Eco-friendly travel guide to Nara advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Nara, Japan.
- Air quality: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 4 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3 / 5
- Public transportation: 3.5 / 5
- Parks: 3.5 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4 / 5
- Locals' English level: 2 / 5
- Safety: 3.5 / 5
- Accommodation: US$50 - $200
- Budget per day: US$250 - $450
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Nara is a city in Japan, which is also very well known for being the capital of the Nara prefecture. This city is a very culturally significant place and holds many old temples, shrines, and ruins in different places. This city used to be the capital of Japan but later it moved to Kyoto. Here are some options to keep in mind while enjoying the city.
- Try to use local transportation modes like bus, taxi, and others to help the people of this city and keep your tour eco-friendly
- Try to buy souvenirs from the local shops that you will get on the streets to help them provide more unique products.
- Just like products, eat street food to help the locals and get the best cultural foods on your trip.
- As an eco-friendly traveler, book green hotels that will help you and the city to stay pollution-free.
- Visit the city parks if you want to enjoy green and spend some time with nature in this city.
- Make sure to support the local business and services as much as you can in the city, it helps the people to make a living.
Air Quality and Pollution
The air quality of Nara is good, and the air quality index annually in this city is around 38AQI which is good for a traveler. You will be able to breathe here without any issues. You do not have any health risks unless you have different medical conditions like serious breathing problems or asthma. Apart from that, the fresh air of this city will help you to get the best traveling experience.
Respect the Culture
Nara is a very historic city that contains many different temples and shrines in different corners. The local people worship traditional shrines like Shinto Shrine. You will get to witness some of the famous Japanese traditions in this city.
Make sure to talk and interact with local people to witness the culture up close to Nara city. The people of this city know how to greet people, which will help you to be friendly with them and start a conversation.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Without having any doubts, we can say that Nara is a lovely place to visit. People mostly visit there for a leisure trip and want to enjoy the best moments of their life. Now to make your trip more enjoyable, you have to visit these ten exciting places.
- Todai-Ji - One of the best Buddhist temples where you can get an excellent opportunity to worship Lord Buddha. By doing it, you can fulfill all your wishes and make them come true.
- Kasuga-Taisha - A religious place that gives you a brief history and tells you things about the early age. Come here, and you will get a fair knowledge of Japanese history and realize its value.
- Kofuku-Ji - Another Buddhist temple which is famous for its architecture and some prominent sculptures. If you miss it, then you will regret it and curse yourself throughout life.
- Mount Wakakusa - One of the famous hills which have scenic beauty and it always becomes a point of attraction. There is no such person who feels bored and lonely after coming here.
- Heijo Palace - Though it is a residence, people in the city call it a palace. In other words, you can also say that a place which gives you an idea about the ancient period.
- Sarusawa Pond - One of the most popular ponds where you would find giant turtles. There is also a park close to it where you can take your children, and they will enjoy it a lot.
- Mount Ikoma - A mountain which also has an amusement park situated near it. Try it out and see how you would forget all the pains of your life.
- Mount Shigi - You will see that this place is spread all over the internet as none of the tourists misses it. A temple is also situated near it where you can sit and pray for a lucky charm.
- Shosoin Shoso Repository - Do you want to find where the hidden treasure was? Then this holy place will tell you about it and the significance behind in full details.
- Koriyama Castle - There is no doubt that this is the best castle and can also give you better happiness. Come here and get to see something which you have never seen before.
Tourists from different parts of the world visit Nara and want to have a nice exposure to it. Except for these ten places, there are also a few museums and city parks which can give you real joy.
- Nara Park - A public park where your kids will have a lot of fun, and they would never feel like coming back. It also has some tame deers who can be your best friends and companions.
- Tobihino - There is not much information about this park, but you can at least give it a fair trial. And it is guaranteed that once you are here, then you will get to experience the popular beauties of nature.
- Yata - A 53-year-old park that is famous even today for its scenic beauty. You will love it and also feel like sharing your experience of exploring it vividly.
Unfortunately, you would not find any beaches in Nara as they are situated in a nearby district.
- Shigisan - An ancient castle that includes the best collections of old photographs and some historical artifacts. Go for it, and you can rediscover a history in a brief manner.
- Takamadonomiya - This mountain is not so famous, but it can give you a friendly feeling. The reason behind this thing is that the scenic beauty entices the majority of the people.
