9 Things to do in Nara Park (The Deer of Japan) 9 Things to do in Nara Park (The Deer of Japan)

9 Things to do in Nara Park (The Deer of Japan)

Leafy forest, expansive parkland, sacred temples, and over a thousand wild deer: this is Nara Park in Japan! Nestled in the city of Nara, discover the beautiful deer park, where you can interact with the majestic animals while exploring traditional Japanese gardens, cute teahouses, and lantern-lit shrines. Buy your stack of deer crackers, and spend the day in nature with these top things to do in Nara.

Things to do in Nara

The famous Deer Park in Nara attracts visitors from all over Japan. There’s something really unique about discovering a new city while accompanied by cute groups of deer. Visiting Nara was one of our favorite things to do in Japan!

things to do in nara park japan

Although feeding the 1000+ deer is one of the top things to do in Nara, there’s so much more to discover. As Nara was the first capital of Japan, there are many beautiful UNESCO temples and shrines. You can wander around the stunning parkland, teahouses, pagodas, and charming Japanese gardens for hours — it’s a full day of exploring! 

Did you know? Deers are sacred in Japan. Shinto religion says they are messengers from the gods, so just as cows are protected in India, so are the deer in Japan. These elegant animals roam freely around Nara, meaning they’ll never be far away as you explore.

You can find the best walking route for Nara on our Japan Google Maps

1. Yoshikien Garden 

Yoshikien Garden is a hidden gem located 10 minutes from Nara Park. This stunning Japanese Garden graces the edge of the famous Isui-en Garden, which requires a ticket for entry, while Yoshikien offers free admission! Its lesser-known status and easily overlooked entrance mean you’ll encounter very few people here, creating an exceptionally tranquil spot.

Find the exact entrance location here.

Japanese house Yoshikien Garden things to do in Nara japan

Once inside, you’ll find three gardens:

  • Pond Garden: Home to pretty ponds full of Koi Fish and quaint bridges.
  • Moss Garden: A lawn of super-soft moss and contrastingly rough stepping stones.
  • Tea Ceremony Garden: This is where you’ll find a picturesque tea house, often reserved by local groups to hold tea ceremonies. 
things to do in Nara Japan Yoshikien Garden 

The gardens are beautiful all year round. In fact, the Japanese government has designated them a place of scenic beauty. However, they’re particularly beautiful during Spring and Fall. Then the trees in the park take on the candy-pink blossoms or the warm, cozy colors of fall.

We recommend allowing 30 minutes to an hour of the day to enjoy these gardens, and once you’re done, you can exit on the other side towards Todaiji Temple.

2. Tōdai ji Temple 

Discover the mammoth Tōdai ji Temple, once the largest wooden structure in the world! This remarkable UNESCO-protected structure is not only the top thing to do in Nara but also one of the most beautiful things to see in Japan. Wander around the enormous temple, particularly scenic in Spring when the cherry trees around the building come into bloom.

Tōdai ji Temple things to do in Nara japan

On-site, you’ll also find the Great Buddha Hall, where a giant bronze Buddha statue is located; it’s an impressive 50 meters high! Not only is this statue sacred, but it’s the largest of its kind in Japan. 

Tip: Although deers are the main reason most people visit Nara, it’s worth visiting the city for Tōdai ji Temple alone — it really blew us away! However, once you’re finished viewing the temple, you can buy deer crackers from the many vendors around the temple (as you’ll find many deer around the complex).

inside Tōdai ji Temple nara japan

Visitor’s Information: Tōdai ji Temple

Tōdai ji Temple is free to visit; however, you must pay an entrance fee of 600 yen (4 USD) to visit the Great Buddha Hall. There is also the option to buy a combined ticket for both the Great Buddha Hall and the Tōdai ji Museum, which is 1000 yen (7 USD).

things to do nara park japan Tōdai ji Temple 

Opening Hours:

