Kyoto is full of fun things to do, with a strong cultural heritage to explore and shrines galore! But if you’re spending more than a few days in Kyoto you should get out and see what else the area has to offer with these great day trips from Kyoto.
Between Japan’s bustling cities lie charming villages, ancient monasteries, gardens and rice paddies! We’ve put together the very best of where to go. Now you’ll know just how to make the most of your time! See what you like, and get planning.
Distance from Kyoto to Osaka
Just a handy thing to know – Kyoto and Osaka are two of Japan’s main cities on opposite bays. All of the good stuff can be found between and around them. Have a look at our post on Osaka day trips! The trip between them is just over an hour by car or train, and trains go every few minutes. So you’re sure to get around easily.
The best Kyoto day trips
This list includes day trips for nature lovers, shrine-seekers and city slickers! Get out and explore. There’s so much to see!
Stroll through the Sagano Bamboo Forest
This serene forest is so unlike any other destination, we had to include it in our list of Kyoto trips! Walk through the forest pathways and wonder at the tall, creaking bamboo stretching far above you.
It’s best to visit early, as the forest is a popular tourist destination. If you want to hear one of Japan’s official soundscapes (yes, the sound of this forest is a governmentally-recognized sound!), it’s best to avoid the crowds. The wind passing through the forest is incredibly calming and beautiful. You won’t want to miss it!
Go temple hopping in Kizugawa
There are temples dotting the Japanese landscape wherever you go. But Kizugawa has some of the best and most prolific temples and shrines in the country! This makes it one of the best day trips from Kyoto.
Be sure to include the tranquil Joruri Temple on your tour of the town. And if you’re keen for a bit of a hike, don’t miss Kaijyusenji Temple! It’s a bit out of town, but this just adds to the tranquility. It’s just 45 minutes away from Kyoto by car! The trip is quick and very worthwhile.
Kizugawa also has fantastic bakeries and restaurants, so grab something yummy while you’re strolling between temples!
Marvel at Hiroshima’s painful past and peaceful present
Known as the ‘peace capital’ of the world, Hiroshima is a really worthwhile Kyoto day trip. Be sure to include a visit to the Hiroshima Memorial Park, which commemorates the devastation of the WW2 nuclear attack. It’s a beautiful and moving stop. The park includes the Children’s Peace Monument, and the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that were left standing near ground zero.
There’s lots else to see in the modern city, and a whole day to see it! Visit the gorgeously green and historic Shukkei-en garden, where a whole landscape is depicted in miniature. It’s really cute, and a unique experience.
Also be sure to see the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Museum of Art! Everything is located conveniently close together, so this will be easy.
Enjoy the illusion at Miyajima – Shrine Island
The ancient shrine is world renowned for its iconic ‘floating’ torii gate. It’s the only one of its kind, and looks as if it’s floating at high tide! At low tide, you can walk out and see the gate up close.
Miyajima has lots of lovely little restaurants serving fantastic food, so you can comfortably spend the day there looking around the sites and snapping photos! The island also has some great hiking spots, with incredible views over the whole island. Miyajima’s highest peak, Mount Misen, was worshiped by local people as recently as the 6th century. Pay it a visit and see why. It’s quite a sight!
While you’re here, we suggest you stay till evening. See the shrine at dusk, and catch a dinner cruise back to the mainland!
Visit Nara – one of the coolest cities near Kyoto
Japan’s first permanent capital, ancient Nara is a worthwhile visit. And it’s so close to Kyoto! The area around Todai-ji is full of museums, monuments, and temples. And they’re all worth seeing.
There’s lots to do in this ancient city. The most important site is Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most popular and beautiful shrine. These vibrant temple grounds have hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns lining the buildings. These have all been dedicated by worshipers! Moss-covered and old, it’s amazing to see them and think back on the lives that have interacted with this place.
Walk in awe through the Fushimi Inari Shrine
This day trip from Kyoto is vital! The hilltop shrine is one of Japan’s best tourist destinations and an absolute must if you’re in the area. There’s a lot of stairs, but you can take it slow. And it’s beautiful the whole way up. You can even write down your wish and hang it at the shrine wall! Best you wish for sake – the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity.
The further you walk the fewer tourists there are, so go as far as you can! There are thousands of orange torii gates, which straddle the network of trails behind the shrine’s main buildings. These gates are iconic, dominating the Fushimi landscape. The experience is quite otherworldly!
Make a trip to Enryakuji, an ancient monastery of warrior monks
This Tendai Monastery is a lovely, spiritual place on the mountains close to Kyoto. It is a collection of temples in three sites on the mountaintop. Pleasant trails through the forest link the temples. There are loads of things to see at a leisurely pace. Read up on the history of the warrior monks who once lived there! The place has an exciting history, despite its tranquility.
Once a great place of learning and power, the monastery was systematically destroyed in the 16th century after becoming a military stronghold. But there’s still lots to see in the once immense monastery. And the temples are atop a mountain in the forest overlooking a lake!
Japan has so much to offer! If you decide there’s still too much to see for you to go home just yet, check out Hokkaido! This is in Japan’s far North, and it’s one of my favorite places ever.