What to Do in Nara in 1 Day and How to Get There

Try searching for Nara points of interest and you’ll be overwhelmed. Though often hightailed by tourists traveling to Osaka and Kyoto, this old capital of Japan is worth a visit.  For the uninitiated, Nara City is the capital of Nara Prefecture in Kansai Region, Japan.  Most tourists who travel here make it a point to at least see the top attractions Nara has to offer.  So to help you plan your trip, I’ve handpicked the top Nara attractions that you can visit in 1 day or half day in Nara in the blog.

Nara City is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites collectively called “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” namely, Kasugayama Primeval Forest, Tōdai-ji Temple, Gangō-ji Temple, Heijō Palace, Kōfuku-ji temple, Saidai-ji temple, Kasuga Shrine, Yakushi-ji and Tōshōdai-ji temple.  And you can visit all these Nara attractions in 1 day.

We stayed in Nara overnight, but we toured Nara for 1 day only.  I will blog a detailed Nara Itinerary soon.  But for now, I’ve listed here some of the tourist attractions we visited in Nara, you can squeeze them in one day but be prepared to be a little exhausted.  But because most tourist spots in Nara have entrance fees, except for Nara Park, if you have limited budget, you can pick the temples that you want to enter.  I recommend going inside Todaiji Temple, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha enshrined in the largest wooden building in the world.

 

what to do in nara in 1 day 1

 

Here are the top places to see in Nara in 1 day and how to get there.

 

NARA TOP ATTRACTIONS

 

1. KOHFUKUJI TEMPLE

Kohfukuji Temple is one of the 8 Historic Ancient Monuments of Nara inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.   This Buddhist temple founded in the 7th century, which was actually transferred from Kyoto, was one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara. It is said that the original temple complex houses 175 buildings but war and fires left only 12 buildings here standing.  Kofukuji temple is the guardian temple of the Fujiwara clan.  It has two pagodas, the taller one – the five storied pagoda- is dubbed as the second tallest pagoda in Japan and is the symbol of Nara.

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Kohfukuji Temple

Address: Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Open Hours for Eastern Golden Hall:

Daily 9:00 AM to 05:00 PM (last entry 4:45 PM)

Entrance Fee: JPY 300 (PHP 136.29/ USD 3/SGD 4/MYR 11)

How to get to Kohfukuji Temple:

Nara has two main stations: Nara Station (JR Line) and Kintetsu Nara Station (Kintetsu Line).  Getting to Kohfukuji Temple is the same as getting to Nara Park since the temple is right beside the park.  Alight at Kintetsu Nara Station and walk for about 5 minutes towards the temple, which is located inside Nara Park.

 

But if you happen to arrive in Nara Station from Kyoto, you can walk towards Kohfukuji Temple for about 20 minutes.  Or if you are lazy like us, you can ride the yellow bus Loop Line Bus # 2 (clockwise) and get off at Kencho-mae bus stop.  Fixed fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for adults and JPY 110 (PHP 50/USD 0.99/SGD 1.35/MYR 4.25) for children.

 

2. GANGOJI TEMPLE

Another temple that was moved to Nara back in the days was Gangoji temple, the first Buddhist temple in Japan. It is part of the 8 Historic Monuments of Nara designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Interestingly, Gangoji temple houses 3 national treasures – Gokurakudo (Mandala Hall/Hall of Pure Land) and the Zen Shitsu (Contemplation Hall), which were constructed for the monks during the 8th century and the 5 storied-pagoda.

 

Gango-ji Temple

Address: Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Open Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Entrance Fee: JPY 500 (PHP 227/USD 5/ SGD 6/MYR 19)

How to get to Gangoji Temple :

Gangoji temple can be reached by foot for approximately 15 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station.  If you are alighting at JR Nara Station, you can walk here for roughly 20 minutes.  Walk east from the Namarachi Information Center and head towards the first road to the south.