  • The temple is open from April to October: 7.30 AM – 5.30 PM. From November to March: 8 AM – 5 PM.
  • The museum is open 9 AM – 5 PM (5.30 PM in summer).
  • Due to its popularity, it can get busy after 9 AM, so we recommend visiting as early as possible to see the temple at its most peaceful.
baby deer nara park japan

Goshuin Stamp

Don’t forget to get your unique temple stamp on your visit to Tōdai ji Temple! In Japan, it’s common for people to queue up at temples and shrines with decorated books ready for their Goshuin (shrine and temple stamps). Each shrine has its own individual stamp, so it’s a fun thing to collect on your trip! 

goshuin stamp japan

Sometimes, the temple will release limited edition stamps during the year for various festivals or to mark the changing of the seasons. For example, you might get a fall stamp featuring foliage. Or a spring stamp adorned with cherry blossoms.

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9 Things to do in Nara Park (The Deer of Japan)

3. Tōdai ji Nigatsudo 

Nigatsudo is located within the same complex as Tōdai ji. However, it’s very important in its own right. Not only is it a beautiful building, but it’s well known for its substantial wrap-around balcony, which makes it the perfect place for sunset views.

Tōdai ji Nigatsudo things to do in Nara japan

Come here in the early evening and look out over the mountains, Tōdai ji, and the five-story temple of Kofuku-ji — bathed in the glow of the burning temple lanterns.

If you’re visiting during the day, you can follow a small path lined with teahouses, which takes you onto a mountain hiking trail.

Opening Times and Entrance Fee: Open 24 hours a day. Free to visit. 

man Tōdai ji Nigatsudo temple things to do in Nara Japan

Omizutori Festival

If you are visiting between 01 and 14 March, you may be lucky enough to witness the Omizutori event that takes place every year at Nigatsudo. During this time, monks carry burning torches around the balcony. They hit the torches against floors and walls, creating sparks like fireworks!

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In the following days, the monks draw water from the well at the base of the temple. This fire and water festival is said to bring good luck, welcome in the spring season, and banish drought. 

garden Tōdai ji Nigatsudo things to do in Nara japan

4. Kasuga Shrine Nara

Kasuga Taisha is a grand Shinto shrine in the eastern part of Nara Park. The beautiful red shrine is famous for its 3000+ lanterns. Some are bronze, hanging from building edges; others, moss-covered stone lanterns, line the entrance. Twice a year, during the lantern festivals in February and August, the lanterns at Kasuga-Taisha are lit, creating one of the most magical sights! 

Away from the main shrine, you’ll also find many smaller shrines in the outer woodland of Deer Park. This setting is truly enchanting, with giant tree roots that wrap around the base of the buildings, creating a movie-magic setting that wouldn’t be out of place in popular Japanese animation films.

praying temple Kasuga-Taisha things to do in Nara japan

With the vibrant red of the temple, the luscious greenery of the woodland and moss, thousands of lanterns, and free-roaming deer, this really is one of the most extraordinary things to do in Nara! 

deer Kasuga-Taisha gardens things to do in Nara

Entry fee: You can walk around the complex and enter the main shrine offering hall for free. It is perfect as a peaceful thing to do in Nara. If you’d like to see more of Kasuga Taisha, you can pay 500 yen (3.50 USD) to enter the inner area, where you’ll find more shrine buildings. 

Opening times: Kasuga Taisha Shrine is open from 6.30 AM to 5.30 PM (March to October) and 7 AM to 5 PM (November to February). The paid inner area is open from 9 AM to 4 PM. 

things to do in Nara japan visit Kasuga-Taisha temple

5. Manyo Botanical Gardens

Located directly next to Kasuga Taisha Shrine (by the parking lot) is the pretty Manyo Botanical Gardens. Here, you’ll find 250+ different plants and beautiful purple wisteria flowers, which smell sensational and attract swarms of buzzing bees. It’s a peaceful place to relax and escape the business of Nara Park, but it is best visited during Spring with the Wisteria flowers. 

botanical garden nara park japan

Opening Times and Entrance Fee: 9 AM to 4.30 PM (entry until 4 PM). Closed on Mondays through the winter (December – February). Price: 500 yen (3.50 USD)

Manyo Botanical Gardens things to do in Nara Japan

6. Ukimido

Nestled on the edge of Nara Park, discover the cutest spot: Ukimido. This hexagonal Gazebo, with a thatched roof, hangs over the water of Sagiike Pond and is one of the most romantic things to do in Nara.

