Experience the best and beautiful gardens of Kyoto now

Kyoto is blessed with so many amazing monuments and temples that are part of the Unesco world heritage sites. Just as stunning are the many gardens that are either part of those complexes or they are stand alone locations worthy of a visit. Of the many zen and Japanese style gardens there are a few that really stand out in terms of beauty and historic importance. Most Zen gardens and other strolling gardens were used by monks for meditation and were created for quiet and meditation. Viewing the garden should be slow and thoughtful, reflecting on its shapes and colors and textures enjoy these beautiful gardens of Kyoto.

Best time to visit the gardens of Kyoto

The gardens typically are part of a temple complex and a year round destination for visiting the gorgeous temples and gardens of Kyoto. Spring time is popular for the sakura and cherry blossom blooms along with other colorful perennials that are blooming in the gardens. Another popular timeframe to visit is fall time when all the fall time colors from the many maple and local trees and shrubs start to change colors in a burst of orange, yellows, reds and browns from the leaves changing colors in the garden and making a special landscape and viewpoint to visiting at this view point of time of year.


Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Touring Kyoto’s famous Japanese gardens

Many of these gardens are very popular and busy all day long so it is avisable to visit early before all the tourist and crowds come to the gardens. Check out all these popular gardens to visit below.



Beautiful gardens of Kyoto


Possibly the most well-known of zen gardens throughout the world is Ryoan-ji nestled in the along the quiet foothills in the northwest sectors in Kyoto. Ryoan-ji‘s name means ‘temple of the peaceful dragon.’The main temple grounds and zen gardens of Ryoan-ji are designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Ryoan-ji has 15 boulders all of different shapes within the zen garden and the gravelled areas are raked every day by monks to form their patterned effects. The grounds surrounding the temple are large for city standards and include a lake with various paths to walk through.

Even though the artistic garden of Ryoan-ji is open for interpretation, many theories about the garden persist including the rocks resembling islands and the ocean, peaks of mountains rising above the clouds to baby tigers playing and swimming. The compositions in the arrangements represent natural abstractions that hope to bring out a meditative mindset when sitting on the large veranda viewing the entire garden in one sitting.


Beautiful gardens of Kyoto


Within the temple grounds of Ryoan-ji is a large water garden and pond built-in the 12th century along with a tea house and adjoining garden built-in the 17th century. The tea house garden has a famous stone water basin that continually flows and is used as a ritual for purification and reminder of being humble in natures surroundings.


Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Trails leading to Ryoan-Ji




Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji, the temple of the silver pavilion


The beautiful temple of the silver pavilion or Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto is zen garden with a two-story kannon-den (main temple) originally started in the late 14th century. Built initially as a place of rest and solitude for the shogun, the temple and grounds were converted to a buddhist temple at the shogun’s death. The famous sand garden at the main entrance is thought to symbolize Mt. Fuji and the garden landscape is supposedly designed by Saomi, a famous Japanese landscape designer.

I have recently posted on Ginkaku-ji temple, please visit this link for more information on this magnificent garden and temple.

Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Black and white image of Ginkaku-Ji




The moss gardens at Saiho-ji

The moss gardens at Saiho-ji


The famous moss gardens of Saiho-ji in Kyoto which is also called “Koke-dera” or moss temple is part of the Historic monuments of ancient Kyoto.  The moss garden is mostly located in a circular promenade around a golden pond “Ongochi” that symbolizes the heart or mind. Surrounding the pond and three small islands are over 120 different varieties of moss that developed from an initial flooding to the grove and temple grounds during the Edo period.

The moss garden contains three tea houses, a main temple, study and three-story pagoda used to store copies of the sutras (manual on Buddhism). On the northern part of the temple grounds is a zen rock garden and temple known as Shito-an.

Due to limited access and advanced reservations prior to visiting, this garden and temple grounds are usually not on the mindset of most visitors interested in viewing an amazing assortment of gardens in one large complex.

Kinkaku-Ji, the golden temple

Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden temple



The golden temple or Kinkaku-ji at Kyoto is famous for its three-story temple with gold leaf used to purify any negative thoughts around death. The beautiful strolling style garden around the temple borrows distant views from the mountains and surrounding landscape to make the grounds look more expansive. There is a large pond surrounding the temple with strategically placed rocks, bridges and plants to represent famous Chinese and Japanese literature and the perfect harmony of heaven and earth combined.

To see more images and  information, please check out my recent post here about this Unesco world heritage site.


Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

fall colors at Kinkaku-Ji

Nijo Castle


Beautiful gardens of Kyoto

Zen garden at Nijo Castle


The elaborate grounds of the Nijo castle contain a vast assortment of gardens surrounding the various palaces and temple grounds which were built for the personal residences of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto. With over 275,000 square meters, the complex houses two large concentric wall fortifications, two palaces and extensive grounds and gardens.

The larger Ninomaru garden was designed by the landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshu and has a large pond with three islands and carefully placed bonsai trees and large boulders in strategic locations.  Another large garden area is the Honmaru garden is located on the inner walled area of the Honmaru palace grounds. Although the palace is not open to the public the exterior of the palace and grounds are available to pass through with beautiful scenic vistas and the castle keep to see views of the entire palace grounds and central Kyoto.

To see more images of Nijo castle and the gardens, please check out this recent post I wrote about this historic site.



Nijo palace gardens

Nijo castle gardens



Nijo palace gardens

Nijo castle gardens






Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The popular bamboo grove of Arashiyama is well cared for and intimate in size. Access directly from the main street of Arashiyama, you can also visit the local temple Tenryu-ji Temple, at the same time. There are two actual separate bamboo groves and you can do a self walking tour here to see the highlights of visiting both groves.


Conclusion to visiting the famous gardens of Kyoto

There are many more beautiful gardens surrounding Kyoto and part of many historic temples around the city. These are just some of the main gardens of interests that are part of more elaborate temples or are historic monuments and some of the reasons to visit Kyoto. Thank you for visiting these Beautiful gardens of Kyoto today and if you enjoyed the post, please do share it with any of the social media buttons below. If you are looking for more historic, cultural sites and attractions, check out this post on day trips you can do from Kyoto here for more inspiration.


If you enjoyed this post, please pin it

Beautiful gardens of Kyoto, Japan


Please check out these other posts on visiting Kyoto, Japan


Visiting the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan

Nijo castle in Kyoto, Japan

Bento lunch in Kyoto, Japan

Golden temple at Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Looking for Geishas in Kyoto

Japanese street food or Yatai

Have you explored any of these beautiful zen gardens in Kyoto?

Any of these beautiful gardens you have visited or other favorite places around this city? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter

Sharing is caring!