Alternatively, you can take bus 50, #51, #53, #82 and #92 from both JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station and get off at Fukuchiin-cho bus stop and walk to Gangoji Temple. Fixed fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for adults and JPY 110 (PHP 50/USD 0.99/SGD 1.35/MYR 4.25) for children.

 

3. NARA PARK

Sitting at the foot of Mt. Wakakusa, Nara Park is one of oldest parks in Japan founded sometime in 1880. The Park is home to a thousands of free-roaming deer, which is the symbol of Nara City and classified as a Natural Treasure. Tourists come here to get up close with the deer and feed them.  Please do not feed them with paper or anything other than the deer crackers that you can purchase from vendors around the park.

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The deer in Nara were once considered sacred and protected, they are believed to be messengers of the gods in Shinto religion.  Based on folklore, this started when Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, arrived on Mt.Mikasa, he was riding a white deer.  There was even a time when killing the deer in Nara was punishable.

If you wish to see the main attractions in Nara, this is a good place to start as the Nara National Museum, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha and Kofukuji are all within walking distance.

nara deer crackers

Nara Park

Address: Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

Open Hours: 24 hours daily

Entrance Fee: FREE

How to get To Nara Park:

To get to Nara Park by train, alight at Kintetsu Nara Station and walk for about 5 minutes towards Nara Park.  Alternatively, from Nara Station, you can walk to Nara Park for about 20 minutes.  Rush to East Exit and head towards Sanjo Dori Street, a shopping street north of the station. Walk in eastern direction until you see Nara Park.

You can also take the bus from JR Nara Station to Nara Park. This is what we did.  At JR Nara Station East Exit Bus Terminal, look for Loop Line Bus, it’s a yellow bus.  Ride #2 bus from bus stop 2.  Transit time is about 20 minutes and fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for adults and JPY 110 (PHP 50/USD 0.99/SGD 1.35/MYR 4.25) for children.

 

4. NARA NATIONAL MUSEUM

 Situated inside Nara Park, the Nara National Museum is an art museum showcasing Japanese Buddhist Art founded in 1889. It has a gorgeous colonial facade that stand out amid the surrounding park. The Nara National Museum has two divisions: the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall and Ritual Bronze Gallery, and the East and West Wing.  The former houses a vast collection of statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, called butsu-zo while the latter displays permanent collections and special exhibitions.

nara tourist spots

Nara National Museum

Address: 50 Noboriōji-chō, Nara

Open Hours:  Daily except Monday: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM (last admission at 4:30 PM)

Entrance Free: 

Adults: JPY 520 (PHP 236/USD 5/ SGD 6.39/MYR 20)

College Students: JPY 260 (PHP 118/ USD 2.35/ SGD 3.20/ MYR 10)

High school Students: Free

How to get to Nara National Museum:

To get to Nara National Museum by train, get off at Kintetsu Nara Station and walk for about 15 minutes, the museum is inside Nara Park.  You can also walk from Nara Station, but it is a little far, roughly 25 minutes by foot.

You can also take the City Loop Bus (yellow bus) and alight at Himuro Shrine/National Museum bus stop next to the Nara National Museum.

 

5. TODAIJI TEMPLE

nara best attractions

If you’re going to pick one temple to enter in Nara, make it Todaiji Temple, one of the most venerated and the star of all temples in this old city.  But because it is the most famous, it is often crowded.  The temple has a small lake fringed by trees, a perfect place to sit and relax if you’re tired from all the walking in Nara.  While most of the surrounding attractions in Todaiji Temples are free, if you want to see the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha known in Japanese as Daibuts you have to pay to enter the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall), the largest wooden building in the world where it is enshrined. The sitting Buddha is 15 meters high and is guarded by two Bodhisattvas.  Before entering the temple, don’t miss the two-fierce looking Nio guardians standing by the gigantic Nandaimon gate.

