This blog post may contain affiliate links. This means that when buying/booking anything through these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
When travelling through Japan, Nara should definitely be on your to-visit list. As it’s one of Japan’s famous day-trips and closely located to both Kyoto and Osaka, it would be a shame to miss it. Famous for its hundreds of deers roaming around the city, its beautiful Japanese gardens and many beautiful shrines that date back to when Nara was Japan’s first capital. This Nara itinerary will help you plan a perfect day in this gorgeous little city.
Nara Itinerary | One Day in Nara
1. Arrive in Nara
This itinerary starts with arriving in the beautiful city of Nara. Whether you’re travelling from Kyoto, Osaka or some other city, I’d highly recommend to not arrive later than 10 AM. Because it’s only a day-trip, you want to make sure you have enough time to see everything.
If you arrive in Nara at the JR Nara Train Station, walk over to the Tourist Information Centre. It’s located right outside the station and you can pick up a little booklet with information about the deer park, the shrines and temples. Inside the tourist information centre, you can also find a Starbucks. Grab a coffee and you’re ready to start exploring Nara!
2. Visit Kohfuku-ji Temple
After walking through some beautiful little streets that really make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time, you will arrive at Kohfukuji Temple.
The temple features multiple buildings, all with their own history and stories. The five-storied pagoda is one that stands out from the crowd immediately.
Then there is the main temple, Central Golden Hall. 300 years ago, a fire destroyed most of this temple, but it has been reconstructed it to its original size. It opened to the public in October 2018.
Moving towards the side, you can find the Southern Octagonal Halls. These buildings date back to over a thousand years. I could barely grasp the age of these incredible temples and other buildings. It is so amazing that we got to stand next to them in person.
3. Wander through Isuien Garden
4. Visit the world’s largest wooden structure: Todai-ji Temple
We then moved on to Nara’s prime, Todai-ji Temple. It is one of Japan’s most famous temples according to Japan-Guide.Com. And with good reason. The Todai-ji Temple was build back in 752 and its main hall (the Daibutsuden) is the world’s largest wooden building.
It is almost impossible to grasp the size of the Daibutsuden. This building is massive, and to know that it is fully made out of wood is incredibly. At first, we thought the entrance of Todai-ji was the largest wooden structure in the world and we were already impressed by its size. Only to realise that the actual Daibutsuden was located a little further – it blew our minds!
To enter the building, you pay an entree fee of ¥600 for the museum or ¥1000 for the museum and the hall. Inside the hall, you can witness Japan’s largest Buddha statue in bronze.
5. Explore Nara Deer Park and Mt. Wakakusa
Nara Deer Park is probably what Nara is most famous for. 1200 deer roam around freely throughout the park, posing for tourist’s Instagram stories and begging them for some sweet deer crackers. Yes, you can buy a pack of crackers for ¥100- ¥150. Make sure to not feed them anything else – you wouldn’t want them to get sick!
You might be aware of how bowing in Japan is a form of showing respect. A funny fact to keep in mind while visiting Nara Park is that the deer actually bow back when you bow for them. We tried it a few times, and indeed! The deer bowed back!
6. Visit Kasuga-Taisha
After visiting Todai-ji, we slowly started making our way back to the entrance of the park. There are many shops to nose around in and get a few souvenirs from. I find it so important to support the local communities while travelling, especially the lovely people who own their shops in places like Nara.
7. Shop on Higashimuki Shopping Street
When arriving back onto Noborioji street, on which we entered the deer park earlier that day, we had a look around for a place to have dinner. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, and we ended up going to the CoCo Curry Ichibanya. We were kinda obsessed with that place when we travelled through Japan. Best Japanese curry I’ve ever had!
8. Take the train back to Osaka/Kyoto
Because most sights close quite early in Nara, we took the train back to Osaka after dinner. We then still had time to either go to an arcade for the evening or grab a couple of drinks in a bar near the hotel.
