Nara is in many points similar to Kyoto. That is because there is a huge emphasis on the traditional sites and temples that can be seen in Nara just like Kyoto.
Many of you probably know (because you read my article about Kyoto of course 😉 ) that Kyoto was Japan’s (日本) capital for a very long time. Before that happened though, Nara was the country’s very first capital!
The city was designated as the capital in the year 710 when it was still called “Heijo” instead of Nara. This didn’t last too long though as the title of capital was changed in 784. After a short “trying out” period with Naniwa (Osaka today) and Nagaoka, Kyoto became Japan’s second lasting capital. It stayed that way for an amazing amount of time until the year 1868, when the Edo period ended.
Because of its presence as capital, Nara houses a high number of historic sites that have been preserved until today.
If you’re scared to rely on your memory and don’t want to be on your phone all the time, I recommend taking a paperback guide with you. Best would be one that provides a map as well, and I know just the one: This Guide by Tuttle Travel provides useful information on Nara and the neighboring city Kyoto. A map for both of these cities is included as well.
Note: This link is an affiliate link from which I earn a small commission should you purchase anything. There are no additional costs for you.
Let me now give you a list on things to do and see in Nara:
Other attractions/places to visit
As you can tell, the focus lies on the many temples and shrines, similar to Kyoto. There are a lot more smaller temples as well that you can discover on your way through the city.
How to get to Nara
Most of you will probably visit Nara as a day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka. I’ll give you the access information from both of these cities:
The connection between Kyoto and Nara is a very practical one. You can take the Miyakoji Rapid Train which is operated by Japan Railways West and leaves every 30 minutes. Because it is a JR train, you can use your Japan Rail Pass to cover the costs of 710 Yen (5,68€/$6.45). The trip takes about 45 minutes.
Alternatively, if you do not have a JR Pass (strongly recommended though), you can take the limited express train operated by Kintetsu Railways. You cannot use a JR Pass on this train. It takes about 10 minutes less but costs 1130 Yen (9€/$10.27; exchange rates as of February 2019).
The Osaka-Nara connection is very similar to the one above. Again, you can choose between a JR and non-JR option:
The Yamatoji Rapid Train takes you from JR Osaka Station to JR Nara Station in about 45 minutes for 800 Yen (6,40€/$7.27). The Japan Rail Pass covers this trip.
Alternatively, you can board the limited express by Kintetsu Railways from Namba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station. It takes about 30 minutes and costs 1070 Yen (8,56€/$9.73).
If you’re located in central Osaka (near Osaka Station), I recommend the first option as Namba Station is quite a bit further south.
I will cover all the above-mentioned places in their own individual article to give you all the necessary information!
The tri-factor of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara can easily be called the “heart of Kansai” which is why I love this region so much. You can do so much within very reasonable transit times, it’s awesome. And that doesn’t even include cities like Himeji (姫路) or Kobe (神戸) yet.
I hope you come along with me as we explore all these cities in future articles.
That’s is for Nara Travel Guide, I hope you enjoyed it!
If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with your friends and family, it would mean a lot me!
In my next article I am going to cover a very pleasant topic: Cherry Blossom Season!
See you there!