There are over 1600 temples in Kyoto – but there are just a handful I find myself going back to again and again. Here are the 10 Kyoto temples that never cease to impress me.
Honen-in Temple: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com
1. Honen-in Temple
Honen-in is my favorite temple in all of Kyoto. Starting with an incredibly scenic approach that culminates in a moss-covered gate, Honen-in works its magic on the visitor right from the start.
Zen garden of Tofuku-ji Temple
2. Tofuku-ji Temple
One of the most attractive temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji Temple also has the advantage of not being very crowded unless you come during the fall foliage season.
3. Kurama-dera Temple
Kurama-dera Mountain Temple is easily the best day- or half-day trip out of Kyoto. High on the shoulder of Mt. Kurama, you can feel the power of nature up here.
4. Shinyo-do Temple
Stunning at any time of year, in the New Year’s snow, with fires burning and lanterns lit, Shinyo-do temple looks like something out of Narnia.
5. Nanzen-ji Temple
One of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise surrounded by lush green hills.
6. Sanzen-in Temple
Sanzen-in Temple and the surrounding village of Ohara make a great daytrip out of Kyoto. The temple contains a superb image of Amida Buddha and has some magical gardens.
image © Damien Douxchamps
7. Gio-ji Temple
Tiny, often overlooked, Gio-ji Temple is one of the most scenic spots in Arashiyama. The thatched-roof main hall overlooking a moss-covered grotto is a magical sight.
8. Shoren-in Temple
One of my all-time favorite temples in Kyoto, Shoren-in is bypassed by almost all tourists and bus groups.
image © Damien Douxchamps
9. Tenryu-ji Temple
Tenryu-ji Temple is the headline attraction in Arashiyama, a sprawling Zen temple with one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and wonderful mountain views.
Chion-in Sanmon temple: Aberu.Go / Shutterstock.com
10. Chion-in Temple
Sometimes called the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism, this vast temple is one of the most and popular temples in the city. It’s highly recommended.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world