Nara is a very compact city that can easily be explored on foot. However, if you’d like to visit some of the sights around the city, you’ll need to take a bus, train or taxi. Here’s my guide to getting around Nara.
image © Damien Douxchamps
Central Nara (Downtown Nara, Nara-koen Area and Naramachi) is small enough to explore on foot. If you get a bit tired, you can always hop in a cab to return to the train station. However, if you want to visit the temples in Nishinokyo (Yakushi-ji Temple and Toshodai-ji Temple) or Ikaruga (Horyu-ji Temple), you’ll need to take a bus, train or taxi. Here, I’ll give you the lowdown on transport in and around Nara. For information on getting to Nara from other parts of Japan and Kansai Airport, see the How To Get To Nara page.
Nara City Bus Map
This downloadable PDF contains both a sightseeing map of Nara and a simple English bus route map. It’s produced by the Nara City Sightseeing Information Center.
Getting Around Central Nara (Downtown Nara, Naramachi and Nara-koen Area)
Central Nara, which comprises Downtown Nara, Nara-koen Area and Naramachi, is best explored on foot. Nothing is more than a kilometer or two from the main train stations, and a many of the sites aren’t even accessible by bicycle, bus or taxi (most of the sites in Nara-koen are accessible only by footpaths). If you find yourself getting tired after seeing the sights, you can catch a cab along one of the main roads to take you back to the train stations.
Getting to/from Temples in Nishinokyo
The temples in the Nishinokyo District of Nara (Yakushi-ji Temple and Toshodai-ji Temple) are best accessed by bus from central Nara. Take bus No 97 from the bus stops near Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station to the Yakushi-ji Chushajo Stop. The ride takes about 22 minutes and costs about Y340. You can also take a train on the Kintetsu Line. This will involve taking any train from Kintetsu Nara Station and switching at Yamato-Saidaiji Station to a southbound futsu (local) on the Kintetsu Kashihara Line. Get off at Nishinokyo Station. The ride from Nara costs Y200 and takes about five minutes. A taxi from central Nara to Nishinokyo will cost around Y2500 and take around 25 minutes.
Getting to/from Ikaruga (Horyu-ji Temple)
If you’d like to visit Horyu-ji Temple, located in the Ikaruga District of Nara, the best way is to take bus No 97 from the stops outside JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station all the way to the Horyuji-mae Stop. It takes about one hour and costs Y760. You can also take the JR Kansai Line from JR Nara Station to Horyuji Station (Y210, about 11 minutes) and then switch to the shuttle bus (No 72) that runs between Horyuji Station and the Horyuji Monmae stop (Y180, about eight minutes). A taxi from central Nara to Horyu-ji Temple will cost around Y6500 and take around 45 minutes.
Traveling Between Nishinokyo and Ikaruga
If you’d like to travel directly between Nishinokyo (Yakushi-ji Temple / Toshodai-ji Temple) and Ikaruga (Horyu-ji Temple), you can take the aforementioned bus No 97, which takes about 48 minutes and costs Y600 or Y560, depending upon whether you take it from Toshodai-ji or Yakushi-ji.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on our Nara Google map:
- Open the Nara map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Nara Travel Guide:
- Nara Travel Guide Overview
- Things To Do In Nara
- Places To Eat In Nara
- Nara Itineraries
- Nara Districts
- Nara Hotels
- Nara Ryokan
- Best Time To Go To Nara
- How To Get To Nara
- Getting Around Nara
- Nara Annual Festivals And Events
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings on Skyscanner
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com
- Get travel insurance for your Japan trip - book online with World Nomads