Japan’s ancient city of Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The city, located in the west of Japan, is home to over 4,000 historical monuments. With so many temples and shrines to enjoy, it can be overwhelming for travellers to plan a realistic itinerary that allows them to see some of the best spots in Kyoto. Here’s a list of five of the greatest spots to see during your trip to Kyoto, also allowing you plenty of time to immerse yourself in the charming streetscape.
1. Kinkakuji Temple
Not only is this one of the most famous landmarks in Kyoto, but in the whole of Japan. This landmark is also known as the Golden Pavilion due to the top two floors being completely covered in gold leaf. This temple has stood in the north of Kyoto since 1397, making it a fantastic place to visit to learn more about Japan’s fascinating history. Fans of architecture, culture and history should not miss out on visiting this legendary landmark.
2. Ryoanji Temple
The famous rock garden at the Ryoanji Temple welcomes millions of tourists each year, and has even held UNESCO World Heritage Site status since 1994. This temple and garden is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and has a rich history that is deeply tied to Japanese traditions and culture. The origins of the famous gardens are unclear, many believe that the garden symbolises a common theme of a tiger carrying cubs across islands in the sea, while others believe it represents a more abstract concept, such as infinity.
3. Fushimi Inari Shrine
This famous shrine has become known for its iconic red gates that made an appearance in the award-winning 2005 film, Memoirs of a Geisha. It has since become Kyoto’s most visited shrine. It may be one of the busiest tourist attractions in Japan, but taking a hiking tour around this site will allow you to approach the shrine from a hidden path with significantly fewer crowds.
4. Yasaka Pagoda
This is one of the most famous landmarks and also the most photographed location in Kyoto! The pagoda is located at the Hokanji Temple in the Higashiyama District of east Kyoto. This outstanding landmark is also open for visitors to go inside the pagoda up to the second floor. The pagoda is 49 metres high, making it the third highest wooden building in Kyoto after Kofukuji and Toji. The origins of the pagoda are not certain, however, it was thought to have been built in 592 by Shotoku-taishi.
5. Bamboo Grove
This iconic, much-photographed, landmark can be found in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. The Bamboo Grove runs from the Tenryuji Temple to the Okochi Sanso Garden and visiting this landmark is almost like being transported to another world. Unlike any other forest, the sprawling bamboo groves are so picturesque and unique that you won’t be able to stop yourself from pulling out your camera to capture the moment. Many travellers believe the best way to see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is on a walking tour, there are also several great hotels in the area.