Like its northern neighbour Tokyo, Kyoto is arguably at its most stunning during the first few weeks of April when the soft pink cherry blossoms (sakura) bloom, covering the historic streets in clouds of bubble-gum pink.
Though it might be one of the most tourist-heavy places during spring, it’s worth making your way there, elbowing through the crowds as Kyoto’s streets look like something ripped straight from a classical Nihonga (Japanese) painting. When the blossoms come into full bloom generally depends on the seasonal changes; a cold year means later blossoms, while warm weather coaxes the trees into full show so quickly that if you don’t plan right, chances are you could miss it all.
Kyoto is home to a number of picturesque sites that become just that little more special during spring when the area is covered in the delicate natural confetti of the sakura petals. Maruyama Park is one of the city’s most famous sites, and here you’ll find almost 700 trees including the fantastically striking shidare-zakura, also known as weeping cherry blossoms. Almost sagging under the weight of the flowers, the weeping cherries are illuminated after sunset during an event known as the Night Cherry Blossoms of Gion.
Another stunning spot is Toji Temple, also known as Kyoogokokuji Temple. A world heritage site, this five-story pagoda is perfectly framed by the blossoms during the day, but at night it’s also worth visiting to see the temple glowing under illuminations. If you find yourself in Kyoto a little early for the main season, the kawazu-zakura cherry trees around this area tend to bloom a little earlier, meaning you can typically see them from mid-March.
The Philosopher’s Path is a spiritual home to many writers and great thinkers of Japan and also to around 500 cherry blossom trees that line the canal. Forming an almost tunnel along the water, this strip of Kyoto is stunning when the flowers are in full bloom, but also towards the end of the season when the water running through the canal is covered in a layer of fallen petals flittering across the water’s surface.
During this time of the year, the town is home to a large selection of seasonal events, but if you want to experience the season like the locals do, pack yourself a picnic, grab a few drinks, pick up a blue plastic sheet from a 100-yen shop and head to your nearest park for ohanami, or ‘cherry blossom viewing party’, a great way to take in the sights, meet the locals and party on a budget.
From Tokyo, the best way to get to Kyoto is to take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen that connects the two cities, travelling through Yokohama, Nagoya and continuing on to Osaka. The trip typically takes a little over two hours and costs 13,900 yen (US$130) each way.
The Philosopher’s Path, Tetsugaku-no-michi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.