Not to blow my own trumpet. But we have visited Kyoto twice now. So, I am in the perfect position to write this meticulously planned and researched 3 day Kyoto itinerary for those of you who wish to spend a couple of days in the cultural capital of Japan.
If your main goal is to see as many temples as possible, then you really have to include Kyoto in your two-week itinerary for Japan. In fact, Travel & Leisure named Kyoto the world’s best city for two years running.
Kyoto is not only one of the most culturally rich cities in the Land of the Rising Sun, but in the entire world. Nowhere else will you be able to experience as many ancient Japanese traditions in one place. Kyoto features 400 colourful Shinto shrines, 1600 ancient Buddhist temples, and many stunning Japanese gardens. On top of that Kyoto has a vibrant shopping district, great restaurants, a geisha district and the city is surrounded by mountains. Kyoto really has it all.
And that is perhaps exactly your problem. Where do you start and how do you decide what to see and do in Kyoto? I am here to help.
If you only have three days to spend in Kyoto and you want to see all of the city’s highlights, then this is the itinerary for you. I promise I won’t make you feel rushed off your feet, but I will ensure that you leave Kyoto feeling satisfied that you have seen all of its main sites. You will explore the main sightseeing district, head off the beaten path into the northern mountains and take a day trip to Nara.
Here is a brief overview of your 3 days in Kyoto:
- DAY 1 – Temples and Shrines of Sanju-sangen-do and Higashiyama
- DAY 2 – Day-Trip from Kyoto to Nara
- DAY 3 – Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama and the Iwatayama Monkey Park
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT KYOTO
Kyoto is the seventh largest city of Japan and has a population of 1.4 million people. It was actually the capital of Japan for other a thousand years.
If you have never been to Japan, then I am willing to bet that Kyoto is exactly what you picture when you envision the country. Photos of Kyoto can be found everywhere. It is such a photogenic and picturesque city. And that’s because it mainly remains intact since the Edo Period.
Although Kyoto has been destroyed multiple times over the centuries by fires and civil wars, the city was never bombed during the air raids of World War II. In fact, its cultural assets were deemed so valuable, that Kyoto was never marked as a possible target for the A-Bomb. This is what makes Kyoto rather unique in Japan. Most of its temple, shrines and historical structures have been preserved
ARE 3 DAYS IN KYOTO ENOUGH?
You could easily spend more than 3 days in Kyoto. In fact, you could probably spend a week there or even longer. And no matter how long you stay in Kyoto, you will never see all the gems this city has to offer.
That being said, I believe that it is possible to see all of Kyoto’s main highlights within two full days. And if you want to include a day trip to Nara, then you should spend at least three days in Kyoto.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that you spend more than five days in Kyoto if you are only visiting Japan for two weeks. Especially if you want your itinerary to be as diverse as possible.
One of Kyoto’s big strengths is its ancient architecture and many temples. But that is also it’s downfall, in my opinion. There is actually such a thing as temple fatigue. And as beautiful as Japanese temples are, they do all start to look the same if you cram your entire trip full of them.
If you do, however, have one or two extra spare days, then go right ahead and spend them in Kyoto. I have added a section at the bottom of this post on additional places you might want to visit if you are in Kyoto for four or five days.
If, on the other hand, your itinerary is jam-packed with different cities and you only have one day see Kyoto (something I do not personally recommend for your first trip), then you might want to check out this one-day itinerary for Kyoto.
HOW TO GET TO KYOTO
If you are following my itinerary for two weeks in Japan, then you will need to travel to Kyoto from Hiroshima.
To do so, head to JR Hiroshima Station. From here you need to board the Sakura bullet train to Shin-Osaka. The journey will probably last 91 minutes. Once you get to Shin-Osaka, swap trains and board the Hikari bullet train for Kyoto Station. This train ride is super-fast and only takes 15 minutes.
To get from Tokyo to Kyoto, you will want to hop onto either on the Nozomi, Hikari or Kodama Shinkansen line. The journey lasts from just over two hours to just under four hours, depending on what train you pick.
WHERE TO STAY IN KYOTO
From a practical point of view, the best place to stay in Kyoto is either as close as possible to the main attractions or the main train station of the city. This way you will reduce the amount of time that you travel between attractions and increase the length of time that you spend sightseeing.
Here are a couple of hotels that I would recommend in Kyoto:
- During our first holiday in Japan, Gary and I stayed at the Urban Hotel Kyoto, a clean modern hotel near the Fushimi Inari Shrine in a quiet residential area of Kyoto. It was relatively easy to get from here to the other sites, but with hindsight, I believe we should have stayed in a hotel a bit closer to the centre of Kyoto.
