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How to Plan a Trip to Kyoto in 2024/2025

By Vicky LengUpdated Sep. 28, 2023

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, offers a rich history, authentic experiences, and charming attractions, making it a must-see city when you travel to Japan for a big trip (such as an annual vacation, a bucket list trip, or a birthday/graduation gift). Whether you are traveling with your family or just your partner, Kyoto offers something special for you.

In this article, we'll help you to create a perfect trip to Kyoto, including helping you choose from the top things to do and informing you about the costs, best times to visit, and more.

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The Top 7 Things to Do in Kyoto

Kyoto's historical sites are a gateway to understanding ancient Japan, including centuries-old shrines and temples that should not be missed. To enrich your trip, you could immerse yourself in a variety of culture-rich experiences.

1)Enjoy afternoon tea with geishas for close-up interaction with traditional entertainers

A geisha is one of the unique symbols of Kyoto and most travelers look forward to seeing geisha performances when they travel to Japan. You would have the opportunity to learn more about geishas with your guide's explanation and have a close-up interaction with them. For example, enjoying afternoon tea with them, immersing yourself in their elegant singing and dancing, and having a nice dinner.

2)Immerse yourself in a ninja experience to learn about ninja techniques and weapons

Ninja experience in Kyoto Ninja experience in Kyoto

Ninjas are representative of Japanese martial arts and are a famous aspect of Japanese culture. You would have the opportunity to experience authentic Ninja life by dressing up like a ninja and learning about ninja culture, techniques, and weapons from a ninja master. It's a fun-filled activity that everyone could enjoy.

3)Experience traditional Japanese-style accommodation at a cozy ryokan

To fully experience traditional Japanese accommodation, we highly recommend spending a night at a Japanese-style ryokan. You could sleep on a cozy tatami, relax in a hot spring, and sample a high-end kaiseki dinner. Some rooms accommodate 3–5 people, making it perfect for families to stay together.

Kyoto has more excellent ryokans than other cities because Kyoto is Japan's top ancient capital with a well-preserved traditional atmosphere. This allows you to have an immersive experience of medieval Japanese accommodation.

4)Make your own pottery and experience the satisfaction of molding clay the Japanese way

Making pottery is a perfect activity for both kids and adults, providing you with a deeper understanding of Kyoto's culture and a unique souvenir. You could easily create your own pottery under the guidance of professional potters, experiencing the fulfillment and enjoyment of feeling the clay forming under your hands.

Once your product is complete, you could provide your address and cover the shipping costs, and your pottery would be delivered to you within 2–3 months.

5)Feed lovely deer in Nara and enjoy the harmony of people and animals

Having a close encounter with the cute deer in Nara and buying some crackers to be able to touch and feed them would make your Kyoto trip more complete. This is the most popular activity in Nara, especially for families with teenagers or younger children.

6)Meander through lush bamboo forests and hear their soothing rustle in the wind in Arashiyama

The lush bamboo groves attract many travelers to Arashiyama in any season. Walking through the green bamboo forests allows you to breathe fresh air and listen to the bamboo rustling in the wind — a highly enjoyable and peaceful experience. Rickshaws are also a good way to enjoy the bamboo forest if you don't want to walk too much.

7)Explore history-filled shrines and temples in Kyoto — feel as though you're stepping back in time

With over 1,600 shrines and temples in Kyoto, we have hand-picked four that you must visit. Based on our experience and practical research, each of these would provide you with a different experience. These include Fushimi Inari Shrine (known for its orange-red Senbon Torii), Kinkaku-ji (a golden Zen Buddhist temple), Nijo Castle (a former imperial villa), and Kiyomizu-dera (known for its wooden stage).

It is a great experience to wear kimonos while walking through these charming sites. You could immerse yourself in the peaceful and devout atmosphere and feel like you have stepped back in time.

As well as these fun-filled activities, you could consider other impressive experiences, such as participating in a tea ceremony that would also allow you to feel the charm of Kyoto.