 

nara best tourist attractions

Todaiji Temple

Address: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture

Open Hours:

7:30 AM to 5:30 PM – April to September

8:00 AM to 4:30 PM – November to February

7:30 AM to 5:00 PM – October

8:00 AM to 5:00 PM – March

Entrance Fee: JPY 500 (PHP 227/USD 5/ SGD 6/MYR 19)

 How to get to Taodaiji Temple:

To get to Todaiji Temple by train, get off at Kintetsu Nara Station and walk for about 35 minutes towards the temple. Use your Google Maps.  Alternatively, from Nara Station, you can walk to Todaiji Temple for about 45 minutes.  If you are inside Nara Park already, you can include this in your walking tour.

Alternatively, you can ride the City Loop Bus (yellow bus) from Nara Station Bus Terminal and alight at Todaiji Daibutsuden stop.  Todaiji temple is about 10 minute walk from here. Fixed fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for adults and JPY 110 (PHP 50/USD 0.99/SGD 1.35/MYR 4.25) for children.

 

 

6. Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Kasuga Taisha Shrine is situated at the foot of a verdant mountain fringed by lanterns that were donated by worshippers.  It is dubbed as Nara’s most important shrine since it is dedicated to the guardian deity of Nara City. Kasuga Taisha Shrine was established in the 8th century by the Fujiwara family. The outer shrine is free but there is an entrance fee if you wish to enter the inner shrine.

 

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Open Hours:

6:00 AM to 05:00 PM (April to September)

6:30 AM to 05:00 PM (October to March)

Entrance Fee:

Outer Area: Free

Inner Area: JPY 500 (PHP 227/USD 5/ SGD 6/MYR 19)

How to get to Kasuga Taisha Shrine :

To get to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, you can alight at Kintetsu Nara Station and head there on foot for about 30 minutes. If you are coming from Nara Station, it’s about a 45 minute walk. But if you are already inside Nara Park and doing the walking tour, you won’t really notice the long walk as it is near the other temples in the vicinity.

You may also take a City Loop yellow bus from Nara Station and get off at Kasuga Taisha Honden bus stop.

 

7. KASUGAYAMA PRIMEVAL FOREST

 
nara sightseeing

Kasugayama Primeval Forest is located at the back of Kasuga Taisha Shrine.  This extensive forest on a hill is part of the Historic Monuments of Nara designated as UNESCO World Sites. If you are wondering why this forest is part of UNESCO sites that is because of its cultural heritage. The proximity of the forest to Kasuga Tasiga Shrine makes it one with nature, a vital aspect of Shinto Shrines.  Since 841, Kasugayama Primeval Forest has been blissfully preserved – no tree cutting and no hunting allowed. There is a well-maintained hiking path through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest leading to the top the wind-swept Wakakusayama Hill. The summit offers a view of Nara City. There’s also a 10 meter high falls at Kasugayama Primeval Forest dubbed as Nightingale Waterfall of Nara.  Its water gushes down Sahogawa River thereby making a nightingale sound, hence the name.

Kasugayama Primeval Forest

Entrance Fee: JPY 200 (PHP 91/USD 2/SGD 2.46/MYR 8)

8. TOSHODAIJI TEMPLE

Toshodaiji Temple is a Buddhist temple founded in 759 by Joan Zhen (Ganjin), a Chinese monk tasked by Emperor Shomu to reform Buddhism in Japan. It is one of the places in Nara that UNESCO has been designated as World Heritage Site “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”.
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It was under construction when we visited.  But I noticed that the surroundings are fringed by trees and flowers.

 Open Hours:  8:30 AM – 05:00 PM (last entry at 4:30 PM)

Entrance Fee: JPY 600 (PHP 272/USD 5.42/SGD 2.46/MYR 23)

How to get to Toshodaiji Temple:

To get to Toshodaiji Temple, you can ride the train from Kintetsu Nara Station to Yamato-Saidaiji Station, then transfer to Kintetsu Kashihara Line.  Alight at Nishinokyo Station.  From here, both Toshodaiji Temple and Yakushiji Temple are walking distance. Travel time is about 10 minutes.  Train fare is JPY 260/PHP 121 (EURO 2/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 10).

