Visiting Kyoto but want a trip outside the city? Here is our list of the best towns, temples, hikes, and other attractions that can be visited in a day.
The List: Day Trips From Kyoto
Seven days in Kyoto gives plenty of time to fit in at least one day trip outside the city centre. This is our list of the best places within reasonable distance to make a day of it. See our Kyoto Itineraries for more suggestions on how to make the most of your time. We’ve also listed temples and shrines which require a half or full day to visit, and then finish off with some spectacular day hikes, as well as some shorter and longer alternatives. Click through for full details on what to expect.
One of the thatched-roof houses in Kayabuki-no-Sato – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kyoto Day Trip Destinations
About 15 kms southwest of Kyoto, and easily accessed by both the Keihan Line and the JR Line, Uji is famous for the lovely Byodo-in Temple (the temple on the back of the Y10 coin). It’s also famous as a tea growing area.
Byodoin Temple Buddhist temple
Ohara is an ancient farming village north of Kyoto, famous for its rural beauty and the historical and spiritual significance of its many temples. Michael Lambe takes us on a comprehensive tour of this area’s key sites.
The village of Ohara – image © Michael Lambe
If you’re a fan of Japanese castles, you must visit Himeji, which is only 45 minutes from Kyoto Station by bullet train. Make the most of your time with our Himeji Day Trip Itinerary.
Himeji Castle on a clear day. – image © Florentyna Leow
Nara is a spectacularly picturesque city which is second only to Kyoto for the richness and beauty of its temples, shrines and gardens. It’s possible to visit Nara as a daytrip from Kyoto and Osaka, but its gorgeous districts and parks are certainly worth a few days of your time.
Cherry blossoms at Todai-ji Temple © fortherock
Kurama and Kibune are a pair of tranquil rural villages and easy and scenic 30-minute train north of Kyoto on Eizan Line. They form the best half-day trip out of Kyoto.
Kurama dera Temple, Honden Kondo
If you want to experience traditional rural Japan and you’re willing to drive a rental car, the Kitayama Mountains north of Kyoto make the perfect day trip.
Kayabuki-no-Sato thatched roof house village in Miyama © Pang Yu Liu
Less than two hours by bullet train from Kyoto, Hiroshima is the most interesting city in Western Japan. And nearby Miyajima Island is a natural and spiritual sanctuary.
Hanami party near Hiroshima Peace Park © 16782093@N03
Kyoto Temples and Shrines Outside The City
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.
Kurama-dera Mountain Temple
Sanzen-in Temple, located in the village of Ohara (see earlier entry), is one of the most beautiful temples in the mountains outside the city.
A superb Hiean-era temple in the southeast suburb of Uji, Byodo-in a brilliant place to visit for those who want to step off the beaten track.
One of Kyoto’s least visited but most historically important shrines, Kamigamo-jinja Shrine is a great place to catch your thoughts up north.
Kyoto Day Hikes
The easy hike from Kurama to Kibune, in the hills north of Kyoto, is our favorite half-day trip out of Kyoto City. It’s the perfect combination of nature and culture.
Kurama-dera Main Hall with Cherries – image © Chris Rowthorn
The hike to the summit of 233m Mt. Inari-san and the pilgrimage circle around the shrines near the top is one of the most interesting short walks around Kyoto. It’s also the best way to see all of Fushima-Inari Taisha Shrine.
Fushimi-Inari Shrine © Damien Douxchamps
Walking the Nakasendo, an old mountain route between Kyoto and Tokyo, is a great way to sample Japan’s rural scenery. You can walk the most popular section, Magome to Tsumago, as a daytrip from Kyoto.
Magome-juku in late afternoon © James Faulkner
The hike from the hamlet of Takao down through the mountains west of Kyoto to the train station at Hozukyo is one of the best day hikes near Kyoto. It includes two superb temples, a crystal-clear river and a magical waterfall.
Lunch Spot on River – image © Chris Rowthorn
Shorter Kyoto Hikes
The one-hour roundtrip hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple up to the viewpoint on Mt. Daimonji-yama is the best short hike in Kyoto. The view of the city from here is incredible! Found out everything you need to do this hike.
The view over Kyoto from the Daimonji viewpoint – image © Chris Rowthorn
One of the best short hikes in Kyoto is the easy 2-hour hike from Chion-in Temple in Southern Higashiyama up to the Shogunzuka viewpoint. It provides some incredible views over Kyoto. Here is everything you need to do this hike.
The view over Kyoto from the Seiryuden viewpoint – image © Jeffrey Friedl
Overnight Kyoto Trips
While not really daytrip distance from the city, these two areas are well worth an overnight trip from Kyoto.
The Kumano Kodo is an ancient pilgrimage trail in the mountains of Wakayama (south of Kyoto) where you can walk with a light pack from guesthouse to guesthouse for a few days. It’s a brilliant way to experience Japan’s rural side and ancient religious traditions.
Kumano Kodo near Tsugizakura-oji – image © Courtesy of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau
The Tango-hanto Peninsula, about two hours north of Kyoto City, is a beautiful unspoiled destination with onsen (hot springs), beaches and stunning coastal scenery. It’s the perfect place to enjoy rural Japan without the crowds. Here is our full Tango guide and map.
Tango coastline – image © Hamish Pidgeon
Kyoto Hiking Guides
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto has some brilliant hiking. There are good hikes right in the city and others just a short train or bus trip away. Here are my five favorite hikes in and near Kyoto.
Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides and these mountains are latticed with hiking trails. Here, we introduce the five best hikes in or near Kyoto.
The Daimonji viewpoint – image © Chris Rowthorn
Japan is a fantastic hiking destination, with great mountains, well-maintained trails and an extensive mountain hut network. You can do everything from easy day hikes to multi-day treks.
Hiking in the Japan Alps: Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock.com
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
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)