The Best Things to do in Nara One Day Itinerary
Nara is an excellent choice if you are looking for an easy day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka. Here, you can duck into gorgeous temples, wander around Nara Deer Park and even feed the free-roaming deer. Read all about which top spots not to miss on a Nara one day itinerary, here.
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. If you’re looking for a great day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka, don’t miss adding Nara to your Japan itinerary.
Nara was established in 710 and boasts with some pretty remarkable temples, unique architecture and gorgeous stretched-out gardens. Not to mention, the hundreds of free-roaming deer!
Although Nara is the capital of Japan’s Nara Prefecture, it’s pretty small making it really easy to explore in just one day. Unlike its bustling neighbors, Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is whimsical, quaint, compact and a great place to spend some time in 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 extremely easy to reach by foot, so you really don’t need to worry about taxis and buses.
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The Best Spots to Add to Your Nara One Day Itinerary
Nara Deer Park
Many of the top attractions in Nara actually lie close to Nara Deer Park. Which is why I’d suggest you start your Nara one day itinerary right here.
Apart from its 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! If you too want to feed the deer, you can buy some cookies at one of the many stalls around the park. Packs contain 5 cookies and go for ¥150.
Although Nara is a wonderful destination to explore year-round, I highly recommend visiting Nara during autumn. In fact, autumn is by far my favorite season in Japan. And for very good reason. After all, who can resist gorgeous color scenes ranging from bright reds and bursting yellows to vivid oranges and all shades of brown imaginable?
If you are thinking of heading here during this season, be sure to check out these other top spots for fall in Japan.
Nara’s most iconic temple is Todai-ji. This remarkable temple is an absolute must-see on your Nara one day itinerary. 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 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 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.
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 important Shinto shrine, Kasuga-Taisha. Dating back to 768 AD, the shrine 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!
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, there is also a treasure museum containing 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.
Getting to Nara
You can easily 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 accessed 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
For the most accurate prices and time schedules, be sure to visit the respective sites.
Have you ever been to Nara? What tips to do you have for visiting Nara? And, more importantly, what were your favorite things to do on a Nara one day itinerary?
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This post was updated on February 29, 2019.