With nearly 1600 temples in Kyoto, choosing which ones to visit might be an overwhelming task. The former imperial capital of Japan is one of the best places in the country to experience ancient Japanese culture. In fact, UNESCO declared several of these temples World Heritage Sites. If you are traveling to Kyoto, these are the temples that you shouldn’t miss.
Kinkaku-Ji (Temple of the Golden Pavillion)
One of Kyoto’s most famous temples, this 14th century three-story pavilion was a shogun’s retirement villa. Clad in gold leaf, the temple shines under the bright sunlight while its reflection dances on the pond below. If you want to avoid crowds, you should try to visit as early as possible.
Ryoan-Ji (Temple of the Dragon at Peace)
Featuring one of Japan’s most beautiful zen gardens, Ryoan-Ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you can see all of its 15 large rocks at the same time, you will attain enlightenment. To appreciate the garden’s tranquility, it is best to arrive first thing in the morning, before the crowded tours visit.
Surrounded by lush vegetation and featuring many sub-temples, the large complex of Nanzen-Ji is an impressive site. With its distinctive entrance and aqueduct, this is one of the most popular temples in Kyoto. However, since it covers such a big space, it doesn’t feel as crowded as the rest.
Perched on a hill overlooking Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most famous landmarks of the city. Although it is very touristic, it is a fun place to spend some time with the family. The temple, named after the waterfall within the complex, offers spectacular views of the city.
One of the most beautiful temples in Kyoto, the Tofuku-Ji is not very crowded most of the year. While other nearby temples are bursting with visitors, you will find a peaceful oasis here — except during the fall, as this is one of the best places in Kyoto to see the colourful maple leafs in full swing. It gets specially crowded in November.
Known as the Silver Pavillion, this temple is one of the city’s most popular sites, so it can get incredibly crowded. And there is a good reason for that, as the place is very beautiful. Just make sure you visit on a weekday, soon after it opens, or before it closes.
With its moss-covered entrance and zen garden, the Honen-in is a magical and serene place. It is also one of the temples along Kyoto’s Philosopher’s Walk. The temple also features a small gallery where exhibitions by local and foreign artists take place.
For more information about the temples in Kyoto, check out the city’s official guide. If you are looking for a place to stay in Kyoto, consider splurging a little and book a room at the Hiiragiya Ryokan. This traditional ryokan rarely fails to impress by offering the most exquisite Japanese hospitality.
This post is part of the #HipmunkCityLove series.