Is a visit to Nara on your bucket list? Ever wanted to discover Nara’s best cherry blossom (hanami) spots?

Nara is one of the most iconic places to explore in the Kansai region, located in south-central Japan, on the island of Honshu. Nara, the prefecture’s capital city, was Japan’s capital city from 710 to 794 and the region’s many temples and shrines show just how important it was. Nara is deeply tied to its histories and traditions.

Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than during the cherry blossom bloom in Nara every spring. The unique architecture and vistas of Nara give its cherry blossom spots a feel all their own.

When is the best time to visit Nara to see Sakura? Check out the cherry blossom forecast here and then you will know it for sure.

Here are the eight best cherry blossom viewing spots (hanami) in Nara:

1. Mount Yoshino

Mount Yoshino is considered one of Japan’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spots. Photo Credit: KimonBerlin at Flickr.

Few places in Japan offer a view of cherry blossoms like you find at Mount Yoshino. It has been Japan’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spot for centuries. The first cherry trees here are said to have been planted more than 1300 years ago. This iconic area is considered the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Nara prefecture.

There are approximately 30,000 trees here of many varieties, divided by their place on this northward-facing slope. From top to bottom, these areas are Naka Senbon (middle 1000 trees), Kami Senbon (upper 1000 trees), and Oku Senbon (inner 1000 trees). As visitors ascend the slope, they can visit the many parks and viewpoints along the way.

The best season to see cherry blossoms on Mount Yoshino is usually from early to mid-April. Trees higher up bloom later than those further down. You can get to Mount Yoshino’s cherry trees by taking the shuttle buses that run between Yoshino Station and the Naka Senbon area near Chikurin-in Temple.

2. Nara Park

Deer and cherry blossom in Nara Park. Photo Credit: fortherock at Flickr.

Nara Park is kind of a place worth visiting every time you come to Nara city. This is where you will meet hudreds of freely roaming deer and explore Nara’s main attractions such as Todaiji, Nara National Museum, Kasuga Taisha, and Kofukuji, Isuien Garden.

This sightseeing hot spot is wonderful at any time of year, but it is especially magical during the cherry blossom season. A wide range of cherry species are planted and this means that the cherry blossom season in Nara Park is very long. You may even get to see the park’s iconic deer amid the pink blooms. You can even purchase deer crackers to feed these graceful, docile animals. The park is home to many traditional-style buildings which are often next to cherry trees.

You can reach Nara Park by taking a short walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, a slightly longer walk from JR Nara Station, or by taking any of many bus routes that stop near the park.

3. Heijo Palace

Heijo Palace during spring, Nara. Photo Credit: Nara Prefecture.

Heijo Palace was the Emperor’s residence during Nara’s time as Japan’s capital. Over time, the original buildings have been lost, except for one hall that has been moved to Toshodaiji Temple. Today, the palace has been revitalized and is now home to several reconstructed structures that serve as a museum.

There are many cherry trees on the grounds. When they bloom, they frame the reconstructed buildings beautifully, transporting you back in time.

These trees often are a few days behind those in Nara Park (which is located quite close).

To get to Heijo Palace, get to Yamato-Saidaiji Station the Kintetsu trains, then walk 15 minutes. Bus number 14 bound for Yamato-Saidaiji Station from both JR Nara Station and Kintetsu Nara Station also can take you to Heijo Palace.

4. Himuro Shrine

Weeping cherry tree of Himuro Shrine. Photo Credit: Tamago Moffle at Flickr.

This shrine was dedicated to the god Himuro Myōjin (Nara’s God of Ice). It sits upstream of the Yoshiki River at the foot of Mount Mikasa. This was also an icehouse.

Ice from here was offered to the imperial court in Nara and there was an annual festival in honor of the ice. Now, the area is known for its incredible cherry blossoms that bloom from late March and early April. Weeping cherry (shidarezakura) trees here are particularly stunning to look at.

To reach the shrine, you will have to take the Nara City Loop Bus from Nara Station or Kintetsu Station and then get off at the Himuro Shrine/National Museum bus stop next to the museum. Fare is 210 yen.

5. Hasedera Temple

Sakura and Five-storied Pagoda of Hasedera Temple, Nara. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Located in the mountains east of Sakurai, this temple is the head temple of the Buzan school of Shingon Buddhism. It was built by a Buddhist Monk in 686. More than 30 buildings are built along the hillside, offering visitors plenty to explore.

The complex is home to around 1000 cherry trees. These surround its structures with delicate blooms every spring and the pagoda, in particular, is especially striking.

The temple’s main hall has a large balcony (wooden stage) from where visitors can observe the other buildings of the temple and seasonal beauty such as autumn leaves in fall and cherry blossom in spring. You may see monks walking between buildings in their robes. Be sure to take the time to visit the gardens on your way back down.

Between JR Nara Station and Sakurai Station, there are only two trains per hour along the JR Sakurai Line. The one way ride takes about 30 minutes and is covered by Japan Rail Pass. You can reach Hasedera Temple by walking a short distance from Hasedera Station, which you can reach on the Kintetsu Line.

6. Mount Wakakusa (Wakakusayama)

Mount Wakakusa sakura, Nara.

This Mountain rises behind Nara Park. It is 350 meters tall and offers a great view of Nara City. The slope is lined with cherry trees, offering a delightful walk as you ascend to see its view. You can also see beautiful cherry blossoms at its summit.

Cherry blossoms hit their peak on Mount Wakakusayama in early April. You can get there by walking a short way from Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha. If you want to go there from a train station, you can take a longer trek from Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station.

If hiking is in your blood, enjoy a short hike to the mountain and the views you will see from its summit will definitely delight you. And it does not always have to be during the cherry blossom season as it’s popularly known as a year-round activity in Nara City.

7. Koriyama Castle

Koriyama Castle. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Few castle ruins in Japan are as impressive as Koriyama Castle. While not original, the structure has been reconstructed and is now surrounded by lush gardens, including many cherry trees. At night in spring, the castle is illuminated and turns into a magical place.

Every year in March and April, a festival (Yamato Koriyama Castle Matsuri) is held here to ward off evil spirits. Locals dress in period costumes and hold a goldfish fair.

You can reach Koriyama Castle from JR Koriyama and Kintetsu Koriyama stations on foot. From Nara Station, it takes about 5 minutes to reach Koriyama Station on the Yamatoji Line.

8. Butsuryu-Ji Temple

The big sakura tree, Sennen-Zakura! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This temple dates back 850 and is home to one major feature in particular: a vast, 900-year old cherry tree, called ‘Sennen-Zakura’. It blooms white every April and people gather every Sunday that month to view its delicate blossoms. Besides the tree, be sure to visit the rest of the grounds.

How to access to Butsuryu-Ji Temple? Visitors can reach the temple by taking a bus from Haibara Station to Takai-mae, then walking 30 minutes. That’s it!

Watch this video and enjoy the views of cherry blossoms.