- Nara National Museum - The oldest museum which is surrounded by different forms of arts. You might not be an art-lover, but after seeing those pieces, you would love them.
- Okumura - A technology museum where you can get to have an exposure to the latest technologies. Visit here, and you will always have an eagerness to know a lot about today's digital age.
Eating some good traditional local and different cuisines always help to get the best experience of the place. So, you need to try some of the famous restaurants, street foods, and other places in this city to witness the authenticity up close.
Make sure to try some of the signature dishes before trying anything else as these special dishes are only available in this city and you will miss the chance of getting them. Here is detailed information about different food sections.
Traditional Local Restaurants
As mentioned earlier, trying traditional foods are one of the must-do things on a tour. The tour is incomplete without them.
- Yamato no Sanzoku - If you want to try traditional restaurants, then make sure to visit this restaurant, It offers different Japanese cuisine in different seasons with seasonal ingredients that will take your take away like Goka Sanzokuyai, and others.
- Aji no Tabibito Roman - You will get one of the best dining experiences in this restaurant with their circular seats and foods. Make sure to taste Egg Somen and the pudding, which is very popular.
Vegetarian and Vegan
There are plenty of options available for people who are vegetarian, here are some of the best vegan restaurants that you need to visit.
- Natural Life Kururu - this restaurant is located just near the Kintetsu Nara station. You will get a completely vegan menu with a huge collection of dishes. You can choose some of the special dishes like noodles, tofu patty, curry, and others with side dishes like miso soup.
- Onwa - You just have to walk around 5 minutes or less from the JR Nara Station to visit this restaurant. It has limited seats for the costumes but the food here is amazing. The special thing about this place is the assorted plate that has about 8 different dishes.
Street food is one of the main attractions of every city that invites travelers, as it helps to know the food and culture of the city. Just like the restaurants, make sure to try the special; street foods of this city. Eating from local shops will help you to save your money and support the local people who make a living depending on their shops. Some of the street foods that you need to try in Nara are given below.
- Kakinoha Zushi
- Kuzu Mochi
- Miwa Somen
When traveling to witness different historical locations to location, you need to stay hydrated in the sun. Well, you will find various drinks available in the city from fruit water to different alcohols.
While in the city, make sure to try all the special and famous drinks that are only available here. There are many bars, pubs, and drinking stalls in the city that will offer you drinks at a cheap price. You will be able to get a very good experience in the city when it comes to drinks.
According to reports, the tap water of Nara is completely safe to drink. The average tap-water quality of this city is around 68%. All of the purification facilities work very well to keep the water as clean as possible.
Most of the tap-water of this city comes from dams, rivers, and other places then go through different layers of purification. As water intake is very crucial for you on your trip, you can drink the local tap water without any complications as it is completely safe to drink.
Organic dishes are always a very good choice for people who want to stay healthy. Here are some of the popular cafes in Nara that can provide your quality organic foods.
- Magic Mallet - One of the best places in the city that offers completely organic dishes. They have their own range of organic lunch platters that come at a reasonable price.
- Genmaian - Local people and tourists from different places drive to this place to try some organic dishes. They have some of the best vegetable cuisines along with a nice atmosphere.
Nara offers wide options for people who love to try beers, whiskeys, and different types of alcohol in the city. Some of the local bees are very well known all around the city and even the country. Here are some places to visit to get the best brew experience.
- Kawai Sake Brewery - One of the best sake factories in the city that were established in the Edo period. You will be able to taste sake for free in this brewery among a very wide collection of drinks.
- Harushika Sake Imanishi Seibei Store - This place was built back in 1884, which is best known for making one of the famous sake of this city. You can taste 5 different types of sakes in exchange for money.
As the city is very well known for having historical shrines and temples, you will be able to learn many historical stories about this city and the different places. Apart from that, the city also has different activity options from outdoor activities to indoors.
You can do yoga, gym, play games in different gaming zones, or go for hiking, boat riding, fishing, and other activities in the city. The wide range of available options helps you to spend your time in this city very well.
Yoga and Retreats
Doing yoga and meditation is always a good option to calm your mind and keep your body healthy. Many people like to do yoga when they are traveling the cities to lay back and relax. It helps them to stay calm and get their energy level high for the rest of the trip. Most of the local people like to stay fit and energetic, which will help you to get many different yoga places and retreats in the city.
