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Kyoto is one of Japan's must-see destinations. The nation's capital for more than 1000 years, it is packed with palaces, temples, shrines and gardens, as well as priceless works of art. Its highly refined culture is famously exclusive but can be enjoyed by visitors at the city's traditional ryokan and during a meal of kaiseki-ryori, Japan's haute-cuisine that's a feast for both eyes and taste buds. Kyoto's most elaborate zen temple is Kinkaju-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. In stark contrast is the enigmatic rock and gravel garden of Ryoan-ji. It's worth making an advance booking to see one of the imperial villas and their beautiful gardens. ...

Kyoto is one of Japan's must-see destinations. The nation's capital for more than 1000 years, it is packed with palaces, temples, shrines and gardens, as well as priceless works of art. Its highly refined culture is famously exclusive but can be enjoyed by visitors at the city's traditional ryokan and during a meal of kaiseki-ryori, Japan's haute-cuisine that's a feast for both eyes and taste buds. Kyoto's most elaborate zen temple is Kinkaju-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. In stark contrast is the enigmatic rock and gravel garden of Ryoan-ji. It's worth making an advance booking to see one of the imperial villas and their beautiful gardens. Other pleasures include a stroll through the Higashiyama district of temples or the narrow alleys of Gion where geishas ply their trade; see them perform en masse at July's spectacular Gion Matsuri or the cherry blossom season dances of the Miyako Odori. West of Kyoto in the suburb of Arashiyama on the banks of the Hozu-gawa where, in summer, you can see the ancient practice of cormorant fishing (ukai). Also here are the renowned giant bamboo groves of the Zen temple, Tenryu-ji. Another day trip worth making is to the Miho Museum, a stunning art museum designed by I.M.Pei in a dramatic mountain setting north of Kyoto.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    From March to May and late September to November