Nara was declared the first permanent capital of Japan back in the 8th century, leading to the rapid construction of some of the country’s most important temples and shrines. To this day, a lot of these cultural and historical treasures are still standing, making it one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations. Due to its proximity to Kyoto and Osaka, you can enjoy all the wonders of Nara without even needing to move hotels – though there’s some wonderful accommodation available to those who wish to explore the city for longer.
Begin your morning with a visit to the beautiful Isui Garden, admiring the views of Mt. Wakakusayama as you sip some refreshing tea. Next, stroll to Todaji temple – one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, housing the grandest Buddha statue in all of Japan. Learn about the history of this Buddhist landmark, and its influence on the early days of Japanese history. Head next to the Kasuga Taisha shrine, a much-celebrated place of worship, famed for its hundreds of donated lanterns that line the approach.
Finish with a meander through Nara Park, meeting its celebrity inhabitants – hundreds of mostly friendly, occasionally boisterous, semi-tame deer. Before departing Nara, for nearby Kyoto or Osaka, check out the former merchant neighbourhood of Naramachi – now home to boutique stores and traditional inns.