HEY THERE 😀 and Happy 2019! Wooohooooo, New Year, new blog post, who dis?
In all seriousness I’m excited to be finishing up my Japan Blog and Vlog (taking A LOT longer to edit and work on than expected) and share with you all! I try to go to Japan once a year to see my family so I’ll definitely be adding to these posts as the years go on. If you haven’t checked out my blog post on how to live the best 3 days of your life in Tokyo I don’t know where you’ve been, but it’s linked HERE!
I always believe it’s important to familiarize myself with an area before going so I can best plan routes especially when you have a limited amount of time and trust me 3 days is VERY LIMITED!
Check out the map below…you might notice that majority of the “top spots” are located on the eastern side of Kyoto so I would recommend getting your accommodations at least on the eastern half of Kyoto for ease of travel….
From Tokyo, I recommend you take the bullet train. The cost and time it takes is practicallly identical to going to the airport and both Narita and Haneda can be hectic. Also, if you fly you will land in Osaka and still need to take a train to Kyoto. Of course if you’re headed to Osaka then this may be a great option for you!
Fall is absolutely a beautiful time of year to go and explore Kyoto, you truly get to experience the changing colors of all kinds of foliage. Also, unlike California, Kyoto not only has hues of browns, oranges, and reds but you’ll also see sparkles of lavender and purples throughout the hillside.
Day 1: Arashiyama
Definitely add Arashiyama, located on the western side of Kyoto, there is a ton of cool things to check out and if you want to avoid the crowds I would recommend getting there early!
Chikuri-no-mori (Bamboo Forest)
Start the day by going to Chikurinomori or Bamboo Forest first as the park and walkway are small and narrow so once it gets packed it’s hard to actually get a good look of the Bamboo. Instead, you get a view of all thousands of other visitors walking the same path. Not fun.
Head out early and take a nice scenic walk towards the Bamboo Forest and check out all the street vendors and small shops that line the streets! I recommend going early because this area will get PACKED by 10 am!
After you’ve walked through the magical Bamboo Forest…walk back along the main street and stop for a quick snack at the many street food vendors and make your way towards Tenryuji Temple….you might be wondering which temple is which Kyoto is temple town! There’s a temple every 7 steps, so if Tenryuji is crowded as it most likely will be then stroll in to the many temples scattered throughout Kyoto.
Arashiyama Monkey Forest
A must check out fun treat is the Arashiyama Monkey Forest…WARNING! Yama in Japanese means mountain so please know that “forest” in this case involves a short hike up a hill (less than a mile)…but once you get to the top the views are great and the monkeys are even better!
Day 2: Gion
Make sure you dedicate at least an entire day to explore the eastern half of Kyoto as well…specifically the Gion and Kawaramachi area. Spend the day doing a bit more exploring and shopping around this area of Kyoto, Kawaramachi is a fun area for shopping and grabbing some eats! Street food in Kyoto has to be my favorite in Japan! They have everything from traditional Japanese snacks to more modern snacks (inspired by western culture).
Gion specifically is better known for its night life so spread your time out and go here at night there’s a couple of well worthy bars and clubs checking out. Get lost and you can find yourself stumbling into a tea house or even a hip nightclub, Kyoto has something for everyone!
Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle
I nerd out big on both history and architecture so Kyoto was an ideal vacation for me because I was able to indulge in both. Since it was the capital of Japan at one point there was a great deal of money, time, and energy in designing Kyoto. There are structures that have been around for hundreds of years, some rebuilt after devastating natural disasters, but you can see or almost watch the evolution of Japanese architecture as you travel through Kyoto.
We spent an afternoon checking out the Royal Palace in Kyoto, where the Emperor and the Royal Family once lived and governed the nation. The family still owns the property and it is still considered an official government office but it is also open to the public for tours during the day and worth checking out, if you have time. If you’re more interested in seeing a Japanese castle, very different from European style castles, then Nijo Castle is just a short distance away!
Day 3: Fushimi Inari
…when you think of Kyoto one of the first places you may be thinking of visiting is Fushimi Inari. I’m sure you’ve seen many photos of this place on either Instagram, Facebook, or some other social media site with hashtag Kyoto. The temple is an absolutely stunning place and the walkway amongst the 1000 Tori gates are quite breathtaking, a site I’ve never seen.
I recommend heading here early if you’re looking to do a photoshoot to avoid the crowds, trust me, they will come in the thousands! The grounds of Fushimi Inari are HUGE! The Tori gates are seriously a TINY section of the entire place. The trail goes all the way up to the top of the mountain at which the Tori gates sit at the base. You can follow the larger Tori gates noting companies, families, individuals who purchased them to the top of the mountain.
You can take a nice 2-hour walk through the grounds and make your way to the top, keep in mind that you are walking up uneven stairs for nearly the entire time…
Have Some Extra Time? Some Nearby Cities Worth Checking Out:
Though I did not go to either of the two cities below, I definitely recommend checking it out since you’re already so close! I mean, when is the next time you’re going to go back to Japan?
Many people do not know but Nara was actually the original capital before Kyoto for a very short period of time. Now Nara is a well known tourist town located less than an hour from Kyoto and infamously known for their high population of deer! Definitely a worthy day trip if you’ve got some extra time in the Kyoto area…
Osaka, another very worthy city. Just a short bullet train ride away from Kyoto, Osaka is definitely worth checking out and it is most definitely on my list for my next Japan trip!
Hope you found my 3 Days in Kyoto helpful and enjoyable…wrapping up the Vlog that highlights our amazing 3 days, cannot wait to share with you!
<3 Happy Travels