Kyoto has so many fabulous sights that deciding what to see can be quite overwhelming! While there are many wonderful temples, you’ll quickly become ‘templed-out’ if you try to see too many of them in too short a time. Here’s a hit list of my favorite sights.
1. Gion District
A wander round the old city is a must and a great thing to do when you first arrive in Kyoto. Here you can see 17th century homes and tea houses and spot geisha (known as geiko in Gion) in their full regalia out for a stroll or, rather surprisingly, chatting on their mobile phones!
2. Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
Despite being fully restored in 1955 (the original temple was burnt down by a crazy monk in 1950!), Kinkakuji is an arresting sight and my favourite temple in Kyoto. It ticks all the boxes of the quintessential Japanese temple, is surrounded by a serene backdrop of Japanese maple and other greenery, and reflected in a mirror-like pond filled with koi.
Take a spot on Kiyomizu-dera’s vast balcony for fabulous views of the surrounding woodland and the city. Go early to avoid the crowds and wander along the many paths in the temple gardens to make the most of this delightful area.
4. Path of Philosophy
This path along the canal is most popular during cherry blossom season in April but it also makes for a peaceful stroll at any time to Kinkakuji temple and its beautiful garden. There are a number of other notable temples along the walk.
5. Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto Imperial Palace dates from the Heian Period, when the Imperial capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto. Offering an important glimpse into the country’s past, you can only visit the palace and palace grounds via guided tour, which must be arranged in advance.
Japan has so many incredible highlights. What are your favorites?