- The Kyoto Century Hotel is located right beside Kyoto station, which makes it easy to get around the city. The hotel also features comfortable beds, an impressive entrance hall, and fast wifi.
- Kyoto Hana Hotel is also centrally located and its modern room somehow remind me of the traditional tatami bedrooms in ryokans.
- Hotel Granvia Kyoto is a modern hotel with comfortable western style rooms. It also has a fitness centre and a swimming pool, for those of you who want to relax after a long day spent sightseeing.
Please consider booking your Kyoto accommodations through the included link. It costs you nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!
HOW TO GET AROUND KYOTO
Kyoto is a lot bigger than you might think. And although the temples in the Higashiyama district are easy to explore by foot, a lot of Kyoto’s major sights are spread out in different directions. You will therefore be relying quite heavily on Kyoto’s network of trains and buses, to get from one attraction to another.
TRAINS AND BUSES
If you are following my two-week itinerary then you probably have a valid JR Pass. There are several JR lines that run through Kyoto. So, most of our train trips around the city were already covered by our JR Pass. But we did get on a bus a couple of times, so getting around Kyoto wasn’t entirely free.
Note, however, that the metro system in Kyoto isn’t as extensive as the one in Tokyo. So, one way or another you will on occasion have to rely on buses to get to a particular destination.
If you are starting your two weeks in Japan in Kyoto (or are only visiting this city) then your best bet to get around the place is by buying a Kyoto Pass. There are several different types of passes to choose from (as listed below) but all of them can be bought at Kyoto Station
- The Kyoto City Bus Only Pass will give you unlimited use of all the buses running inside Kyoto city for an entire day. Note that this pass is not valid for zones outside of Kyoto city. So, you won’t be able to use it to travel to Arashiyama (Bamboo Grove) or Fushimi Inari. The pass costs 500 Yen for an adult and 250 Yen for a child.
- The Kyoto Sightseeing Bus and Subway Pass is available for one or two days. It will give you unlimited use of all buses and subways. The one day pass costs 1200 Yen for an adult and 600 Yen for a child. The two-day card costs 2000 Yen for an adult and 1000 Yen for a child.
- The Surutto Kansai Miyako Card is similar to the Suica Card in Tokyo. You can charge it with 1000 Yen, 200 Yen, 3000 Yen or 5000 Yen. Then you pay per trip until the card is empty. The card is valid on all city buses and subways, as well as the Hankyu Line, the Keihan Line, and other participating private companies.
- The Traffica Kyoto Card can be charged with 1000 yen or 3000 yen. Again, you pay per trip and the card is valid on all city subways and buses.
TAXIS IN KYOTO
It is generally best to avoid taking taxis in Kyoto. They tend to be very expensive.
That being said, there are certain occasions when it is worth splashing out on a taxi. Certain attractions, such as the Tenru-ji temple (the Golden Pavilion), are pretty remote. A taxi will get you there a lot faster than a bus.
On that note, I should probably point out, that the queues for buses can be pretty long. So, you need to factor that into your itinerary. And if you only have a set amount of time in Kyoto, then you might want to consider taking a taxi.
The fare for a regular Kyoto Taxi is usually 640 yen for the first 2km. MK taxis tend to be a little cheaper, starting at 580 yen. You don’t need to be worried about getting ripped off in Japan. The taxi driver will always turn on the meter. But it is a good idea to have your destination written down in Japanese, to avoid confusion.
OTHER WAYS TO GET AROUND KYOTO
Another great way to get around Kyoto, especially for visiting the temples in Higashiyama, is to hire an electric bike. It will speed up the amount of time you spend travelling, so is perfect for those who are tight on time.
Finally, I want to encourage you to take the time to wander aimlessly through Kyoto. The city has a lot of charming backstreets, and it is here that you will stumble across small temples, gardens and craft shops. It is quite a fun way to explore Kyoto.
A DETAILED 3 DAY KYOTO ITINERARY
Whether you follow my itinerary or your own, I would recommend that you target one specific area (east, central, south and west) per day and visit all the attractions that are clustered beside each other. This will make your sightseeing a lot more efficient and you will spend more time at the attractions themselves.
