Best Temples and Shrines You Must Visit on Your Solo Trip to Kyoto

With over 1600 timeless Buddhist temples and 400 sacred Shinto shrines, Kyoto is Japan’s spiritual sanctuary. But wait—of all, how do you segregate the best ones? Well, although all the temples and shrines are a testament to the tradition and culture of Kyoto, seven sites stood out to me—Fushimi Inari, Yasaka Shrine, Nanzen-ji, Kinkaku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Ryoan-ji, and Otagi Nenbutsuji. These are the best of the best and scream for a visit.

That said, even if you have two days in Kyoto, with this comprehensive list by your side, you’ll be able to explore all the temples and shrines Kyoto has to offer. 

Now, let’s explore the must-visit temples and shrines in Kyoto and understand what makes them such a unique embodiment of history and serenity.

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine – Live Your Memoirs of Geisha Dream

If you have read my other blog posts on Kyoto – you already know how much of a fan I am of Fushimi Inari. Hands down, Fushimi Inari is one of the best shrines in Kyoto! 

Dedicated to the Shinto god of rice – Inari, this shrine has several highlights. Romon Gate, fox statues, 10,000 torii gates, dense wilderness, hiking trails, and Mount Inari, every element adds a layer of charm to this shrine.

I suggest you hike up from the crowded bottom to soak in the beauty. Carry a light backpack for your essentials, and don’t worry about food; you’ll get plenty on your way. 

On average, you can spend an easy 3 to 4 hours here. The easiest way to reach this shrine is via a 5-minute train ride from Kyoto station. 

Temple Trivia: The torii gates were donated, and you can spot the donor names inscribed on them. 

Location: Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 

Timings: Open 24X7 

2. Yasaka-jinja Shrine – Discover One of the Most Religious Spots in Kyoto

If you’re looking for a shrine to sit, breathe, and reflect, visit Yasaka Shrine in the heart of Kyoto—especially at night! Yes, as the sun goes down, this shrine comes alive in all its glory. The all-lit-up Gion-zukuri architecture is stunning. 

So, finish your Kaiseki meal in the nearby Nishiki market and take a 25-minute walk to the shrine. Plus, you can explore the nearby Maruyama Park, which is equally peaceful.

In addition, if you’re in Kyoto in July, don’t miss the Gion Matsuri. After all, it is the birthplace of this famous festival in Kyoto.

Location: Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto

Timings: Open 24X7

3. Nanzen-ji Temple– Experience the History, Art, and Gardens of Kyoto 

Whether you’re here during the cherry blossom or the foliage season, Nanzen-ji Temple is one of the most aesthetic temples in Kyoto you’ll ever stumble upon.

Plus, you’ll never run out of things to do and explore here. Start at the main building with the artistic sliding doors (fusuma)—an exclusive view solely for visitors, as photography of the painted doors is prohibited. 

After that, head to the Hojo and treat your taste buds with a cup of matcha and your eyes to the sight of a waterfall. Also, for a birds-eye view, climb to the top of the Sanmon Gate.

Another highlight of the temple is the aqueduct built in the Meiji period. It was used to carry water between Kyoto and Lake Biwa.

This temple is easily accessible from the Keage bus stop (10 minutes away) or the Tozai subway (7 minutes away).

Bonus Temples: Continue walking on the Philosopher’s Path from Nanzen-ji, and you’ll come across Eikan-do and Honen-in Temple.

Location: Sakyo Ward, Kyoto

Timings: All days from 8:40 am to 5 pm

4. Kinkaku-ji Temple – The Golden Temple of Kyoto

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of the well-known Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Its dramatic three-tiered pavilion with golden leaf is a show-stopper! All you need is a clear sunny day for the dazzling magic to happen!

Although the entrance inside the pavilion is restricted, you can explore the gardens, Sekkatei teahouse, and Anmintaku pond. 

En route to the temple, you’ll find a shop to stop by! I loved the souvenirs, especially the ones for pets. Also, do savour the local delicacies. The entry fee for this place is 600 yen.

Location: Kita Ward, Kyoto

Timings: All days from 9 am to 5 pm

5. Kiyomizu-dera Temple – The Most Scenic Temple in Kyoto

You’ll find Kiyomizu-dera—Pure Water Temple in every Japanese tourist book. Perched on the Higashiyama slope and side of Otowa waterfall, it is one of the most sought-after temples in Kyoto.

What sets this apart is its 1200-year history, a wooden platform, and hilltop scenic views. Plus, it is one of Kyoto’s best spots to catch cherry blossoms.

Once you’ve climbed all the stairs, purchase a ticket (400 yen) on the right to access the overlook for views of Kyoto. But mind you, it is shoulder to shoulder. So, skip the tourist hours to avoid the rush.

Location: Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto

Timings: All days from 6 am to 6 pm

6. Ryoan-ji Temple – A Zen Paradise in Kyoto

If you’re craving an ultimate Zen experience – visit Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto. Not far from Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple from the Muromachi period.

The temple is home to a beautiful rock garden—one of the finest in Japan. There are 15 stones placed in a certain way, and you can only see 14 at a time. The garden exemplifies Japanese minimalism, art, and Zen philosophy in the best way possible.

Location: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto

Timings: All days from 8 am to 5 pm.

7. Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple – Best Offbeat Temple in Kyoto

Let me end this list with another favourite of mine—the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. It is a must-visit temple in Kyoto with 1,200 faces (Rakan statues) depicting diverse human emotions. 

Unlike other temples and shrines in Kyoto, this one is still a hidden gem tucked away in the mountains. It’s one of my best finds in the Arashiyama area. 

Take a bus from Arashiyama station to the temple and pay 300 yen for entrance. Honestly, it is worth the price for its uniqueness!  

Location: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto 

Timings: All days from 8 am to 4:30 pm

Which Temple and Shrine Interests You the Most?

To sum up, Kyoto’s temples and shrines are a culmination of spirituality, nature, and art. Exploring these holy places is the best thing to do in Kyoto

However, if covering these seven major shrines of Kyoto altogether is not feasible, pick the one that piques your interest. For example, if you are bound by spirituality, opt for Ryoan-ji. Or, if you want to visit a non-touristy one, choose Otagi Nenbutsuji. They are all worth your time!


An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.

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