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10 of the Best Temples to See Fall Foliage in Kyoto

Read about the best places to see Kyoto Fall foliage. Learn about the best temples to see Autumn foliage in Kyoto. Experience Autumn colors in Kyoto.
There are three seasonal bucket list experiences that I want to have in Japan: visiting Japan's snow monkeys, traveling to Japan in Springtime for seasonal cherry blossoms and planning an Autumn trip to photograph the amazing Fall foliage.

Japan in general and Kyoto specifically is famous for its Autumn foliage and temples.  The combination of the two was one of the most memorable aspects of our one week exploring Japan by train in November using a Japan rail pass.  

Here are ten temples that we think are worth visiting for 'leaf peeping' and a generally mindful experience in Kyoto.  

Most temples in Kyoto cost between 300 - 500 yen to enter (about 3 - 5 USD at the time we visited).

Even if you can only spare one day in Kyoto, you won't regret making the stop. The temples are truly magnificent.

Kyoto Fall Foliage: Red Leaves

1. Ginkaku-ji

Ginkaku-ji or 'Silver Pavilion' is located at the top of Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto.  It was the first temple that we visited and we were simply amazed at the Fall foliage colors all around us.  We were able to hike up hill a bit to take in panoramic views of the Autumn colors all around us.
Ginkaku-ji Temple Kyoto resplendent in Autumn colors

2. Hōnen-in 

Hōnen-in is a smaller temple just a short walk from Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto.  The piles of combed sand surrounded by yellow and orange Autumn leaves made an impression on us.

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Hōnen-in Temple Kyoto
3. Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 

All I can say is 'Wow!'.  When we walked up to Eikan-dō in Kyoto, I was simply in awe of the technicolor around me.  I'd never seen such amazing foliage!  

We almost decided not to go in because there were massive throngs of Japanese tourists about making it quite crowded plus this temple was a bit more expensive than the others (around 1000 yen per person if I recall correctly).  

I'm so glad we did brace ourselves and plunge into the masses because this temple was the most beautiful of all that we saw and the colors were too gorgeous for words. 

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji
4. Nanzen-ji (with aqueduct)

A little further on from Eikan-dō at the far end of Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto, we stopped at Nanzen-ji.  An old stone aqueduct runs the length of the complex and makes for a nice backdrop to the foliage.  

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Nanzen-ji Temple with Aqueduct

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5. Kinkaku-ji 

Kinkaku-ji or 'Golden Pavilion' is a short train ride from Kyoto city center.  The temple is covered in gold leaf and looks even more opulent when surrounded by the gold tones of the surrounding leaves. Simply stunning. 

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion
6. Chionin-ji

Chionin-ji is known for its giant bell which was the largest in the world from the 17th to 19th centuries.  Once again, the surroundings of this temple which are within walking distance of the center of Kyoto were even more special when enhanced by the seasonal Fall foliage.

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Chionin-ji Temple with Giant Bell
7. Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple sits at the edge of the bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto.  The deep mossy green throughout the grounds makes the reds and oranges of the maples really 'pop'.  

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Tenryu-ji Temple
8. Nison-In Temple

Nison-In Temple is walkable from Tenryu-ji in Kyoto along a quiet path.  It was a wet day which seemed to enhance the colors both on the maple trees and on the ground as the Fall leaves fell.  

We embarked on a steep uphill climb and were rewarded by being almost completely alone in quiet solitude as we explored a terraced graveyard at the top of the hill.  

This place was definitely off the beaten path but was one of my favorite temples that we explored in Kyoto.

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Nison-In Temple
9. Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is most famous for the thousands of bright orange torii gates running up the hillside in Kyoto.  The pockets of fall foliage added an additional splash of color.  

I'm sad to say that we didn't have enough time to climb all the way to the top (it would have taken a couple hours and lots of stamina) but we did note that the higher we went, the less crowded it got and we were able to enjoy the temple in peace.

Kyoto Fall Foliage at Fushimi Inari Shrine - Orange Torii Gates
10. Temples at Nara

I cheated slightly on this one but felt it was fair to include because Nara is an easy day trip from Kyoto or Osaka and is another beautiful place where temples and Autumn foliage collide.  

Temple after temple sit on the outskirts of town.  We saw some amazing leaf specimens and this colorful environment somehow made the hoards of deer that live here seem a little less intimidating (vendors sell 'deer crackers' but there are copious warning signs about how the animals can be quite aggressive). 
Fall Foliage Near Kyoto: Temples at Nara, Japan

When is Kyoto Fall Foliage Season?

You may be wondering how best to time your visit to Kyoto for maximum Autumn colors. 

The timing of Fall Foliage season in Japan varies based on your destination and various weather attributes. For example, the Autumn leaves begin to turn in Hokkaido (Japan's northernmost island) in mid-September. In general, the further south you go in Japan, the later the Autumn leaves will turn.

Many popular areas of Japan, like Kyoto, experience their peak Fall foliage in November. 

If it happens to get colder sooner, the leaves will change more quickly. If the weather stays warm longer, the leaves hold on and you'll find peak foliage later in the Autumn, perhaps even into December. 

What is the Kyoto Fall Foliage forecast for 2022? Japan Rail Pass posts a helpful infographic and travel guide each year which suggests that peak foliage will occur in late November this year. Peruse their map and plan your trip to coincide with what is predicted to be the best Fall foliage!

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Kyoto Fall Foliage

Kyoto Fall Foliage on an Autumn Trip to Japan

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 10 of the Best Temples to See Fall Foliage in Kyoto
10 of the Best Temples to See Fall Foliage in Kyoto
Read about the best places to see Kyoto Fall foliage. Learn about the best temples to see Autumn foliage in Kyoto. Experience Autumn colors in Kyoto.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog