The trifecta of 'Look at how impressively beautiful Kyoto is in Autumn' destinations, and all within a few kilometres of each other. I've been to Kinkaku-ji in spring, which was a gorgeous, if different, sight but if you can't catch those ephemeral cherry blossoms, fiery autumn leaves gives it a run for its money.

I don't usually do this so overtly, but you really should check out my Images from Nowhere partner post. These are places that 580px images can't quite do justice to.

There is a bus that will take you conveniently from one temple to another, but I would honestly advise ditching the bus down - it's perhaps a 30min walk altogether to travel from Kinkakuji to Ninna-ji and it's a wonderful stroll - if you're tired after, you can take the bus back.

You may even find Shiba-Inus along the way (such wow).

It would have been even better if yours truly had not been coming down with a flu that day.


Kinkakuji was tourist central, and a little too crowded and bustling for Kyoto's generally peaceful, serene atmosphere, though it is a fascinating experience to walk through crowds of Japanese middle schoolers on an excursion shouting 'すげ〜' and then wade through a chattering group of Taiwanese aunties, past a tall pair of German tourists and end up overhearing some American accents.

We visited in the early morning, around 9:45am when the doors opened, which may have been a mistake since everyone had the same idea.

The temple has a set path, which takes you (or the crowd basically pushes you) neatly from one photo vantage point to another, and then down the winding path of tourist merchandise stores and a ridiculous number of mochi (and other food) samples. Careful - don't get mochi'd out like I did.

RYOAN-JI (龍安寺)

Ryoanji, about a 15min walk down the road from Kinkakuji, was actually my favourite temple of the three. Gorgeous grounds and quieter than Kinkakuji, it's a place where you feel more at ease to linger and take in the gorgeous gardens and winding detours.

Wear thick socks if you're going in colder months because you must take your shoes off to enter the building with the rock garden.

The rock garden was full of people on its borders but it was possible to wait awhile and then sit down. It was wonderfully peaceful to look at, as was the rest of the pavilion/house.

NINNA-JI (仁和寺)

By Ninnaji, my cold was starting to take hold and my body was getting the aches and shivers so recollections here are a little blurry.

The temple grounds are enormous, as are the gates, and walking through the forest in the afternoon sunlight was a gorgeous experience.

The iconic tower itself stands tall and silent - you can approach and admire but not much else. The pavilion on the other side of the grounds can be explored and opens up to reveal beautiful, minimal rooms with intricate details.

We also dropped by quickly into Gochisen Renge-ji, literally next door to Ninna-ji, but didn't go inside. There were some beautiful stone Buddhas sitting in a line beyond the gate.