Kyoto is a bustling, exciting city on the Japanese island of Honshu. It was once the capital of Japan and is famous for its countless Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, and wooden houses.
There is so much to see and do in Kyoto, but sometimes you need to get out and taste something a little different. Luckily, there are countless options. Here are the best day trips from Kyoto.
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Table of Contents
The first Kyoto side trip should be Osaka. It’s super close, it’s the second biggest city in Japan and there is great food.
And I don’t even want to list all the cool sights, like Osaka Castle or Shitennoji Temple and Shinsekai District.
Another former capital of Japan is Nara. It’s perfect for a day trip from Kyoto but you can also spend two days here and still have plenty of things to do in Nara.
The city’s most beloved residents are the cute Nara deer. They have been sacred for a few hundred years as they are seen as divine messengers. Now, they are free to roam, so they not only hang out in the forests and parks but sometimes are seen roaming the streets.
Note: don’t feed them anything other than the crackers on sale onsite. They are wild animals, so don’t accidentally poison them. Also, they can get aggressive, so don’t try to pet them. (I made a dystopian video about that!)
Nara boasts impressive and significant temples and shrines, which definitel deserve a visit. After all, they are the main attractions in town. The main ones include: Toshodai-ji, Todiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji, Shosoin and Akishinodera.
The bustling port city of Nagoya is an easy two hours away from Kyoto. This city is a technological and cultural beauty, and should not be missed when you are travelling around the region.
Nagoya was developed as a castle town of the Owari, one branch of the ruling family of the Edo Period. The majority of the city’s history was destroyed by the bombings of 1945. Today, the city is a leader in the ceramics industry which is where most of their wealth has come from and has allowed the construction of truly magnificent buildings and structures.
When visiting Nagoya, check out the Nagoya Castle, a reconstruction of the original. Learn about Noritake ceramics at the Noritake Garden.
Or spend some time wandering around Korankei to experience some of Nagoya’s famous autumn colours. Like most Japanese cities, Nagoya has no shortage of shrines and temples to keep you busy as well.
Nagoya has something for everyone. The city is also home to a Science Museum that features one of the world’s largest planetariums, a Legoland amusement park, and several art museums.
If you’re interested in cars, the Toyota Exhibition Hall will teach you anything you want to know about Toyota’s cars and their history and future.
After a long day of exploring, head up to the observation deck of the Nagoya TV Tower to get an amazing view of the busy city from 100 metres up before heading back to Kyoto for some much deserved rest.
Kinosaki is a small town that’s very remote and well off the beaten track. A perfect Kyoto day trip!
Getting here from Kyoto takes about three hours and is a bit of an adventure, but the experience is well worth it. Kinosaki sits on picture perfect coast and feels completely untouched by time.
A day trip to Kinosaki is all about relaxing. The town is best known for its hot springs, so spend the day unwinding from the craziness of the city.
Unwind at the public baths, and then wander around exploring Kinosaki’s traditional culture and 8th century architecture.
Just about everyone has heard of Hiroshima. The city is remembered as the unfortunate victim of the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945.
Today, Hiroshima is known as the peace capital of the world, and the beautiful scenery and serene vibe of the city serves as a stark contrast to its recent violent history.
When travelling around Hiroshima, you’ll find countless thought provoking attractions dedicated to promoting unity and making sure that nothing like this should ever happen again, anywhere on Earth.
Therefore, on your day trip to Hiroshima, the first place you should visit is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The park is beautiful and peaceful, and is home to many memorials and epitaphs.
The Peace Memorial Museum and the Flame of Peace are also well worth a visit, and will leave you feeling hopeful for the future.
After the destruction of the bombs, great pains were taken to rebuild some of Hiroshima’s history, and these attractions deserve their own time and shouldn’t be missed.
Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden are both reconstructed relics of Hiroshima’s historical heritage that are well worth a visit.
Hiroshima also offers a fun downtown area, which is the perfect place to grab a drink or something to eat to contemplate the day before journeying back to Kyoto. You gotta try the Hiroshima okonomiyaki!
Also, if you have the Railpass and enough time on your hands, take the ferry over to Miyajima. The island is extremely pretty, quaint and full of temples and cute deer.
Under the radar of most tourists to Kyoto, Amanohashidate is well worth a visit for all nature lovers. It’s a sandbar stretching out into the Miyazu Bay to the background of mountains. The name means “bridge to heaven”.
Plus, it’s a great place to really dive deep into the traditional Japan. Grab a bike or hiking boots while you’re here to really appreciate the scenic views from the observation decks.
You can join a local tour to Amanohashidate and take the cable car up Kasamatsu Park and then see Ine no Funaya. Lunch is included and you’ll be picked up in Namba. View more tour details here.
Wakayama is a sweet little town a few hours from Kyoto. There are a few things to see in Wakayama town, especially around the area.
The most prominent attraction is Wakayama Castle, which can be seen from below. It’s best from the park, with the bridge in the foreground in case you want to take a beautiful photo.
Since Wakayama is close to the sea as well, you can combine your day outing from Kyoto with a coastal walk or a meal overloking the shore.
Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is a beautiful town full of geishas and tea houses. The city’s main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s three best landscape gardens. The gardens are truly stunning, and should not be missed when in the area.
Besides jaw dropping gardens, Kanazawa is also home to ancient temples, a contemporary art museum and the Omicho Market, which is conveniently located right by the train station, making it the perfect place to get any last minute shopping in before heading back to Kyoto.
How to Go on Kyoto Day Trips
If you are planning a getaway from Kyoto, you can easily use your JR Railpass. If you want to save money or didn’t have time to order your railpass in advance, you can jump on a train or bus.
Check Hyperdia for train times, schedules and costs for your Kyoto Side Trips. It makes no difference in price whether you book in advance or on the day. With buses, however, you should book in advance to secure your seat. I usually book with WillerExpress.
Should you only have a little time in and around Kyoto, why not join a guided tour? This way, you don’t have to do any research and are taken to the best places by a local expert.
For instance, you can jump on a bus for a Kyoto and Nara tour for the day. The tour includes two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nara as well as a stop at the Golden Pavilion Arashiyama Bamboo Forest North of Kyoto. Reserve your spot here with a simple mobile ticket.
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