How To Get To Nara
Nara is located right close to both Kyoto and Osaka, making it a perfect destination for a day trip. By using the train, you can get to Nara within an hour from both cities.
Nara Day Trip From Kyoto (by train)
If you want to visit Nara while staying in Kyoto, you can use the JR Nara Line or the private Kintetsu Line.
If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder, you can use the JR Nara Line with your JR Pass. From Kyoto, it takes between 40-70 minutes to get to Nara pending on which train you use. You can either use the JR Nara Line Local or the JR Nara Line Rapid Service. If you can get the Rapid Service, I’d highly recommend it, as it is 25 minutes quicker. For those who do not hold a JR Pass, this trip will cost you ¥710.
If you don’t hold a JR Pass, you can also choose to use the private Kintetsu Line to get to Nara from Kyoto. This train journey will cost you ¥620 and will get you to Kintetsu-Nara station within 35 minutes. Reasons to pick this line over the JR line is because it’s much quicker, it’s cheaper (if you do not use a JR Pass) and Kintetsu-Nara is located more centrally compared to JR Nara Station.
For accurate times and prices for Kyoto – Nara trains, please check HyperDia.
Nara Day Trip From Osaka (by train)
Visiting Nara for a day trip from Osaka is also possible. Two train lines connect Osaka with Nara: The JR Yamatoji Line and the Kintetsu Nara Line.
If you are using a JR Pass to travel to Nara, you can use the JR Yamatoji Line. From Osaka Station, it takes about 50 minutes when using the JR Yamatoji Rapid Services. If you do not hold a JR Pass, this trip will cost ¥800. Are you travelling from JR-Namba Station in Osaka? Then you can get the local train to Shinimamiya Station for ¥150 and then continue your journey on the JR Yamatoji Line to Nara with your JR Pass.
If you are not using a JR Pass, you can use the Kintetsu-Nara Line to get to Nara. From Osaka-Namba Station, you can get the Kintetsu Line to Kintetsu-Nara for ¥560. This train will get you to Nara in 38 minutes. Reasons to pick the Kintetsu-Nara Line over the JR Pass (when you’re not using a JR Pass) is because it’s cheaper, quicker and will get you to a more central point in Nara. Kintetsu-Nara Station is located closer to the Deer Park compared to JR Nara Station.
For accurate times and prices for Osaka – Nara trains, please check HyperDia.
Where to stay when visiting Nara
Because Nara is quite close to both Osaka and Kyoto, it’s a good idea to make a day-trip to Nara while staying in either Osaka or Kyoto. This way you’ll avoid having to carry your suitcases to Nara for a short stay, having to wait for the check-in time for the hotel and waste a lot of time. It’s much easier to get on a train in the morning and get a train back in the evening. Especially if you have a JR pass. In Osaka, we stayed at the Sonezaki Luxe Hotel and in Kyoto we stayed at the Kyoto Urban Hotel.
Where to eat in Nara
More than one day?
Nara Travel Essentials
- JR rail pass: If you are planning to travel around Japan during your trip, getting a JR rail pass is the perfect way to save a lot of money. Especially if you want to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto (or Osaka), I’d 100% recommend you to get a pass! To find out if a JR Pass if worth the money for your itinerary, please check my JR Pass blog. If you buy yours through this link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (I’d very much appreciate it if you enjoyed reading this blog!). Get your JR pass here.
- Pocket WiFi: This ain’t just handy for Nara, but for your entire Japan trip. Pocket WiFi is a must. This little device connects you to the internet wherever you are and barely takes up any space.
We got ours from Japan Wireless (16 full days for just over £60).
- Cash: You might have read it in other Japan guides, but here’s your daily reminder: Japan is a very cash-based country! Even though many shops do accept credit and debit cards, you want some cash in Nara. This is because the entree fee for temples and shrines usually has to be paid in cash and so are the deer crackers.
Finish your Japan itinerary…
For more information about this trip, you can check out our entire two week Japan itinerary and our Japan budget post which breaks down all costs of this trip!