From the stunning cherry blossoms in Nara to the amazing food scene in Kobe and Osaka, these are the best day trips from Kyoto!
There’s no doubt about it, Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. In fact, it’s pretty much on most people’s itinerary when travelling around the country.
If you’re thinking about visiting Japan, basing yourself in the historic centre of Kyoto is a great idea. From here you can easily visit some of Japan’s most beloved attractions nearby before retreating to the city each evening.
Some of the best day trips from Kyoto involve travelling to nearby cities and towns to experience classic Japanese culture and history, and even exploring the stunning landscape during the famous cherry blossom season.
Personally, I love checking out experiences where I can get in touch with local food culture, so having Kyoto tours that go to foodie hotspots like Kobe and Osaka is a huge plus for me!
Whether you want to check out the historic Ishiyama-dera Temple, relax in the onsen heartland of Kinosaki, or travel further afield to the stunning Miyajima Island, these Kyoto day trips are sure to tick all your Japan travel bucket list boxes!
The vast majority of these destinations are accessible from Kyoto station using a Japan Rail Pass, so you don’t even need to hire a car for a lot of these trips. Personally, I would always recommend by taking advantage of the Japan Rail Pass. It’s by far the easiest way of travelling around Japan in my opinion, especially on a holiday.
But where are you going? We’re about to find out now!
Best day trips from Kyoto, Japan
Nara is famous for a few things. You’ve probably seen photos and videos of wild deer bowing to tourists, and this is a major draw for Nara. There’s also the amazing Todai-ji temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Want to get one of the best views of the cherry blossoms? Hike up Mount Yoshino in the Nara prefecture and experience sweeping panoramic views. If you’re short on time, I’d recommend taking a tour of Nara. Then you get to see everything with a guide.
The ancient capital of Nara is probably the most popular Kyoto day trip due to its super close proximity. While you can get a fast private train from Kyoto to Nara in just 35 minutes, if you want to use your Japan Rail Pass you’ll need to jump on the JR Kyoto Nara line which can take between 45 and 75 minutes depending on the route.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Even though it’s a tough visit, I’d really recommend visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Following the horrific impacts of the Atomic Bomb during WWII, people come from all around the world to this site and to the museum to learn more about the people who lived here and the long-lasting ramifications.
As I said, it’s a tough visit but you get so much from the day here. One of the best ways of seeing the Peace Memorial is on a walking tour. Then you get to learn all about the history of the place from your local guide.
On the Nozomi Shinkansen, you can get to Hiroshima from Kyoto in one hour and 37 minutes. Alternatively, you can also use your JR Pass on the Hikari Shinkansen which gets to Hiroshima directly in one hour and 45 minutes. There are other options where you can change trains that take around two hours.
Commonly referred to as the best onsen town in Japan, a day trip to Kinosaki Onsen is a must for anyone spending time in Kyoto. Relax in some of the best hot springs, enjoy the amazing architecture all around you, and let nature do its thing. With seven onsens and plenty of ryokans (traditional Japanese houses to stay at), you can have your pick of the bunch.
To get to Kinosaki, you’ll need to take a two-and-a-half-hour train from Kyoto all the way to the Japan Sea Coast. It’s one of the furthest day trips from Kyoto on this list, but it’s absolutely worth the early start to spend the day in this historic spa town!
Looking for a day trip out to the seaside? Head to the fishing villages that make up the beautiful Kyotango area. Head up to the Bridge to Heaven, check out the panoramic vistas, and make sure you treat yourself to some of the freshest seafood in Japan. It’s seriously good here.
To get to Amanohashidate (the other name for Kyotango), you need to take a 75-minute train from Kyoto to Fukuchiyama and then swap onto another train to Amanohashidate which takes around 40-60 minutes.
Another amazing day trip from Kyoto is to the bustling Japanese city of Osaka. Known around the world for its awesome food and nightlife scene as well as its historic buildings like Osaka Castle and Shitennoji Temple, there’s a little something for everyone here.