Alternatively, you can ride bus #70 or bus #72 and alight at Toshodaiji bus stop.  To return to Central Nara, buses stop at Toshodaiji-higashiguchi bus stop. You can also ride bus #97, which stops at Toshodaiji-higashiguchi bus stop.

 

9.YAKUSHIJI TEMPLE

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of the Historic Monuments of Nara, Yakushiji Temple was established in 680 thriving under the patronage of the imperial court until the 8th century. Interestingly, the main building in the midst of Genjo-sanzoin Garan is a central Octagonal Hall where some of Genjo-sanzo’s remains are enshrined. There’s a 3 storied pagoda within the temple complex which looks like a 6 storied-pagoda because of the inter-storey pent roofs. This is the only original building in Yakushi-ji Temple as fires have destroyed most structures in the temple complex.

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Yakushiji Temple

Address: 457 Nishinokyocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture

Open Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Entrance Fee: JPY 600 (PHP 272/USD 5.42/SGD 2.46/MYR 23)

How to get to Yakushiji Temple :

To get to Yakushiji Temple, take the train from Kintetsu Nara Station to Yamato-Saidaiji Station, then transfer to Kintetsu Kashihara Line.  Get off at Nishinokyo Station.  Train fare is JPY 260/PHP 121 (EURO 2/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 10).  Travel time is about 10 minutes. Yakushiji Temple can be reached by foot from here.

You may also ride bus #70 or bus #72 and get off at Yakushiji bus stop.  If going back to central Nara, buses stop at To Yakushiji-higashiguchi bus stop.  Bus #97 also stops at Yakushiji-higashiguchi bus stop.

 

10.HEIJO PALACE /NARA IMPERIAL PALACE

As you might have guessed it, Heijo Palace is the imperial residence in Heijō-kyō (Nara). For roughly 70 years, the capital of Japan was Heijokyo (present-day Nara).  Heijo Palace also known as Nara Imperial Palace was the imperial residence during the Nara Period (710-794).   During the Nara Period, Nara, known as Heijo-kyo was Japan’s capital. The palace was forgotten because people flocked to the new capital. Today, much of the structures have been restored particularly Former Audience Hall (Daigokuden), the largest building on the palace grounds.

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Heijo Palace/ Nara Imperial Palace

Address: Sakicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture

Open Hours: Daily 09:00 AM -04:30 PM (entry until 4:00 PM), closed on Mondays

Entrance Fee: FREE

How to get to Heijo Palace:

From Kintetsu Nara Station ride the train to Yamato-Saidaiji Station.  Travel time is about 5 minutes. Fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8).

From Kintetsu Nara Station, you can take any of the following trains:

Kintetsu Nara Line Rapid Express for Kobe-Sanonomiya and alight at Yamato-Saidaiji Station.
Kintetsu Nara local train for Amagasaki and get off at Yamato-Saidaiji Station.
Kintetsu Kyoto Line express train en route to Kyoto and alight at Yamato-Saidaiji Station.
Kintetsu Nara Line Express to Osaka-Namba Station and get off at Yamato-Saidaiji Station.

We took the train but got confused with the streets so we only saw the palace from afar, but it was a pretty good view because of the surroundings.  We didn’t continue to the palace as it was already closed.

I suggest you take the bus instead because the bus stops are closer to the palace. You may also take the bus from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station for JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8).  The Imperial Audience Hall is near Sakicho bus stop, the Nara Palace Site Museum is near Nijocho bus stop while the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall is located near Heijokyuseki bus stop.  Travel time is about 20 minutes.

 

NARA DAY TOUR FROM KYOTO

If you are pressed for time or you want a hassle-free tour of Nara, you can actually book a Nara day tour from Osaka.