How Long to Spend in Kyoto

It is recommended to spend at least 2–3 days in Kyoto to explore the highlights. Add 1 day to explore more parts of the city at a relaxed pace. A vacation of 7–10 days would be ideal to cover the highlights of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

2–3 Days in Kyoto

Enjoy cherry blossoms while wearing kimonos in Kyoto.Enjoy cherry blossoms while wearing kimonos in Kyoto.

Here is a suggested itinerary, for inspiration:

Day 1: Visit historically-rich Kinkaku-ji and Nijo Castle to gain more insight into Japan's history, experience ninja techniques and culture with a ninja master, enjoy afternoon tea with geishas, and stay at a traditional ryokan to experience an old-style tatami bedroom.

Day 2: Take a stroll through the lush bamboo groves in Arashiyama, immerse yourself in the local Nishiki Market, where you would find all kinds of delicious food for lunch, and take in the beauty of Fushimi Inari Shrine, famed for its countless vermilion torii gates.

If you have an extra day, you could go to Nara to feed the lovely deer and have a close interaction with them.

Our Japan expert would customize the trip based on your requirements and interests to create a memorable experience for you.

5–7 Days in Japan

A week is adequate to cover the highlights of two cities in Japan. Tokyo and Kyoto are always the top choices for travelers on a 7-day vacation and you could spend 3 days exploring the best of each destination.

Here is the suggested itinerary, for inspiration:

  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (Asakusa, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower, sushi-making, and Pokémon Center)
  • Days 4–6: Kyoto (Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Shrine, afternoon tea with geishas, a ninja experience, and a stay at a ryokan)

9–10 Days in Japan

This itinerary is perfect for you to experience the "golden triangle" cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. You could enjoy a memorable trip through charming attractions and experiential activities.

Here is the well-organized itinerary, for inspiration:

japan travel guide
  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (Asakusa, Pokémon Center, a ninja experience, and Tokyo Disneyland)
  • Days 4–5: Hakone (stay at a ryokan with an onsen hot spring)
  • Days 6–8: Kyoto (afternoon tea with geishas, trying on a kimono, pottery making, and feeding deer in Nara)
  • Day 9: Osaka (Dotonbori district and sample street food)

If you would be interested and have a couple of days more, a great option is to travel to Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park and cherish post-war peace.

How Much Does a Kyoto Trip Cost?

cost of Japan

A private tour in Kyoto includes 4-star hotels, a full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, a private car, and a private guide.

  • For a family (3–5 people), it's approximately $350–500 per person per day.
  • For a couple, tour prices start from approximately $450 per person per day.

Our Japan travel expert would customize your trip based on your requirements and ensure that you make the most of your money.

Best Times to Visit Kyoto

Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto in winter Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto in winter

Kyoto is suitable to visit year-round as it has four distinct seasons, each offering attractive scenery and events.

The best times to visit Kyoto for its pleasant weather and charming views are in spring (March to May) to enjoy the pink cherry blossoms that are almost everywhere and in autumn (September to November) to appreciate the colorful autumn foliage. Typhoons sometimes occur around September and bring heavy rain so we suggest that you travel to Kyoto after September 20th.

Summer (June to August) in Kyoto is hot and humid, with the average daily high temperature reaching 34°C (93°F). It is also the festival season in Kyoto, with the Gion Festival being the biggest celebration, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the rich cultural atmosphere. June is a better time for families to visit for a summer vacation, as Kyoto is cooler and less crowded compared to July and August.

Winter (December to February) is cold and dry in Kyoto, with an average daily temperature of about 10°C (50°F). Christmas and New Year are two of the busiest times to travel to Kyoto. You could enjoy a first-rate feast of kaiseki for your Christmas or New Year dinner. You could also experience bell-ringing ceremonies in Kyoto's shrines to welcome the New Year in a traditional Japanese way.

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