It’s definitely a busy vibe here, with tons of awesome markets, streets filled with vendors, and amazing restaurants. So, to find the best spots, maybe hire a local guide and go on a walking tour of the city. With Osaka only being a 28-minute train ride away from Kyoto, it really is the perfect day trip!
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
You’ve probably seen photos of the iconic Arashiyama Bamboo Groves on Instagram, and going to visit them on a Kyoto day trip couldn’t be easier. Explore the bamboo groves, check out the UNESCO World Heritage Tenryuji Temple, and experience ultimate tranquility.
To get to the bamboo groves from Kyoto, you can get a JR Sagano line train directly to the Saga-Arashiyama Station and it takes less than an hour. This gives me serious Japanese vibes!
Who doesn’t love a day trip out to a picturesque lake? Well, Lake Biwa has a ton of towns and villages all around it. I’d recommend heading to Takashima, which is home to the mystical floating Shirahige Shrine. It’s a beautiful place to visit before heading to Otsu and the incredible Ishiyama-dera Temple.
It only takes around 45 minutes to get from Kyoto to Takashima, but for a quicker entry to Lake Biwa, head to Otsu which is just a 15-minute train ride from Kyoto.
Okay, I love a good castle and I’ve seen plenty of impressive ones during my travels, but the UNESCO World Heritage Himeji Castle is on another level. In fact, it’s one of only 12 original Japanese castles that are still standing and it’s a masterclass in Japanese Feudalist architecture.
There are plenty of direct trains between Kyoto and Himeji that take just under an hour, but a few require a change at Shin-Osaka so watch out for those! From Himeji, it’s a 20-minute walk to the castle itself.
Home to one of the world’s most famous kinds of beef, Kobe is a foodie hotspot that’s also super well-known for its sake breweries and production. This is definitely the place for a food tour with a local as there are quite a few places that are selling low-quality meat to tourists and pass it off as high-end Kobe. Local guides will help you find the hidden gems and leave you happy and full!
From Kyoto, you can take the Shinkansen bullet train to Kobe in under 30 minutes, but if you want to use a JR Pass it’ll take you around 50 minutes.
If you love history and old-world architecture, you’re going to love a day trip from Kyoto to Nagoya. With the rebuilt Honmaru Palace being completely reconstructed with traditional methods, it needs to be seen to be believed. The attention to detail is insane!
Love cars? Well, Nagoya is also the home of Toyota and a handful of car and automotive museums that are the perfect excursion for any petrolhead. To get from Kyoto to Nagoya, you can jump on the bullet train for 35 minutes or, if you’re using a Japan Rail Pass, you’ll need the Hikari or Kodama Shinkansen lines which take around 55 minutes in total.
Located in Otsu City right next to the stunning Lake Biwa, the Ishiyama-dera Temple is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in the area. It’s influenced writers and is known as the Temple of the Flowers thanks to the heaps of foliage in the autumn months!
It’s a super quick day trip from Kyoto with the train ride only lasting 15 minutes. You can easily combine a visit to the Ishiyama-dera Temple with a day out on Lake Biwa, so you can have outdoor exploration and history all in one go!
If you don’t mind traveling a little further afield, you should definitely take a Kyoto tour to Miyajima Island. Located in Hiroshima Bay, the island is probably best known for the Itsukushima Shrine, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is full of stunning ancient forests and woodlands as well as plenty of temples to explore.
Want to shop until you drop? Head to Omote Sando Shotengai, the main shopping street, where you can enjoy delicious local sweet treats and novelties. To get to Miyajima Island you need to first get the train to Hiroshima and then swap onto a 28-minute train to JR Miyajima Guchi station and then hop a 15-minute ferry to the island.
So there you have it, the best day trips from Kyoto. Which ones are your favourite, or have you been to any of these before? Let me know in the comments below!
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