some of the country's oldest temples. While half a day is enough to cover just Todaiji Temple and surroundings, a full day is recommended to better appreciate central Nara. Two days are needed to also cover the attractions outside of central Nara, such as Horyuji.

Himeji (more details)
Himeji Castle is Japan's best preserved and most beautiful remaining feudal castle. From Kyoto it can be reached by shinkansen in 50 minutes. The cheaper, special rapid train takes about 85 minutes for one way.

Mount Koya (more details)
Mount Koya is the center of Shingon Buddhism and one of the holiest places in Japan. It is also great for experiencing a night at a temple.

Osaka (more details)
Osaka, only 15 minutes by shinkansen from Kyoto, is the center of Western Japan, offering various attractions to travelers.

Kobe (more details)
Kobe is an attractively situated city, 30 minutes west of Kyoto by shinkansen. Devastated by a 1995 earthquake, it has recovered completely.

Kinosaki (more details)
Kinosaki is a charming hot spring town about 2.5 hours north of Kyoto along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Visitors can experience the nostalgic feel of an old fashioned hot spring town as they strolling about in the evenings dressed in yukata and geta (wooden clogs).

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Hotels around Kyoto

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Ryokan Wakamiya

Inexpensive, cozy inn with helpful staff. 7 min walk from JR Kyoto Sta. Free Internet PC. Communal baths on top floor.


Ryokan Hirashin

3min walk to Shijo Karasuma Sta. Spacious Japanese-style rooms. 140 years of history. Public baths renovated in 2006.



Conveniently located in the Kyoto town. 5min walk to Nishi Honganji. 5min by taxi from JR Kyoto Sta. Free Wi-Fi in lobby. The dining hall is renovated in 2015.


Gion Hatanaka

A traditional ryokan situated in a quiet area of Gion. Close to Yasaka Shrine and Kodaiji Temple. Maiko performs at night. Experience the quality hospitality.


Ryokan Motonago

A real traditional inn at Gion with 11 rooms, friendly staff. Walking distance of Kiyomizu-dera, Yasaka-jinja and more.


Hotel Sanoya

3 min from north exit of JR Kyoto Sta. but in quiet area. Cozy, clean Japanese rooms with bath. Internet PC in lobby.

Japan Guide Recommends:

Backpackers Hostel Ks House Kyoto

One of Kyoto's most popular hostels. A ten minute walk from Kyoto Station.

Agoda Booking

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Located inside Kyoto Station, this is Kyoto's most convenient 4-star hotel.

Agoda Booking

Hyatt Regency Kyoto Hotel

Elegant luxury hotel located near Sanjusangendo Temple.

Agoda Booking

Khaosan Kyoto Guest House

Cheap and popular hostel located in the heart of the city near Kawaramachi Station.

Agoda Booking

New Miyako Hotel Kyoto

Reasonably priced 3-star hotel located just across the street from Kyoto Station.

Agoda Booking

Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto

Modern hotel along Sanjo Street close to Pontocho and other dining options.

Agoda Booking

Tours and Experiences

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Page last updated: December 17, 2016