Looking for an easy day trip from Kyoto or Osaka? Then the beautiful little town of Nara is just the place to go. Plan the perfect Nara day trip with this easy to follow 1 day Nara itinerary!
Roughly one hour south of Kyoto is the magical wonderland of Nara – a quaint little town where free-roaming deer stroll around beautiful parks and gardens. Nara is arguably one of Kyoto’s best day trips and an excellent add-on to any Japan itinerary. Here, you can duck into ancient temples, wander around Nara Deer Park and even feed free-roaming deer.
Nara was established in 710 and is home to some pretty remarkable temples, unique architecture, gorgeous stretched-out gardens, and hundreds of free-roaming deer!
Although Nara is the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, it’s pretty small, making it a great choice for a 1-day itinerary. Unlike its bustling neighbors, Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is whimsical, quaint, compact, and a great place to spend some time surrounded by nature.
Since Nara is so small, you’ll be surprised to learn how easy it is to get around the city, too. All the top spots are effortless to reach on foot, so you don’t need to worry about taxis and buses.
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Nara 1 Day Trip Itinerary: The Best Things to do on a Nara Day Trip
Nara Deer Park
Many of the top attractions in Nara actually lie close to Nara Deer Park. This is why I’d suggest you start your Nara one day itinerary right here.
Apart from its excellent location, the park is the perfect spot to have a picnic while admiring the surroundings and, of course, the deer. Witness these cute animals huddling around the Deer Cookie stalls waiting for hand-outs! If you want to feed the deer, you can buy some cookies at one of the many stalls around the park. Packs contain five cookies and go for ¥150.
Insider’s tip: Although Nara is a beautiful destination to explore year-round, I highly recommend visiting Nara during autumn. The town starts to bustle with tourists, and the leaves begin to change. All over the city, you’ll be rewarded with leaves changing to bright reds, bursting yellows, vivid oranges, and all shades of brown imaginable. Here are a few other top spots for fall in Japan.
Nara’s most iconic temple and a must-visit place on your Nara day trip is Todai-Ji. The temple is home to the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha) – a 15m towering statue housed in the Daibutsu-den (Hall of the Great Buddha).
The figure is the second-largest Buddha statue in Japan and one of the largest in the world. The hall itself is the most significant wooden building in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to the impressive Daibutsu, the hall also houses four other giant statues, a few old tiles, and some 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 legend, has healing powers.
Apart from the temple, you’ll be delighted to learn that the grounds are just as spectacular. Be sure to explore the beautiful surroundings and all the little pathways.
Opening Hours: Apr – Oct: 7:30 – 17:30 | Nov – Mar: 8:00 – 16:30
Entrance fee: ¥500
A short walk from the Deer Park is Nara’s most famous Shinto shrine, Kasuga-Taisha. It dates back to 768 AD and has a main hall as well as a worshipper’s 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
Kofuku-ji Temple is home to a five-story pagoda, making it hard to miss as you make your way to or from Nara Deer Park. Apart from its towering pagoda, a treasure museum contains some interesting Buddhist images and the impressive three-faced Ashura. The main hall, the Central Golden Hall, was initially constructed between 710-714. It has recently been renovated, and I can’t wait to go back to see the changes first hand.
Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Entrance fee: Free entry to the grounds. Eastern Golden Hall ¥300. National Treasure Museum ¥600.
How to Get to Nara
You can quickly get to Nara 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 accessible on foot. 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 cost ¥720 for a one–way trip.
For the most accurate prices and time schedules, be sure to visit the respective sites.
Have you visited Nara? What tips do you have for fellow travelers planning a Nara day trip? If you have any suggestions to add to this 1 day Nara itinerary, let me know in the comments below.
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