Kyoto Onsen (Why you will love a Japanese hot spring bath)

When visiting Japan’s former capital city, it’s natural to want to experience an amazing Kyoto onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring bath, which I deem to be one of the most relaxing things to do during a Kyoto itinerary. After a long day of sightseeing, nothing beats soaking in a Japanese onsen. Unlike other regions in Japan, Kyoto is not as rich in hot springs, but you can still find epic accommodation in ryokans which offer the ultimate onsen experience. Here are our favourite Kyoto onsen which we recommend.

Kyoto Onsen

Experiencing an onsen in Kyoto is an absolute must and should be added to any Kyoto itinerary. Traditions and culture are deeply rooted in Japan, and even the little thing can seem like a ritual to you. Make sure you familiarise yourself with how to best experience an onsen. The only worry about an onsen in Japan is that once you try it you won’t imagine anything nicer and more relaxing than that morning and late night soak in the warm, mineral waters of Japan.

Kyoto’s Best Onsen

My first ever onsen experience was in Nikko, Japan. I couldn’t believe it how incredibly relaxing soaking in an onsen can be, hence I became sort of addicted. Kyoto onsens are fantastic but like all Japanese hot springs, accommodation in a specific ryokan with hot springs can get a little expensive. This is because visiting onsen are considered a luxury retreat, especially when they are located in the mountains, surrounded by raw nature. You will find many Japanese who take time off and visit some of the most incredible onsen in search of that inner zen we all need.

Kurama Onsen
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

There is no denying that Kurama Onsen is the most popular onsen in Kyoto. It’s one of the most beautiful too. It is surrounded by greenery and it features a sauna as well as those hot spring baths we all love so much. The rooms are Japanese style with tatami and you can admire the Japanese garden around the ryokan. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. Indulge in the open-air bath, and allow yourself to forget about the dine of the world. Prices start from $330 per night.

Click here for prices and book Kurama Onsen

Arashiyama Benkei
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

This beautiful traditional Japanese inn provides indoor and outdoor natural hot spring baths. The rooms are fitted with tatami and all guests can enjoy their dinner in the room, whilst wearing yukata robes. The onsen is simply amazing in a wooden tub with views of the garden. The multi-course dinner is served in the guest room with a personal attendant service.

Click here for prices and book Arashiyama Benkei

Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

I love this ryokan because it actually offers Japanese style rooms, with tatami and private bathrooms. Most traditional Japanese inns were created with a shared bathroom in mind. Not Yachiyo! For a little extra, you can book a deluxe studio with a garden view and your own personal open-air bath. This has to be the ultimate luxury a Kyoto onsen can offer.

Click here for prices and book Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo

Ryokan Genhouin
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

This ryokan is located in Kyoto and features a public bath with hot spring water. Every room has air conditioning, and selected rooms have a terrace. We recommend booking the Japanese style luxury room with garden view and private bathroom.

Click here for prices and book Ryokan Genhouin

Onsen in Kyoto area

As already mentioned, Kyoto onsen are not plentiful, but you will be able to find a few more outside of the city area. There are many reasons why you should visit the mountains surrounding Japan’s former capital city. Kyoto is blessed with such beautiful nature all around it and surely nothing beats enjoying a lavishing night in a traditional ryokan with open-air air hot spring. This will make your trip worthwhile.

Biwako Ryokusuitei
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

This onsen located outside of Kyoto offers Japanese and Western style rooms. Public indoor/outdoor hot-spring baths are available for all guests, and some rooms come with a private balcony with an open-air bath. Make sure you reserve your free shuttle from the train station in advance. The air-conditioned rooms come with Japanese Yukata robes, a fridge and a seating area with low tables and cushions.

Click here for prices and book Biwako Ryokusuitei

Hiyoshi Forest Resort Yamanoie
Mid-range Hotel 8.8

Located just 28 km away from Kyoto, this incredible property offers studios and cottages with shared bathroom and open air hot springs. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. Prices start at $138 per night.

Click here for prices and book Hiyoshi Forest Resort Yamanoie

How to enjoy a Kyoto onsen

Enjoying an onsen in Japan is one of the most incredible and liberating experiences. There are, of course, some rules you need to be aware of. Don’t worry though, they are very easy to follow. So, here is what you need to do:

Before entering the onsen, you need to thoroughly wash your body. The onsen is not like a bath for cleaning purposes, but it’s used for relaxation purposes only. You will see showers just before the onsen area. Wash your whole body with soap then rinse well.

You can use a stool provided to sit down whilst you wash. Make sure you also rinse the stool and the area around you, once you finished.

If you have long hair, make sure you put it up in a bun so it doesn’t touch your body.

When entering the onsen, try to be as delicate as possible and try not to splash around.

You may use your towel to cover yourself until you enter the onsen. Don’t allow for the towel to touch the water. You can fold the towel and put it over your head whilst bathing. This means you will be entirely naked in the onsen. This is perfectly normal in Japan and have nothing to worry about. Most onsens are gender specific anyway.

Once in the bath, make sure you don’t swim. Onsen facilities are for soaking, meditating and contemplating. If your towel slips into the water, remove it immediately and wring it outside the bath, NEVER in the hot springs.

Once you are done soaking, use your towel to wipe off excess water and sweat before entering the locker room.

That’s it. You are now ready to enjoy a Kyoto onsen at your earliest convenience. What will you book? A ryokan with hot springs inside or outside of the city? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


2 responses to “Kyoto Onsen (Why you will love a Japanese hot spring bath)”

  1. Are there any onsen we can visit without having to spend the night? Preferably something accessible using the JR pass from either Kyoto or Osaka?

    1. Hi Tina,

      Kurama onsen is one of them. However, there is a hike to get there. You can take the JR from Kyoto to the bottom of the mountain but it involves a day’s hike. It is worth it though

      Enjoy Kyoto and Osaka, you will love it there.

      Kind Regards,


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