Nara Travel Guide


  • Name: Nara
  • Region: Kansai
  • Population: 370,000
  • Famous for: Historic Temples
  • Must see sight:Todaiji Temple
  • Must try dish: kaki no hazushi

Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital and is located less than an hour from both Kyoto and Osaka. Nara is a place with important historic and cultural treasures including an impressive array of temples. It has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nara is small enough to pack most worthwhile sights into one full day, but I would recommend at least two days to fully explore the place. If you only have one day to spend in Nara, focus on the area around Nara Park.

The must see places in Nara include:

Heijo Palace – Site of the emperor’s residence and government offices during the Nara period 710-794 when it served as the capital of Japan.

Horyuji Temple – One of Japan’s oldest and most important temples. It was founded in 607 and contains some of the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures including a five-story pagoda and Kondo, Golden Hall. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine – Nara’s most famous shrine and dedicated to the deity responsible for the protection of the city of Nara. It was founded in the 8th century, with the approach to the shrine is lined with hundreds of lanterns.

Kofukuji Temple – Established during the creation of the capital in 710, the temple was transferred here from Kyoto. It is famous for its two pagodas, one a five story pagoda built in 1426, and the other a three story pagoda built in 1143.

Naramachi – Naramachi is a traditional part of Nara filled with well-preserved Edo Period buildings. It used to be the former merchant district and contains narrow-lanes lined with machiya that are now shops, museums and restaurants.

Nara Park – Nara Park also called Nara Koen is the location of many of Nara’s main attractions. The park features hundreds of freely roaming deer that love the tourists to the area.

Todaiji Temple – Founded in 752 and the most important temple in Nara. Its Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world, and houses the world`s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu. One of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nara.

Toshodaiji Temple – Founded in 759 by a Chinese priest, who was influential in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. The temple grounds are forested and make a pleasant place to stroll around the small paths to explore the temple.

Yakushiji Temple – Yakushiji is one of Japan’s oldest temples and was constructed late in the 7th century. The temple is famous for its symmetric layout, with its main and lecture halls standing on a central axis, flanked by two pagodas. It contains some of the most beautiful Buddhist statues in all Japan.

Yoshino – Yoshino is home to a national park with over 100,000 cherry trees that are beautiful when in bloom during the spring.

Two Day Itinerary for Nara

Day 1 Spend the day exploring the city center and Nara Park. All of these sights can be reached on foot. Start by feeding the deer in Nara Park, followed by a visit to Todaiji Temple. Next, visit Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Kofukuji Temple. Finish the day by strolling around Naramachi and soaking up the amazing atmosphere.

Day 2 Spend the day exploring the sights west and southwest of the city. Start by taking the bus to visit Horyuji Temple. Next take the bus to Yakushiji Temple and then walk over to Toshodaiji Temple. Finish by visiting Heijo Palace, which is not too far away.

Nara Map