day-trips-from-kyoto

16 of the Best Day Trips from Kyoto

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Nestled in the heart of Japan’s Kansai region on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is a charming city with centuries-old traditions. Its central location makes it a great springboard for enchanting day trips to several cultural destinations.

Explore 16 of the best day trips from Kyoto with me. But before jumping in, let’s review the various modes of local transportation available to you.

How To Get Around Kyoto: Public Transportation Passes

Before we dig into all the day trips from Kyoto, it’s important to know how you can commute to and from these places.

Here are some public transportation passes you can use to get around:

Icoca & Haruka Card

This discount card can be used for traveling from Osaka’s Kansai Airport to Kyoto. A one-way ticket costs around ¥1,800 while a roundtrip ticket to and from the airport is around ¥3,600.

Kansai Thru Pass

The Kansai Thru Pass lets you go on unlimited rides on trains, subways, and buses around Kansai and its cities. You can pick from 2 and 3-day passes.

JR Pass for Whole Japan

The JR Pass offers unlimited access across JR lines, buses, airport railways, and more. You also get a complimentary digital travel guide for added convenience. 

Kintetsu Rail Pass

For unlimited rides along the Kintetsu Railway and Nara Kotsu Bus Lines, you need the Kintetsu Rail Pass. Depending on your purchase, you can access these modes of transportation for 1 day, 2 days, or 5 (or more) days.

Day Trips Within 1.5 Hours From Kyoto

For your convenience, here are day trip destinations that are at most 1.5 hours away from Kyoto:

Arashiyama

A major sightseeing district on the far west of Kyoto, this place is tucked at the foothills of the Arashiyama or “Storm” Mountains. It offers some can’t-miss attractions:

Bamboo Grove

The highlight of the area, stalks of bamboo are a sight to behold as they stretch high from the ground and provide an other-worldly experience.

Kimono Forest

Kimono Forest is a collection of cylindrical pillars displaying mesmerizing kimonos on your way to the Randen Tram Station along the Keifuku Arashiyama Line. 

Togetsukyo Bridge

This wooden bridge offers stunning views, particularly during the sakura or cherry blossom season. It crosses the Katsura River in front of Arashiyama Mountain.

Himeji

The second largest city of Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji has a lot to offer, including the Mount Shosha Temple and the Kokoen Garden.

It’s most famous for the Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle

The magnificent Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most stunning surviving feudal castle in Japan.

Kobe

Famous for producing Kobe beef, this interesting city has a lot of personalized food tours and can be reached via a 1-day bus tour. While visiting, make it a point to visit:

Meriken Park

A beautiful waterfront park in the city’s port area, it has expansive lawns and courtyards with art installations and fountains.

Harborland

The perfect place to seek entertainment and shopping, this bustling district has a large selection of cafes, restaurants, and shops. 

Nagoya

Situated in the Chubu region, this transportation hub and port is an important industrial center. It has a rich history involving the Owari lords and the Tokugawa clan. Plus, it’s a great place to enjoy a gustatory  food tour. You can also go on a UNESCO Tour to Shiragawago & Takayama while in this area.

Hommaru Palace

The palace is an artistic marvel featuring extensive use of hinoki cypress wood. You can also admire the fine art recreated by traditional craftsmen and artists.

Toyota Museum

The Toyota Museum showcases the global evolution of automobiles. It’s the perfect attraction for those who love technology and cars.

Osu Shopping Street

With over 1,200 stores and restaurants, the Osu shopping district is a haven for foodies and shopaholics. Here, you can find food, antiques, clothing, electrical appliances, and everything in between.

Nara

Well known for ancient artifacts and Buddhist structures, Nara is a cultural and historic gem with stunning pagodas and temples dating back to 710. It’s a wonderful day trip and easily accessible from Kyoto.

Nara Park

Established in 1880, this public park rests at the foothills of Mount Wakakusa. It is home to over a thousand deer that freely roam the park. 

Todaiji Temple

This temple has major cultural and historic significance. Constructed in 752, it is also known as the Great Eastern Temple. It was the head Buddhist temple of all the provincial temples in Japan.

Horyuji Temple

One of the Seven Great Temples in Ikaruga, this temple is also known as the Temple of the Flourishing Dharma. It is a monastery and seminary founded in 607. In 670, it was allegedly burnt by lighting and reconstructed around 1,300 years ago.

Osaka

The third most populous city in Japan, Osaka is known for its delicious food, fun nightlife, and tourist attractions.

Dotonbori

This lively, bustling area is the heart of Osaka. With an abundance of neon lights, restaurants, and bars, Dotonbori is a vibrant and colorful region with rich history and intriguing culture.

Osaka Castle

First constructed in 1583 and rebuilt in 1615 after being destroyed by Tokugawa troops, Osaka Castle was once the largest in Japan. Today, it blends modern technology with its ancient design and is surrounded by gates, turrets, citadels, moats, and the Nishinomaru Garden.

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is a tourist attraction anywhere you go. This particular location was recognized as one of 2022’s Top Amusement Parks & Water Parks in Asia so don’t miss it!

