A wanderlust guide

Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day

Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day

Roughly one hour south of Kyoto is the magical wonderland of Nara. As the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, this little city is like a breath of fresh air. Unlike its bustling neighbors, Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is whimsical, quaint, compact and easily explored on foot in a day.

Established in 710, Nara boasts with some pretty remarkable temples, unique architecture and gorgeous stretched-out gardens. Moreover, Nara is home to hundreds of free-roaming tame deer.

Read all about the top spots not to miss, here in Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day.

Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day

Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day

1. Nara Deer Park

Many of the top attractions lie close to Nara Deer Park. Which is why, most of your exploring will start right here.  Apart from it’s great location, the park is the perfect spot to have a picnic whilst admiring the surroundings and of course, the deer. Witness these cute animals huddling around the Deer Cookie stalls waiting for hand-outs. The cookies can be bought from any of the shopkeepers. Packs contain 5 cookies and go for ¥150.

Autumn leaves in Nara Deer Park

I highly recommend visiting Nara Deer Park during autumn. The entire park (and city) turns into a wonderland bursting with colors.

Free roaming deer in Nara Deer Park

Nara Deer Park Ice cream store
Ice cream anyone?

2. Todai-ji temple

Nara’s most iconic temple is Todai-ji. This remarkable temple is an absolute must-see. It’s home to the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha); a 15m towering statue housed in the Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha). The statue is the second largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world. The Hall itself, is the biggest wooden building in the world and a UNESCO World heritage site. In addition to the impressive Daibutsu, the Hall houses four other giant statues, a few old tiles and leftover relics.

After admiring the statues, head towards the wooden column with a small hole carved through the bottom. If you can squeeze through the hole, ‘enlightenment’ is reportedly promised! Don’t forget to stop and touch the Yakushi Nyorai Buddha on your way out too! Which, according to rumor, has healing powers.

Opening hours:
Apr – Oct: 7:30 – 17:30
Nov – Mar: 8:00 – 16:30
Entrance fee: ¥500

The entrance to Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

Todai-ji Temple and it's free roaming deer

Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan
Todai-ji Temple is the largest wooden building in the world.

Todai-ji temple grounds

The Great Buddha at Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan
The impressive Daibutsu.

A giant golden Buddha at Todai-ji Temple, Nara, Japan

Apart from the temple, the grounds are almost just as spectacular. Be sure to explore the beautiful surroundings and many pathways.

Todai-ji Temple's foresty walkways

 3. Kasuga-Taisha Shrine

A short walk from the Deer Park is Nara’s most important Shinto shrine, Kasuga-Taisha. Dating back to 768 AD, the shrine has a main hall and a worshippers hall. Although I loved the bright architecture of the shrine, the grounds left me in utter awe. With towering forests, pathways lined with more than 3000 stone lanterns and wandering deer, Kasuga-Taisha is mesmerizing and breathtaking!

Opening hours:
Apr – Sep: 6:00 – 18:00
Oct – Mar: 6:30 – 17:00
Entrance fee: 
¥500

The entrance to Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Nara, Japan

Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Nara, JapanLanterns at Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Nara, Japan

Stone lanterns at Kasuga-Taisha, Nara, Japan
Kasuga-Taisha is home to more than 3000 stone lanterns.

Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, Japanese inscriptions on woodThe view from Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, forest, autumn leaves, stone lanterns

Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, forest, stone lanterns, autumn leaves

Wooden deer wish cards, Nara, Japan
Remember to make a wish!

4. Kofuku-ji temple

Kofuku-ji Temple is home to a five-story pagoda making it hard to miss as you make your way to Nara Deer Park. Apart from it’s towering pagoda, there is also a treasure museum containing some interesting Buddhist images and the legendary three-faced Ashura. The main hall, the Central Golden Hall, initially constructed between 710-714, is currently under construction. The hall is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Entrance fee: Entry to the grounds are free. Eastern Golden Hall ¥300. National Treasure Museum ¥600.

Kofuku-ji Temple pagoda, Nara, Japan
The Kofuku-ji Temple Pagoda.

Getting to Nara

Nara is easily reached by car or train from Kyoto. Although, both Kintetsu Railways and JR West have frequent trains to Nara, I’d suggest taking Kintetsu Railways to reach the city. The Kintetsu Nara Station is just a stone’s throw from Nara Park, making the top attractions easily accessed. Kintetsu Direct Express trains run hourly and will set you back ¥620 for a single ride.

Alternatively, if you have already purchased a Japan Rail Pass, take the JR West line to Nara. The JR station is a 15-20 minute walk to most of the main attractions. JR West trains run every thirty minutes from Kyoto station and costs ¥720 for a one way trip.

For the most accurate prices and time schedules, be sure to visit the respective sites.

Location

A street view of Nara, Japan at dusk.

Autumn leaves in Nara, Japan

 

Have you ever been to Nara? We’d love to hear all about your trip in the comments below. Also, feel free to head to our Japan section to check out the top sights not to miss in Kyoto. 

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Red autumn leaves in Nara, Japan



17 thoughts on “Nara: Stunning sights to explore in one day”

  • We visited Nara last November and it was one of the best days on our trip to Japan. Beautiful town with so much to see there and you also get to feed the deer. I love how you have been able to catch the autumn colours on your pictures.
    This was our first trip to Japan and we absolutely fell in love with the country. I hope we can visit soon again. It is so different and full of life, and people are so friendly. I will need to read your other Japan related posts as well.

    • Thanks Paula! This was my first trip to Japan too! And I must admit, I can’t wait to go back either. What an amazing country…apart from its culture, history and ‘oh so gorgeousness’…the food was mouthwatering!

  • Japan is on our list. Would love to see it in Autumn to see the colors in the trees. The deer park would be nice to see. Thanks for some ideas. Some really great photos as well.

  • Nara is such a quaint and pretty town! The autumn foliage looks so lovely, you have captured it so beautifully. The historic significance of the city is clearly visible from the pictures. Would love to see the 3000 lanterns at Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

  • Oh my goodness the color of those trees are mesmerizing. I’m not one for the wild life, but its interesting that they don’t run away like the ones we have here. The temple statues also seem larger than life. Certainly a place I’d like to visit some time.

  • I really like the greenery and the beautiful color of the foliage. And the buddha statue as well. Seems like a very stunning sight to explore for sure. I will keep it in mind when I visit this part of the world.

  • So nice to see a different part that I did not previously know about. We are looking to visit Japan someday. We need to really find two to three weeks to see everything we want to without having to rush. Your pics are great.

  • Those autumn leaves on the trees are so vibrant and colourful. I have only been to Japan for a short visit but have vowed to return to see more of this beautiful country. I will certainly put Nara on my itinerary. It’s hard to decide what time of year to go – Autumn for the coloured leaves or Spring for the cherry blossoms? Or maybe winter for the ski season?

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