What’s so special about Kyoto? Why do people go there? Every attraction in Kyoto deserves a visit, and this suggested itinerary will reveal these questions. This travel plan has been dedicated to the travelers who are planning a trip to Kyoto this autumn.

Coming to Kyoto in the fall is almost like visiting another planet. It’s considered to be one of the best places to see fall colors in Japan. Don’t you forget, this special landmark in the Kansai region has a unique beauty all its own. With a rich history, culture, landscape, temple & shrine, and shops, Kyoto is one of my favorite spots to travel on earth. Everything you see and experience in Kyoto would sound to you so unique and satisfying.

A journey to Arashiyama during fall would be a thrilling experience! Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

In autumn, you can pass through magnificent landscapes that are unbelievable to think of until you see them with your own eyes. Are you serious? Want to embark on a trip to Kyoto this autumn? Follow this suggested itinerary and make your dreams come true. I believe that a 4-Day trip is enough to enjoy the fall foliage in Kyoto. Due to the limited time of expedition, you don’t need to visit all the notable autumn leaves spots.

You can spend three full days in Kyoto, that looks perfect, but if you add one more day on your itinerary then that would just awesome! Here, I feature Kyoto’s most popular momiji spots that are scattered throughout the prefecture including other must-see attractions. Besides, I would also recommend some hotels to stay in. This suggested itinerary suits well to the one who is looking forward to visiting Kyoto in late November.  That’s the peak time when leaves turned gorgeously.

The following are the best and recommended hotels to stay overnights located nearby JR Kyoto Station. Book your room today!

1) New Miyako Hotel

2) Kyoto Tower Hotel

3) Hotel Granvia Kyoto

4) Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae Natural Hot Spring

5) Kyoto Century Hotel

Day 1 – Around Higashiyama

Tsutenkyo Bridge and stunning fall colors at Tofukuji Temple. Photo Credit: Ryosuke Yagi at Flickr.

Places of Interest: Tofukuji Temple, Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Gion, Kodaiji Temple, Higashiyama District, Kiyomizudera Temple.

People don’t get to Kyoto only to discover its old and historic landmarks. There are modern landmarks that are worth a visit. These sorts of sightseeing spots can be found around JR Kyoto Station. They could be a restaurant, bar, shopping arcade, museum, or theater. The restaurants located near the station are good to taste a list of traditional Japanese dishes. Go for it!

Torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine. Photo Credit: Chris Brown at Flickr.

You begin your trip with a visit to Tofukuji Temple. Hop on the train from Kyoto station on the JR Nara Line, and get off at JR Tofukuji Station. Walk for a while and you will be there. In autumn, it is one of the most crowded fall foliage spot in the city, so I highly recommend you to take a trip to this oldest Zen temple in the early morning.

Built in 1236, Tofukuji has many interesting discoveries such as the Sanmon Gate, Main Hall (Hondo), The Hojo and its Rock garden, Kaisando Hall. Explore them all one by one. In addition, you must experience a breathtaking fall foliage view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge, a perfect spot to immerse in the beauty of the autumn season.

A glimpse of the Hanami-koji Street, Kyoto. Photo Credit: hslo at Flickr.

Your tour continues with a visit to Fushimi-Inari Shrine, an important Shinto Shrine in Japan highlighting thousands of vibrant orange torii gates. I reckon you have seen photographs of those impressive torii before. I would suggest you to hike up the mountain through the torii gates. That would be an amazing idea, no doubt!

Kodaiji’s impressive autumn colors. Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA at Flickr.

Head toward Gion now. Take a leisurely walk in the Hanami-koji Street which stretches from Shijo Avenue to Kenninji Temple. Get ready to see real Geisha along the way. The street features old buildings of shops and restaurants including travelers who really want to discover what it has to offer. Many travel experts recommend you visiting it in the evening, but I would tell you to go there in the afternoon. The restaurants you find there are perfect to have your lunch from.

The three-storied Koyasu Pagoda of Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and fall illuminations. Photo Credit: Hideyuki KAMON at Flickr.

Spend an hour at Kodaiji (A Zen Buddhist Temple, located between Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizudera) to explore the entire area of the temple. Take a stroll along the paths and see how tranquil that could be. For vibrant shades, you must trek along the paths that take you to the fascinating rock garden and tsukiyama style garden. Besides, there is also a bamboo grove to be overwhelmed by.

Kiyomizudera temple’s large wooden stage. Photo Credit: Laika ac at Flickr.

The final destination on the day would be Kiyomizudera temple. Built in 780, the temple is a must-see attraction in Kyoto city, which is famous for its large wooden stage. The stage plays an important role when it comes to viewing seasonal beauty at the temple’s grounds. In spring, you witness gorgeous display of sakura, while on the other hand, in fall, you see incredible views of changing colors. The view of sunset at Kiyomizudera temple is absolutely alluring. This is possibly a great reason not to visit it in the morning but in the evening. Besides, deciduous trees are illuminated majestically in the evening!

Day 2 – Northern Kyoto

Autumn colors at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. Photo Credit: elminium at Flickr.

Places of Interest: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkakuji Temple, Ryoanji Temple, Ninnaji Temple, Shugakuin Imperial Villa, and Enkoji Temple.