Being the former capital of Japan, this city has a lot of luxurious accommodations available for tourists. But you will be able to find all types of accommodations available in the city from cheap ones to five-star. From green hotels to rental services, everything is available in this city if you know where to find them. To find your accommodation easily, you can take the help of different online services. Also, you can explore the city and book a preferable accommodation option offline for you.
- Hostel 64 Osaka - This is one of the very good hotels that have a total of 64 air-conditioned rooms. Everything you will get in this hotel is very traditional from tea to bed. They use different methods to keep the pollution as low as possible.
- Tanaka-ya - Another hotel in Nara that is well known for offering Japanese designed rooms along with no smoking and other facilities to keep the hotel eco-friendly.
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Guesthouse Naramachi - One of the oldest guest houses in the city that has been offering its services for more than 100 years. The place is only a 5-minute walk away from the JR Kyobate Train Station.
- Guest House Chida Heights - Get fine non-smoking apartments along with different features like free wi-fi, kitchen, traditional beds, and others. Walk for 15 minutes straight from the Gion area or 5 min from the Heian Shrine to reach this place.
Renting apartments is one of the best accommodation options that help to save money and live comfortably in the city. If you are searching for apartments in the city for renting, then you will get many different choices. Take the help of the online services to search for available apartments before you reach the town. Here are some of the best apartments that you can get in Nara.
- Tarbo’s House MR2
- Family Inn Nara
- Stare Nara
The option of Couchsurfing in this city is not that much good compared to many western cities. You will get fewer options in the city and you will have to search a while to get someone who is offering it. However, you can always take help online to find a Couchsurfing host. This is one of the best ways to stay like a local in the city and save a lot of money.
If you are a nature lover and love adventures, then you need to choose camping. There are several spots available in the city that help to get a nice camping experience. The camps are well protected and safe to stay with a lot fewer expenses. Here are some of the popular camping places in the city.
- Shironodaia Auto Camping Site
- Mitsue Seishounen Ryokomura
- Takami Park Campsite
- Hayama of Forest Camp Field
- Country Park Okawa Campsite
How to Get There
Before planning your tour to Nara city, you need to know what are the different ways of going there. If you are traveling from other cities in Japan, then you can get a taxi, car, trains, flights, and different available options. If you are traveling from other countries, then the best way to reach Nara is by taking a flight. It will help you to get to the destination faster and more comfortably than any other way.
As mentioned above, the air is one of the best options to travel to Nara city. Nara is connected to almost every major city in Japan and other countries. You will be able to get to the Kansai International Airport very near this city, which makes it easy to get into the town after landing. Catching a flight will help you to get faster to the city but it is expensive compared to other modes of transportation.
If you are traveling inside the county, then you can make the most convenient and comfortable option bus. The buses are very much available in the city and they are well connected with other cities. Traveling by bus will cost you a lot less money compared to others and these buses are very comfortable for long tours. You will be able to get many buses for the city by standing at your local bus stand.
After the flight, trains might be the best and favorite way of traveling for many travelers. You will be able to reach your destination with cheaper fare than the flights but you will need a lot more time to reach the city. You will be able to get many trains both from within the country and when traveling from other countries as well. The experience of traveling in trains is very unique as it helps you to witness all the scenic beauties on the way to the destination.
If you are traveling from Kyoto or some other cities of Japan to Nara, then you will get many different hitchhiking options. Hitchhiking is another very popular way of transport that many people use who are in love with adventures. You can find different sports available from different cities in Japan and start your journey to get one of the thrilling traveling experiences along with witnessing all the scenic beauty.
Apart from these, there are different ways available that you can use to travel to Nara city. Many of these modes of transportations are rarely used by travelers and are not as popular as the trains or flights, but they are available. You can reach the city with vehicles like bikes, caravans, and others. However, it will take a lot more time than the other modes of transportation, which make people avoid them.
When you have limited days to stay in a place and have to convert all the different things, knowing the best way to move around is very important. There are many different modes of transportation available in the city to move around such as trains, taxis, buses, bicycles, and walking down the streets. All of these come with different advantages and completely separate experiences. Here are details about them given below to help you know which one is better for you.
