If Tokyo and Osaka represent the zenith of modern Japan, Kyoto is the country’s most affecting window on the past. Although it remains one of the nation’s most important cities – with all the contemporary trappings you might expect – the old ways still reign supreme in the former imperial capital.
While genuine geishas are these days difficult to spot, the famous entertainment quarter of Gion remains a lively place for an evening stroll as lights illuminate its traditional 17th-century restaurants.
Elsewhere, some minor exploration is required to truly uncover Kyoto’s beauty and spirituality. Estimates put the total of Buddhist temples in the city at over 1000. Among them are exquisite examples of temple architecture such as Kinkaku-ji, the city’s famed Golden Pavilion and Kiyomizu-dera, an ancient structure with origins in the 8th century.
Arguably even more enchanting are the mesmerising Zen-gardens that are attached to the temples. The rock garden at Ryoan-ji Temple is undoubtedly the most famous of these but other peaceful expanses can be found at Ginkaku-ji, Okochi-Sanso Villa and countless other spots.
More earthly pleasures can be found in Kyoto’s impressive selection of bars and restaurants. Keiseki is a specialty of the city, an elaborate multi-course meal that originated around 500 years ago as an accompaniment to tea ceremonies.
ART & CULTURE (15 DAYS / 14 NIGHTS)
Discover Japan’s cultural heartbeat on an art-themed journey from Tokyo to Osaka. Travel through the evolution of Japanese art, browsing everything from ancient temples and famous masterpieces to innovative modern buildings and contemporary art. Enjoy hands-on courses and memorable encounters for a deeper understanding of Japan’s rich traditional culture.
- Discover Japan’s ‘Art Island’. Spend a full day exploring the modern art galleries, classical museums and impressive architectural structures of Naoshima Island.
- Admire Japan’s unique architecture. Wander around and discover more about the art and traditions of Tokyo and meander along Takayama’s traditional architecture.
- Explore ancient cultural traditions. Partake in a tea ceremony and witness the icons of Kyoto, visit a former samurai’s home, discovering Kanazawa’s cultural charm.
FULL DAY TOUR: KYOTO’S CLASSIC SIGHTS BY BIKE
Take to the streets of Kyoto on two wheels. Get a different perspective of Japan’s cultural capital while cycling through historic neighborhoods and scenic side streets. Encounter scenes of daily life, discover hidden gems away from the usual tourist trail and stop to visit Kyoto’s remarkable UNESCO-heritage sites.
HALF DAY TOUR: TEA CEREMONY AT PRIVATE TEMPLE
Take a look behind the scenes at one of Japan’s most important cultural rituals. Step into one of Kyoto’s Zen temples and meet with a tea master for an exclusive ceremony. Learn the deep connection between Zen Buddhism and tea, while observing the graceful movements of the teacher.
Uncover the secrets of Japan’s world-famous cuisine with an insightful Kyoto food tour. Join a passionate foodie to explore the incredible array of fresh items on sale at Nishiki Market. Then sip sake at a machiya – a traditional wooden Japanese townhouse – before stepping into the kitchen to prepare an authentic Japanese dinner.
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