Spend a half day exploring Eastern Kyoto on this combination walking/train private tour designed to give you up close insight into the city's unique culture. Visit some of Kyoto's best historic locations with Trip Advisor's highest rated native English-speaking Kyoto guide who can point out all the details that most tourists often miss. From must-see sights like tunnels of thousands of vermilion torii gates and a spectacular Zen garden, to lesser known hidden gems and local neighborhood spots, you'll experience more in half a day with an expert guide than you can usually do in a full day on your own...and still have the afternoon for yourself! Your guide is a fellow foreigner, so you'll enjoy the benefit of being able to ask about what it's like to live in Japan as a foreigner and get honest answers with no language barrier. Also, as a Trip Advisor exclusive, a stop at one of Kyoto's oldest teahouses for handmade matcha tea and traditional sweets is offered as an optional add-on.
After meeting at your hotel or lodging, proceed with your guide via train to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. The long tunnels of orange torii gates are one of Kyoto's most famous spots, and the shrine complex is filled with interesting cultural details. Best to arrive early before the crowds show up!
From there, take the subway to Sanjusangendo, the hall of 1000 golden Buddhas. This may very well be one of the most amazing sites you'll see in your entire time in Japan! (trust us, don't google this one, let it be a surprise) Afterwards, make an optional stop for matcha tea and handmade sweets nearby at one of Kyoto's oldest teahouses (see optional add-on).
Explore the local neighborhood and discover some unique monuments and temples. These are sites that are usually off the normal tourist route, but they hold some great stories of opulent treasures and scheming samurai. You're not going to believe what's buried at one of these sites! Depending on the weather and seasonal crowds, there are a few different routes we can take through this nieghborhood, all of which take us past fascinating locals-only shrines with surprising backstories.
Next, head over to Kyoto's oldest Zen temple. Experience massive dragon artwork and sprawling Zen gardens in this quiet hideaway that most visitors just walk right past. This peaceful oasis in the city will give you an opportunity to "feel the Zen" and learn about about what makes this form of Buddhism so special. An excellent spot for photographers and lovers of architecture and gardens.
End the tour with a walk through the geisha district in Gion and gain insight into the lives of these traditional female entertainers. The old ways are alive and well on the maze-like backstreets of Gion. Filled with traditional wooden houses, this is the historical and cultural heart of the city. With a little bit of luck, you may even spot a geisha or two as they go about their daily routine on the backstreets.
From the ending location near the Kamogawa River on Shijo Street, your guide can point you towards places to get a late lunch, the shopping district, traditional food market, or additional sightseeing nearby. This tour usually runs about 4.5 hours, but may vary depending on your hotel location and pace. We do not normally stop for a meal if we start early enough, but a casual lunch or stop for snacks can be arranged along the way if necessary.
Throughout the tour, your guide is at your disposal to answer all sorts of questions. With a guide who is a fellow foreigner, this is your chance to ask all the stuff that you can't ask Japanese guides! We love discussions about what it's like to live here as a foreigner and can help you better understand the realities of Japanese culture, both traditional and modern, without any language barrier. Additionally, your guide is happy to offer suggestions on sightseeing and dining for the rest of your time in Kyoto.