If you plan on visiting the Kansai region of Japan, Nara is most likely already on your “to visit list”. But what are you going to see and do? Our half-day Nara itinerary is full of deers, food, shopping and sightseeing.
While most Nara itineraries have you going to see every shrine, temple, or museum, we focused our tour more on scenery and just took in the atmosphere of Nara. For you sightseers, we still have a few great photo ops in our tour so don’t worry!
Map: Nara Itinerary
Our half-day Nara itinerary is about a total walking distance of 2.2 miles or 3.6 km. And to be honest, you’ll likely be taking your own detours and finding cool things to see! Just make sure to be prepared with comfy walking shoes, a backpack to hold your stuff, and dress accordingly based on the weather.
1. Getting to Nara
Nara is the perfect day trip from Osaka! We usually stay in the Dotonbori area. Heading out from Dotonbori, we took the Kintetsu Nara Line from the Osaka-Namba Station to the Kintetsu-Nara Station.
If you aren’t planning to stay in the Dotonbori area no problem. Google maps will be your best friend while in Japan! Start at whatever hotel/accomodation you are staying at and use “Kintetsu-Nara Station” as your destination and Google maps will do all the work for you.
Make sure to change the type of travel to “transit” and Google maps will give you the best route options complete with travel times, train stops, and fare. This really was a life saver for us! Whenever we got lost, we just opened up Google maps and found our way again.
2. Lawson – Breakfast/Snacks
First stop for us is at the Lawson convenience store at the Kintetsu-Nara Station. Gotta get some breakfast and grab a few drinks! We highly recommend you try out the egg sandwich and a vitamin jelly drink! Trust us, we had these almost every day in Japan. Oh and don’t forget about some canned/bottled coffees!!!
3. Kofukuji Temple
This one is for you sightseers! The Kofukuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple consists of many buildings including the three we have pictured above: the Octagonal Hall, the Five Story Pagoda, and the Eastern Golden Hall.
The Kofukuji Temple was the family temple of the most powerful aristocratic clan, the Fujiwara, during the Nara and Heian Periods. At one point the temple consisted of 150 buildings!
4. Nara Park
No trip to Nara would be complete without seeing some deers! Honestly, this is the main reason we wanted to visit Nara. They are literally everywhere and are not afraid of humans.
You can buy some “deer crackers” from stands around the park. But be warned, once they notice you with crackers they will immediately start following you and coming up to you!
While it’s fun and amazing to be bombarded by deers at first, they will continue to follow you and nudge you even once you run out haha! We have so many videos and pictures of Ann getting chased by deers…
4.5 Nara Park: Official Warning
Warning: while the deer may seem “tame”, they are still wild animals. Like this sign says, YES they can occasionally attack people. When we went in November, there were also signs out warning that it was mating season for the deers.
The male deers (ones with horns) were much more pushy and aggressive than we’ve seen before. We actually saw a deer get up on his hind legs and knock over an elderly woman. Just be aware of your surroundings and avoid any overly aggressive deer and you will be fine!
After you’ve spent some quality time with the deer, it’s time for lunch!!! If you refer to the map at the top, the number 5 marks an area with multiple restaurants, shops, and cafes. When we went in the fall, there happened to be cold weather foods like an oden stand and a roasted sweet potato cart!
6. Ukimido Pavilion & Sagiike Pond
Before we figured out the name of this picturesque area, Ann and I jokingly referred to it as “proposal lake”. Sooooo many picture opportunities here and, to be honest, it probably would be a good place to propose haha.
The vibrant and varied tree colors you see in our pictures are probably only available in the fall/winter time. We were there around the beginning of November and it seemed like the trees had just started to turn colors.
7. Araike Park “Ghibli Walkway”
Fans of Studio Ghibli films this one is for you! Honestly this has no connection to the films at all but the atmosphere here really reminded us of the films. The walkway shaded by large trees, deer all around, and the worn-down wall all created that Ghibli aesthetic.
One interesting photo op we found was this “window to another world” picture we just randomly took. There are a few holes that dot the worn-down wall. With a little photo editing, we were able to come up with the photo above! (Do you see the Totoro-esque silhouette too or are we crazy…?)
Time to start heading back into the main Nara city area. Following the map as a guide, start making your way back to #8. Here is the famous Nakatanidou!
Although you probably don’t recognize the name, you might have seen videos of them on social media. They’re known for their rapid mochitsuki (mochi pounding) method.
They specialize in yomogi mochi made from glutinous rice, Japanese mugwort (this is where the green color comes from), azuki beans, and dusted in kinako (roasted soybean flour). The freshly made mochi is soooo soft. Probably the softest mochi we’ve ever had!
9. Nara Shopping
On your way back through the city to the Kintetsu-Nara Station, don’t forget to buy your souvenirs! You’ll find plenty of shops, stalls, and gachapon dispensers (vending machine-dispensed capsule toys) with Nara deer themed items.
We got plenty of Nara deer magnets for friends and family. Also bought ourselves some Nara themed wooden masu cups (square sake boxes). Don’t mind the dust…they are currently on the fridges of friends and family.
End of the Tour!!!
We hope you enjoyed our Half-Day Nara Itinerary and feel inspired to take a visit there some day! While our tour doesn’t hit all the major touristy spots, we still believe it was more enjoyable to get away from the crowds and soak in the atmosphere and scenery of Nara.
Use this Nara itinerary as your basic guide and just let your curiosity lead you around. You are bound to come across some hidden gems of your own!