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3 BEST Day Tours from Tokyo to Kyoto (+ DIY Option)

Looking for day tours from Tokyo to Kyoto? You’ll find the best ones in this article, from organized excursions to a fun DIY alternative. Check them out!

Kyoto, the former capital of the country, is located on the island of Honshu, brimming with fabulous attractions and activities to keep you entertained for a whole day…or week.

The city beautifully blends tradition and thousands of years worth of history with modernity and innovation.

Boasting ancient temples, bustling markets, and a stunning bamboo grove, Kyoto is a unique destination worth visiting. I personally think that Kyoto should be on everyone’s Japan itinerary. The city deserves two or 3 days of your time. However, I understand that not everyone has this kind of time!

While Kyoto is 279 miles (450 km) east of Tokyo, the bullet trains connect the two cities in merely 2 hours and 15 minutes, making a day trip not only possible but desirable. 

Woman with a white dress standing in the middle of a street lined by traditional Japanese houses during a day tour from Tokyo to Kyoto.

I’ve compiled a list of the best day tours from Tokyo to Kyoto (plus a DIY option!) so you can plan a memorable trip. 

👉 Why trust my picks for the best day tours from Tokyo to Kyoto? Well, I’ve dedicated a decade to handpicking extraordinary travel experiences for discerning travelers like you. From high-speed bullet train rides to serene temples, each tour in this guide is chosen for its unique ability to offer a slice of Japanese culture and history.

I usually use Viator and Get Your Guide to book activities around the world. I especially recommend them for their fantastic cancellation policy, which allows you to cancel most tours up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund. 

OUR PICK: The BEST Day Tour from Tokyo to Kyoto

This 1-Day Kyoto Rail Tour by Bullet Train from Tokyo starts with a morning train ride to the old capital, where you’ll meet your guide for the day. You’ll be treated to a Western-style lunch to fuel your energy for the day’s adventures, and then embark on a tour around the city’s most remarkable locations. 

As you learn about the history and traditions of Kyoto, you’ll pay a visit to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, the Sanjusangendo Temple, which is home to a thousand Kannon statues, and the UNESCO-listed Kiyomizu-dera Temple. 

Enjoy spectacular views of the city from the top of a hill, and have plenty of photo opportunities before the day’s over. By the end of it, you’ll be dropped off at the station to catch the bullet train back to Tokyo.  

📝 This Kyoto tour from Tokyo includes: Roundtrip bullet train tickets, a guide, a city tour of Kyoto, and lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Private Day Tours from Tokyo to Kyoto

▶️ Gather your group for a memorable Tokyo to Kyoto 1-Full Day Private Guided Tour. Hosting groups of up to 8 people, this excursion starts with a van journey from Kyoto’s train station to one of Japan’s most spectacular attractions: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. 

Accompanied by an expert guide, you’ll also explore the Tenryuji temple garden, the ancient Kinkaku-ji temple, and the 17th-century Nijo Castle. 

After a deserved lunch break (own expense), make your way to the famous Fushimi Inari shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, learning about Japanese history and religion along the way. 

📝 This tour includes: A tour guide, and a trip itinerary. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ Check out the Tokyo to Kyoto and Nara One Full Day Private Tour, a super comprehensive trip to visit some of Japan’s major landmarks. Start bright and early and catch the morning train to Kyoto, where your guide will pick you up and drive you to Nara Park, one of the country’s oldest and home to beautiful Sika deer. 

Enjoy a cultural visit at Todaiji temple in Nara before returning to Kyoto, where you’ll check out Kinkakoji temple and the popular Fushimi Inari shrine, enjoy a tasty lunch break (own expense), and wander around the Gion area with your knowledgeable guide. 

Since the tour is private for you and your group, you can discuss a personalized itinerary to include other attractions you’d rather visit. 

