I’ve walked these areas again & again – and never get tired of them! However, with the overseas tourist crowds these days, I just skip the really famous temples (Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera…) and focus on exploring everything else.
Gion’s Kenninji Temple
1) Philosopher’s Path
Take a taxi to Ginkaku-ji Temple. They will drop you off at the bottom of a souvenir shop-lined street full of people. Walk up the street and visit Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion. Afterward, follow the tree-lined stream (canal). This is the ‘Tetsugakudo-no-michi’ or Philosopher’s Path. There are art galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants, and temples along this walk. Some interesting temples along the way are a short walk from the path (Honen-in Temple, Anrakuji Temple, and/or Reiganji Temple). Follow the path until it ends near the Kumano Nyakouji Shrine. Walk down the sloping street here (there are a few souvenir shops). At the larger road you come to, follow everyone and turn left. As you walk, Eikando Temple will soon be on your left. Next is Nanzenji Temple. Both are very impressive temples. When you’ve finished exploring, take a taxi, bus, or train from this area back to your hotel.
2) Kiyomizudera Area
Take a taxi to Kiyomizudera Temple. They will drop you off at the bottom of a souvenir shop-lined street full of people. Walk up the street and visit Kiyomizudera. Afterward, walk back down the street a short distance and make a right turn down the cobblestone steps of the Sannei-zaka (slope). It is easy to miss, so if you don’t see it, just ask. This slope is lined with traditional shops/cafes/restaurants, and it then connects to another slope, Ninen-zaka. Continue walking toward ‘Nene-no-michi’. Kodaiji Temple is an impressive stop along this path. If you keep walking, you will reach Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine. From there it is a short walk to the most famous Geiko/Maiko district, Gion.
This is an entire district of Kyoto (near the mountains) that you will need a day to see. Travel by sightseeing train up the riverside, then travel back down it in an old fashioned boat (both need advanced reservations). Wander through Japan’s most famous bamboo forest, visit wonderful temples, take a ride in a rickshaw, and walk to and explore neighboring Sagano. Depending on where you are traveling from in central Kyoto, there are three different train lines that serve Arashiyama, and there is regular bus service as well.