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Getting to Nara
To get to Nara, you need to go via Kyoto. You can take a bullet train from Tokyo that is covered by the JR pass* or it costs around ¥13,080 (£93.76) for a non-reserved train that takes 2h 40minutes. Then follow the instructions below…
With the JR pass*, you can take the Miyakoji train from Kyoto Station. It takes 45 minutes. Without the JR pass, it costs ¥710 (£5.10) one-way. You can also take a Kintetsu train which is ¥1130 (£8.10) one-way and takes 35 minutes. A cheaper alternative takes 45 minutes and is ¥620 (£4.44) one way.
From Osaka Station, the trip takes 45 minutes one-way and is covered by the JR pass*, it costs ¥800 (£5.73) one-way without the pass.
Transport within Nara
Central Nara isn’t that big, you can generally just walk around and see everything. There is also a bus from the train station which is ¥100 (72p) per trip. There are also Nara day passes which you can read about here.
What to do in Nara
Kofuku-Ji Temple Shrine
Entrance is mainly free, but you can also visit the museum and some interior halls for ¥900 (£6.45). You can walk from the train station or take the bus. It has the second largest wooden pagoda in Japan!
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
This is one of Nara’s most famous shrines. It has hundreds of bronze laterns hanging around the shrine which are only lit twice a year. Again, the general entrance is free but you can visit some extra interior rooms for ¥500 (£3.58). There is also a museum and botanical garden, each cost ¥500 (£3.58) each for entrance. The walk directly from the train station is a little long, but you can take a bus for ¥220 (£1.60).
This is the place where you can find the deer! You can find out more about everything the park has to offer over on the tourism site (here) but there are lots of shrines and things to see.
The street leading up to the Todaiji temple, which you must pass through the Nandaimon gate to reach is filled with street food and souvenir vendors. You can also purchase the wafers to feed the deer here, which cost around ¥150 (£1.10).
Todaiji Temple, Museum & Buddha
Located in Nara park. Todaiji is very popular place to visit in Nara. This is due to the deer and the fact that you can see a 15m tall Buddha, which is one of the largest bronze representations in Japan. It’s truly a sight to behold, as are the other 8m guardians nearby. You can get a joint ticket for the museum and the hall which contains the buddha for ¥1000 (£7.20). If you just want to visit one of the attractions, it’s ¥600 (£4.30) for either.
Temple or Farm Stay
I only took a day trip to Nara, but if you’d like to stay overnight then there are various ways to make it a more traditional and cultural stay. This generally involves staying with locals, or locally owned accommodation. This is a great site to learn more about Shukubo (temple-lodging) and also gives you the details of the temples you can stay in Nara. Farm-stays are also available, and can include seasonal events such as fruit picking. You can see more info and some farm reccomendations on the tourism site here.
Visit an Onsen
Onsens are hot-springs, you can visit them standalone or stay in a traditional Ryokan inn. A list of Onsens in the area can be viewed here, but make sure you read up on Onsen etiquette before you visit as they can have strict rules!
I hope you’ve found this guide useful! Let me know any other recommendations you have for visiting Nara in the comments below!