Courtesy Christiane Deiters

A drastic contrast to Tokyo’s endless horizon of skyscrapers, pixelated screens, and flashing lights, Kyoto’s calm Kamo River flows through the historic UNESCO World Heritage city, with narrow alleys lined with 17th century tea houses and mountains hovering in the distance shrouded in fog. The layout was modeled after an ancient Chinese capital, and the city’s position was chosen as an ideal site for its feng shui balance between the elements. (Kyoto served as the capital of Japan from 794 to 1868.) Home to over 2,000 temples, the city served as the center of Japanese culture for over a thousand years. Historical architecture remains largely intact as it was spared from bombings in World War II.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…in a garden view room at the Four Seasons with superb vistas overlooking the pond.
  • Experience…the famous moss garden Koke-Dera (reservations required several weeks in advance).
  • Splurge…on a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional geisha house of Gion.
  • Eat… a seasonal kaiseke meal at Kikunoi.
  • Drink… Japanese matcha at a tea tasting at Ippodo Tea.
  • Visit…local artist studios with a gallery owner.
  • Savor…the Japanese flavor essence of umami.
  • See…the bamboo forest at dawn, and the Golden temple at dusk.
  • Shop…for contemporary Japanese artisanal gifts at the Kyoto Design House.
  • Know…that Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team for help with trip planning, including customized recommendations and itineraries.

Newly Added:

ITOH DiningTempura Yoshikawa

Lay of the Land

“I loved the quiet places in Kyoto, the places that held the world within a windless moment. Inside the temples, Nature held her breath. All longing was put to sleep in the stillness, and all was distilled into a clean simplicity.”
~Pico Iyer

Kyoto is located in a valley with mountains bordering the city to its north, west and east. The Kamo river intersects the city and flows from north to south. Most visitors arrive into Kyoto Station, which is a newer area with midrange hotels and office buildings. Nakagyo-Ku is the neighborhood occupying central Kyoto, busy with the city’s many shopping arcades and nightlife. Eastern Kyoto is a quaint area good for strolling, home to many pottery shops and other local crafts. Gion is located here, Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district. Northern Kyoto is where many of the important sites are located, including the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kinkakuji (the Golden Temple). A small neighborhood of artist studios has emerged from the former textile district of Nishijin in the northwest.

When to Go

The best time to visit Kyoto is the spring or fall. The summer months are the rainy season and can be very hot. Temperatures in the winter are not always consistent, ranging from cold to mild.

Where to Stay

By and large, Kyoto hotels fall into two different categories: large, Western-friendly chains or small, traditional ryokans with elaborate multicourse meals and tatami mats in lieu of beds. Indagare members can consult out Bookings Team to select the property right for them.

Tip: ATMs are virtually non-existent outside of Kyoto Station

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Beyond… Kyoto

Consider combining your trip with one of these destinations.

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