Kyoto is a paradise for temple & shrine. With thousands of Buddhist temples and shrines, often it is hard to decide which one to visit. That happens to everyone! The fact is that you cannot explore them all because not all the temple and shrines feature outstanding scenery at the time of your visit.  The temples located in northern Kyoto are worth a visit if you think that you don’t want to miss stunning foliage they display in the fall.

Kinkakuji Temple in early autumn. Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely at Flickr.

Today you embark on a trip that takes you city’s some of the most fascinating attractions. Get in the bus (City Bus number 50 or 101) from Kyoto Station and get off at the Kitano Tenmangu bus stop. Take a walk through the designated garden trails of the shrine and enjoy the beautiful surrounding fall colors. The shrine is known to be one of the classic plum blossom viewing spots in Japan.

Ryoanji Temple’s Rock Garden an Foliage. Photo Credit: Jon Power at Flickr.

Next you explore the area of Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion), a symbol of Kyoto. No matter what the weather or season, the view of the temple is always breathtaking. As it’s considered to be a scenic spot in Kyoto, how could you resist yourself not to pay a homage visit to this awe-inspiring place?

Ryoanji temple is known for its iconic rock garden. If you are curious of this kind of unique style traditional Japanese garden, head towards this amazing Zen temple and marvel at the rock garden.

Ninnaji’s five-storied pagoda in the fall. Photo Credit: Eddy Chang at Flickr.

Your tour continues with a visit to Ninnaji temple. It’s only a short walk to Ninnaji from Royanji. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in 888, this picturesque temple’ ground is one of my favorite hanami spots in Kyoto. The views of the pond and rock garden with nearby deciduous trees seem to me very appealing.

Besides, don’t forget to explore the five-storied pagoda of the temple. Find a restaurant, my recommendation is Agetatei, a very good one located close to Ninnaji temple. And have your lunch there. Have some rest before visiting to other sightseeing spots on the day.

A beautiful garden of Shugakuin Imperial Villa. Photo Credit: Patrick Vierthaler at Flickr.

Can we start off now? Proceed to Shugakuin Imperial Villa temple by a quick taxi ride. Online reservation is required for visitors to get in. Therefore, before you go there, you must make a reservation, and it’s free. Without an advance reservation, you won’t be able to get in! A guide will pick you up and take you to the areas that blow your mind, just enjoy the walk with the guide and others who join in this guided tour. This is probably one of the hidden koyo spots in Kyoto, explore it thoroughly when you get the chance.

The area of Enkoji Temple looks very tranquil. Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA at Flickr.

Your next destination is Enkoji temple. It’s arguably one of the very few notable places to see majestic colored red maple leaves in northern Kyoto. The temple was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1601. Views of the incredible fall colors in the garden of the temple are just mind-boggling. Stay there as long as you want and appreciate the fall beauty it offers. I bet it would be hard to take your eyes off the foliage you experience there.

Feeling tired? Let’s call it a day!

Day 3 – Arashiyama, Western Kyoto

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

Places of Interest: Iwatayama Monkey Park, Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Jojakkoji Temple, Sagano Romantic Train, Hozugawa River Cruise, and Kimono Forest.

Today, you take a day trip to Arashiyama from downtown Kyoto city. Hop on the train from Kyoto station on the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. One way ride takes about 15 minutes. The ride is pleasant and fast.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – a perfect hiking trail. Photo Credit: Federico Moroni at Flickr.

There is a perfect way to enjoy a lovely autumn day in Arashiyama. Want to know how to do it? Visit this one day in Arashiyama itinerary, which makes a perfect gateway to the above places of interest. The itinerary guides you where to start off your trip from and where it should be finished.

However, you can modify it with some other recommended attractions. You can skip visiting Iwatayama Monkey Park if you hate monkeys and are not in the mood for hiking. Though the monkey park is worth a visit! It’s your call, not mine! If you don’t visit it, replace it with a visit to Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple. Bear in mind; go there after visiting Jojakkoji temple.

Day 4 – Central Kyoto

Nishiki Market in Kyoto. Photo Credit: Luca Mascaro at Flickr.

Places of Interest: Toji Temple, Nishiki Market, and Hands-on Experience of Traditional Culture, and Shopping around JR Kyoto Station.

You can’t miss a visit to Toji Temple, especially during spring. In fall, it is still worth a visit, not because of the fall colors but for the hidden treasures it has. Here you will travel back in time as you explore its well preserved historic traditional-style buildings including the Buddha statues and impressive five-storied pagoda. The temple can be reached from Toji Station, only 2/3 minutes’ of walk, that’s it!

Toji Temple’s Five-storied Pagoda. Photo Credit: Tyler Black at Flickr.

Explore Nishiki Market for a while. It is a busy market with a lot of shops and restaurants. You can taste some sushi there including other local foods. Finding cute souvenirs is not a daunting task here. Overall the market is an interesting place to see.

If you want to experience some hands-on activities such as tea ceremony, calligraphy, kimono wearing, cooking, flower arrangement, koto playing, origami making, Kyudo, and more, please contact WAK Japan. It specializes in offering all the activities mentioned a moment ago.

In the evening, you roam around JR Kyoto Station and do some shopping to take home. Say Goodbye to Kyoto!

Read a travel guidebook written based on Kyoto. It will help your trip make a great adventure indeed.