Uji (Matcha Town)

This small city is located between Kyoto and Nara. It is home to the oldest extant shrine in Japan, the Ujigami Shrine. Considered Japan’s tea capital, its matcha powder is regarded as the best in the entire country so be sure to grab a cup.

Byodo-in Temple

A spectacular temple built in the Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture style, this marvel was built in 998 as a retreat in the countryside for Fujiwara no Michinaga. His son turned it into a temple and had the Phoenix Hall constructed.

Ujigami-jinja Shrine

Established around 1060, this is closely linked to the Byodoin Temple and is considered its “guardian shrine.”

tea shop with matcha grinders in Uji

Lake Biwa

The largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa is located in west-central Honshu in the Shiga Prefecture.

Hikone Castle

The original Hikone Castle made it through the feudal era intact and is a national cultural treasure. It is a relatively small, three-story castle that combines different architectural styles. 

Shirahige Shrine

A hidden gem, this shrine has a torii gate similar to that of Hiroshima that stands tall in the water!

Mt. Hiei

Bordering Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture, this mountain is around 850 meters tall and is one of the three holiest places in Japan.

Yamazaki

If you appreciate fine whiskey, this is a delightful destination that you can’t miss out on. 

Suntory’s Yamazaki Distillery

This distillery is in a quiet district. It opened in 1923 and produces internationally acclaimed, award-winning whiskies. 

Yamazaki Whiskey Museum

Learn about the history of Japanese whiskey from exhibits. You can also taste some of the world’s best liquor at the shop and tasting counter at the Suntory Whiskey Museum.

Day Trips 1.5+ Hours From Kyoto

If you have more time to spare, visit:

Hiroshima

The Hiroshima Peace Museum Tour pays homage to the victims of the atomic bomb attacks. It is a somber and humbling experience.

Asuka Village

Home of Japan’s first emperor, Asuka has a rich history with several intriguing places to visit:

Asuka Dera Temple

Founded in 596 shortly after Buddhism was introduced to Japan, this temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in the country.

Ishibutai Tumulus

This rectangle-shaped tumulus dates back to the 7th century. It is a horizontal stone chamber constructed from 30 giant rocks. 

Asuka Historical Museum

Paying homage to the Kofun culture and its rich history, this museum is in the archeological Fusoki-no-Oka Park. It features tombs dating back to the 2nd and 7th centuries.

Koyasan

Located in the Koya-Ryujin Quasi-National Park, Koyasan is an auspicious destination with interesting attractions:

Kongobuji Temple

Constructed in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, this is the head monastery of the Shingon sect.

Okunoin Temple and Cemetery

With over 200,000 tombstones, this is the largest cemetery in Japan that spans over 2 kilometers.

Garan Temple Complex

This is Koyasan’s central temple complex. It is where the Buddha of healing (Yakushi Nyorai) which dates back to 1932 can be found.

Reihokan Museum

Founded in 1921, the Reihokan Museum displays sacred and valuable Buddhist exhibits such as paintings and statues.

Based on Wikipedia content that has been reviewed, edited, and republished. Original image by 663highland

Kurashiki

The second largest city in Okayama, this city is a commercial and agricultural hub that’s known as the “Venice of Japan.”

Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter

This quaint townscape is popular for its willow trees that line the banks of the Kurashiki River and the white walls of the houses in the area.

Ohara Museum of Art

The first private museum showcasing Western art in Japan, the Ohara Museum of Art features masterpieces from European masters such as Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, and El Greco.

Miyajima Island

Known as the island of shrines, this small, quaint island features a large torii gate. It’s a wonderful place where you can stroll around the thatched village.

Itsukushima-jinja Shrine

This centuries-old shrine has made the island famous. It is the chief shrine of the Aki province.

Daisho-in Temple

Daisho-in Temple is located near the foothills of Mount Misen and is one of the most significant temples in Shingon Buddhism.

Momiji-dani-koen Park

Located at the base of Mt. Misen, this maple tree park can be found along the Momijidani River and is in the heart of Miyajima Island.

Miyajima Ropeway to Mt. Misen

This ropeway provides access to the hiking trail leading to the summit of Mt. Misen and begins at Shishi-iwa Observatory.

Yoshino Mountain

The inspiration for many traditional waka poetry and folk songs and a very popular tourist destination, the Yoshino Mountain blooms with sakura, offering a divine scene for visitors.

Mikumari Shrine

Located on Yoshino Mountain, this shrine is dedicated to a Shinto kami, Mikumari, who is associated with water.

Kinosaki Onsen

Famous for its tattoo-friendly hot spring bath houses, this pleasant town lies along the banks of a willow-lined river.

Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway

The ropeway takes you to the top of Mount Daishi for an incredible view of the Kinosaki Onsen town, and you can visit the 1,300-year-old Onsenji Temple on your way up.

 Kinosaki Marine World

This aquarium lets you get up close and personal with the marine life of Japan for an unforgettable experience.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a dose of cultural history, or you want to lose yourself in the mesmerizing marvels of Japan’s natural landscapes, this list gives you tons of day trips from Kyoto to choose from. 

Japan is one of the best Asian destinations even if you’re traveling alone. With my list of recommended day trips, you can look forward to good food, gorgeous sights, and amazing insights into the local culture.

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Linda

Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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