One of the big reasons that Nara is on the list of top places to visit in Japan is because of the deer.
There are lots and lots of deer in Nara.
And, it’s an ancient capital of Japan.
This means that there are many UNESCO world heritage sites to be visited in Nara.
It would be nice if you had a couple of nights in Nara.
But if you have just one day, you can go to the top spots and there’s a good chance that you’ll feel like you had a good day.
So if you’ll be visiting Kyoto or Osaka, Nara deserves a consideration for your Japan itinerary.
If you’re in Osaka during cherry blossom season, see perfect cherry blossom photos spots in Osaka.
First, the quick list of the best places to visit in Nara.
Then, a more detailed look into how you can fit these things into your one day Nara itinerary.
5 best places to visit in Nara in one day
If you’re in Nara for the deer, part of the excitement will be walking from place to place!
Follow this path by walking, and you are sure to see lots of deer along the way!
1. Nara Park
2. Kasuga Taisha shrine
3. Todaiji Temple with Great Buddha
4. Nigatsudo Temple (and Sangatsudo Temple)
5. Kofukuji Temple
How to put these into a one day Nara itinerary?
Now, here are some details about this itinerary to see if it’s something you want to follow!
Best things to do in Nara in a one day trip
Start the walk towards Nara Park
For this itinerary, we’re making it a day trip.
So we’re going to start your day in Nara at the train station.
Basically, the walk to get to Nara Park is an activity on its own.
If you walk it straight from the Kintetsu train station to Nara Park, it’ll take about 20 minutes. (It’s about 30 minutes from the JR station.)
But if you’re visiting Nara in part for the deer, it’ll probably take you a lot longer as you stop and take pictures of the deer.
You can just start walking along the main road from the Kintetsu Nara train station, and within 5-10 minutes… deer!
And more deer.
They will even wait at the bus stop with you.
Feed the deer some special deer snacks
Cost: 150 yen (US$1)
Don’t feed the deer your own food, but instead, go with what’s provided.
You’ll find deer snacks being sold here and there.
And yeah, don’t leave your bag unattended… behind you is unattended! 😉
And if you find yourself with deer seemingly bothering you to give you food when you have none to give them…
Open up your hands and put up 10 fingers. This will show them that you have no food for them and is said to be a good way to get them to go away.
Walk around the grounds of Nara Park
So you finally will make it to Nara Park, where you will see even more deer!
And more opportunity to feed the deer.
Be warned, that as soon as you have the deer snacks exposed, you might be swarmed!
Nara Park can also be a good place to take a rest or relax.
There are also a few restaurants nearby, or shops for some snacks too.
Start walking towards Kasuga Taisha shrine
Your deer adventures aren’t over!
Once again, the walk to the Kasuga Taisha shrine can be an activity on its own with all the deer.
Visit Kasuga Taisha shrine
Cost: 500 yen (US$4)
So eventually, you’ll make it to the shrine.
From the open area of Nara Park to the Kasuga Taisha shrine is about a 10 minute walk.
Being built in the 8th century when Nara was the capital of Japan, the shrine just celebrated 1,250 years of existence.
This is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
It is said to have 1,000 hanging lanterns.
Start walking towards the Great Buddha
And more deer!
Visit Todaiji Temple and the Great Buddha
Cost: 600 yen (US$5)
This is another major thing to see that Nara is known for.
The Great Buddha Hall of the Todaiji Temple is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world.
Inside, the Great Buddha is said to be the largest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan.
The Todaiji Temple was also built in the 8th century, and it’s another one of the many UNESCO world heritage sites in Nara.
Squeeze through the hole in the pillar for enlightenment
Or rather, there’s no additional cost on top of the Todaiji Temple admission fee.
You can find this in the Great Buddha Hall.
It’s said that the hole in the wooden pillar is the size of the Great Buddha’s nostril. And it’s also said that if you make it through the hole that your life will be blessed.
Walk around temple grounds of Nigatsudo and Sangatsudo
Next up: Amazing views!
There is an entry fee of 600 yen (US$5) to actually visit inside Sangatsudo, but walking around the temple grounds is free.
After climbing a few stairs, you’ll be afforded with a great view of Nara! This part is free too.
Walk around Kofukuji Temple grounds
There is a fee to enter, but once again you can also just walk around the temple grounds for free.
Rest at Sarusawa Pond
The pond itself isn’t anything special, but it could be a nice way to end your day before you head back!
HAPPY NARA ITINERARY PLANNING!
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The super fast train in JapanIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure.
See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
NEW way of buying individual shinkansen train tickets online!I will start by saying I have NOT bought train tickets online this way (yet!) to verify this! (But it's on my list for my next trip to Japan!)
There's an online train ticket booking method that's popular for other parts of Asia, and they are just now branching out to Japan.
You can now buy train tickets online here for popular shinkansen train routes. (And some bus routes too.)
I've used this booking site for taking the train from Thailand to Malaysia, and it worked out well, so I would expect it to work out well in Japan too!
The thing is, though, that you need to pick up the physical train tickets in person.
So it won't be enough to just buy the tickets online. I had to do this in Bangkok for my train ticket - and it was easy! So again, I would think it'd be easy for Japan train tickets too.
Search for popular routes in Japan here. For example, Tokyo to Kyoto.
If you end up buying train tickets online this way, I would love to hear how it goes! Whether that's good, or if it came with some challenges!
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
Best travel guides for JapanIf you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.
For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.
See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.
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