Wild Monkeys, Enchanted Forests, and Bike Rides Through Town – My Fave Things to Do in Kyoto

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Wild Monkeys, Enchanted Forests, and Bike Rides Through Town – My Fave Things to Do in Kyoto

EmilyWild Monkeys, Enchanted Forests, and Bike Rides Through Town – My Fave Things to Do in KyotoMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Emily:   Miles and points earned from just a few credit cards can help get you to Japan – or anywhere else you might want to go – for a fraction of the price!

My partner, Alfy, and I flew from the US to Japan round-trip with American Airlines miles and ~$110 in Business Class per person.  He was raised in Japan and had not seen his family for ~20 years!  And for 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy 5-star hotels), I spent ~$450!  In this series, I will show you how you can do it, too!

Things To Do In Kyoto
Kyoto Is a One-of-a-Kind Place

If you haven’t already done so, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Miles and Points!  Also, check out my Visiting Japan 101 series, as well as my How to Stay in Tokyo for Free series.

Those tools, as well as our daily newsletter, will give you tips and tricks for how you can take your own amazing (and nearly free) journey!

How to Use Miles for a Trip to Kyoto Index:

What to Do in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of my 2 favorite cities in Japan (the other being Tokyo).

Kyoto was the most beautiful city we visited, and we never ran out of things to do.  Here are some of my favorite activities:

1.   Bikeride to Arashiyama

Our favorite activity was riding bikes all around town!  Biking down the streets felt safe.  We tried to take the back roads to avoid the busier main streets.

Bikes are everywhere in Kyoto.  Our favorite destination was to Arashiyama, which is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Kyoto.  It took ~1 hour to reach with a bike.  But we could have arrived twice as fast by car if we wanted.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Diiinng, Diinngg, Coming Through!

The ride may seem like a long one, but it went by very fast because there was so much to see on the way there.  There are also LOTS of vending machines on street corners & sidewalks, which make for excellent rest stops along the way!

Things To Do In Kyoto
Around Every Corner Was a New Adventure

We passed the Ninna-ji Temple, and had a quick stroll before continuing our journey.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Halfway Through Our Ride, We Stopped at the Ninna-ji Temple

It was very beautiful and peaceful!

Things To Do In Kyoto
I Appreciated a Moment’s Worth of Peace and Serenity Here

After another ~30 minutes, we arrived in Arashiyama.  It’s a beautiful small neighborhood that you can easily explore on foot.  I loved that it didn’t feel too overwhelming.

In Arashiyama, we spotted some ladies dressed in traditional clothing.  They looked so beautiful, and were very nice to let us take their picture!

Things To Do In Kyoto
These Japanese Girls Were so Kawaii!!

You can also rent boats and float down the river.

Things To Do In Kyoto
On Our Next Visit, We’ll Try a Sunset Cruise

The river ran through the middle of the town, and looked especially beautiful at sunset.

Things To Do In Kyoto
The Sun Setting Over the Water Is Unbeatable!

We loved Arashiyama so much that we biked back again before our trip to Osaka.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Can I Live Here?!

2.   Iwatayama Monkey Park

The Iwatayama Monkey Park is one of the top rated things to do in Arashiyama.  The tickets were ~$10 per person.

Things To Do In Kyoto
At the Bottom on the Monkey Park Stairs

After you purchase your tickets, you begin your walk up the hill.  It’s not a bad walk, but it can be strenuous for some people (especially on a very hot day, like it was for us!).  It took us ~20 minutes to reach the top.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Walking to the Top Had Gorgeous Views!

We loved taking in the views and breathing in fresh air as we ascended the hill.  It really transported us into another world!

Things To Do In Kyoto
It Took ~20 Minutes to Reach the Top

Along our walk, we saw wild monkeys hanging out.  They were not aggressive at all, but we didn’t reach out to try to pet them.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Wild Monkeys Roaming Freely

Once you reach the top, there is a small station where you can buy food to feed the monkeys through the fence.  I didn’t feed any monkeys, but I snapped a few pics!

Things To Do In Kyoto
Monkeys Hangin’ Out

I’ve never seen monkeys so up-close before.  Wow!  There were even little babies there. 🙂

Things To Do In Kyoto
These Were Some of the Friendliest Monkeys I’ve Ever Seen

Alfy got a great shot of a mother and baby together.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Mama Monkey Protecting Her Young

We loved visiting the Monkey Park and highly recommend it to others!

3.   The Bamboo Forest

There’s a Bamboo Forest also in Arashiyama.  This is free to walk through, and is best viewed as the sun begins to set, or in the early morning.  There are also fewer tourists.

Things To Do In Kyoto
The Enchanted Bamboo Forest

The Bamboo Park is located in town, and it’s only a ~15 minute walk through the forest.

Things To Do In Kyoto
Go Early or Late to Avoid the Crowds

There are lots of other things to do in Kyoto.  Check out your guidebook or TripAdvisor for more ideas.  I tried booking us a cooking class, but the ones I wanted were booked a month in advance!

Bottom Line

Visiting Kyoto, and especially Arashiyama, was an amazing experience!  If I had to pick 2 cities to visit in Japan (of the 6 I visited), Kyoto and Tokyo would be my favorites!  I’ll always remember seeing the monkeys and the natural beauty of the bamboo forest.

What tips and tricks do you have for what to do in Kyoto?

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If you’re in Japan during the winter, go to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. Stay at a nearby onsen and really experience the unique culture of Japanese baths in a local village. Snow Monkey Park was a Japan highlight of my three trips there. From your village, take a shuttle (many) to the park. Bring hand/boot insert warmers with you. There is a little gift shop that sells gloves, rents boots, etc. Walk up the hill, watch the monkeys go from the snow into the steaming hot spring water baths. They walk among you. Don’t approach them to touch them or too closely, as they may get territorially aggressive. It’s amazing to watch the group of monkeys, mother and baby, the males staking out there space, the interactions among them all. You’re walking in their house here, so to speak. Great seeing the interaction and learning about their habits.