Discover Kyoto Off the Beaten Path

Being the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto offers no shortage of spectacular shrines, temples and gardens. Naturally, covering them all in a short period of time is impossible, and believe it or not, the term “templed out” is a real thing. There is an unofficial recommended list of must-see places in Kyoto which most first-time visitors attempt to cover, and I was not an exception. However, ever since my last visit to the city I yearned to go back. I was irrevocably charmed by the allure of its narrow cobblestone alleys, manicured gardens and stunning shrines. I was enchanted and wowed by the incredible beauty of places like Fushimi-Inari Taisha, the Golden and Silver Pavilions, Arashiyama bamboo forest and the Gion district, just to name the few. However, my inexhaustible curiosity as a travel blogger makes me want to push my boundaries and long for new experiences. This time, my intent was to revisit some of my favorite shrines, as well as explore new, unique, and off the beaten path sights in Kyoto. I had an undeniable craving to forget about time and get lost in the vastness of the city awash in vibrant fall colors. Just me, myself and magnificent Kyoto in fall. Here are the unique sights I found during this journey.

Ryozen Kannon

This quite remarkable statue of Kannon was erected in 1955 to commemorate Japanese soldiers who fell during WWII and is an example of Showa era art. Seeing her against the placid, ever-green mountain range of Kyoto was definitely worth a visit.





Nanzen-ji Temple

Nestled in the forested foothills of Kyoto, Nanzen-ji was turned into a temple after the death of its owner – Empreror Kameyama – and became the most powerful Zen temple in Japan for a time. The sprawling grounds feature enormous San mon (Triple Gate) symbolizing entrance into the sacred part of the precinct; a peaceful Leaping Tiger Garden and the brick aqueduct which serves as a nice photoshoot backdrop.









Kodai-ji Temple

Established in 1605 and serving as one of the largest and most important sub-temples of Kennin-ji, Kodai-ji is renowned for its beautiful design and exquisite craftsmanship. There is so much to explore here and the grounds were absolutely stunning during autumn. I enjoyed wandering around and taking in the scenery of the expansive garden of serene pools swimming with colorful koi, hills of meticulously tended moss, a forest of tall bamboo, tea houses with thatched roofs and the rock garden with raked grey gravel.
















Eikando Zanrin-ji

This zen temple dating back to the 9th century is undoubtedly one of the best spots for colorful foliage viewing in Kyoto. You could easily spend a couple of hours here admiring the scenery of maple trees, ponds, and rock gardens. The view of the pagoda nestled in the woods is one of the most iconic fall views of Kyoto and one of the main features of the temple is the statue of Amida Buddha with a turned head.




















Enkou-ji Temple

This zen temple, first established in 1601 as an educational institution, is tucked away in the north-east of Kyoto. One of the primary features is a stunning garden containing a bamboo forest and numerous maple trees which is so picturesque as to attract crowds during fall.  The garden also has a remarkable underground water basin that allows visitors to appreciate the delicate sound of dripping water.







Tofuku-ji Temple

Probably one of my favorite temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji has a beautiful gateway arch – the oldest in Japan – that leads to an expansive medieval complex consisting of 24 temples. Four contrasting gardens – both dry gravel and landscaped – are arranged around the main hall. In addition I don’t think anything can compare to the sight of the burnished maple trees that cover the entire grounds.





















Have you been to Kyoto? Which temple/shrine was your favorite? 

xoxo, nano

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Linking up with wonderful ladies at Travel Link-upMonday Escapes, Wanderful WednesdaysCity Tripping #62, Weekend Travel Inspiration, Faraway Files.




  1. Beautiful photos and words, Nano. The settings, the shrines themselves, and the whole atmosphere looks so incredibly peaceful and spiritual. I feel like actually being there in person to absorb this ambience would be life-changing!

