Arashiyama is that sort of place in the world where you can find the history, nature, peace, love, and happiness. It’s small town on the outskirts of Kyoto, popular for its seasonal beauty, temples and the bamboo forest. Fall colors here is thrilling like downtown Kyoto. Guess what? It is considered to be the best side trip destination from Kyoto.

Many people who visit Kyoto usually fall in love with Arashiyama and Sagano districts. In case, if you don’t fall in love with its autumn foliage, think of returning back here in spring. You experience something amazing at that time. I often get asked “what are the best fall foliage spots in Kyoto?” Indeed, Arashiyama is at the top of the list!

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Photo Credit: Ludovic Lubeigt at Flickr.

Not being a largest area like Tokyo, Arashiyama’s top tourist attractions can be explored within a day, or if you greatly run out of time, half a day is enough but you will have to skip some. Except visiting its wonderful landmarks, I recommend you stay an overnight in a ryokan there. A must do experience for every visitors to Japan.

However, the entire area of Arashiyama is known for its beautiful scenery. If you fail to stay a night there, try visiting most of its natural landmarks including the sacred temples before you hop on the train to get back to your hotel in Kyoto city. Here, I show you the right path to explore all the exciting attractions it offers, especially in the fall.

Please note, the best time to see fall colors in Arashiyama is between late November to early December.

Iwatayama Monkey Park

A monkey enjoys the views of colorful fall foliage at Iwatayama Monkey Park. Photo Credit: Alex Hurst at Flickr.

You start off your dream expedition by paying a visit to the Monkey Park Iwatayama in Arashiyama. According to its official website, the monkeys these days seem to return to the mountain early around 16pm, so you should go there early. That’s why I recommend you to make it as your first destination to explore in Arashiyama. I don’t care from which train station you would visit it from, just enjoy the walk.

The monkey park is located on Mount Arashiyama. You have to hike up to see the cute wild monkeys. In summer, the hike is difficult due to hot humid weather, but in autumn it is not. You can easily hike up the mountain for about 20/25 minutes and then enjoy a great view of the surrounding areas which include Kyoto city, Hozu River from the top, and have fun with those freely roaming wild monkeys (macaques). Feeding them is a nice experience there.

Indeed, the park is an amazing place to see Kyoto wildlife – I mean the monkeys! Observe them, and take photograph in their natural setting. That’s all you could do there.

Togetsukyo Bridge

The famous Togetsukyo Bridge of Arashiyama. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

If you are to get to the Monkey Park from Saga-Arashiyama Station, you have got to cross this iconic landmark of Arashiyama before you reach to the Monkey Park. While on the other hand, if you get off the train at Arashiyama Station on the Hankyu Line, the bridge would be the second sightseeing spot of your trip.

By crossing the Togetsukyo Bridge, you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings in the fall. The colored forested mountainsides can be seen as you cross the bridge. Find the perfect location to capture the bridge with the vibrant fall colors mountainside in the background. You can spend nearby the bridge about 20-25 minutes. Next you are heading toward a historic landmark!

Tenryuji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple’s landscape garden during autumn. Photo Credit: Ingrid Truemper at Flickr.

With a list of wonderful discoveries inside, Tenryuji temple (a famous Zen temple in Kyoto) is must go place in Arashiyama. I absolutely like the tranquil atmosphere it offers in autumn.

Deciduous trees at the temple’s grounds seem to me the best treasures you will be hunting for. They look pretty amazing with gorgeous vibrant fall leaves making the temple grounds a place of scenic beauty.

Awesome colors of red maple leaves at the temple grounds. Photo Credit: [cipher] at Flickr.
Roam around the temple and find its beautiful landscape garden. Fall color there is so brilliant that you would hardly have time to look around other treasures. Bear in mind, it would be a great sin if you don’t explore its old and historic buildings.

Without doubt, this is one of best place to see fall foliage in Arashiyama district. The temple itself has been registered as a World Heritage Site. Continue your journey to the greatest Bamboo Forest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The bamboo grove! Photo Credit: ajari at Flickr.

Arashiyama bamboo forest is another beautiful place that you must discover. There you would not see fall colors, but what you can expect to experience is a leisurely walk along the path of the bamboo grove. It is worth visiting every time you visit Arashiyama.

Please exit Tenryuji temple by the north gate and then turn left and you will be at the bamboo grove. The path of the grove leads slowly uphill, just follow it and you will arrive at Okochi Sanso Villa.

Jojakkoji Temple

Jojakko-ji Temple fall colors. Photo Credit: rainday1977 at Flickr.

Your next trip before you have your lunch on the day would be Jojakkoji Temple. Though, if you feel real hungry, have you meal before visiting this popular autumn foliage spot.

Founded in 1596, Jojakkoji temple is another hidden gem of Arashiyama. The temple ground is especially great to explore during autumn. Take a walk along the paths that lead you find the maple trees and attractive designs of the temple’s buildings and gates.

Walk back down to the Arashiyama Torokko Station. This is a nice place to have some local delicacies. Wait for the train (The Sagano Romantic Train) to get in.

The Sagano Romantic Train (Sagano Scenic Railway)

The Sagano Romantic Train crossing a bridge. Photo Credit: Takeshi Kuboki at Flickr.

You don’t have to walk anymore, just take your seat and enjoy the beautiful surroundings as the train runs on its own speed. The train runs between Saga Torokko Station and JR Kameoka Station.  One way trip takes about 25 minutes, while round trip takes an hour. Please note, avoid going to Arashiyama on Wednesday as they don’t operate their service.

Find more info about the timetable and ticket please visit here.

A ride on one of these old fashioned trains would a hilarious experience as you are offered to discover endless beautiful landscapes of river gorge, forests and mountains along the way to the last stop. There is more thrilling moments coming your way, just wait!

Hozugawa River Cruise

Just relax while viewing the surrounding fall colors during the boat journey. Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

This is probably the best way to make your Arashiyama trip a great adventure. Hozugawa river cruise is a pleasant sightseeing boat ride that you will be remembering for many years. This is a two hours boat journey which reveals why Arashiyama is often called a nature paradise. Maybe it’s a boring ride to someone who experiences it other time than in autumn.

I always like the surrounding autumn scenery I experience during the trip. It’s a pleasant ride without question, and you have so many things to discover. To be honest with you, there is nothing better than taking the time to stroll around Arashiyama, but this river cruise is something where you don’t need to use your feet to admire its autumn beauty.

If you still have time, why don’t you walk into the Kimono Forest?! It would be an absolute bliss. After that short expedition, head toward the train station, wait for your train, hop on it when it arrives and then say goodbye to Arashiyama waving your hand. If you want to stay an overnight in Arashiyama, I highly recommend you to make reservation at this ryokan.

Are you familiar with the top fall colors spots in Kyoto? If not, please visit this page and find out where to see incredible fall foliage in Kyoto. Thank you so much.