Kyoto offers some of the most beautiful shrines and temples in the world – over 1600 to be exact. We’ve done the homework and here are the top 5 not to miss:
#1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Founded in 780 (and honoured as a UNESCO site in 1996) Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple dedicated to the spirit of mercy. Perched on a hillside with sweeping views of the city, the temple is best known for bestowing good fortune – check out the hundreds of fortunes on small wooden plagues hanging in the side temples.
#2. The Golden Pavilion, The Kinkaku-Ji
It would be hard to find a more stunning temple than Kinkaku-Ji, and in this case all that glitters truly is gold (or gold leaf). The three-story pavilion, originally built as a retirement villa for a shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu is incredibly popular so get there early. Stop for green tea and enjoy the garden’s peace and beauty.
#3. The Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji Temple
This temple does not live up to its name but is instead a modest wooden building set in a enticing garden. There are meticulously raked cones of sand (said to be symbols of a mountain and lake), tall pines and a peaceful pond. For the best view of the gardens take the path through the mountainside.
#4. Rock Garden, Ryõan-ji Temple
For anyone with the slightest fondness for Japanese gardens, Ryõan-ji Temple tops the list, considered the ultimate in kare-sansui (dry landscape) zen garden design. Stunningly simple, 15 carefully placed rocks are set adrift in a sea of sand and enclosed by an earthen wall.
#5. Nanzen-ji Temple
Home to a spectacular garden with streams, trees, and paths. There is even a hidden grotto behind a waterfall concealed in the hillside behind the temple. Its most famous for its Leaping Tiger Garden, a classic Zen garden well worth a look.
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