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  • Macy McLaughlin

My 3 Day Itinerary for Kyoto, Japan

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” -- Henry David Thoreau


For my trip to Kyoto, I decided to stay at the Bird Hostel for four nights, Wednesday night through Sunday morning. I found the hostel on an app called Hostelworld, and it turned out to be just as good as the reviews claimed it to be. It was super clean, a good location, and had a great atmosphere for meeting people. When I was checking into the hostel on the first day, I met another girl who was also traveling alone, and we remained good friends for the duration of my stay.


Day 1

I went to the Fushimi Inari Shrine and hiked through the orange gates that winded up a forested mountain. I found this hike to be extremely rewarding and was astounded by the beauty of both the forest and all the fox shrines that were scattered along the route of the hike. The summit of the mountain had a breathtaking view, and I probably stood there for about an hour just taking in all the beauties of the city below me.


Day 2

On my second day, I went to Arashiyama where I walked through the bamboo forest and hiked to the top of the monkey park mountain to feed monkeys. The entire Arashiyama area was filled with temples, shrines, and beautiful scenery and I didn't have time to see nearly half of the spots that I wanted to. The bamboo forest was very underwhelming. The bamboo was not as tall as I thought it would be, the walk through it was not as long as I thought it would be, and the path was completely overcrowded with tourists which just left me feeling irritated. The monkey park, on the other hand, was a fantastic experience. You hike to the top of a small mountain, and monkeys are walking all around you. You can go inside the visitor’s center and feed the monkeys that are outside through feeding windows. I probably bought five bags of food to feed to them because I was just so in awe of their cuteness. Not to mention, the view from the top of the mountain is also incredible and breathtaking.


Day 3

On the third day, I went to Kenninji Temple. Although this is one of the smaller trips I took, as it was not too far from my hostel, it turned out to be one of my favorites. When you enter, you pay 500 yen (about $5) for a ticket, and then you take off your shoes before you begin. You then get to walk around the entire Buddhist temple in socks and admire all of its beauties. There was a beautiful and serene rock garden that I sat in front of for about an hour, and there were rooms with intricate murals and places for prayer. You could even borrow a pair of slippers and cross a nearby walking path to visit a giant hall with astounding dragon paintings on the roof, and gold covered Buddhas and thrones. The scene was breathtaking and incredibly impressive. I left after spending a few hours there and felt extraordinarily zen and relaxed.


Reflections On My First Solo Trip


All though this all sounds like great fun, it was not all rainbows and butterflies. Figuring out transportation in a foreign and unfamiliar country can be scary, and I had my fair share of struggles trying to get around. On two separate occasions, I accidentally got on an express subway instead of the normal one and wound up taking 30-40 minute excursions just trying to find my way back to the starting point. I also got on about three wrong buses going in the wrong direction. I kicked myself for a lot of these mistakes because after I figured them out, I realized how using my common sense could have helped me avoid them. When you’re by yourself, and you don’t have anyone to argue with, sometimes you take actions too quickly without double checking. While Google Maps is an excellent resource, it wasn’t always without error, and I occasionally relied on it too heavily, without cross-checking with my common sense. Also, my cellular data was very spotty throughout Kyoto, and even though there was free public wifi almost everywhere, I sometimes had to manage without it.


I honestly wasn’t expecting my first solo trip to a foreign country to go without any complications, so I never got too frustrated when I encountered difficulties. Getting lost a couple of times is part of the adventure. While it might have been easier to figure some things out if I was traveling with a partner, traveling alone for the first time was life-changing, and I would have to say I prefer it. You never have to be on anyone’s schedule but your own. There’s no need to set any alarms or compromise on what you do or don’t want to do during the day. There is no one rushing you when you’re putzing around the gift shop for too long. There's no one arguing with you about where to eat. There is nothing to complain about when you are on your own and only doing what you want to be doing 100% of the time.


It was great to get some time to spend with just myself and get to experience so many beautiful sights. I felt like my love for traveling and exploring grew exponentially with this solo trip, and I look forward to more adventures and learning opportunities like these in the future.





Kenninji Temple





Arashiyama / Monkey Park


Incredible Food


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