Nara is a beautiful place in Japan that many only take a day trip to. We are here to show you that it is definitely worth the overnight stay!
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and is known for it’s stunningly old temples and historical treasures. There is a beautiful park for tourists to wander through with many of the top temples inside, as well as other temple complexes within short train rides or car trips from the city. It is a short 1 hour day trip from Osaka, however if you want to truly appreciate the greater area of Nara it is definitely worth an overnight stop – or two nights as we did!
1. Temples and shrines
Clearly, one of the top things to see in Nara is the temples. Back in 710 B.C., Heijo was established as Japan’s capital. 1300 years later the area now known as Nara has 8 Unesco World Heritage Sights and many more intensely stunning temples and shrines. Nara houses the largest wooden building in the world, the oldest temple in Japan and Japan’s second tallest pagoda. Every hotel has a map of the historical park which can be covered in one large day, however we preferred to split it into two more relaxing days – that way we could really stop and appreciate the beauty. Plus, it meant we could make it to all of the sights without having to power walk! There are also a whole bunch of incredible temples a short train ride or drive away, however we didn’t make it out to those due to our schedule – although I’ve heard they are most definitely worth it!
Let’s be honest, as much as people come to Nara to see the temples, everyone really comes to see the deer! Hundreds of deer roam the park and town and you can buy “deer cookies” throughout the park to feed to them. The deer are considered sacred, and up until 1637 you would get the death penalty if you killed one! The advantage of staying overnight meant that we could just relax in the park and enjoy their presence. The deer that were outside of the large temple areas were far more friendly and less aggressive, like this little guy!
3. Budget traditional japanese style guesthouses
During our stay in Japan, we really wanted to experience a traditional Japanese style inn however they were all so expensive! Luckily for us, when trying to find some budget accommodation in Nara we came across a place called Guesthouse Iki. An amazing location halfway between the park and train station, great reviews and traditional style. We booked through booking.com 2 weeks before arriving, paid $65 a night (cheapest we could find in Nara!) and got upgraded on arrival due to the length of our stay (3 nights). The room had traditional tatami mats and futons, a private bathroom, full access to a kitchen and the owner was a really nice and helpful man. Definitely recommended!
4. A break from the hustle and bustle
Japan’s cities are known to be quite full on. Nara was just the opposite! Mostly foot traffic north of the train station, and even when we rented a car the surrounding countryside was quiet as well. There is such beautiful countryside surrounding Nara, we highly recommend hiring a car and heading out on an adventure! We spent the day at Meihan Sportsland for a motorsports event, however travelled the backstreets to get back to Nara and found so many gorgeous little towns and winding mountain roads!
5. Cheap food
I should clarify – cheap food outside the historical park! We bought some Udon within the park and it was ridiculously expensive (and not very nice) however down within the town we found some very cheap and delicious food, local and western style! There was plenty of supermarkets too if you prefer to self cater. Napoli’s Pizza and Cafe was a huge hit on the main road (cheap but delicious pizza & pasta) and we found some nice smaller Japanese places with delicious Gyoza.
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