The first morning in Kyoto we decided to venture outside the city and visit one of Kyoto's most popular sights: the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Heralded as being one of the "most beautiful groves on earth" and designated a "National Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty" by Japan, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a place unlike anywhere else. It's a place where you can escape yourself, as long as you manage to escape the throngs of tourists as well.
Inside the bamboo forest, you'll come across Tenryuji temple. The temple grounds are known as being one of the most beautiful in Japan and their famous garden, and its zen-like atmosphere was just the thing we were looking for as an to escape from the throngs of people who were started to filter into the bamboo grove.
Arashiyama Village is more than the Bamboo Grove and monkey forest which surround it. Taking a walk down the busy streets and quiet laneways of the small town is an excellent way to experience Japanese culinary treats, see traditional Japanese architecture and explore some lovely shops selling souvenirs and hand made crafts.
Near the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama, you'll come across the entrance to the Ōkōchi Sansō Villa Gardens. After traipsing through the groves and narrowly escaping peak tourist hour, we were in need of a break from the selfie sticks and loud tour groups. The fee seemed steep at Y1,000 ($10) but we made the executive decision and plopped down a few notes, and we were inside. Y1,000 might look like a lot for a self-guided walk through an old garden, but it was some of the best money we ever spent on the trip!
Many people underestimate how much there is to do while visiting Arashiyama. We were lucky enough to book off an entire day here to explore, but I think if we could have done it all over again, we would have booked a hotel to extend our time there ever more. One of the attractions that often gets overlooked is the Iwatayama Monkey Park. Many people are dissuaded when they see it's a 30-minute + hike, uphill, to where you'll see the monkeys. They either can't spare the time or can't spare the energy. But let me tell you right now - it's worth it...well worth it.