When it comes to moving around the city and exploring the history, the best way to do it is on foot. You will be able to reach very fast using shortcuts and remote places where only pedestrians are allowed. Walking also helps you to explore the city better with all the details and learn the culture, lifestyle, and other local traditions. There is a separate lane for walking that you can take to reach attractive places in the city.
Bicycling is a mode of traveling in the city that helps to save money and help you stay healthy. Compared to walking, you will reach your destination faster in bicycles. But you will need to hire or you will get them from the rental services of the city. There are many hotels that offer bicycles upon staying in them. So, you can check your hotel too before checking in, it will help you to save some money.
This might be the most chosen traveling companion in the city for travelers. One of the best things about these electronic vehicles is that it helps you to move very fast from place to place. But the downside of moving around in an electronic vehicle is that you will have to wait in the traffic and signals. While it is very comfortable, it can be time taking, make sure to be patient while using electronic vehicles for moving around the city.
You will be able to reach many areas in the city that are not covered by many other modes of transportation. The buses also run from places where tourists like to enjoy and make a stop. There are many bus stations around the city, you will be able to catch a bus from there and travel the city comfortably with low fare. The best thing about moving around the city on a bus is that you will be able to save a lot of money.
Tram, Train and Subway
Some travelers just can't resist the excitement of traveling the city on a train. It is one of the best experiences that you will get on your tour to Nara. As there are no traffics on the train path, you will be able to get to your destination faster. Most of the local trains are connected with all of the different attractions of the city. Some of the most common railway services here are the West Japan Railway and Kintetsu Railway.
Shopping is one of the crucial things in a tour and any travel is not complete without it. You need to know what are the sustainable shopping options available in the city to purchase some of the historical things or souvenirs for loved ones. There are many food markets, flea markets, eco-friendly shops in the city that will help you to get the best shopping experience and also help the city to stay eco-friendly.
Food markets are always a favorite place for travelers that helps them to know the traditional foods of locals. There are many food markets in Nara that sell some of the best foods around the city. You will be able to get both traditional and international foods in these markets at reasonable prices from different local stores. Here are some of the food markets that you need to visit in the city.
- Paket Nara
- Higashimuki Shopping Street
- OKest Fresh Mart
As an eco-friendly traveler, purchasing things from flea markets will help you to get the best things at a reasonable price. Many travelers look for flea shops to buy recycled things that promote zero waste. It helps them to save money and the city to stay green. For the last few years, many local shops and flea markets have started in this city. Here are some of the best ones:
- Cho Mua Do
- Nishiki Market
- Kuromon Market
Second Hand Stores
Maybe some years back, people were not that accustomed to using second-hand things but now things have changed a lot. Travelers always liked to buy second-hand clothes, bags, and other things from the city they are visiting to keep the city clean and minimize waste. But local people of Nara city have also started to adopt second-hand things.
The eco-fashion concept is getting more and more popular in Nara city. You will be able to find many shops in different markets in this city but it is still low compared to other western countries. You will need to explore the city very well to find these stores. It is best to take the help of local people to easily find them and shop.
The local people of Nara do their best to keep the city clean and maintain a healthy environment. You will see many recycled shops and markets around you that promote zero waste. So far, the city has been very successful to keep the pollution in check. As an eco-friendly traveler, try to purchase some recycled items from the local shops to help the local people and support the environment.
Most of the waste including plastic bottles is recycled or incinerated in this city. It helps to generate heat and power to the local facilities and buildings. The wastes do not get put into landfill for disposing of, which helps to lower the pollution. Many different government initiatives and other local services help to recycle wastes.
Work and Study Abroad
Many students and workers visit Nara to pursue their studies and career. Nara offers some of the best educational opportunities that attract students from different places. You will be able to see many foreign workers here too. Many short term jobs are available in the city that help to keep the workers and students earn good money. The number of international students is starting to increase very much in the city in the last few years.
You will find some of the very good exchange student programs in different universities in this city. Some of the most common and famous universities that offer exchange students in the city are Nara Women's University, Nara Institute of Science and Technology. Students can receive both education courses and research with the help of an exchange program.
One of the things that help travelers to earn some pocket money and help the local people is Au Pair. You will be able to find many Au Pair services in the Nara city along with good salaries. Taking the help of online Au Pair services is the best way to find one matching with you.
If you want to volunteer in this city, then the best way to do it is by volunteering to the temples to keep them clean. As the temples and shrines are very important to local people, you can volunteer to keep them clean and clear.