See the best that the historic cities of Kyoto and Nara have to offer during this full-day, 10-hour tour of the cities’ top temples and sights. It’s a great introduction to the culture and traditions of ancient Japan, along with some time at a nature park thrown in for good measure.
Begin your excursion in the morning at one of four hotels in Kyoto. Proceed after pickup on an exploration of the historic environs of Kyoto, the country’s former capital and one-time residence of the Japanese emperor between 794 and 1868. The city’s wealth of ancient history have earned a collection of its religious and political sites as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Stop by two of Kyoto’s most important highlights with your guide, starting with 50 minutes at Nijo Castle, which was the home of the Tokugawa Shogun until the mid-1800s. This World Heritage-listed site, constructed in 1603, is renowned for the contrasts between its intricate interior and solemn exterior façade.
Head next to Kinkaku-ji, the city’s most popular religious site and what is considered by many to be one of the world’s most elaborate Japanese gardens, for 45 minutes. Check out the temple’s Golden Pavillion, a three-story building sheathed in gold leaf and situated beside a picturesque pond, where you can take some great photos.
Move on next to Kyoto’s Imperial Palace for 40 minutes, where you’ll have a chance to see the Shishin-den, a key site for important state ceremonies, before wandering the palace’s beautiful grounds.
Pause your tour for lunch, then re-board your bus for a 1-hour drive south to Nara, where you’ll stop by two of the temples and shrines that form the city’s own UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit Todai-ji, a religious complex known for housing one of the world’s largest statues of the Buddha (Great Buddha Hall) before continuing to the adjacent Nara Park.
Make your next stop of the day at Kasuga Shrine for 40 minutes, renowned for the more than 3,000 lanterns lining its interior. Finish your excursion at Nara’s Deer Park, a famous section of Nara Park with free-roaming groups of deer. Feel free to hand-feed these tame creatures with the special food for sale on site. Depending on time and traffic, you may also visit a souvenir stand to pick up a memento or two before heading back to Kyoto.