As a traveller, there are a lot of factors that go into the planning of a trip. Sure you could just fly on the seat of your pants and that works for a lot of people but at the same time, you could miss out on a lot of things in Kyoto, Japan if you don’t do a little due diligence beforehand.
What’s the weather like at different times of the year? When are the festivals to keep an eye out for? Ultimately, when is the best time to go to Kyoto? This guide should help you plan that perfect trip!
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What’s the weather like throughout the year?
Kyoto is a city that experiences all four seasons. Winter (December – February) is actually quite mild and averages 10C/50F, but don’t be surprised if December drops below 0C/32F. January is typically the coldest month of the year.
From there, things begin to warm up into spring (March – May) with March receiving averages of 14C/57F. Spring shows up in earnest in April and the temperatures only go up from there.
Summer (June – August) averages at 28C/82F which makes for very hot days. One thing to note is that June also marks the start of rainy season towards the end of the month. Expect the humidity to be also very high.
September marks the start of autumn (September – November) and a dramatic end to the rainy season with more than 210mm of rainfall in the month. From there the temperature starts to taper off going from the highs of summer down to 17C/62F.
Festivals you don’t want to miss
Without a doubt, the cherry-blossom season is what Kyoto is known for. Although not marked by specific dates, the blooming of cherry-blossoms typically occur early April. That being said, the blossoms are extremely fickle, occurring any time between late March to mid-April. Maruyama Park is a great place to see the cherries.
Setsubun is a spectacular fire festival held at Yoshida Shrine February 2, 3 or 4 where lucky travellers will see a large bonfire and Shinto ceremony.
In July, the Gion Matsuri festival is something not to be missed and one of the top three festivals in Japan. Three evenings prior to the main parade, the streets of downtown are closed off to traffic and locals party among decorated floats while dressed in yakuta (cotton robes). All of this culminates in a huge float parade on July 17th.
At 8 p.m. on August 16th, the hillside surrounding Kyoto is set ablaze in shapes of ideograms for the Daimon-ji Fire Festival. It’s quite the spectacle you won’t see anywhere else.
When’s the best time to visit Kyoto?
It’s no surprise that the most popular times to visit Kyoto are when the climate is the most pleasant and stable.
March to May are fantastic months when things are starting to warm up and is most comfortable. October and November during the autumn season are equally desirable because it’s sunny and warm during the day and the evenings are refreshingly cool.
The Cherry Blossom Festival offers a compelling reason to go to Kyoto in April, but keep in mind that the city becomes crowded with domestic and international tourists during this time.
Similarly, the picturesque autumn foliage produces a high turn out of tourists. As a result, make sure you book your accommodations well in advance if you’re visiting during these times.
If I was to pick two of the best months to go to Kyoto, I’d say March and September.
Both early to mid March and late September gets you into Tokyo before the start of high season which means you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of fantastic weather without massive crowds. Low season also means that hotels can be had at a bargain price.
Where are the best places to stay in Kyoto?
Regardless of when you decide to go, make sure you do your research to find a place to stay that not only have good prices but are located in prime spots to launch your adventures.
Finding great accommodations in Kyoto isn’t easy because places can get pretty expensive. If you’re looking to stay in a traditional Japanese accommodation, make sure you see my list of the top budget ryokans in Kyoto. We also have a full neighborhood breakdown which will help you decide where to stay in Kyoto.
Here are two properties that I’d definitely consider.
BEST OVERALL RYOKAN
While this might not be the fanciest ryokan out there, on balance of the price, the staff, the rooms, and amenities, I was very happy to stay here last time we were in Kyoto.
BEST BUDGET HOTEL
A highly rated property in the Gion area of Kyoto that I’ve seen under $100 which is very reasonable. Don’t let the price fool you though, it’s a fantastic and well-respected property in Kyoto.
Do you need a JR Pass?
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
Looking for other things to do in the city?
Your Go-To Japan Trip Planning Resources
Are you in the process of planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan? Here are a few important pieces that you’ll want to read or bookmark before oyu go.
Where to stay in Kyoto – A neighborhood guide
Immerse yourself in culture in Kyoto