The antidote to the urban centres of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara is a visit to Miyama-chō, a sprawling collection of tiny rural hamlets in the Kitayama (Northern Mountains) north of Kurama in Kyoto Prefecture. Miyama-chō has two great sights: Ashū, a hiker’s paradise; and Kayabuki-no-Sato, a collection of thatched-roof houses. En route, you can stop at the temple of Bujō-ji.
While you can reach all three by public transport, with a car you can hit them all and even do a quick hike in Ashū in one long day. The northern section of the district continues up the Saba Kaido (Mackerel Route), which historically supplied food from the Sea of Japan to Kyoto.