A city of juxtapositions, Kyoto is an embodiment of traditional Japanese beauty that has found an alluring harmony with the influx of modern technology and customs. Travellers can rocket into the city on a bullet train and witness the sights first-hand while staying in one of the many Airbnbs that are scattered throughout the area.
In contrast to the hectic humdrum of its fellow Japanese cities, Kyoto has managed to preserve an easy-going nature that has enticed many a tourist. Each season the city is brought to life – whether it’s the winter night skies glowing from the soft lights lining the many temples or the summer rivers dappled with the sheer lilac reflection cast by sakura trees. The stunning metropolis is no slouch when it comes to unabashed revelry either, filling its months with cultural festivals and parades such as the historic Aoi Matsuri procession in May.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
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1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
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This peaceful Airbnb encapsulates Kyoto’s traditional style with its paper-lantern globes, sliding screen doors, bold calligraphy pieces and Asian art mounted on the naturalistic earthy-brown and beige walls. It can sleep up to five and comes complete with a kitchen and private garden where you can relax with some home-made matcha after a busy day of exploring. Sitting snugly in the Nakagyo Ward, the city is your oyster with a simple 20-minute train journey east to the buzz of the centre or a three-minute walk to the remarkable Mibu-dera, among the oldest temples in Kyoto.
A clean and cosy space, this house is popular with travellers looking to visit the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine, which is only a 10-minute walk away. The bright rooms and modern aesthetic reflect the more contemporary side of the city. Those who love to escape to nature can indulge in a scenic walk or boat trip along the Kamo River, which weaves past nearby, hugging the edge of the Fushimi Ward. Sake connoisseurs can also put their taste to the test at Kizakura, a sake and beer museum and brewery – a now common feature of the area that has established itself as a production hub for the popular Japanese rice wine.
After a busy day in the city, there’s nothing better than coming home to a relaxing apartment, and this one comes with a plant-fringed veranda for enjoying a meal (or some excellent takeaway sushi) under the stars. The recently renovated space is compact but can sleep up to four guests with exclusive use. You’ll have access to a shared kitchen, laundry and luggage storage, although rooms also come with mini kitchenettes. Just 20 minutes south of the centre, there is also no shortage of public transport connections nearby, so guests can easily explore Kyoto to their heart’s content.
A beautifully crafted combination of old and new architecture, this stunning building dates back 80 years, a truly traditional Kyoto house. Located in Higashiyama Ward, the area is a portal into old Japan, with winding, lantern-lined streets that have been intentionally preserved. Stepping inside, this homage to the past runs throughout the house, complete with classical carpenter work in the exposed-timber beams, pale-wood floors and minimalist decor with natural materials. Cleanse your travelling palate and top off your stay with a visit to Bunnosuke-jaya, treating your senses to a view of the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda while tucking into one of the restaurant’s famous home-made desserts.
This archetypal Japanese house features a tatami room, with plenty of open space that serves as a magnet for yogis and those who practise meditation. Simplicity is savoured here, with bright, sizeable rooms that capture the essence of Japanese culture, done up in a minimalist style with honey-coloured walls, tan-hued furnishings and plenty of natural wood. With exclusive access to the entire house (that sleeps up to five people), visitors can sleep on traditional futon beds before hopping on one of the bikes available to cycle along the nearby canal. The cherry blossom on top of a memorable stay is the hospitality of host Sanae, who doubles as owner and tour guide with her unique recommendations.
Location is key with this intimate apartment, which is within walking distance of the Kamo River and attractions such as Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple. Homey touches adorn the space in the form of calligraphy pieces and cow ceramics, while host Taiyo keeps it cosy with Kit Kats to snack on and soft, fluffy blankets. Admirers of art can devour the feast of inspiration that lies nearby, including the house-turned-museum of late artist Kawai Kanjirō and the Toyokuni Shrine, which is home to many intriguing artefacts.
Machiya houses are a staple of the city, and this particular traditional Kyoto townhouse is the perfect retreat. Gaze out the windows at the emerald-leaved ginkgo trees and feel soothed in the ambient, millennial pink tatami room – this is a chance to try Japanese living. Kitchen facilities are limited, but you’ll hardly need them thanks to Kyoto’s tradition of impeccable kaiseki (a multi-course Japanese dinner). If the inherent sense of community doesn’t delight enough, travellers can discover plenty of treasures scattered throughout the neighbourhood, including the paradisiacal Shosei-en Garden or peaceful Higashi-Honganji Temple.
Fans of anime, video games and super-accommodating hosts will feel at home in this wonderfully welcoming guest house. Based in the Shimogyo Ward, it is just a 15-minute bus ride into the gorgeous geisha district of Gion. Staying in a private tatami room sleeping up to two guests, travellers can satiate their pop-culture cravings in the communal area, a vibrant space covered in a kaleidoscope of anime art, figurines, video games and even a slot machine. During the day, undersea entertainment can be found a short walk away at the Kyoto Aquarium, while a retreat into nature lies across the road at the gates of the Umekoji Park.
Luxurious days and nights await you at the Tanimachi-kun-Omiya villa, where the interiors boast an intriguing blend of industrial and iconically minimalist Japanese style. Relaxation is a given when you sink into the soothing waters of the spa-style tub in the property, but the city will soon beckon, with the villa located only a stone’s throw from the centre. Stepping outside, you’ll find the impressive Nijō Castle nearby, a formidable wooden stronghold surrounded by a plethora of lush gardens that once housed a 17th-century shogun (military leader).
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