Widely known as the ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto draws countless visitors from every corner of the world. It is home to loads of world famous temples and shrines as well as impressive and beautiful outdoor spots which can be found not far from the central part of the city. In addition, Kyoto is a great location and is relatively close to other popular tourist destinations such as Osaka and Nara which you can easily access by train. With so many good options nearby, we have prepared a helpful list of 10 of the best day trips from Kyoto!
- 1. Nara
- 2. Osaka
- 3. Hiroshima
- 4. Lake Biwa
- 5. Kinosaki Onsen
- 6. Arashiyama
- 7. Asuka Village
- 8. Awajishima
- 9. Kobe
- 10. Himeji Castle
- Don’t forget to check out our private tours!
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Nara is a beautiful traditional Japanese city which is home to a number of famous historic sites as well as beautiful nature. It flourished as the first capital of Japan over 1,300 years ago, until the capital was finally moved to Kyoto. People travel to Nara all year round to visit world-famous temples, discover scenic natural attractions, and to see and interact with the wild and sometimes too friendly deer. It is easily accessible from other famous tourist destinations in the Kansai area as well such as Kyoto and Osaka to name a few.
Best tourist attractions in Nara
Todaiji Temple / Horyuji Temple
These are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This is a lovely park which is home to lush greenery and adorable wild deer.
Mt. Yoshino is one of Japan’s best spots for enjoying cherry blossoms in Spring!
Access to Nara from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it is about a 50-minute train ride to JR Nara station.
Osaka is the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo. It is literally the center of everything, including unique food culture, modern shopping spots, lively local markets, historic structures and much much more. Although it is only a 35-minute train journey from Kyoto, the atmosphere, townscape and people are totally different from that of Kyoto. You may need at least a couple of days to explore the giant city, but a day trip from Kyoto is also a great idea if you simply want to visit some of the best tourist attractions in a day!
Best tourist attractions in Osaka
Dotonbori is a bustling district packed with great restaurants, bars and bright lights!
Osaka Castle is a truly symbolic landmark built back in the 16th century and there is a great view of the city from the top.
Universal Studios Japan(USJ)
USJ is one of the most popular and visited theme parks in Japan, with attractions for everyone.
Access to Osaka from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it is about a 35-minute train ride to JR Osaka station.
Hiroshima is a popular tourist destination located in the Chugoku region of Japan. It has developed into one of the biggest economic centers of the region with a population of over 2.8 million. It is also the place where the devastating first atomic bomb was dropped during WWⅡ. In the heart of the city you will find a range of modern tourist attractions, historic sites related to WWⅡ, and great dining spots that offer delicious local specialties. Hiroshima is also home to peaceful islands which await you with completely different experiences that you won’t be able to find in the city!
Best tourist attractions in Hiroshima
Atomic Bomb Dome
This is one of Hiroshima’s most famous landmarks and is also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
This informative museum tells the tragic story of World War II and has a large collection of exhibitions.
Miyajima is a scenic island that is home to Itsukushima Shrine, local specialties and adorable and friendly wild deer!
Access to Hiroshima from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it takes about 1 and a half hours to get to JR Hiroshima station by Shinkansen.
4. Lake Biwa
Nestled in Shiga prefecture, Lake Biwa is widely known as the biggest freshwater lake in Japan. It is visited by lots of visitors every year and is known as a symbolic natural attraction in the Kansai region. Around the scenic lake there are a wide range of great spots which are perfect for a day trip getaway!
Best tourist attractions around Lake Biwa
Hikone Castle is a symbolic castle which has a history of over 400 years. It is also a great place to see cherry blossoms in the spring!
This is a scenic shrine with a beautiful Torii gate out in the lake. It’s a great spot to take photos and just relax.
Mt. Hiei is a sacred mountain that is home to Enryaku-ji temple as well as plenty of great trails that you can hike.
Access to Lake Biwa from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it is about a 10-minute train ride to JR Otsu station which is the main gateway to the popular tourist attractions around Lake Biwa.
5. Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki Onsen is a lovely hot spring resort nestled in a mountainous area in the northern part of Hyogo prefecture. This peaceful hot spring resort boasts over 1,400 years of history, making it one of Japan’s oldest hot spring resorts. As you walk around the quaint town in your yukata, you will find the seven public bath houses that you can enjoy without staying overnight at each Ryokan. A one-day pass can be purchased for ¥1,200 which gives you unlimited access to all seven baths for the day!
Best tourist attractions in Kinosaki Onsen
Seven Public Bath Houses
There are seven popular hot spring facilities in this onsen town that are perfect for a day trip dip!
Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway
This ropeway offers a beautiful panoramic view of Kinosaki Onsen and the Sea of Japan.
Kinosaki Marine World
Kinosaki Marine World is a family friendly aquarium right on the water that is home to diverse marine life and is something fun for people of all ages!
Access to Kinosaki Onsen from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it takes about 2.5 hours to get to Kinosaki Onsen station with the limited express Hashidate.
If you love being out in peaceful nature, Arashiyama is a must visit when you travel to Kyoto! Nestled in the western part of Kyoto, it attracts visitors from every corner of the world. Start your adventure from Togetsukyo Bridge, a symbolic structure built across the Katsura river. Take a refreshing walk through the stunning bamboo forest street which is breathtakingly beautiful, and you will feel like you are in a movie. Arashiyama is also home to a great number of restaurants, cafes and gift shops where you can try local specialties and buy memorable souvenirs!
