This itinerary focuses on the main tourist cities of Kansai: Kyoto, Nara and Osaka and can be extended to Hiroshima and Miyajima for those with extra time. It’s great for those who have already been to Japan and visited Tokyo.
Kyoto’s Kamo-gawa River at dusk © pedrosz
- Duration: Around 7 to 10 days.
- Perfect for: Repeat visitors to Japan or anyone who wants to focus on Kansai and western Japan.
- Places visited: Kyoto, Nara and Osaka, and an optional extension to Hiroshima/Miyama.
- Arrival City/Airport: Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX).
- Best Season: Any time of year.
- Japan Rail Pass: A JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass will save you money if you’re heading out to Hiroshima/Miyajima. If you’re not going to Hiroshima/Miyajima, a Kansai Thru Pass just might save you some money, but you’d have to use it cleverly.
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The Full Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive at Kansai International Airport, travel to Kyoto
The most convenient airport for this itinerary is Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX). It takes about 90 minutes by direct express train to reach Kyoto. See our Kyoto Airport Transport page for details. Of course, you could also fly into Tokyo (Narita or Haneda airports) and take the shinkansen straight to Kyoto and do this itinerary.
Day 2: Kyoto: Southern Higashiyama
On your first full day in Kyoto, you’ll explore the temple-packed Southern Higashiyama area. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details.
Nara’s Isui-en Garden © travelingotter
Day 3: Daytrip to Nara
Nara is only 30 minutes by train from Kyoto, so it makes a great daytrip. On this day, you’ll see the Great Buddha and the rest of the sights in Nara-koen Park. For details on today’s itinerary, see our Perfect One-Day Nara Itinerary. For transport details between Kyoto and Nara, see our How to Get to Nara page.
Day 4: Kyoto: Arashiyama
On your second full day in Kyoto, travel west to the Arashiyama district, which is home to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details.
Day 5: Kyoto: Northern Kyoto
On your last day in Kyoto, consider a half-day trip up to the village of Kurama and an exploration of some of the temples in the north of the city. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details.
Day 6: Travel to Osaka, Explore Osaka
Osaka is only 12 minutes from Kyoto by shinkansen or 40 minutes by private rail line (Hankyu or Keihan lines). So, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city on this day. For some ideas of what to do, see our Osaka Two-Day Itinerary page.
Osaka’s Dotombori area © reggiepen
Day 7: Explore Osaka
With a full day in Osaka, you can cover a lot of ground. For some ideas of how to spend the day, visit our Osaka Two-Day Itinerary page. If this is your last day in Japan, you’ll travel back to Kansai International Airport and fly home today (see our Osaka Airport Transport page for details). If you’ve got three more days in country, then you will continue on to Hiroshima and Miyajima.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park © alq666
Day 8: Travel to Hiroshima, Night in Hiroshima
If you get a relatively early start today, you can see a lot of Hiroshima. Take the shinkansen from Osaka to Hiroshima. The journey takes one hour and 26 minutes and costs Y9,710. The Japan Rail Pass covers this leg. For transport details, see our How to Get to Hiroshima/Miyajima page. Option A of our Two-Day Hiroshima/Miyajima Itinerary is the perfect way to structure your visit.
Miyajima’s “Floating Torii” and a lantern © whoisthatfreakwiththecamera
Day 9: Travel to Miyajima, Explore Miyajima, Night on Miyajima
In the morning, travel from Hiroshima to Miyajima. See our Getting Around Hiroshima and Miyajima page for transport details. Do the Must-See 1-Day Miyajima Itinerary on this day.
Day 10: Return to Kansai International Airport and fly home
On this day, you’ll make the trek back from Miyajima all the way to Kansai International Airport. The ferry/local train/shinkansen/airport express train journey back to Osaka takes about 3 hours and 10 minutes with good connections. For transport details, see our How to Get to Hiroshima/Miyajima page and our Osaka Airport Transport page.
- Japan Itineraries Overview
- 1 Week Japan Itinerary: Tokyo and Kyoto
- 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa
- 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Tokyo, Kyoto and Takayama
- 2 Week Japan Itinerary: The Grand Tour
- 7 to 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Hiroshima
- Japan With Children Itinerary
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world