  2. Simply stunning Nano! I love Japanese maple trees for their stunning fall foliage. We used to have one in our front yard in Oregon. Those bright reds and oranges are so beautiful against the green backdrop. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous corner of the world. Really, very beautiful. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #FarawayFiles

  3. I’m so in love with Kyoto now after reading your post and admiring your beautiful photos! Japanese gardens are my favourite, and seeing these gorgeous photos of the garden landscapes, autumn leaves and shrines took my breath away. I have always wanted to visit Japan during autumn because I love the red, orange and dark brown hues. Thanks for sharing with us, it’s lovely :-) #farawayfiles

  4. Breathtaking photos. Autumn is a great time to visit Kyoto. I love Kyoto although it’s been so long since we went. I’d like to go again, like you have done, and rediscover parts of it. #citytripping

  5. Just LOVE your photos of Kyoto in Autumn, Nano. It’s a real feast for the eyes. Looking at your Japan posts is such a revelation – I love those spindly thin tree trunks at Kodai Ji and the Kannon statue in particular. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post on #FarawayFiles

  6. wow!Absolutely stunning photos.The temples are really beautiful and with lot of amazing views.Would love to visit Kyoto one day!

  7. Absolutely incredible Nano. How many photos did you take before editing? Autumn looks beautiful but I am sure all the seasons are magnificent. I can’t wait to visit Kyoto! Thanks so much for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Katy, don’t even ask. I usually come with at least couple of thousands of photos from each destination, this it is SO HARD to narrow down the favorites that go onto the post. Thank you so much for hosting the link up and reading. I hope you visit soon, I’d love to meet you!

  8. Wow, stunning images. I am def pinning this as Japan, especially Kyoto, is high up on our list. Just trying to figure out when to go..but clearly visiting in the fall is a beautiful time. #farawayfiles

  9. Does it feel great when you push the boundaries, make an effort to do something different and end up with a huge reward because of that? There places are so beautiful and peaceful. Then, you visited during a gorgeous season. I bet you look at this pictures and say: “Ohh, the places I have been to.”

  10. Such beautiful photos – I can’t help wondering if anyone has seen all of the temples and shrines? It’s a tempting goal (although over quite a long time…) I only had a couple of days in Kyoto but I loved it, even just wandering around and would love to go back to see some of the smaller temples too. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    1. Haha that’s a good question. Perhaps if I lived in Kyoto and did nothing else but explore I could cover it all in a month or two. Although it is such a perfect city for just wondering around like you said. :)

  11. Stunning photos! I lived in Japan for a year teaching English, many moons ago. Half of my time was living in a town near Kyoto so I visited many times and have such fond memories of exploring all the beautiful shrines. I’d love to return with my little boy in tow, especially when I see posts like yours :) Polly #citytripping

  12. Stunning pictures. I just started saving up for an Asain trip and I cannot wait to visit all these places you recommended. How many days will you recommend for Kyoto on a first-time visit? #wanderfulwednesday

  13. Kyoto definitely has some of the best foliage viewing spots in all of Japan. I only went for three days, but I could have stayed for a decade. When I went I only went to some of the bigger temples though, I wish i got a little more time to explore he smaller temples. These photos are amazing though!

  14. I love the way from yasaka shrine to kiyomizu and the shrine in front of kodai-ji with the white dragon screen. People temple out but they try to “do” Kyoto in 2-3 days which is unrealistic. It’s a great city to go back over and over and see temples and shrines in different seasons and weather.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, people try to cram as much as possible instead of enjoying each place. I loved revisiting in fall and see a different side of Kyoto. I think you mean Keninji Temple? It’s my favorite place in all of Kyoto. So serene and quiet.

  15. These photos are stunning, the autumn colours in Kyoto are absolutely gorgeous! I only spent 48 hours in Kyoto so I didn’t get round to exploring as much as you, which is a pity. These are some really amazing places.

    1. Thank you so much, Alice! I don’t blame you though, it’s hard to see everything when you are visiting for a short period of time. I hope you’ll get to revisit some other places some other time, it’s good to have a reason to return :)

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