The former Imperial Capital of Kyoto is considered as the cultural capital and the heart of Japan’s history, with about 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The large city boasts of having over two thousand Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples scattered about the region, as well as some of the most beautiful castles in the country.
Here, visitors will be able to experience a number of opportunities that are unique to Japan like the sophisticated tea ceremony or witnessing a performance by the Geisha in Gion District. The region is also known for the breathtaking Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Kyoto exudes the elegance and timeless beauty of old Japan and its aristocracy, making it one of the best destinations for tourists, both foreign and local, to visit and indulge in.
The city is also home to multiple accommodations to fit any budget, including some of the best traditional Japanese inns called “ryokan”, such as the Tawaraya Ryokan – a favorite of the late Steve Jobs – and Japanese haute cuisine, “kaiseki”. If you’re still looking for a place to stay, check out our list of Top Ryokans in Kyoto.
Maikoya is one of the leading cultural experiences in Japan. It offers a private tour service that explores Kyoto for a whole day. The Kyoto Daily Tour is the best way to see and visit the famous historical and cultural landmarks in the former Imperial capital such as the Gion Geisha District, the Arashiyama Temple, the Nishiki Market, and many more.
The tours are scheduled to start at 10 am and end at 6 pm and can be adjusted to accommodate your preferences to include highly anticipated places and activities. A private van and tour bus can be provided upon request and a recommendation for large families and groups. Tour participants can also keep their excess belongings at Maikoya Kyoto for security.
Besides the tour, Maikoya Kyoto provides additions to the experience as well, such as a tea ceremony and kimono experience, a Geisha tea ceremony, and a sweets-making workshop and tea ceremony. A samurai sword-cutting experience hosted by Samurai & Ninja Museum Kyoto can also be added to the tour package.
Kiyomizu Temple Gion District Kinkakuji Fushimi Inari Temple Arashiyama Temple
Fushimi Inari Temple
Tours by Locals
Tours by Locals is an international group that hires locals from a specific area to provide top-notch private tours with excellent service. Tours by Locals offers a breezy booking through their site where you can get in direct contact with a local guide. Their Kyoto city tour features over 200 unique and customizable tours in Kyoto with a knowledgeable guide who will help you discover the Imperial capital through their time in the city.
Tours by Locals in Kyoto
Prices start at $200
The Urban Adventures Kyoto Tours features local guides that lead tours on bikes and on foot. The itineraries are fully customizable for clients to modify and fit their ideal destinations and activities. Of course, pre-existing tour schedules are also available and accommodates private groups. Some of their featured packages are their cycling tours and Kyoto cultural tour.
The cycling tour lasts for about 3-4 hours and includes bicycle and helmet rental. It can start either in the mornings or the afternoon, in front of the Kyoto Tourist Information Center next to the Isetan Department Store.
Kamo River Cycling Heian Jingu Shrine Nanzenji Temple The Path of Philosophy
Kamo River Cycling
Heian Jingu Shrine
The Path of Philosophy
Lonely Planet is an award-winning website that provides information on travel destinations for international tourists, from its humble beginnings as “The Travel Book”, a bestselling guidebook in 2004. The website specializes in hassle-free booking and scheduling, especially for sightseeing tours and adventure tours.
One featured package for the Lonely Planet Experience is the Private Kyoto Tour: City of Culture. The tour lasts for 3 hours and starts from the Kyoto Station and ends in the Gion District. It is led by an expert local guide and is priced for at least a two-person group.
Tofukuji temple Fushimi Inari shrine Gion district
Fushimi Inari shrine
Japan Private Tour
Japan Private Tour features premium services such as private and bespoke tours that are led by a wide network of local guides and business owners, both foreign and local. The full-service travel agency is equipped with their own vehicles and equipment, guaranteeing the convenience of their clients in their travels in Japan.
One of the company’s featured tours is the Autumn Kyoto tour package, which starts from a minimum of 5 people, and is available towards the end of October to early December. It lasts for a duration of 12 hours with three options to choose from in their set itinerary.
Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka
Kyoto Daily Tours
Kyoto Daily Tours features a number of packages that cover a number of the cultural aspects of Kyoto. Their tours include walking tours, taxi tours, photo tours, and packages that highlight the ancient and classical landmarks of the city.
One of their featured packages is the Ancient Kyoto walking tour that lasts from 4 to 8 hours. The private day trip explores Higashiyama and the unique sites that were treasured by Kyoto’s aristocracy, tracing the historical landmarks all the way back to the 8th century. The tour starts from the Kyoto Station or any Kyoto accommodation and uses public transport.
Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka
Ginkakuji Temple (the Silver Pavillion)
Japan Wonder Travel
Japan Wonder Travel offers tour packages that are tailored and led by local professional guides to provide the most authentic Japanese experience and cultural immersion. While the tours are customizable according to each client, there are set packages that make it easier for tourists to explore cities like Kyoto without the hassle of researching, like the Kyoto Food and Drink Tour at Nishiki Street and Gion, which is a great introduction to the city’s food culture.
The Kyoto Food and Drink Tour is the site’s most popular package, with a private tour option, and lasts for 3 hours, scheduled around lunch time to make the experience as filling as possible. The tour starts and ends at Kyoto Daimaru Department (Karasuma) or the Gion Area.
Hamo/Daggertooth pike conger
Japan Wonder Travel
Price starts at $88
Noru Bike Tours
Noru believes that Kyoto is best explored on a bicycle to fully maximize and enjoy the scenery and slip through the more intimate areas where even Kyoto locals can’t find. The Noru Bike tours focus more on the Kyoto backstreets, giving clients a unique way of exploring the cultural capital.
One of their featured tour packages is the Secret Kyoto E-Biking. This tour uses a new fleet of electric bikes, making it a less tiring journey for those who want an in-depth understanding of Kyoto culture. While all tours can only accommodate up to 8 people, private bookings are also available for groups or individuals. Bespoke tours are also available where clients simply list all the destinations they would want to visit and Noru Bike Tours will modify the itinerary to fit.
Multiple Zen Gardens
Noru Bike Tours Kyoto
Price starts at $100
CityUnscripted provides private and personalized tours hosted by friendly and knowledgeable locals from different areas around the world. They have a number of Kyoto tour packages and provide excellent accommodation for bespoke tours as well.
Their Kickstart Kyoto tour package is highly recommended for new tourists, giving a crash course orientation of Kyoto’s rich culture and history. The walking tour lasts for about 3 hours and can be requested in a number of languages besides English: Arabic, French, German, Mandarin, etc.
Context is a group of scholars and specialists that aim to give an in-depth take on international destinations, with the majority of their guides composed of MA or PhD-level experts. Context Travel specializes in educational experiences that give new perspectives to tourists seeking an intellectual journey.
The Kyoto tours are small and private, like their feature Kyoto Temple Tour. The package tour lasts for about 3 hours, and explores the multitudes of Buddhist and Shinto Shrines and their coexistence in Japanese history. This tour is also customizable upon request.
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