Arashiyama: one of the most popular sightseeing areas in Kyoto, is especially famous for its cherry blossoms and autumn leaves, but it’s a nice place to visit any time of the year. It’s easy to get to from central Kyoto, but it still feels removed from the city life; you get to see a calmer, more traditional part of Japan.
You can spend the whole day in Arashiyama, but your day needs to start early, as Arashiyama is a place where the shops and restaurants close even earlier than most of Kyoto. We recommend that you start this full-day itinerary at around 8 am, but if you don’t feel like waking up that early, just drop some temples from this itinerary. The recommended starting point for this itinerary is Hankyu Railway’s Arashiyama Station, as the walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station to Monkey Park Iwatayama is quite long.
Monkey Park Iwatayama opens up early and offers a great chance to start your morning with a nice hike up the mountain. From where you buy your ticket to enter the park, it’s still a 20-minute walk up the mountain. The view of Kyoto you see from up the mountain is great and the monkeys are cute, and you can even feed them from inside the rest house.
They also have a really long slide for kids so this place is especially nice for families.
Spring and summer: 9:00 am-4:30 pm
Autumn and winter: 9:00 am-4:00 pm
This scenic bridge is something you have to cross in order to get to our next destination, but it’s not really a normal bridge: it’s made to look like the bridges of old, and even the handrails are made of real wood. On the opposite side of the bridge, you should be able to see the famous coffee stand % Arabica on the left.
Tenryu-ji Temple is the most famous spot in Arashiyama and it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This temple is so popular that it can get crowded: the best idea is to hit it as early as possible. So if the climb up to Monkey Park Iwatayama seems a bit too daunting or monkeys are not your thing, the best thing is to go to Tenryu-ji Temple as soon as it opens its doors for visitors. The temple and the huge garden really are worth a visit.
Summer: 8:30 am-5:30 pm
Winter: 8:30 am- 5:00pm
Nonomiya Shrine is a small shrine right next to Bamboo Grove. Worth a visit if you’re thinking of getting married, no matter whether you already have a partner in mind or not. This shrine is also a place where you can pray to get pregnant and smooth delivery.
The shrine itself is small but the garden is worth a look if you happen to be close by. There is no entrance fee.
This is maybe the most famous sightseeing spot in Arashiyama, and for a good reason: the bamboo here look exceptional as they reach for the skies. Bamboo Grove, also known as Bamboo Forest, is so popular that it can get a bit too crowded, so if you want to take pictures without other people in them, you again need to visit it early.
As you exit Bamboo Grove (if you entered it from the side of Tenryu-ji and Nonomiya) you’ll see a path leading up a small mountain. This leads to Okochi Sanso Villa, one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in Kyoto. The villa is usually not at all crowded, in part thanks to its 1,000 yen entrance fee (which includes a cup of matcha, a sweet, and even a postcard). It’s a quiet, sprawling garden you get to roam on your own, so you get to take your time to see it. There also get to admire tea houses and other examples of traditional Japanese architecture here.
There are many nice and rather cheap udon restaurants in Arashiyama, and lately, there are even pizza and hamburger places, but Arashiyama is still most famous for its yu-dofu – boiled tofu. There’s a nice yu-dofu place in central Arashiyama called Yudofu Sagano where you can enjoy a vegetarian-friendly meal in a great setting while looking out into the beautiful garden. If however you want something meatier, the all-you-can-eat restaurant Gyatei is a nice choice too.
Yudofu Sagano is a 12-min. walk from Okochi Sanso Villa and Gyatei an 11-min. walk. These restaurants will take you further away from Gio-ji, so if you’re in a hurry, consider buying an onigiri beforehand.
Open: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Open: 11:00 am-2:30 pm
Gio-ji Temple is a bit of a walk from Okochi Sanso Villa, but if you’re feeling like visiting temples, on the way there are a few temples famous for autumn leaves: Jojakko-ji Temple and Nison-in Temple. So you could add them to the itinerary if you’re feeling like this itinerary doesn’t contain enough temples!
Gio-ji famous for its moss garden: after a rain, the way it glistens in the rain is something very much worth a visit. This is a small temple, more of a hermitage actually, so don’t expect big buildings, its all about the garden here. In autumn you can enjoy the moss carpet of the temple turn red with the fallen leaves.
Entrance is 300 yen, but as this is a sub-temple of Daikaku-ji, you can also get a ticket for both Daikaku-ji and Gio-ji for 600 yen here (normally 800 yen).
Open: 9 am-5 pm
Daikaku-ji Temple is actually quite adventurous: this 1200-year-old place of worship even had a One Piece event where the whole temple was converted into a manga story in 2017. The temple has a big pond that is especially beautiful in autumn when it reflects the autumn leaves of the surrounding maple trees.
Daikaku-ji is a bit removed from other places of interest, so walking to it takes some time, but the temple should be worth it. Note that entrance to it is closed 30 minutes before the closing time.
Open: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
If you want something more light-hearted, this temple is for you. Otago Nenbutsu-ji Temple is probably the most fun temple in Kyoto, as its rakan statues are sure to make you laugh. You can find Elvis-lookalikes, a tennis player, and even statues enjoying sake with each other. The temple has not had an easy history, and was actually moved to its current place quite recently, and even the Rakan statues are rather new. Although the temple is quite far up in the north and quite a detour, it’s one of the most fun temples to visit in Kyoto – and only 300 yen! If you want to go to all the temples in this list, it’s better to visit Otagi Nenbutsu-ji before going to Daikaku-ji Temple. For most people, it’s probably enough if they go to one and not both – either Daikaku-ji or Otagi Nenbutsu-ji.
Open: 8:00 am-4:45 pm
A sushi place a 10-minute walk east from the Togetsu-kyo Bridge. It’s open until 10 pm, but you have to enter it by 7:30 pm. Have their saba sushi with some sake – it’s fatty and full of flavor.
Lunch: 12 noon-3 pm
Dinner: 5:30 pm-10 pm (Enter by 7:30 pm)
All in all, doing this itinerary requires quite a lot of stamina, so you might get temple fatigue if you go to all of these places. So if you want an easier itinerary, just pick and choose, just go to the temples that most intrigue you!
|Sampo[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]|