A historical treasure and home to some of Japan's oldest temples, Nara is a rewarding destination located less than an hour away from Kyoto. The main attractions in Nara are the local deer, which can be fed and photographed up-close. Beyond its cultural legacy as Japan's first permanent capital, Nara is home to eight Unesco World Heritage Sites, including the Nara Palace Site as well as five Buddhist temples, a Shinto shrine and an associative cultural landscape. There are so many things to do in Nara, so let's start planning.
Table of Contents
Getting to Nara
The easiest and fastest way to get to Nara is via the Shinkansen. The ride is covered by the JR Pass. We reserved seats from Kyoto and it took us under an hour to reach Nara station.
What to do in Nara
One of Nara's most loved sites, Nara Park is centrally located and it's full of cute deer. They are quite friendly and because they are used to being fed by tourists, the deer are not shy but rather happy to eat from your hand. They are lovely creatures and they even learned how to bow when begging for food. We had a couple of them following us around for more than 20 minutes after we fed them biscuits and chestnuts.
How would you like to visit the world's oldest wooden building? Horyuhi Temple looks so wonderful, and it's still very well preserved. We were very impressed to see how well it looks like after millennia!
Nara National Museum
This is a brilliant place to learn more about Japanese Buddhist art. We arrived quite late, before closing time, so we spent just half an hour walking around. It was enough for us to realise it's not to be skipped next time you are in Nara.
This is a very imposing Buddhist temple. Just being next to it will make you feel so tiny. It features a huge Buddha statue. It has an entry fee, but being close to such majestic building makes it worth your while and money.
It's a site consisting of three gardens and not just one as the title suggests. Being a Japanese garden, it won't disappoint.
You will find great photographic opportunities here. It was once a merchant district, full of old-style houses. It looks as if it jumped out of a history book.
Nara wouldn't be a Japanese city if it wouldn't host a festival or two. Omizutori is a beloved Buddhist ceremony which involves fire and water spectacles.
If seeing the fire at the Omizutori was simply not enough for you, then you must attend the Wakakusa Yamayaki, a festival where a whole mountain is set on fire.
Off the beaten track in Nara
My favorite thing in Nara were the paths through forests which led us from Todaiji Temple to the mountain, where we got to see even more temples and shrines. It was a very peaceful walk, very secluded and totally off the beaten track.
I loved Nara and I wish I couldn't spend more than one day exploring all it's corners. Why would you like to go Nara? What would you go see first?