Arashiyama – a beautiful, verdant district on the western edge of Kyoto – has been enjoying roughly 1200 years of popularity as a countryside getaway. Once you take a stroll though the towering stalks of bamboo, or along the banks of the Hozu and Katsura rivers, it’s easy to see why. The rivers in question are actually one and the same, changing their name and their speed at the Togetsukyo Bridge – an iconic structure that spans the water and is the subject of one of Hiroshige’s most famous ukiyo-e (woodblock prints).
Justifiably popular at any time of year, the area comes into it’s own during the seasons for sakura (cherry blossom) and koyo (autumn leaves) when anyone can seem like a prize-winning photographer by capturing the mass of colour. In the summer months, traditional cormorant fishing is still practised on the river, and the area is lit up with lights in December when the nights draw in, with the bamboo groves being particularly picturesque.
As with the rest of Kyoto, you can get your fill of UNESCO World Heritage Sites here too. Tenryuji is one of the influential Zen temples in the city, and one of the most impressive and grandest structures in this region. A wander through the well-maintained gardens and walking paths is a great way to pass the time, and for those who are curious, you can try some traditional shokin-ryori (vegetarian Buddhist cuisine) within the tranquillity of the temple grounds.
If you are feeling energetic, you can take a stroll with the local simian population in the Iwatayama Monkey Park, on a hill overlooking the river from its southern bank. From the top you can enjoy some spectacular views over the city and surrounding countryside.