DAY 1 – VISIT THE TEMPLES AND SHRINES OF THE HIGASHIYAMA AREA
Whether you are starting your itinerary in Kyoto or have just travelled there (from Hiroshima, Tokyo or perhaps Osaka) check in to your hotel first. Refresh yourself and then head out. There is a lot to see, so trust me you are going to be pretty busy today.
Today, you are going to focus most of your sightseeing around the Higashiyama area of Kyoto. This is where most of Kyoto’s famous temples, shrines, museums, parks and zen gardens are located.
I recommend that you start your sightseeing route at Sanju-sangen-do temple, then stroll through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama and end the day in Gion. This is actually the reverse of the order described by most guides. But there is a reason behind my madness: You far more likely to encounter a Geisha in Gion the evening than at the start of the day.
- The opening hours of most temples in Higashiyama are 09:00 – 16:30/ 17:00
- You have to buy a ticket at each temple. The fee is usually around 300-500 Yen
Because we spent the first three hours of this day on a train from Hiroshima to Kyoto, we only had three-quarters of the day left to explore Higashiyama. We, therefore, decided to focus our attention on the southern part of the area.
RENGEO-IN TEMPLE IN SANSUSANGENDO
I highly recommend that you start your day by visiting the Sanju-sangen-do (三十三間堂) – also known as the Rengeo-In temple. Founded in 1164, the temple was rebuilt a century later after the original structure had been destroyed in a fire.
Built out of timber and with a 120-meter-long Hall, Rengeo-In is the longest wooden structure in Japan. The temple is also famous for its 1001 statues of the 1000-armed Kannon (a representation of the goddess of mercy).
A large wooden statue of the goddess sits in the middle of the main hall. She is flanked on each side by 500 human sized statues of Kannon set-up in rows of ten. It’s quite a sight to behold! Each statue also has 11 heads. However, each statue actually only has 42 arms. If you subtract the two regular arms, and then multiply the rest by 25 (for the planes of existence of Buddhism) you get to the figure of 1000.
Note that it is forbidden to take pictures inside of this temple, which is why sadly I can only show you the outside of the temple.
Next head up North to Kyoto’s main temple district. You will need to walk for about 25 minutes. Here you will find one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. To reach it you need to get to Kiyomizu-michi street and then follow the road up to the temple.
Kiyomizudera (清水寺) was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall. Kiyomizudera actually translates as Pure Water Temple, a reference to the waterfall beneath it.
The temple also juts out over a steep 13-meter drop! Quite a feat of architecture. No surprise then that the veranda of Kiyomizudera temple has some of the best views of Kyoto. Even more impressive perhaps is that the entire wooden structure was built without a single nail in sight.
If you have travelled to Japan with the love of your life, then you must pay your respects to the Jishu Shrine.
This small structure is dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking. Two stones, spaced at 18m from each other, have been placed in front of the shrine.
If you can successfully make it from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, then they say you will be lucky in love. It seems to have worked for Gary and me. But be warned it is more difficult than you might think, especially since the path is usually crowded with tourists.
THE OTAWA WATERFALL
The Otawa waterfall is located at the base of the Kiyomizudera Temple. The waterfall has been divided into three streams and each one represents a wish (Longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life). You can make your wish come true by catching the water with a cup attached to a long pole and drinking it. But don’t drink from all three streams. That would be considered being greedy!
THE SMALL CAVE OF TAINAI MEGURI
Before you leave, make sure to visit the small cave of Tainai Meguri. You will need to ask for directions at the ticket office. You will need to remove your shoes before you make your way down the steps into complete darkness, guided only by a beaded chain. Once you get to the bottom of the cave, you can spin a stone and make a wish.
Exit Kiyomizudera Temple and walk down the temple approach. You will spend the next hour exploring Higashiyama – a network of narrow historic lanes that snake up the side of Mount Otowa. Honestly it is like stepping back in time.
Higashiyama is one of Kyoto’s best-preserved historic districts. The area features narrow lanes, wooden buildings, and traditional merchant shops. Recent renovations to remove telephone poles and repave the streets have further improved the traditional feel of this part of Kyoto.
Higashiyama is also the perfect place to grab lunch. The streets in this area are lined with small cafes and restaurants that have catered to pilgrims (and now tourists) for centuries. You will also be lured in by numerous souvenir shops. It comes as no surprise that Kyoto has some of the best souvenirs in Japan. The products on sale range from local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles.
Turn right just before the fork in the road and head down the stairs to the somewhat quieter Sannenzaka Street. Turn right again and down a couple more steps to Ninenzaka Street and you will soon reach your next destination.
