Kyoto is home to more than 1,600 Buddhist Temples. It would take someone a lifetime (or two) to explore all of these sacred places. Not to mention, Kyoto offers a plethora of attractions beyond temples, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish all the activities on your itinerary. I have created a list of the top 5 temples in Kyoto that you cannot afford to miss, each providing a unique and unforgettable experience.
Photographers will absolutely love Kinkakuji. The temple has been given the name “Golden Pavilion” and it is easy to see why. Situated perfectly amongst the Japanese landscape, there are many vantage points that will yield amazing pictures. You’ll be able to get some beautiful reflections with a mountainous backdrop to your shot.
Kiyomizudera has a literal translation meaning “Pure Water Temple”. The name is derived from the construction around Otowa Waterfall. People line up to drink from this sacred water source, which is said to provide various benefits. Kiyomizudera is also known for its wooden stage, a large structure built 13 meters above the hillside.
Most people call Ginkakuji the Silver Pavilion. While not silver in colour, its name was believed to originate from reflections cast by moonlight during clear nights. The grounds are home to a meticulously sculpted sand garden, with its main feature being a massive cone of silver sand.
Ryoanji is one of Japan’s most iconic and beautiful sights. The highlight of this temple is its rock garden, which was created sometime in the late 15th century. 15 stones are grouped into five clusters and are surrounded by a mass of white pebbles. Monks rake the garden every day, ensuring that each pebble is in place. The meaning of this arrangement is still unknown!
Sanjusangendo is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. At 120 meters in length, the temple is divided into 33 intervals. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures of the sacred statues, but the experience remains one of the best in Kyoto! You won’t forget your stroll through the incense filled halls of Sanjusangendo.
In my opinion, visiting all the temples mentioned above will offer a nice sample of Kyoto. Each one offers a unique experience that is completely unforgettable. Time permitting, I recommend going far beyond this list and seeing as many places as possible. For many people, the best temples are the ones you randomly stumble across.
Thank you for reading PiccaPixel’s Top 5 Temples in Kyoto. Be sure to check out my Kyoto City Guide for more things to do in the city.