Kyoto is gorgeous. It’s as simple as that. With its millennia-old temples and shrines, traditional arts, and deep aesthetic sense, Kyoto is teeming with places to discover. Try Kyoto on foot, on two wheels, or by tram: there are no wrong ways to go.
Though the areas around Arashiyama Station and Togetsukyo Bridge are quite crowded, the Arashiyama area is a rewarding outing – once you wade through the sea of humans.
There are numerous walking and hiking paths around here, which are liberally sprinkled with temples and traditional gardens, such as Tenryuji, Gioji, and Katsura Rikyu.
The bamboo grove is a meditative marvel, the autumn colours here are a stunning riot of colour, and the Monkey Park invites you to mingle (and take selfies) with free-roaming Japanese macaques.
This pretty park is adjacent to the Gion area, so after you tire of geisha gawping, head over to Maruyama for a stroll through the classical garden with paths that wind around ponds reflecting the greenery. In the spring, this is an extremely popular spot to do hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.
The narrow stone path from Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) to Eikando is called Tetsugaku no michi, or philosopher’s walk, so-called because philosopher Kitaro Nishida used to take the path daily to walk and muse.
The pedestrian path runs under a procession of cherry trees along a canal. In addition to the major temples, the path is lined with smaller shrines and temples, a few small cafes, and shops offering both traditional and modern art.
Kurama Temple sits in the foothills of Mt. Kurama in northern Kyoto. The lushly-wooded area is said to be home to many spirits, such as the mythological tengu, long-nosed goblins that are honoured here, and the healing art of reiki is said to have been born here.
It’s possible to hike up or take a tram part of the way. There are also natural hot springs in the area that allow day access or overnight stays.
Higashiyama is a district rich with sights, and is especially pleasant by bicycle. Highlights in the area include the famous temples Kiyomizudera, Kodaiji, and Yasaka Shrine. The narrow streets between them are stuffed with traditional shops and buildings.
A regular bicycle can be rented for as little as ¥500 per day, and if you want a cool electric bike to help you with some of the hills in this district, those go for around ¥2,000.
For a more ambitious cycling trip, head up to the village of Ohara in the northern part of Kyoto. The ride is about 20km with some uphill climbs and picturesque rural views, and should take a couple of hours.
Once there, explore the temple complex at Sanzenin, the quaint shops around it, and the pretty Otonoashi Waterfall. There are also a few hot spring inns in the area for those who wish to stay overnight.
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