From Ryozen Kannon walk along Ishibei-Koji Street, one of the most beautiful streets in Japan, to get to Kodaiji Temple.
I must admit that we never planned to visit Kodaiji temple. In fact, we stumbled across this small temple completely by chance. But I am really glad that we did end up visiting it.
Kodaiji might not be one of the most famous temples in the Higashiyama district, but it certainly is worth the 600-yen entrance fee (currently 3£). The Temple was built in 1606 by Nene to commemorate her husband Toyotomi Hideyoshi – one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. Nene is now also enshrined at Kodaiji.
The temple has quite a domestic scale and actually looks like a traditional Japanese house with very lavishly decorated interiors. In fact, Kodaiji’s main hall was originally covered in lacquer and gold. However, it was rebuilt in a more modest style after it burned down in 1912.
The temple is set within a beautiful landscape, designed by some of the leading contemporary masters of Zen gardening. I particularly enjoyed the rock garden and its raked gravel, meant to represent the ocean. Kodaiji’s garden also features a pond, man-made hills and impressive pine and maple trees.
Don’t forget to pop your head into the Kaizando shrine. This is where Nene used to pray daily to her belated husband Hideyoshi. You could also participate in a tea ceremony in one of Kodaiji’s two gorgeous tea houses, one of which was designed by the tea master Sen no Rikyu.
Of all the places we visited in Kyoto, this was the least crowded. Perhaps that is why I felt so relaxed here and why in my personal opinion Kodaiji is one of the most beautiful temples in Japan.
Before you end your tour of Kyoto’s many temples, pop into Yasaka Shrine also known as Gion Shrine (八坂神社). Built over 1350 years ago, and located between Higashiyama and Gion, this is one of Kyoto’s most famous shrines.
The temple also has a dance stage which is lit by hundreds of lamps in the evening. Each lantern bears the name of a local business that donated money to the shrine.
HAVE A KAISEKI RYORI DINNER IN GION
And finally, end your day in Gion (祇園), Japan’s famous Geisha district. Located just off Shijo Avenue, this is an area steeped in history with a high concentration of traditional wooden Machiya Merchant Houses.
Today many of the Machiya Merchant Houses have been converted into shops, restaurants, and Ochaya (teahouses). So, this is the perfect place to grab dinner. But beware that Gion is an expensive place to eat. In fact, at 5000 yen, our dinner at was the most expensive meal we had on our whole trip through Japan. We did get our money’s worth though. And I still vividly remember delicious Kyoto style Kaiseki Ryori meal and the beautiful lady dress in a Kimono that served it to us.
Some of the most popular places to explore in Gion include Hanami-Koji Street and the Shirakawa Area which runs along the Shirakawa Canal. This is a very picturesque part of town. Willow trees line the path and most of the high-class restaurants have rooms overlooking the canal. Shirakawa also tends to be a little quieter than Hanami-Koji Street as it is somewhat off the beaten track. Another part of Gion that you might want to explore is the lively Shijo Avenue. Make sure to pop into a couple of the shops that sell local goods, such as sweets, pickles, and crafts.
CATCH A GLIMPSE OF A GEISHA
Gion is known as the birthplace of Geisha culture and many tourists come to this part of Kyoto specifically to catch a glimpse of a Geiko (Kyoto dialect for Geisha) and Maiko (Geiko apprentices).
In fact, it is entirely possible to spot a Geisha walking down the alleyways of Gion, especially after dusk. The Geisha will appear quickly and without warning sign. Well apart from the clip-clop sound of her wooden clogs hitting the cobblestones. Then as fast as she appeared, she will disappear into the dark of the night.
A Geisha’s main role is to entertain her guests by engaging in light conversation with them, serving drinks, leading a drinking game or performing traditional music and dance. Being highly trained, the services of a Maiko or a Geiko are very expensive and exclusive.
So, there are only three ways to get up close with a Geisha.
- Traditionally you would dine at an Ochaya. But for that to happen an existing customer needs to invite you. Which is very unlikely as these circles are pretty exclusive.
- Recently a few travel agencies have started offering packages that include dinner with a maiko. But these tend to be very expensive and out of the budget for most tourists. Check out Nano B post about her evening at Gion Hatanaka if you are interested in this option.
- And finally, the most affordable way is to get a ticket for the cultural show held every day at Gion Corner (at the end of Hanami-koji Street). Aimed at foreign tourists, this show is a highly concentrated introduction to several traditional Japanese arts, performed by Maikos in training. It includes a short tea ceremony, ikebana, bunraku, Kyogen comic plays and a dance. Here is an informative guide I found for you.
