There are over 1600 temples in Kyoto – but there are just a handful I find myself going back to again and again. Here are the 10 Kyoto temples that never cease to impress me.
Honen-in 1 © joevare
Honen-in is my favorite temple in all of Kyoto. Starting with an incredibly scenic approach that culminates in a moss-covered gate, Honen-in works its magic on the visitor right from the start.
Tofuku-ji © KimonBerlin
One of the most attractive temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji Temple also has the advantage of not being very crowded unless you come during the fall foliage season.
Kurama-dera Mountain Temple is easily the best day- or half-day trip out of Kyoto. High on the shoulder of Mt. Kurama, you can feel the power of nature up here.
Stunning at any time of year, in the New Year’s snow, with fires burning and lanterns lit, Shinyo-do temple looks like something out of Narnia.
Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto© 10110263@N03
One of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise surrounded by lush green hills.
Sanzen-in Temple and the surrounding village of Ohara make a great daytrip out of Kyoto. The temple contains a superb image of Amida Buddha and has some magical gardens.
image © Damien Douxchamps
Tiny, often overlooked, Gio-ji Temple is one of the most scenic spots in Arashiyama. The thatched-roof main hall overlooking a moss-covered grotto is a magical sight.
Shoren-in Temple© KimonBerlin
One of my all-time favorite temples in Kyoto, Shoren-in is bypassed by almost all tourists and bus groups.
image © Damien Douxchamps
Tenryu-ji Temple is the headline attraction in Arashiyama, a sprawling Zen temple with one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and wonderful mountain views.
Chion-in main gate© mshades
10. Chion-in Temple
Sometimes called the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism, this vast temple is one of the most and popular temples in the city. It’s highly recommended.
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
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)