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Today we’re going to an amazing magical city in Japan: Kyoto.
Located in the Kansai region, 226 miles south west of the capital, Kyoto is cocooned in a valley with green mountains rising protectively around it.
The city centre is surprisingly easy to navigate, thanks to a simple public transport network (just two subway lines) and its grid system, inspired by ancient feng shui.
A good starting point is Higashiyama in the south east of the city, home to a cornucopia of heritage delights from temples and shrines to artisan shops.
Follow in the footsteps of the city’s most famous old thinkers and attempt to unravel the mysteries of the universe with a meditative stroll along the Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no michi). The pedestrianised path runs for 1.2 miles alongside a canal lined with cherry and maple trees – and shrines and temples just off the main path are well worth exploring.
The Gion district is geisha central, although they are not easy to spot. Wander around a network of atmospheric, narrow cobbled lanes lined with surprisingly well-preserved wooden buildings, many of which are discreet tea-houses or high-end ryotei restaurants, while keeping an eye out for a glimpse of a white-faced geisha.
But Kyoto is not just about the past. Despite its well-preserved heritage, it effortlessly embraces the future, with modern buildings, a high concentration of universities and a thriving technology industry (it’s the birthplace of Nintendo).
Kyoto is potentially a year-round destination, although the climate is extreme: summer months are oppressively hot and humid with regular rain, and winter is surprisingly cold, with occasional snowfall.
Spring and autumn are the most moderate and beautiful times of year in terms of the glorious cherry blossom (around early April) and the fiery red changing of the leaves (early November). This, however, is when Kyoto is at its busiest. Those keen to avoid the crowds should try early autumn or late spring.
What are you waiting for?
*so much more at Kyoto Travel Guide