Looking for the best Instagram and photo spots in Kyoto? Here are my favorite photo spots in and around Kyoto that you can’t miss out on!
Higashiyama is the best place to see Kyoto’s more traditional side. It is full of charming, narrow lanes, wooden buildings and countless small shops selling traditional sweets, snacks and souvenirs.
The lanes and streets around the heart of the Higashiyama are picture-perfect. It’s too easy to lose hours just walking around the area and taking photos of all the charming little details you can find around every corner.
Hokan-ji Temple aka Yasaka Pagoda
The most prominent feature of the Higashiyama district is the Hokan-ji Temple more commonly refered to as Yasaka Pagoda. Many photographers will line up during sunset to get the infamous “Yasaka Pagoda by sunset” shot.
If you want to avoid having too many people in your photos, I recommend getting to Higashiyama around sunrise, rather than sunset.
There are tons of small lanes from which the Pagoda can be seen. While the main lanes are gorgeous, they can get very busy. We walked around Higashiyama for quite a while and found lots of less frequented side lanes that also have great views of the Pagoda.
The most colourful temple in Kyoto: Yasaka Koshindo
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Also located in the Higashiyama district is the most colourful temple you will find in all of Kyoto: the Yasaka Koshindo temple. The temple is especially popular with younger people and couples.
Visitors can hang their colourful talismans at the site, which is what makes the plain temple so special looking. It is said that by writing your wish on these talismans and giving up one of your “greeds”, your wish may come true.
It’s for sure one of the most unique temples I have seen and one of my favorite photo spots in Kyoto for sure!
The Kiyomizu-dera Temple is the most-visited and probably most well-known temple in Kyoto. And it’s not your normal “offering peace and tranquility” temple. Instead it is loud, buzzing and surrounded by an almost festive atmosphere.
Located on the hillside of the Southern Higashiyama Sightseeing district, it gives you one of the best views over Kyoto. There are countless photo opportunities here: from the bright red entrance gate of the Pagoda to the gorgeous view over the city from the temple’s famous veranda.
Of course there are also ample opportunites to pray for good luck, love and health.
If you only have time to visit one temple in Kyoto, I would visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple 🙂
How to get there: Follow Chawan-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi up the hill to get to the entrance gate of Kiyomizu-dera.
Fushimi Inari’s thousands of Tori Gates
Fushimi Inari is one of Kyoto’s most famous sights and that’s for a good reason. The thousands of famous, deep red Tori gates are even more beautiful in person than on photos.
At Fushimi Inari, you can walk through a seemingly endless tunnel of those gates until you reach the peak of the sacred Mount Inari.
The Fushimi Inari shrine and its thousand Tori gates are too iconic not to have it on a list of the best photo spots in Kyoto.
Even though the Tori tunnel stretches on for a long time, it can still get quite crowded as it’s such a popular destination. If you want to get a shot without all that many people in it I recommend to come before sunrise.
We went during the afternoon though and still managed to get a few decent snaps. You just have to be a bit patient and quick on the camera trigger 😉
How to get there: Take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto to Inari station but make sure to check that you are not taking an Express train which only stops in Nara!
You can also take the Keihan Main line to Fushimi Inari station.
Fushimi Inari’s secret bamboo grove (instead of Arashiyama)
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing (and take photos of) was the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there early enough and the hundreds of people everywhere made it incredibly hard to take photos. The lighting situation also wasn’t the best for my limited photography skills… I still totally recommend visiting Arashiyama, because not only does the bamboo forest look magical, but the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful and worth a hike/walk or boat ride.
Nevertheless, as for photo spots I actually prefered the “secret” Fushimi Inari Bamboo Forest. And we didn’t even know about the place before we visited Fushimi Inari. What a lucky find!
That said, it is not as big as the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. It is an amazing experience to be able to take a walk through the quiet bamboo forest and to enjoy the atmosphere in peace.
Gion’s Yasaka Shrine
Gion is the heart of Kyoto’s traditional art and entertainment industry. It’s known as the best place to be able to see a real Geisha (if you’re lucky).
To the east of the district you can find the Yasaka Shrine, one of the most important shrines in Kyoto. It’s the place where the Gion Festival is held every year throughout July.
The Yasaka Shrine is absolutley beautiful and a must-visit photo spot in Kyoto. Even though it’s popular with visitors, the Shrine grounds are big enough to make the area not feel too crowded even during busy times of the day.
Getting there: Take the Keihan Line from anywhere in Kyoto to Gion Station.
Nara Deer Park
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While not directly in Kyoto, Nara is close enough to make it on this list. If you like deer, nature and traditional Japanese architecture then you just can’t miss out on visiting Nara.
Nara’s fame lies in its park which is full of nature, beautiful temples and museums. The deers, that roam around the park freely, is what makes the park so special, though.
There are roughly 1200 deer living on the park grounds. In Shinto, they are considered to be the messenger of the gods and have become the symbol of Nara.
To get a good photo you can buy deer cookies at the park at various places (300 Yen for 5 big cookies). Once the deer smell them, they will come flocking around you which makes it easy to get a photo with them. Feeding them in general is a lot of fun that you shouldn’t miss out on!
How to get there: Nara is easy to reach by train with the JR Nara Express line (45 minutes) or by local train which will take you an hour. From Nara station it is either a 20-30 minute walk to the park or a 5 minute bus ride (bus number 7, 300 Yen p.p).