📝 This tour includes: A guide, tour management, and transportation in Kyoto if the option is selected. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Not What You’re Looking For? Take a DIY Day Trip to Kyoto from Tokyo

Your DIY Kyoto day trip from Tokyo starts at either the Tokyo Station or the Shinagawa Station (whichever is closest to your accommodation), from where you’ll catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. 

Shinkansen, the bullet train in Japan.

⚠️ I highly recommend that you buy your train tickets online, as during national holidays or weekends the tickets can sell out rather quickly. Booking in advance is also important if you’re a large group, as risking getting seats for everyone once you’re already at the station…well, it’s a risk 🙂 

Plus, you’ll understand soon after you land in Japan that doing something as simple as buying a train ticket in Japan is not that simple because of the language barrier!

The Shinkansen takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach the Kyoto Station, and once in the city you can choose to either explore it on your own or book a tour. These are my recommended excursions: 

▶️ This Private Kyoto Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems, Personalised allows you to immerse yourself in-depth in the culture and customs of the city as you explore it with a local.

The tour lasts anywhere between 3 and 8 hours (it’s up to you!) and includes a visit to vibrant neighborhoods, important temples and shrines, parks, and cultural districts. You can choose the sights you don’t wanna miss, or let your guide do the planning for you. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ A great alternative is this Kyoto: Top Highlights Full Day Trip. Led by a local, you’ll visit the Fushimi Inari Temple, famous for its photogenic torii gate tunnels, as well as Kinkakuji Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple (tickets included). 

You’ll also go on a trip to Arashiyama, a gorgeous bamboo forest, and get insider details and recommendations from your guide, besides enjoying plenty of photo ops during this 9-hour trip. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ Would you rather explore Kyoto on your own? No problem! Kyoto is a very walkable city, and you’ll be able to visit most of its sights on foot or after a short bus ride. From the train station, take bus 205 to the Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. 

This is the furthest attraction from the train station, and by following this itinerary you’ll start getting closer to the station in order to return in the evening for your train back to Tokyo. You can also follow the itinerary in the opposite direction, getting further away from the station and finally catching a bus or a taxi back to it. 

After exploring Kinkakuji Temple, make your way to Nijo Castle, former home of the shogun Ieyasu. Then move on to explore the vibrant Gion District, where you can have a local bite for lunch and wander around its historic streets. 

Within a short walk is Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a gem you can’t miss as it boasts scenic views from the top of Mount Otowa. Finally, take a bus or a taxi to reach Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, where you’ll get to pose in front of its beautiful torii gates. 

If you wanted to include Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in your itinerary, I’d recommend skipping Nijo Castle and catching a taxi to the forest to make the most of your time. 

Your day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto should end at the train station, where you’ll catch the Shinkansen back to the city. 

Day Tours from Tokyo to Kyoto FAQs 

Can you do a day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo?

Yes! It’s not only entirely possible but recommended if you don’t have time to spend a few nights in Kyoto. You can either book a day tour from Tokyo to Kyoto or organize it on your own by buying a bullet train ticket. The bullet train journey between the cities takes slightly over 2 hours, so there’s no excuse to miss it! 

Is Kyoto worth a day trip?

In my opinion, Kyoto is definitely worth a day trip (that is, if you can’t afford to spend more days there!) The city is Japan’s former capital and boasts gorgeous temples, parks, and cultural landmarks that are fascinating to visit. You can either book a day tour from Tokyo to Kyoto or organize it on your own by buying a bullet train ticket.

How much is Japan bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto?

Prices for the Tokyo-Kyoto bullet train tickets start at around $80 for a one-way journey during the low season, whereas during the high season prices can rise to $160. The price will also depend on whether you select your seats, travel in first class, or how far in advance you purchase the trip. 

Is it better to fly or train from Kyoto to Tokyo?

Taking the bullet train (shinkansen) is the best possible way to make the journey between the two cities. You’ll cover the 279 miles (450 km) in just over 2 hours, and there are very frequent departures throughout the day. 

How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Kyoto? 

The bullet train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto only takes no longer than 2 hours and 15 minutes, making it easy to visit the city on a day trip.  

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.