Kyoto, a prefecture filled with Buddhist temples, palaces, and Shinto shrines, is Japan’s cultural capital and has become a major tourist destination worldwide. But did you know that in addition to the capital city of Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture has a plethora of hidden gems off the beaten path? Here are some of our favorites!
- Kurama (鞍馬) and Kibune (貴船)
- Ōhara (大原)
- Kameoka (亀岡)
- Amanohashidate (天橋立)
- Ine Bay (伊根湾)
- Miyama Kayabuki no Sato (美山 かやぶきの里)
- Nantan (南丹)
- Gorō Sky Tower (五老スカイタワー)
- Kyotamba (京丹波)
- Ayabeshi Bairin Park (綾部市梅林公園)
- Fukuchiyama (福知山)
- Mt. Hiei (比叡山)
Kurama (鞍馬) and Kibune (貴船)
The Kurama and Kibune area is located in the northernmost part of Kyoto City and is a hidden gem to cool off on a hot summer day. Platforms are set above the river where you can rest, enjoy delicious Japanese food, and take in the scenery. Visiting the unique shrines and temples and praying for a happy relationship and good luck are also a must when you stop by Kurama and Kibune.
For more information, please refer to our Kurama and Kibune article.
Ōhara, a quaint and quiet town on the outskirts of Kyoto city near the base of Mt. Hiei, is surrounded by beautiful nature. It is the ultimate spot in Kyoto to admire the gorgeous Japanese gardens and temples without the usual crowds in Kyoto. In addition, there are several fine restaurants in Ōhara and even a Foot Spa Cafe Sansou where you can rejuvenate after a busy day of sightseeing!
For more information, please refer to our Ōhara article.
Kameoka is a scenic city that you can get to by taking the Sagano Scenic Railway at the end of the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. The city that sits in a basin is often foggy, which adds to the magical ambiance of the surrounding nature.
In addition to having a stunning off-the-beaten-path cherry blossom destination, you can also make your first small knife in a sword forge and encounter a reclining Buddha statue lying in a futon bed!
For more information, please refer to our Kameoka article.
Amanohashidate is one of the most scenic sites in Japan. The highlight is a 3.6km sandbar in the sea with 5,000 pine trees that looks like a flying dragon when viewed from observation decks atop nearby hills. It is a stunning place to visit any time of the year. There are cherry blossoms in the spring, stunning foliage in the fall, and beautiful snow in the winter. Filled with hot springs facilities, temples, and beaches, Amanohashidate is a must-visit hidden gem in Kyoto Prefecture.
For more information, please refer to our Amanohashidate article.
Ine Bay (伊根湾)
Just north of Amanohashidate, Ine Bay is a charming fishing village with houses built directly over the water. A great way to view the unique houses, called Funaya, is to take the Ine Bay Sightseeing Ferry or Sea Taxi. Or, you can book a night’s stay or visit one of the cafes to examine the architecture in detail. Ine Bay is also great for recreational activities such as bike riding and sea kayaking.
For more information, please refer to our Ine Bay article.
Miyama Kayabuki no Sato (美山 かやぶきの里)
If you want to step into a thatched-roof house, you don’t need to travel all the way to Shirakawa-gō. Miyama Kayabuki no Sato is the perfect place to visit if you are short of time!
There are plenty of attractions to stop by in the village, including the Miyama Folk Museum, soba fields, cafes, and the Chii Hachiman Shrine. Located in the Kyoto Tamba Kōgen Quasi-National Park, it is also a great spot to enjoy nature. If you visit Miyama Kayabuki no Sato in the winter, plan your visit to attend the Kayabuki no Sato Snow Lantern Festival!
For more information, please refer to our article on Miyama Kayabuki no Sato.
Nantan City (南丹市)
Miyama Kayabuki no Sato isn’t the only attraction worth visiting in Nantan City. The serene city features incredible landscapes and beautiful Japanese dams. Located southwest of Nantan City, the Ruri River Valley Natural Park is a designated National Place of Scenery Beauty with breathtaking waterfalls and lakes.
Another highlight is Rurikei Onsen for REST RESORT which has hot springs and glamping sites. You can even have an “enzyme bath” at the resort with rice bran mixed with enzymes to stimulate your metabolism.
For more travel ideas close to Miyama Kayabuki no Sato, please refer to our article on Nantan City.
Gorō Sky Tower (五老スカイタワー)
If you are after the best scenic view in the Kansai region, ensure you stop by Gorō Sky Tower in Maizuru City. The tower offers breathtaking panoramic views of Maizuru Bay throughout the year. The restaurant at the top of the tower is where you can take in the stunning scenery while having a meal.
For more information, please refer to our Maizuru City article.
Kyotamba is a small town in central Kyoto Prefecture known for its chestnuts, black beans, and fantastic scenery. Some of the city’s highlights are Koto Falls, Gyokuunji Temple, Tamba Winehouse, and the Shizushi Limestone Cave. With hiking and biking trails in the area, Kyotamba is an amazing hidden gem to escape the crowd in Kyoto’s city center!
For more information, please refer to our Kyotamba article.
Ayabeshi Bairin Park (綾部市梅林公園)
In Ayabe City, Ayabeshi Bairin Park is an off-the-beaten-path destination that shouldn’t be missed in early spring. With over 450 plum blossom trees blooming in March, the view formed by the gorgeous flower and their fragrance is just amazing.
For more information about the best time to visit it, refer to our article on Ayabe City!
Fukuchiyama City, located in northern Kyoto Prefecture, has beautiful nature with cherry blossoms, hydrangeas, and extraordinary fall foliage. The city has a rich history and is connected to the famous samurai, Akechi Mitsuhide.
For nature lovers, the spot you won’t want to miss in Fukuchiyama City is the Futasegawa Gorge and the Amanoiwato Shrine. The Futasegawa Gorge is one of Kyoto’s most beautiful hidden gems, with extraordinary rock formations and clear streams. Also, test your fears by walking across the suspension bridge in the gorge for a thrill!
For other attractions in the city that you might be interested in, refer to our Fukuchiyama City article.
Mt. Hiei (比叡山)
Mt. Hiei is a sacred mountain located on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. Known as “the mother of Japanese Buddhism,” temples, pagodas, and worship halls are found throughout the mountain. Besides the temples of Enryaku-ji, there are non-religious attractions that you might want to visit, including Garden Museum Hiei and the Yumemigaoka Observation Deck for stunning views of the surrounding area.
For more information, please refer to our article on Mt. Hiei.
How to Get Around in Kyoto by Public Transportation
Most tourists who visit Kyoto for the first time find the public transportation system in this ancient but charming prefecture confusing. So to make your visit smoother, it is a great idea to do some homework beforehand.
Our article on How to Get Around Kyoto should paint a good picture for you and make the preparation easier to complete.