Often referred to simply as the Golden Pavilion, this was one of those places that to me looked almost fake in how beautiful and surreal it was. The day I went was overcast, humid and rainy - but the reflections off the water because of the weather made it look like a painting! I think just about every tourist coming to Kyoto wants to visit here, but with good reason. It's truly one of those spots that takes your breath away.
Kinkaku-Ji is open from 9am to 5pm daily, and admission is 400 yen for adults, and 300 yen for elementary and junior high school students.
It's worth every bit of the small admission fee!
The day that I visited Kiyomizudera, I'd had a terrible nights sleep - so when I woke up in the early hours of the morning I decided to walk from my accommodation to the temple. I now chalk that up to one of my best decisions ever, since I got there right as the sun was coming up and was literally the first person to enter the temple grounds when they opened. There's so much beauty and history at this temple, and I've heard it's even more amazing during the spring months (with the cherry blossoms in bloom) and in autumn (when the fall leaves are out in all their glory).
You can check out more information about getting to Kiyomizudera on their website here - if you do have the chance to get there right as they open for the day it's such a peaceful experience and something I absolutely recommend. Most of the time they open at 6am, but do check the opening hours schedule here as there can be variations to that.
Arashiyama is probably best known for the gorgeous and iconic bamboo grove. It's definitely worth a visit, but it does get crowded at times - the perks of being a well known tourist spot, I guess!
It's just enjoyable walking the streets of the town though - it's incredibly picturesque, and there's a lot of really cute stores selling handicrafts, great food, and more.
Also, let's be real, anywhere that gives me the opportunity to eat delicious ice cream is a winner in my book.
Getting to Arashiyama is pretty straight forward - if you're at Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano/San-in Line and get off at the Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there it's just a short walk to the center of Arashiyama.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
If you're visiting Arashiyama in your itinerary already (which I highly recommend!) you should also take some time to head up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. It is a bit of a hike up a hill (and I went in the summertime which gave me the typical humid Japan weather - you could call me a sucker for punishment) but it's one of the coolest experiences I've had in Japan to date! You can see monkeys just hanging out, and you can even enter a building where you're able to feed the monkeys through wire panels (the monkey park sells bags of apple slices and other foods that are okay for the monkeys to eat for a small fee). You also get a lovely view of Kyoto from the top.
Admission to the park is 550 yen for adults (classed as anyone over 15 years of age), 250 yen for children 4-15 years, and free for the under 4's. You can check out some more details here about the park opening hours and other information.
Another iconic place to visit, Fushimi-Inari is a Shinto shrine and is actually the head shrine of Inari. Who or what is Inari, you might be asking? Inari is the Japanese kami (or God) of foxes, fertility, rice, tea and sake (amongst other things!) and one of the primary Gods of the Shinto religion. When you're walking around the shrine you will see a number of statues and monuments of foxes - so that's where the significance of those comes in. You can see a couple of the foxes by the entrance to the shrine in my picture below if you look closely!
If you're feeling like a decent workout, you can hike all the way to the top - it is a couple of hours round trip but there are little shrines and so forth along the way.
One of the coolest things about this shrine is that it's always open (so you could even hike up to the top at night if you wanted to!) and it's free! Great for the budget traveler!
Getting to Fushimi-Inari is quite easy on public transport - it's right by Inari Station on the JR Nara line. Their website has more details!
I hope if you do visit Kyoto, that you enjoy it as much as I did. Get yourself an ice cream for me, too!