A national treasure and Unesco World Heritage Site, this is the head temple of Shugendō, a sect based in Buddhism but borrowing liberally from other traditions. Check out the fearsome Kongō Rikishi (guardian figure statues) in the gate and then continue to the Zaō-dō Hall, said to be Japan's second-largest wooden building. Early risers can observe morning otsutome (worship service), incorporating taikō drumming and the sounding of the horagai (giant conch shell), reminiscent of storied yamabushi (mountain monks).

The temple's trio of central deity statues are a symbol of the city with their fearsome blue faces. They're opened to the public for a short period each year (check at tourist offices for dates); they will close to the public in 2022.

The stone steps to the temple's Niō-mon gate are about 400m uphill from the cable-car station.