Kyoto is surrounded by mountains. One of the best places to go if you feel like escaping from the city, is the Kibune and Kurama area. This mountainous region has several beautiful temples hiding in the scenic mountains, and is easily reached on a daytrip from Kyoto as they are connected to the city by local train lines.
Kibune and Kurama are two small towns on opposite sides of the Kurama mountain, located north-west of central Kyoto. On and around the mountain you will find several shrines and temples, the most prominent ones are Kurama-dera on top of the mountain, and Kibune-jinja, located in the town of Kibune. The area is a popular destination for day trippers, as it allows for hiking in a lush forest, while experiencing some of Kyoto’s famous temples at the same time.
You can start the hike on either side of the mountain. To get across to the other side takes about two hours or so. On the eastern side, near the entrance to the Kurama temple grounds, there’s a ropeway that will take you up the somewhat steep mountainside. The temple is open from 9am to 4:30pm, and you need to pay a 300 yen admission fee to enter. The fee helps maintaining the temple grounds as well as the hiking trails leading to and from it.
On the approach to the entrance of Kurama-dera you will find a small shopping street with numerous restaurants offering the obligatory bowl of sansai soba (Soba noodles with mountain vegetables) as well as a few omiyage shops. Around here you will also find a several ryokan, the most noteworthy being Kurama Onsen, which also allows non-staying guests to enjoy their hot spring baths for a fee.
Kibune (sometimes spelled Kifune) is more of an understated town hidden in a lush valley. Its main attraction is Kifune shrine, a small yet very picturesque Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of water. At the bottom of the valley lies Kibune river, a popular destination for watching the autumn leaves, as well as a good place to dip your feet during the hot summer months. Around the river, you will find several restaurants offering outdoor seating, sometimes on top of platforms built over the river.
To get to Kurama, take the Eizan railway from Demachi-Yanagi in the northern part of downtown Kyoto. The ride takes about 30 minutes and costs 420 yen. Some of the train allows the seats to be moved so they face the windows, giving you an opportunity to take in the scenic views. Kibune is connected to the railway by buses that run between the shrine and Kibune-guchi station on the Eizan railway line.