During the time we lived in Japan, we've taken countless day trips from Kyoto. We find Kyoto to be an excellent base for those interested in travelling around the Kansai area. We particularly enjoyed waking up in the morning, heading towards the train station and enjoying breakfast in one of the many stores available to all commuters. Kyoto is a wonderful city, well preserved, with wooden houses and narrow alleyways. In my opinion, is one of the most photogenic Japanese cities. However, we do believe that enjoying 2 weeks in Japan should enable you to visit other places as well and explore as much of the country as possible. Here are the best days trips from Kyoto we absolutely loved.
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Accommodation in Kyoto
Gion is usually the preferred choice for most travellers. Ideally, if you want to take day trips from Kyoto, you should position yourself closer to the Kyoto train station for your ease. We curated our favourite accommodation to suit all budgets. Alternatively, please check where to stay in Kyoto for more options.
How to enjoy day trips from Kyoto
Travelling in Japan is pretty fantastic. The infrastructure is great, the stations are essentially massive, multi-storey malls and the trains are super speedy and mega clean. It's actually difficult to imagine a better country for transportation than Japan. But all this comes with a price tag: transportation in Japan is not cheap. However, given the number of tourists coming to enjoy the country, the governments decided to make it a little bit easier for travellers and introduced the mighty Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass can be purchased for a one-off fee, then can be used for unlimited travels around the country. You can read everything you need to know about Japan Rail Pass or alternatively, check below to get yours today.
For hiking enthusiasts, a day trip from Kyoto to Mount Hiei is an absolute must. In all honesty, Mount Hiei is very special to us, as that's where we got engaged in December 2015. To get to Mount Hiei, you need to take the shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Hieizan - Sakamoto Station. The journey is covered by the JR Pass, otherwise, it costs 320 yen for a single ticket.
The Sakamoto train station is located about 15 minutes walk away from the Sakamoto cable car. You can purchase your ticket from a vending machine. The ride takes just over 10 minutes and it costs 860 yen (single) or 1620 yen (return). We recommend going up by cable car and descending on foot. There are many amazing secret spots beyond Kyoto, and Mount Hiei is definitely one of them.
Nara is known for its impressive UNESCO heritage sites as well as the Nara park which is famed for its semi-wild deer residents. Nara is a wonderful place for those interested in some of Japan's oldest temples. There are lots of things to do in Nara, and sampling great local food is most certainly one of them. For a more off the beaten track experience, take the paths through forests which led from Todaiji Temple to the mountain, where we got to see even more temples and shrines. They are secluded and offer fantastic vistas over the city.
Getting to Yoshino was relatively easy, but it took close to two hours. It was totally worth it, especially during the cherry blossom festival. Yoshino was named the most beautiful cherry blossom viewing point, so you can totally imagine why I was so excited about taking this day trip from Kyoto. Once you get to Yoshino, remember to immediately book your return journey as the tickets can sell out really quickly.
Follow the paths up the mountain, enjoy popular Japanese food, admire the beautiful floating mountains and the carpet of suave pink. A gorgeous scenery with pastel hues which will definitely take your breath away. This small town was one of the most impressive places I've seen in Japan.
Are you a tea lover like I am? Then you can't miss the opportunity to stroll around the ancient streets of Uji. Uji is Japan's original location for tea cultivation and it became famous for its superior quality green tea since the 1100s. You can visit Uji as a day trip from Kyoto. Best to take the Shinkansen from Kyoto towards Nara. You will reach Uji in less than 30 minutes. You can read more about why Uji is paradise to a tea lover.
Himeji is a city known for its 17th century Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO heritage site and the most visited castle in Japan. Himeji Castle is also known as the White Heron Castle. It is a Japanese treasure which is known to look outstanding during the cherry blossom season.
Kyoto and Himeji are connected via the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen. The journey will take approximately 55 minutes. Please remember to arrive as early as possible during peak season as there is a limit to the number of visitors which can enter the castle, per day (15,000).
Osaka is such cool city, with so many awesome neighbourhoods and exciting places catered to tourists and authentic experiences alike. Truth be told, we spent 4 days in Osaka, but for those interested in a day trip from Kyoto, Osaka should make it on the list. Getting to Osaka is super easy, just jump on the Shinkansen which will take you straight to the Osaka Station. Don't forget to check out the Osaka castle and Dotonbori, a street dotted with street food and funky shops.
Getting to Hiroshima from Kyoto is a bit of trip but one which is worth every second. Hiroshima is so much more than its famed dome. It is home to a variety of local specialities which makes Hiroshima a great place for travellers interested in food. We recommend visiting the Hiroshima Castle as well as the Peace Memorial Park. We loved seeing Sasaki's statue and learning about her story.
Prepare for a long day from Kyoto to Miyajima. It's a long way to get to this beautiful place. Not all the trip is covered by your JR Pass either, so you need to pay for some of your trips. Once you get to Hiroshima head over to the Miyajimaguchi station by train. Take the JR train or the Hiroden tram. I suggest taking the JR train as it is quicker.
From Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi the JR train costs about 410 yen one way. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes.
From the Miyajimaguchi station follow the signs towards the ferry. You can take the JR Ferry or the Matsudai Kisen and know that the JR Ferry is actually included in your JR Pass so you can ride for free (yay). The JR Ferry departs daily from 9:10 until 16:10. Both ferries depart every 15 minutes. Once you are on the island, head towards the floating torii gate, but not before interacting with the semi-wild deer and sampling some local specialities.
Kobe, unlike most Japanese cities, is actually quite multi-cultural. I was impressed with its China Town which looked incredibly colourful and super photogenic. There are many things to do in Kobe, although most travellers visit to sample the famed Kobe beef. We are vegan, so no Kobe beef for us, but there are plenty of markets and shops which sell an array of lovely dishes suitable for all dietary requirements. For enjoying a million dollar view, you can take the ropeway from the Shin Kobe Station all the way to the Mount Rokke.
We had no idea what to expect from Nagoya as it's not a city which is advertised often. In fact, we didn't see any foreigners in Nagoya during our visit. Although much smaller than Tokyo, we found plenty of things to do in Nagoya. In fact, we mainly wanted to visit so we can try the famed red miso which is widely used in this city. The JR central towers are absolutely amazing and you can't miss them as they are the two main imposing skyscrapers which will welcome you the moment you get off your train. We recommend a visit to the Nagoya castle and the Nagoya tower. If you have time, head over to the museum quarter where you will find the art and science museums.
You know we are soft adventure lovers who love a nice hike, so Mount Kurama must be added to the list. Take the Eizan Railway from Kyoto to Kurama. Trains depart every 15 minutes or so. One way trip along the Eizan Kurama Line from Demachi-Yanagi Station to Kurama Station takes 30 minutes and costs 420 yen. Visit Kurama-dera, the Buddhist temple located in the forested mountains. The hike itself is less than an hour and you will get to enjoy a walk through ancient cedar woods. Another major attraction is the Kurama onsen, one of the best Kyoto onsen you absolutely need to try.
Are you ready to enjoy some day trips from Kyoto? Which ones will you add to your list? Please let me know in the comments section below.