 

Kyoto, Nara & Arashiyama Day Tour from Osaka

 

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This is a perfect day tour to Kyoto and Nara for those who are pressed for time.  Not to mention that the tour package is also inexpensive. You will visit the main sights of Nara such as Nara Park, Tōdai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine.  By lunch, you will have free time to explore Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka and Kiyomizu-dera temple before heading to Arashiyama.  Additionally, you get a bonus – a FREE Harukas 300 Observatory Pass valued at JPY 1,500 (PHP 681/ USD 14/ SGD 18/ MYR 58).

Tour package includes: Hotel pick up and drop off (please indicate your hotel details at checkout), guide and driver service fee, Transportation and HARUKAS 300 Observatory Pass.

 

 

CHECK TOUR RATES HERE

 

ARASHIYAMA AND NARA DAY TOUR FROM OSAKA

 

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The full day guided tour will take you to the picturesque Arashiyama where you can walk along the Bamboo Forest. You will also get to explore Nara that is peppered with 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here you can get up close with the Japanese national treasures of Todaiji Temple and Daibutsu Buddha and get a chance to feed the sacred deer of Nara Park. Roundtrip transport and English-speaking guide is included in the tour package.  Lunch is optional.

BOOK ARASHIYAMA + NARA TOUR HERE

 

 

JAPAN POCKET WI-FI

 

4GWiFi(JPAirportPickUp)forJapan

Stay connected online while in Japan with the 4G pocket Wi-Fi that has coverage up to 7GB data use. It connects up to five gadgets once and supports 4-6 hours of surfing on one battery charge.

 

 RENT POCKET WIFI HERE

 

 

KANSAI THRU PASS

 
3DayJR-WestKansaiRailPass(KIXPickUp)

When traveling in Kansai Region, I recommend getting the Kansai Thru pass, a flexible all-inclusive ticket that enables you to ride on subways, railways and buses throughout the Kansai district with coverage expanding to Nara, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and more. There’s two ticket types – the 2 day and 3 day pass allows you to create your own Japan experience at your own desired pace.

 

PURCHASE KANSAI THRU PASS HERE

 


BUDGET HOTELS IN NARA

 

Oak Hostel Nara

AGODA OAK FINAL

15 Higashimukikitamachi, Nara City Center, Nara

CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

Guesthouse Nara Komachi

agoda komachi

41-2 Surugamachi, Nara City Center, Nara, Japan

CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

 

Hotel Pagoda

agoda pagoda

1122 Takabatake-cho, Nara City Center, Nara, Japan

CHECK ROOM RATES HERE

 

 

NARA TRAVEL TIPS

nara top places to see

⊗ Nara can be done as a day trip from Osaka or day tour from Kyoto.

⊗ It is possible to do a walking tour of Nara as most of the attractions are concentrated within and near Nara Park.

⊗ If you are taking the City Bus Loop in Nara, fixed fare is JPY 210 (PHP 95/USD 2/SGD 3/MYR 8) for adults and JPY 110 (PHP 50/USD 0.99/SGD 1.35/MYR 4.25) for children.

⊗ If you will stay overnight in Nara, make sure your hotel allows luggage storage as the check-out time here is quite early – 9:00 AM.

⊗ You can leave your luggage at Nara Tourism Office near Nara Station for for JPY 500 / PHP 234 (EURO 4 / USD 10/ SGD 13/ MYR 42) per bag.

⊗ Get a tourist map. It’s really helpful. Or use your Google Maps.

⊗ For train rides  in Japan, use Hyperdia

⊗ Please do not feed the deer with paper or your own food. Buy deer crackers instead.

 

 


 

ALSO READ:

 

NARA TRAVEL GUIDE (Budget + Itinerary)

OSAKA TRAVEL GUIDE (Budget + Itinerary)

KYOTO TRAVEL GUIDE (Budget + Itinerary)

NAGOYA TRAVEL GUIDE (Budget + Itinerary)

KYOTO THINGS TO DO AND HOW TO GET THERE

NAGOYA ITINERARY

 

 


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