DAY 2 – A SIDE TRIP FROM KYOTO TO NARA
On your second day in Kyoto, I would recommend that you go on a day trip to Nara. You might question this recommendation. Wonder if your time wouldn’t be better spent visiting more sights around Kyoto. But I promise that you won’t regret traveling to Nara. This sleepy town has some of the best temples in Japan.
Founded in 710, Nara (奈良) was Japan’s very first permanent capital. As the influence and political ambitions of the city’s powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784. Today, Nara is full of historic treasures and is home to some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples.
TRAVEL FROM KYOTO TO NARA
There are various trains to get from Kyoto to Nara. But I would recomemnd that you do it the following way.
From the JR Kyoto Station board the JR Nara Line limited express train for Nara. The train ticket is included in your JR Pass and the journey takes around about 45 minutes (a little more if you don’t get on the express).
From the station make your way along Sanjo-Dori and head towards Nara Park.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN NARA
From the station make your way along Sanjo-Dori and head towards Nara Park. You will probably start to encounter Nara’s famous sacred deer on your way to the park and temples.
Most of Nara’s main attractions, temples and museums are located in Nara Park (奈良公園) which opened its doors in 1880. I recommend that you visit Horyuji Temple, Kofukuji (興福寺), Todaiji (東大寺) and Kasuga Taisha (春日大社). The latter one was actually my all-time favorite temple in Japan. Every corner of this temple is filled with lanterns which makes Kasuga Taisha incredibly photogenic.
The park is also home to over 1200 deer, that have actually been designated as a Natural Treasure and are therefore protected by law. Nara’s deer are allowed to roam freely through the town. They can even enter into the temples and you might spot one or two lying in the shade of these ancient structures.
You can feed the deer with biscuits that you buy from vendors in the park. A small pack of biscuits costs about 100 yen (currently 0.5£). Be careful though these shy and gentle creatures can become a little aggressive at the sight of these tasty treats. Other deer are politer and may bow to you, in typical Japanese fashion.
I have written a full guide for taking a day trip to Nara. You can check it out by following the link.
DAY 3 – EXPLORE THE OUTER NORTH-WESTERN EDGES OF KYOTO
If you are reading this post, then this will probably be your last day in Kyoto. It is likely that you intend to head from Kyoto to another destination in Japan, and so you will need to factor travel time into your itinerary. Most train journeys, even by Shinkansen, take a couple of hours. So, you won’t have a full day to explore Kyoto. But worry not there are a couple more highlights to see.
I suggest that you spend most of the third day exploring North Western fringes of Kyoto. There are a couple of outlying sites here, that you should tick off your bucket list. And I am willing to bet that you have seen pictures of some of them on Instagram.
LEAVE YOUR LUGGAGE IN A COIN LOCKER
You probably have to check-out of your hotel in the morning. If your hotel is located near to the train station, then I suggest you ask at reception if you can leave your luggage there for the day. Most hotels in Japan are more than happy to hold on to your luggage.
However, if your hotel is nowhere near the station, then I would recommend that you leave your luggage in a coin locker at Kyoto station. You really don’t want to lose valuable sightseeing time because you need to make a detour to pick up your luggage from the hotel.
All major train stations in Japan have coin lockers (even some of the smaller ones). And Kyoto Station is no exception. In fact, it has a very large selection of coin lockers ranging from:
- Small Coin Lockers (approx. 35cm x 43cm x 57cm) that cost 300 yen (currently 1.5£) for 24 hours
- Medium Coin Lockers (57cm x 43cm x 57cm ) that cost 400 yen (currently 2£) for 24 hours
- Large Coin Lockers (approx. 117cm x 43cm x 57cm ) that cost 500 yen (currently 3£) for 24 hours
In order to use a Coin locker you will need to:
- Find an empty one
- Put your luggage in it
- Insert the coins (100 yen coins only)
- Close the door and turn the key
- Take the key with you.
From Kyoto Station head on to Arashiyama. It will take about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station by train. Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant leafy suburb of Kyoto surrounded by lush hills, with a wide river and century old shrines.
At first glance this picturesque area of Kyoto feels very peaceful. It does attract big crowds of tourists though, especially at certain times of the day. So, I would advise that you try to get to Arashiyama as early as possible. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom season and in autumn when the leaves of the surrounding trees turn red.
