Ascend Kyoto's holiest mountain in search of enlightenment
Towering above Kyoto to the northwest is Mount Hieizan, considered one of the most important holy mountains in Japan. At the peak, what once began as an outcast group of hermits living in huts a more than a millennia ago has grown into one of Japan's most impressive temple complexes. From their seat of power above the clouds, the monks at Hieizan had a hand not only in Kyoto's religious affairs, but political ones as well. These warrior monks even took up arms against the city and rival temples before themselves meeting a violent fate. Hieizan is the finest lookout point in all of Kansai, with expansive views in all directions that will leave you awestruck.
Despite the prominence of Mt. Hieizan over the Kyoto skyline, it's not a major destination for foreign tourists. Getting to the summit can be a daunting task, with numerous transportation transfers required, several routes up the mountain, and a variety of confusing and somewhat expensive tickets. Knowing the best route to get the most out of your experience is key to fully exploring what the mountain has to offer. At Kyoto Tours, we handle all transportation arrangements, while also offering you a choice of how you want to experience Kyoto's most impressive destination.
***Because of unpredictable weather and transportation closures, this tour may not be available during winter. Please contact us for updated availability.***
The following is a sample itinerary for the half day Mt. Hieizan tour:
- Begin in Kyoto city and travel by train to the rural valley at the base of Mt. Hieizan
- Ascend the mountain by antique cable car, and then transfer to a ropeway gondola for the final stretch to the top.
- Experience expansive views of Kyoto, Lake Biwa, and (on a clear day) all the way to Osaka and beyond.
- Explore the stunning temples of the Enryakuji forest monastery complex dotted along the spine of mountain.
- Stroll through the lush forest and learn about the surprisingly violent history of the monks who once lived there.
- Collect goshuin stamps and calligraphy from each temple in a special book to take home. (Note: extra fees apply)
Mount Hieizan Walking Tour
Half Day Option
Duration: approx. 5 to 6 hours
Price: 21000 yen for one guest
(5000 yen for each additional guest)
Mt. Hieizan can also be more fully experienced by booking it as a full day tour. This option includes a stop in Shiga prefecture before ascending the mountain to explore the large Miidera temple complex overlooking Lake Biwa. This really is how the full story of Mt. Hiei should be experienced, as Miidera and the mountaintop Enryakuji were once fierce rivals and have a very tangled history.
For more info on the extra locations in the full day tour, read our blog about it HERE.
The following is a sample itinerary for the full day Mt. Hieizan tour:
- Get a ground level view of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, before seeing it later from the mountaintop.
- Walk along the Biwako Canal and see where it enters a gaping tunnel to flow under Mt. Hieizan to Kyoto.
- Explore the hillside Miidera temple complex, often featured in samurai films thanks to it beautiful scenery.
- Hear of the violent rivalry between Miidera and Enryakuji, which left more than a few ghosts wandering the hillside.
- Come face to face with a massive bronze bell that the warrior monk Benkei supposedly dragged up the mountain.
- Visit beautiful Hiyoshi Taisha, a quiet Shinto shrine nestled in the foothills where the god of Mt. Hieizan dwells.
- Ascend the eastern slope of Mt. Hiezan by the antique Sakamoto Cable Car, offering gorgeous views of Lake Biwa.
- Complete your collection of goshuin temple stamps and calligraphy by starting at Miidera (Note: extra fees apply)
- Return to Kyoto via the western slope and experience a different side of the mountain via cable car and ropeway.
Mount Hieizan Walking Tour
Full Day Option
Duration: approx. 7 to 8 hours
Price: 27000 yen for one guest
(6000 yen for each additional guest)
- ***Because of unpredictable weather and transportation closures, this tour may not be available during winter. Please contact us for updated availability.***
- Please note that the Mt. Hieizan Tour includes all transportation fees up and down the mountain, bus fares between summits, and temple entry fees, thus requiring a higher price tag than most of our other tours.
- This is mainly a walking tour, so comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended.
- The half day option must depart Kyoto no later than 10:00 am, and the full day option must be booked with a starting time between 7:30 and 8:30 am.
- The Mt. Hieizan Tour usually departs from Kyoto Station, but arrangements can sometimes be made to leave from your hotel or other spots in the city depending on the location.
- Tour price includes transportation fees (train, bus, cable car, and/or ropeway) and temple admission fees.
- Guests are responsible for their own bill for any food or drink purchased while on the tour.
- Additional activities chosen by the guests during an all day tour must be paid for by guests.
- If guests would prefer to take a taxi between locations, guests are responsible for all taxi fees (limit 3 guests per taxi).
- Itinerary subject to change due to seasonal changes in temple hours, special events, transportation delays, weather, or other factors. Guests will be kept informed of any itinerary changes as they occur on the day of the tour.
- Please read our terms and conditions for more information before booking.
To book this tour, inquire about scheduling, or request more info, please use the contact form below.