Think cool castle towns, hiking trails, boat rides and more.
14 World Heritage Sites, Imperial Palace and Park, Gozan no Okuribi
Kyoto is most well known for being Japan’s former capital, and the “city of a thousand shrines”. Kyoto is one of the only places in Japan where Japanese traditional architecture remains in abundance. Other than old buildings, it has a geisha district, possesses 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and contains a great deal of “zen”.
Kyoto is easily accessible on the Shinkansen, with a ride from Tokyo taking just over two hours on the Nozomi (the fastest option). You can book your bullet train tickets from Tokyo to Kyoto in advance online. There are also four-, three- and two-day hotel and train packages available.
Kyoto does not have its own airport, but rather can be accessed from Osaka’s two airports. However, between Kyoto and Osaka, there are excellent road and railway connections. From Kansai International Airport (KIX), the price to reach Kyoto through the airport’s ‘limousine bus’ is approximately ¥2,300. The bus leaves every 30 to 60 minutes, and depending on traffic conditions, it take around 1 hour and 25 minutes to reach JR Kyoto Station. From Osaka (Itami) Airport, limousine bus services are also available. The fare is ¥1,280 and the bus takes around 55 minutes to reach JR Kyoto Station. Departures are every 20 minutes.
|Tokyo => Kansai||Jetstar||¥5,393 (US$50)||Details|
|Tokyo => Kansai||Peach||¥7,432 (US$69)||Details|
|Tokyo => Kansai||ANA||¥8,736 (US$81)||Details|
For going by train from KIX to Kyoto, you should purchase a one-day JR West Kansai Area Pass. It will give you access to the Haruka Express Train, which is the only option that takes you directly to Kyoto from the Kansai Airport Station. The pass also provides unlimited access to other JR trains between Kansai Airport, Nara, Kyoto, and Himeji for one full day. For foreign tourists the cost of the pass is ¥2,000. The journey by train takes around 75 minutes to reach Kyoto. When buying the pass, you will need to show your passport. For those who already have a JR Pass, the Haruka Express Train is free.
As one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations, there are also numerous buses to Kyoto from Tokyo and other major cities. Check Kosoku Bus for route information and fares.
Kyoto has two subway lines, The Tozai Line (east to west), and the Karasuma-dori Line (north to south). Karasuma Oike Station is where you transfer between lines. The Tozai Line connects to the Keihan Line, which runs north-south and can be used to reach Gion, southern Kyoto, and several attractions on the eastern side of the city. Kyoto’s subways are easy to navigate and provide convenient transportation, but the lines are limited to the city center. Fares vary from ¥210 to ¥340 depending on distance, and a one-day subway pass will set you back ¥600. Trains run on the subway from 5:30 am until 11:30 pm – slightly earlier than you may be used to if you’re coming from Tokyo.
The bus network in Kyoto is a great way to reach many attractions, especially those in the north of Kyoto. Geared towards tourists, the bus system has Japanese as well as English announcements and signage. There are two different bus companies in Kyoto, the green-and-white Kyoto City Buses, and the red-and-white Kyoto Buses. The green-and-white line is great for exploring within the city, while the red-and-white line connects the suburbs. Note that the buses often have overlapping bus numbers. For city buses, the price is fixed at ¥220, but we suggest you purchase a one day pass for unlimited bus rides in one day. The cost is ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for children under 12. Or you can buy the unlimited subway and bus 1-day pass for ¥1,200, or 2-day pass for ¥2,000.
Cycling around Kyoto is not an uncommon way of getting around. It’s economical, environmentally friendly, and easily supported by the city’s flat and well maintained roads. Bike rental shops in Kyoto are very accessible. Most sightseeing districts offer this service, as it is a great way for tourist to gawk at the sights without the side effect of traffic congestion. There are many different types of packages and prices provided by bike rental shops depending on location. Some shops such as in Demachiyanagi, and Kitaoji (near Kitaoji subway and bus station), rent bikes for a base fee of ¥500 per day, and an extra ¥250 to keep it till 10 a.m in the next morning.
Strolling around the Imperial Palace and Sentō Imperial Palace in Central Kyoto, Katsura Imperial Villa in Western Kyoto, or Shugakuin Imperial Villa In Northern Kyoto, is cheap, convenient, and a visual treat for the eyes. All these sites are open to the public by reservation through the Imperial Household Agency. You can visit these gardens at their most picturesque during the spring, sakura (cherry blossom) season, or during autumn when different hues of colours paint the landscape. Admissions is free although there is a quota on the number of visitors permitted in the tour of the palace. An English guide is only available at the Imperial palace. Tourists can book tickets through the Imperial Household Agency’s website (in English).
In Kyoto, you can almost run into a shrine or temple around every corner. Among the surplus of holy sites, the two that we highly recommend are Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji) and Kiyomizu-dera temple – just two of fourteen world heritage sites in Kyoto. Kinkaku-ji, built in 1400, is a Zen temple, and is said to be designed to recreate the Buddhist paradise on earth. There are multiple ways to get to this famous shrine, depending on your location, however you do need to take a bus there after getting off at Kinkaku-ji-michi station. The entrance fee is ¥400 for adults and ¥300 for 1st to 9th graders. Kiyomizu-dera is said to be the most popular place in Kyoto with tourists. The greatest attraction about this place is the temple’s main hall, situated on a steep slope, which is connected to a famous veranda. The national treasure that is Honda, which the temple does not allow photos to be taken of, and is therefore worth visiting to view it with your own eyes. From the Kyoto bus stop, you can either take the 206 or the 207 bus to get to the temple or walk for around 10 minutes. The entrance cost is ¥300 for adults, ¥200 for ages 7 to 14.
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