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Nara: Recommended Two-Day Travel Itinerary
Nara is a city with a rich history and beautifully preserved temples, shrines, and buildings constructed in ancient Japan. Enjoy sightseeing around this historical city in two days with our recommended travel itinerary.
Explore Nara's Must-Visit Attractions in Two Days!
Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara
Nara was the ancient capital of Japan before Kyoto held that title. As such, the ancient city has an extensive history. Visitors can still find buildings, especially shrines and temples, that date back centuries ago. Nara is also located close to Kyoto and Osaka, making it an ideal destination to explore the Kansai region.
The city itself has eight temples that are registered World Heritage Sites, collectively called the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara." This article introduces an itinerary for you to discover Nara in two days and one night. It also includes a visit to these eight historical temples.
If you want a great deal on transportation, please get a Nara World Heritage Free Ticket. You can purchase this ticket at any station along the Kintetsu Railway. This pass allows unlimited rides on the Nara Kotsu Bus Lines and Kintetsu train lines for a single day.
A two-day pass for 2,000 yen is also available. Please check the details of its coverage area on the Kintetsu Railway official website (Japanese).
Day 1 Morning: Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine, and Kofukuji Temple
Our two-day trip begins at Nara Park, where over 1,200 deer call home in the center of Nara City. Inside, there are three temples listed as prestigious World Heritage sites. We'll be visiting these temples first!
Todaiji Temple, located inside Nara Park, is one of the most famous attractions in Nara. This is where the 15-meter-high Great Buddha statue is found.
One of the pillars of the Great Buddha Hall has a hole the same size as the Great Buddha statue's nostrils. It is said that passing through this hole will bring you happiness. Why not give it a go?
In addition to Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine is another must-visit attraction within Nara Park. According to ancient beliefs, your wishes related to love and encounters will come true by visiting Kasuga Grand Shrine.
Photo by Pixta
Kofukuji Temple is located in the western part of Nara Park. It was founded by the Fujiwara clan, which once dominated the Japanese imperial government. The three-storied pagoda and the five-storied pagoda are both recognized as national treasures of Japan.
After marveling at these three World Heritage sites, let's move on to the next spot!
Day 1 Afternoon: The World Heritage Site of Gangoji Temple
Photo by Pixta
Gangoji Temple is located within walking distance from Nara Park. This venerable temple is also listed as a World Heritage Site.
The roof tiles on this temple are from the Asuka Period (552-645), which means they are considered the oldest tiles in Japan. Let's take a closer look at this historical building!
Day 1 From Evening to Night: Stroll Around Naramachi
Naramachi, located in Nara City, is an area where traditional Japanese townscapes can be seen. Townhouses built during the Edo Period line the streets. The machiya townhouses have been remodeled and used today as restaurants, stores, and accommodation facilities.
You'll appreciate what Naramachi is like while strolling through the beautiful streets. You may even want to stay at a hotel in one of these renovated townhouses here.
Day 2 Morning: The Splendor of Yakushiji Temple and Heijo Palace
Photo by Pixta
Let's start off the second day with Yakushiji Temple. This Buddhist temple is a World Heritage site consisting of eight buildings. A characteristic of these buildings is their distinct architectural style influenced by the Tang Dynasty.
Located in Yakushiji Temple is the Yakushi Nyorai (Healing Buddha), a designated National Treasure. The site is massive, so take your time while looking around.
After touring around Yakushiji Temple, make your way to Heijo Palace. It is located on the site of an ancient palace when Nara was once the capital of Japan. Although the original buildings were destroyed in the past, they have been restored. Visitors can get a glimpse of what the area once looked like.
The building design is based on Chang'an, the ancient capital of China during the Tang Dynasty. It is one of the many places where you can get a taste of Nara's historical glory.
Next, we will head to Horyuji Temple by train from Heijo Palace.
Day 2 Afternoon: Visit Horyuji Temple, The Oldest Wooden Architecture in the World
Photo by Pixta
Built during the 7th century, Horyuji Temple is recognized as the oldest wooden architecture in the world. This temple was originally commissioned by Prince Shotoku, who was the regents of the country when this temple was constructed.
The most popular attraction at Horyuji Temple is the five-story pagoda. Although it is on the World Heritage list, entry to this site is free. You shouldn't miss checking it out!
Day 2 From Evening to Night: Visit Ishibutai Kofun in Asuka Village
Let's head to Asuka Village, located just outside of Nara City. Asuka Village is an area alive with the remnants of ancient Japan. It is about an hour train ride from Nara City. Renting a bike is also recommended if you want to visit the whole area.
The Ishibutai Kofun (*1) is located within Asuka Historical National Government Park in Asuka Village. Presently, only a stone coffin remains, but this surrounding area is called Ishibutai. The Asuka Historical National Government Park is a must-see attraction if you visit Asuka Village.
*1 Kofun: an ancient mound-style tomb reserved for people of high social status in ancient Japan.
We have reached the end of our two-day trip to Nara. Our travel itinerary mainly focused on sightseeing spots, recognized as World Heritage sites, in Nara City.
Nara is the best place to experience the world of ancient Japan. If you would like to experience an ancient world other than Kyoto, why not plan a Nara trip based on our suggested itinerary?