Leaf-peeping refers to traveling to destinations that are famous for their extraordinary fall foliage. It’s a popular activity in places like Japan where the season sees the leaves of the maple transform into vivid shades of gold and crimson. In Kyoto, the fall foliage bursts into the striking hues from mid-October to mid-December. Book your Kyoto trip in mid-November to witness the leaves at its richest and most beautiful peak.
With a spectacular collection of temples, gardens, and mountains, Kyoto has a myriad of stunning spots to experience the fall foliage. Nearly every tourist destination in the city has a smattering of trees that change colors when fall comes around. However, if you want the most vibrant, awe-inspiring glimpse of nature’s annual rebirth, make sure you hit a few of KKday’s favorite leaf-peeping spots in Kyoto.
Built around 780, Kiyomizudera Temple in the Southern Higashiyama District is one of the oldest structures in the entire country. But Kiyomizudera is also famous for its wide wooden terrace where travelers can look over a sea of lush foliage that turns into a breathtaking kaleidoscope of colors during autumn. From this platform, bask in the sweeping views of the Kyoto skyline.
During November evenings, special illuminations take place in Kiyomizudera and other temples in the district. Kodai-ji Temple is another temple in Southern Higashiyama worth a stop.
Any destination known as the “Temple of Maples” is undoubtedly a must-see spot during fall foliage. Komyo-ji Temple is home to hundreds of maple trees, some even known to be over a century old. Stroll along the picture-perfect Maple Path that’s framed by tall maples. Flaming leaves create a natural carpet on the ground, leading travelers around the expanse of the temple.
Maple trees are plentiful in the Arashiyama District, so it’s a splendid sight in autumn when the leaves erupt in flaming colors. Most notably, stop by Tenryu-ji Temple to admire the fiery forest surrounding the glassy waters of Sogenchi pond.
Other temples to visit during your leaf-peeping tour of Arashiyama are Jojakkoji Temple and Gioji Temple. Spend a pleasant day strolling through the winding paths of the verdant Arashiyama Bamboo Forest where the distant mountains are tinged with fall hues.
Enrian Temple isn’t on everybody’s fall foliage list, but it’s a small, tranquil temple that boasts a unique view of the deepest, reddest autumn leaves in the city. Just off the main street in Kyoto, it’s easily accessible to tourists and often not as chaotic as more popular leaf-peeping areas.
Found in the southeast part of Kyoto, Tofukuji Temple is one of the most beloved and gorgeous leaf-peeping places in the city.
Head to the Tsutenkyo Bridge for the best spot to see the intense spectrum of fiery colors covering the grounds. Marvel at the views of Hojo Garden, then visit the tranquil Japanese garden for a closer look at one of the most beautiful Zen gardens in Kyoto.
While Rurukoin Temple is renowned for its lush gardens, the magnificent temple is only open in two seasons: spring and autumn. Even during these times, most parts of the temple remain closed off from the public.
Visitors who make the trip to Rurukoin are allowed into the main structure, a stunning space with full-length windows framing the outdoors in a jaw-dropping image. From October to December, the flourishing foliage surrounding the temple is awash with the dazzling colors of fall. The reflection of the vibrant leaves ripples on the wide table in the center of Rurukoin in a unique and fascinating effect.
Mount Takao or Takaosan is a sacred mountain that has become a popular hiking destination. Dense clusters of maple trees are found throughout the mountain, slowly changing colors with the coming of fall. Hike the trails during this season when the landscape looks straight out of a painting with the foliage depicted in brushstrokes of deep, fiery hues.