There is nowhere more special than Kyoto. It is home to everything associated with traditional Japan: striking temples, mysterious geisha, sacred tea ceremony, Zen rock gardens, imperial palaces, refined cuisine, ornate kimono, bamboo groves, street-corner shrines and lively festivals

Kyoto Map

“Kyoto is a city full of hidden gems; a place that will never cease to surprise you. Whether it be an immaculate Japanese garden or a fabulous kaiseki restaurant, Kyoto offers extraordinary experiences like nowhere else I have ever been”

Ruth Hubbard, Product Manager

On first glance however, Kyoto may not live up to expectations.  Most visitors arrive at Kyoto Station, a gleaming ode to futuristic architecture designed by Hiroshi Hara, before being swept out past tacky Kyoto Tower, drab concrete shops and karaoke bars.  But Kyoto is Japan's seventh largest city, not a tiny rural village, and it is the juxtaposition of modern, urban life against the time-honoured traditions that make this the most fascinating of Asian cities.

Kyoto was founded in 794 as Japan's capital and the home of Emperor Kanmu.  Situated in a flat plateau surrounded by mountains on three sides and bisected by the River Kamo, the city was laid out as a grid system in the tradition of Tang China.  However overcrowding, plagues and natural disasters soon befell the city and a series of rituals and festivals came into being to placate the spirit world.  Kyoto is now home to more than 2,000 temples and shrines including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Kyoto culture, a unique tapestry of influences from imperial nobility, samurai warriors, silk traders and Zen Buddhists, is still fiercely defended by Kyotoites.  Their traditions make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons.

As the epicentre of Japanese culture and history, Kyoto attracts more than 40 million visitors a year.  And while Kinkaku-ji, the stunning golden pavilion, and the impressive wooden stage at Kiyomizu-dera are must-see destinations, you won't escape the tour buses in peak season.  However, the real Kyoto heartbeat is lurking just around the corner for those who make the effort to get off the main tourist trail and seek it out.

For example, take the back exit from Kiyomizu-dera and you'll find yourself alone in the anicent and majestic cemetery which clings to the mountain side.  Sanjusangendo is another less-visited treasure.  The main temple hall is filled with 1,001 shining gold statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  There's always a chance to flee the crowds at Fushimi Inari where thousands of torii shrine gates make a labyrinth of bright red tunnels along the mountain paths.

Then there are the places where the real Kyoto heartbeat is found, working Kyoto; Nishiki market where old ladies in kimono barter for mysterious ingredients, city centre sento bath houses or the tiny lantern lit temples set amongst the shops in the Sanjo arcades.  Kyoto is there to be uncovered and discovered, and once you have scratched the surface, it is a city sure to draw you back time and time again.

"There are so many magic Kyoto moments that I will never forget.  I thought I had Heian shrine garden to myself one Monday morning until I turned a corner and saw two geisha quietly being photographed by the lily pond.  Or there was the time I stumbled across a Shinto wedding ceremony at Kamigamo Shrine.  By chance I once met a festival parade in Ohara, a mountain village just outside the city.  Mine was the only Western face watching the local men and boys carry portable shrines up to Sanzen-in Temple, singing as they went." Ruth Hubbard - Travel Consultant

Recommended Accommodation in Kyoto

Over the past few years the range of accommodation available in Kyoto has improved greatly. There are some fabulous boutique hotels at all price ranges as well as the big established names. Or why not try a Japanese ryokan in the capital of Japanese history and culture

Experiences in Kyoto

In keeping with its position as the capital of culture Kyoto offers more experiences than any other city. There is of course the traditional sightseeing but you can really get beneath the surface with visits to artisans, tea ceremony, culinary experiences, sake brewery visits & much more besides

Weather in Kyoto

The Climate Guide for Kyoto, Japan is perfect for planning your holiday. Monthly weather averages give the best indication of what the weather is usually like for every month of the year including figures for temperature, rainfall and sunshine.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max Daytime Temperature (°C) 6 6 10 17 21 25 29 30 25 20 14 9
Min Night-time Temperature (°C) -2 -2 1 6 11 16 20 21 17 11 5 1
Hours of Sunshine (Daily) 3 4 5 5 6 5 5 6 4 5 4 4
Hours of Daylight (Daily) 10 11 12 13 14 14 14 13 12 11 10 10
Heat and Humidity Discomfort None None None None None None Moderate High Low None None None
Days with some Rainfall 25 24 23 17 16 19 19 18 19 16 18 22
Monthly Rainfall (mm) 106 100 123 130 145 218 228 137 209 116 99 86
UV Index (Maximum) 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 10 8 6 3 2