Nara was the ancient capital before 784 and is located in the west part of Japan and close to the popular touristic spots like Kyoto and Osaka. Many visitors visit there for a famous deer park and a big statue of Buddha. The famous sites are close to each other and they are within walking distance so you might think it would be enough for a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka.
But if you could stay there more than one day, it will be more to know and more to see!
In this article, we would like to share our recommended 2 days itinerary in Nara to make it easier to start planning your Japan trip!
Day 1 Exploring around Nara Park
10:30 am Kasuga Taisha Shrine
This shrine is registered as the World Heritage Site and was founded about 1,300 years ago. Get off the train at Kintetsu Nara Station and walk for 30 minutes to get there. You will see hundreds of lanterns lining up along the pathway to Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
When you go there, visit Fujinami-no-ya Hall. In Kasuga Taisha Shrine, they have 3,000 lanterns contributed from 8th century to today and there are the lighting up events three times a year. They open this traditional place Fujinami-no-ya Hall all year for public so that you can feel the beauty of the hanging lanterns all year.
To enter that, the special admission fee (500 yen) is required.
12:00 pm Naramachi and Lunch
Head to southwest from Kasuga Taisha Shrine to walk around Naramachi neighborhood. Japanese traditional houses called machiya are lining up and some of them have been renovated as a cafe or restaurant so we recommend to have lunch there!
Enjoy the local atmosphere in this cute neighborhood.
1:30 pm Nandaimon Gate of Todaiji Temple
Nandaimon means Great South Gate in Japanese and it is the entrance gate of Todai-ji Temple.This gate is 25 meters tall and is the biggest gate in Japan. There are two statues of guardians called Kongo-Rikishi Statues which is said to be built in 13th century and it took only 70 days to build them. This is the most popular and famous spot in Nara so it will be crowded during the daytime. If you prefer the quiet time, we recommend you to go there at night or early in the morning.
2:00 pm Daibutsu-den Hall (Main Hall) of Todai-ji Temple
This is the world’s biggest wooden building and also Daibutsu, the big Buddha is the biggest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Originally it was constructed in 752 as a headquarter of provincial temples. It has been reconstructed smaller size than the original one but still, the size of the temple is overwhelming.
3:00 pm Nigatsu-do & Sangatsu-do Buildings of Todai-ji Temple
These are the sub-temples of Todai-ji Temple located on the hill from Daibutsu-den Hall. In Sangatsu-do, there are small collections of unique old statues and this building remains as the original style from 7th century. Nigatsu-do is the building next to Sangatsu-do and they have two statues which are called eleven-faced kannon. Nobody can see these statues even the monks.
4:30 pm Mt. Wakakusa
Go to Mt.Wakakusa which is behind Nara Park and enjoy a short hiking there. It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach to the plateau and about 30 minutes to the top. You can see the beautiful sunset on the top and it is totally recommended to stay there until the sunset!
After sunset Kofuku-ji Temple
At Kofuku-ji Temple, the second tallest five-story pagoda in Nara light up after the sunset. Our suggested spot to see the view is near Sarusawa pond. After enjoyed the view, let’s go back to Naramachi for dinner.
Day 2 Visiting south from Nara
We would like to offer you two options to enjoy your Day 2 in Nara.
If you feel like enjoying the nature in the old Japanese village and find some ancient ruins, we would recommend you to go cycling around Asuka Village (sample 1). Or if you want to visit more World Heritage Sites, you can check sample 2.
Sample 1 Exploring rural Asuka area
Asuka area which is quite south from the capital Nara city, you will find yourself in the beautiful nature and can have deeper experience from visiting mysterious historical sites.
Asuka is the name of the region which is the birthplace of Japan state and that is why you can find ancient tombs there. You can enjoy both ruins and landscape which makes you feel like nothing changed since the ancient time.
The best way to go around Asuka is cycling with a bicycle. There you can find a good rental bicycle shop near Asuka station too.
If you are interested in cycling with bicycle, check this article for more information including recommended routes!
Sample 2 World Heritage Site hopping to southwest from Nara
One of the most famous temples which is registered as World Heritage Site is Horyu-ji Temple. That is located in Ikaruga area which is not very far from Nara city.
You could go directly from Nara by train or bus and you can check the time on this site from Nara station to Horyuji station. (http://www.hyperdia.com/en/)
There are two other famous temples such as Yakushi-ji and Toshodai-ji which are not far from Horyu-ji. If you are interested in architecture, these three temples are recommended.
9:00 am Take a train to Horyu-ji Station
From JR Nara Station to Horyu-ji Station, it takes only 11 minutes by train and walk for 20 minutes to get there.
9:30 am Horyu-ji Temple
As well as Todai-ji Temple, Horyu-ji Temple is one of the iconic places in Nara. These buildings at the site were built in 607. To be surprised, the main hall, five-story pagoda and Yumedono (Hall of dream) still remains the original style which is rare in Japan because we often have earthquakes and typhoons throughout every year. Horyu-ji is the oldest wooden buildings in the world and got registered as a first World Heritage Site in Japan.
Admission fee is 1,500 yen but it is worth a visit.
11:00am Chugu-ji Temple
Behind Yumedono in Horyu-ji, you will find Chugu-ji Temple. Comparing to Horyu-ji, this temple is really small but it looks like floating on the water. What we recommend here to see is Miroku statue. It is breathtaking masterpiece and is sometimes considered as the most beautiful statue in Japan. If you go to Horyu-ji in advance, the admission fee for this temple will be discounted.
12:00pm Take a bus to Yakushi-ji Temple
Take a bus from Horyu-ji mae bus stop which is 5 minutes walk from Great South Gate of Horyu-ji. Hop on Nara-kotsu 97 bus to go to Nishi-nokyo area. Get off at Yakushi-ji Higashi-guchi and it takes about 40 minutes to get there.
1:30pm Yakushi-ji Temple
Yakushi-ji is also a huge temple which stands out with their vermillion color.
It was built by an emperor in 680 as a prayer for healing his wife. Inside of the each building, you will see many important Buddha Statues. The most famous one is Yakushi Nyorai Statue which is known as the divine of healing.
3:30pm Toshodai-ji Temple
Head north from the north gate of Yakushi-ji, you will get to Toshodai-ji Temple. This is also one of the World Heritage Sites in Nara and built in 759 by a Chinese high priest. Around that time, Tang Dynasty had a huge influence on Japan and the name of this temple means the temple inviting Tang Dynasty. In this site of temples, you will see the view of moss and surrounding woods.
If you have any questions or any trouble planning your Japan trip, we will happily assist you! Japan Wonder Travel
|Tourist information||Japan Guide|
|Tour||Nara Afternoon Tour (Round-trip from Osaka)|
Have a wonderful time in Nara!
Accommodation recommended in Nara