Head slightly North of central Arashiyama to avoid the crowds. This part of the suburb is a lot less touristy and feels more rural.
ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVES
Your first stop in Arashiyama is the Bamboo Groves. This small park is what attracts most tourists to the area. Arashiyama’s Bamboo Grove is in fact one of the most photographed sites in the world.
No picture however can accurately describe the out-of-world-experience of standing amongst the soaring stalks of bamboo. Walking through the densely packed bamboo forest in the shadows of the morning light is eerily beautiful and incredibly serene.
That being said, that feeling of awe soon turns to annoyance, when another person steps into your photograph. So, get here early in the day. The later in the day, the busier the bamboo grove.
The bamboo in the grove is actually used by locals to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats.
You can access the Bamboo Grove directly from the main street of Arashiyama.
OKOCHI DENJIRO VILLA
Follow the path through the Bamboo grove until you reach the entrance of Okochi-Sanso Villa. Unfortunately, Gary and I lost a lot of time in the morning and so had to skip this part of the itinerary. But if you followed my advice and got to the Bamboo Grove just after dawn, then you should have plenty of time to explore this site.
Okochi-Sanso Villa is the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro. The site is a complex maze of gardens and small buildings.
Although the 1000-yen entrance fee does sound steep, it is well worth the splurge. The gardens of Okochi-Sanso Villa easily rival some of Japan’s imperial sites. Furthermore, your admission ticket includes a tea service (matcha green tea and a snack) at the end of the tour.
From Okochi-Sanso Villa turn left and proceed to the banks of the Ōi River. This part of Arashiyama is a lot less busy then the Bamboo Grove. The river bank truly feels serene. Sit down and take in the beauty of the natural landscape that surrounds. Or if you have time, stroll a little down the river. You can even go on a boat tour.
From here head towards the central part of town. The lively shopping street runs all the way down to Arashiyama train station. This is a great place to buy all sorts of knick-knacks to take home with you or as a gift for friends and family.
From here you will quickly spot one of Arashiyama’s most iconic landmarks – Togetsukyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”). Originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185), the bridge was recently reconstructed in the 1930s. Togetsukyo Bridge looks particularly attractive in combination with the forested mountainside in the background.
MONKEY PARK IWATAYAMA
From here you can either flag down a taxi to go visit the Golden Pavilion or cross the bridge to get to Arashiyama’s Monkey Park. Because Gary and I were short on time, we did the latter.
Located in the Arashiyama mountains, the entrance to the monkey park can be found just south of the Togetsukyo Bridge. After hiking up a steep hill for about 15-20 minutes, you will find an open area with over a hundred monkeys roaming freely.
The entrance to Iwatayama Monkey Park costs 550 yen. You can then buy various treats (peanuts or bananas) for 100 yen per bag to feed the monkeys.
Part of the appeal of the Monkey Park however is the incredible panoramic view that you get of Kyoto from the top of the hill.
FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE
If your hotel is located in the south, then start your sightseeing tour at Fushimi Inari Shrine. Otherwise leave this important landmark to the end. The temple is located in close proximity to the station.
The Fushimi Inari Temple (伏見稲荷大社) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. Fushimi Inari is the most important of all shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of Rice. Foxes are thought to be his messengers and several fox statues can be found around the Temple Grounds. The Shrine is particularly famous for its thousands of vermilion Torii Gates. The Torri Gates straddle a network of trails that lead into the wooded forest behind the Temple.
At very back of the Temple’s Main Grounds is the entrance to a Torii Gate covered hiking trail that will take you to the top of Mount Inari – a sacred mountain that also belongs to the Shrine Grounds. The hike to the summit of the mountain and back takes about 2-3 hours. Along the way, you will encounter a set of smaller shrines with stacks of miniature torii gates that were donated by visitors with smaller budgets.
All Torri Gates have been donated by individuals or companies and some of them are inscribed with the donator’s name and the date of donation. The cost o a Torii Gate starts around 400 000 yen (currently 2150 yen) for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate.
There are several restaurants along the trail to the summit of Mount Inari. Most of them offer local dishes such as Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udo (Fox Udon). The main ingredient of bot dishes is Aburaage (fried Tofu), said to be a favorite food of foxes.
Do not feel obliged to hike all the way up to the summit. Most visitors venture only as far as Yotsutsuji Intersection, about 30-45 minutes into the trail and roughly half way up the Mountain. Here the trail splits into a circular route to the summit and offers magnificent views across Kyoto.