We'd like somewhere that's affordable, but also would prefer to sleep in a bed rather than on the floor, so are willing to pay more for that. Would like to be close to the main sites. We'd also be interested in an AirBnB, but want to make sure we're in the right area for siteseeing and restaurants/nightlife (if there is any?)
As would be expected of an ancient city, Kyoto has many wonderful scenic spots. Here several hiking courses you can take leisurely use while enjoying the spectacular scenery.
The road from Kurama-dera to Kifune Shrine, which is considered to be Kyoto's foremost power spot, is popular as an easily accessible hiking course.
First, you pay a 300 JPY entrance fee at the Nioumon gate and enter Kurama-dera. After passing the Yuki Shrine and walking up a steep, curvy hill called Tsuzuraori for about 30 minutes, you arrive at the main temple! In front of the main temple is Kongosho, which is said to be a particularly strong power spot where energy from the heavens converge, so make sure to charge your energy there. it is about an hour from the main temple to Kifune Shrine through a path with many exposed roots referred to as "the path of roots". After the path, you pass Fudodo and Okunoin Maoden, then exit the west gate, go over a bridge and in about 100m, you'll arrive at Kifune Shrine. Kifune Shrine is considered to have the power to bring luck and love, so be sure to say your prayers there too!
*Total time is two to three hours (approximately)
2. Around Takagamine Kitatakagaminecho
Takagamine, an area with great views of the three mountains of Takagamine (Takagaimine, Washigamine, Tengamine), is where one of the Edo period's foremost cultural figures, Honami Koetsu, established an artists' community. Honami Koetsu is considered to be the father of the Rinpa school of painting, which has influenced painting not only in Japan but also around the world. This is a course around Koetsu's land that is relatively short but full of things to see. The recommended course is to first take a look at Joshoji, established by Koetsu and famous for its cherry blossoms, then move on to Genkoan, with its two windows, one of confusion and one of enlightment, before finishing at Koetsuji. This area is also known for its beautiful foliage, so we recommend going around the time the leaves change their colors.
Total time: About two hours (approximately)
The area to the northwest of central Kyoto is called Sanbi and consists of the three villages of Takao Keihokuidochō, Makinou, and Toganou along the Kiyotaki River. This is a historic area with famous temples such as Jingoji and Kozanji. There is a hiking course called the Tokai Natural Walkway along the Kiyotaka River where you can hike while enjoying views of the clear water of the river and the Kitayama cedars. The area from the downriver village of Kiyotaki to Takaobashi Bridge in front of the path to the entrance of Jingoji is called Kinunkei and famous for its beautiful autumn foliage. It is only about an hour on foot, but if you fill your lungs with the fresh air and listen to the sounds of the river, you will feel refreshed, body and soul.
Total time: About one hour (approximate)
*Does not include the time to visit Jingoji.
4. Mt. Daimonji (Nyoigatake)
Mt. Daimonji is famous as the location of Kyoto's famous summer cultural event, the Gozan-no Okuribi, or the five giant bonfires. We tend to think of the mountain as something to view from far away, but it is actually popular as an easily accessible hiking spot. There are many routes to the top, but the route that starts at a trail head near Ginkakuji is recommended for first-timers. It is about 30 minutes from the trailhead that is to the north of Ginkajiji to the fire bed in the form of the kanji character of "dai" ("big"). The view of Kyoto from the fire bed is spectacular and is certain to make you happy to have made the hike. The view is like a reward for the hike, and one you'll want to burn into your mind's eye.
Total time: About 90 minutes (approximate)
5. Mount Hiei
Mt. Hiei, a mountain located at the border of Kyoto and Shiga, is the home of the World Heritage Site, Enryakuji. Together with Mt. Koya, Mt. Hiei has been revered since ancient times as a sacred mountain. The mountain itself is a temple with approximately 150 structures scattered throughout the three areas of Toto, Saito, and Yokawa. Mt. Hiei is a popular hiking spot and the ancient path of Kirarazaka, from the side of Shugakuin Rikyu to the mountaintop, was taken by monks and warrior monks traveling between Kyoto and Mt. Hiei. It is a course that even hiking novices should have no trouble with. From the mountaintop, there are views not only of Lake Biwa and the city of Kyoto, but also of the northern Kyoto mountains including the peaks of Hira. These views will give you the satisfaction of having made it to the top.
Total time: 5 hours (approximate for the return trip)
*The time to visit Enryakuji is not included
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This way, you'll have easy access to shopping, nightlife and affordable restaurants in Downtown Kyoto while still within 10-15 minutes walk to historical Gion Shijo Station.
Hope this helps!
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Kyoto Hana Hostel is a great value hostel as the cost is really reasonable and you can get to many sightseeing from this hostel.
There are many kinds of rooms here so you can find the right one for you.