Best tourist attractions in Arashiyama
This bridge is an iconic landmark in Arashiyama built in the Heian Period. It is a great spot to snap some pics or just relax in the sun.
Bamboo Forest Street
We are sure you have seen pictures of this street somewhere. The world famous Bamboo Forest is full of picturesque paths surrounded by stunningly tall bamboo groves.
Tenryuji Temple is a World Heritage site that has a scenic Japanese garden.
Access to Arashiyama from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it is about a 10-minute train ride to JR Arashiyama station.
7. Asuka Village
Asuka Village is a peaceful village located in the central part of Nara prefecture. It played a role as a political center during the Asuka Period(592-710), until the capital of Japan was finally moved to its new place. Exploring the lovely village will allow you to discover historic sites and remains that have been carefully preserved for over a thousand years. Cycling is probably the most efficient way to get around the village while visiting various different spots in a day!
Best tourist attractions in Asuka Village
This temple is a historic Buddhist temple built in 596 and is home to Japan’s oldest Buddhist statue!
This is one of the most famous tumuli and is believed to be the tomb of a powerful politician known as “Soga no Umako”. It is a cool spot to check out.
Asuka Historical Museum
This is an interesting museum that showcases a large collection of exhibitions dating back to the Asuka Period.
Access to Asuka Village from Kyoto
From Kintetsu Kyoto station, it is about a 1.5 hour train ride to Asuka station.
(※You will need to transfer once at Kashiharajingu-mae station)
Awajishima is a beautiful island nestled in the Seto Inland Sea. According to ancient Japanese mythology, it is believed to be the very first island of Japan created by the two Gods Izanagi and Izanami. It is conveniently connected to the main island of Japan with the world’s longest suspension bridge known as “Akashi Kaikyo Bridge”. One of the biggest reasons to visit Awajishima is “Naruto-no Uzushio”, the tidal whirlpools caused by the extraordinary fast currents in the Naruto Strait. You can sign up for Uzushio Whirlpools Cruise which brings you right up close to the wonderful natural phenomenon!
Best tourist attractions in Awajishima
Uzushio Whirlpools Cruise
The Uzushio Whirlpool Cruise is the most popular tourist attraction in Awajishima, which takes you up close to the fast currents and whirlpools!
Awaji Local Specialties
Try the high-quality, tender Awaji beef and the fresh seafood offered here.
Awaji Hanasajiki is a spectacular flower garden nestled on the hillside of Awajishima that looks down onto the sea.
Access to Awajishima from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, take the JR Kyoto Line to Sannomiya Station in Hyogo prefecture. Highway buses are available from there.
Kobe is the prefectural capital of Hyogo prefecture. It boasts the 7th largest population in Japan, and it is easily accessible by train from other major cities in the Kansai area such as Kyoto and Osaka. It has developed as an international port city over centuries, and now draws a large number of visitors with a variety of adventure options ranging from traditional Japanese experiences to more worldly experiences.
Best tourist attractions in Kobe
Meriken Park / Harborland
This peaceful urban oasis offers an impressive waterfront view of Kobe Port.
And Harborland is a popular shopping spot near Meriken Park where you can find various goods and souvenirs.
You can see some European-style architecture from the 19th century in the Kitano area.
Nankin-machi is Kobe’s Chinatown and is packed with vibrant food stalls that sell a wide range of foods.
Access to Kobe from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, it is about an hour-train ride to JR Kobe station. (※The shinkansen is also available)
10. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is probably one of the most famous historic castles in Japan. Originally built in 1346, it has been loved as a landmark in Himeji city, Hyogo prefecture. The breathtakingly beautiful structure is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known as one of the twelve original castles remaining in Japan. It is also widely known for the nickname ”Shirasagi-jo” (White Heron Castle) because of the impressive white facade which resembles a giant flying heron. In early April, approximately 1,000 cherry blossom trees start to bloom around the beautiful castle grounds!
Himeji Castle Information
9am – 4pm
¥300 (elementary – high school students)
Access to Himeji Castle from Kyoto
From JR Kyoto station, take the Shinkansen and it is about a 40-minute train ride to JR Himeji station.
Don’t forget to check out our private tours!
If you need some help organizing your trip to Japan, it’s a great idea to check out our private tours with friendly and informative English guides. We would be glad to help make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable one!
Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour [Customizable]: Kyoto is a beautiful city full of historic temples and shrines. It is also a perfect spot for enjoying incredible autumn colors during the fall season!
Osaka Highlights Private Walking Tour: Join our popular walking tour in Osaka where one of our guides will take you around the city to see all of Osaka’s amazing highlights!
All of the above mentioned day trips from Kyoto offer different but fun experiences that you can choose from depending on your itinerary, budget and interests! If you need a getaway from the busy city and want to relax a little bit, Nara, Lake Biwa and Awajishima are probably the perfect options for you. Osaka, Hiroshima and Kobe await you with exciting adventures with the mix of tradition, natural beauty and modern spots that always have a busy and active atmosphere. We hope you learned a thing or two about day trips from Kyoto and that you can incorporate them into your next trip!
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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.
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