Ukimido gazebo things to do in Nara

Wander through the park and cross the charming bridge to the gazebo for excellent views — which was particularly beautiful when we visited in fall, as the surrounding red, orange, and yellow woodland foliage reflects in the water. On your way, you’ll most likely be accompanied by Nara’s friendliest resident deer, so bring your crackers with you!

cute deer nara park japan

If you want to spend some more time here, view Ukimido from a different perspective by renting a paddle boat and floating across Sagiike Pond.

Entrance Fee and Opening Times: Ukimido is part of Nara Park, which is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. The pavilion is located near Kasuga Taisha Shrine at this exact location. 

boats on the lake Ukimido things to do in Nara japan

7. Kofuku-ji

Explore the second tallest pagoda in Japan: Kofuku-ji. Standing 501 meters tall with five stories, it overlooks Nara Park, flanked by smaller temples, halls, and friendly deer groups. The current pagoda was built in 1426, but in reality, it has a 1300+ year-old history!

Kofuku-ji pagoda nara japan

The complex itself is free to wander around and is open 24 hours a day. However, if you want to visit inside the buildings, you’ll need to pay varying entrance fees. For example, view the giant Buddha in the Eastern Golden Hall (300 yen/2 USD) or the National Treasure Hall, where you’ll find small museums with some impressive ancient artifacts (700 yen/5 USD). The price list is as follows:

  • National Treasure Hall: 700 yen/5 USD
  • National Treasure + Eastern Golden Hall: 900 yen/6 USD
  • Eastern Golden Hall: 300 yen/2 USD
  • Central Golden Hall: 500 yen/3.50 USD

Opening times: The paid entrance buildings are open daily from 9 AM – 5 PM. 

things to do in nara Kofuku-ji temple

8. Feed the Deer of Nara Park

The top thing to do in Nara is to interact and feed with the many deer in the area (well over a thousand!). Not only will you find them in Nara Park, but they’ll accompany you to all the main sites in the area. 

Feed the deer things to do in Nara

You’ll find vendors selling natural deer crackers (made from rice) throughout the city for 200 yen (1.50 USD) per stack. These are specially made for the deer so it doesn’t harm them; please don’t give them anything else to eat. You can then present these cookies to the deer — if you first bow to them, they will bow back in exchange for one of the natural crackers🥰. 

feed deer nara japan

Top tips for feeding the deer at Nara Park:

  • Don’t wear light clothes. The deer will often give you a gentle nibble or brush their bodies against you so you can get a bit dirty. 
  • Most deer in the park are friendly. However, you may need to be cautious with the male deer (you can recognize them by their antlers).
  • If you don’t want the deer to come close to you, please don’t purchase the crackers or show food. 
day trip to nara park japan

9. Eat Mochi

If you arrive from Nara JR station, take advantage of the Mochi-making show at Nakatanidou (five minutes walk from the station). 

eat mochi Nara Japan

Mochi is a jelly dessert made with rice flour and packed with sweet black bean paste inside. It usually comes in various colors, and it’s fascinating to watch the creation process! The specialty in Nara is mochi made with Yomogi, a Japanese plant that gives the mochi its green color and flavoring. Watch the snack form as the workers rapidly pound the mochi into springy, chewy goodness. 

Best Cafes and Restaurants

Although there are a few cafes and teahouses inside Deer Park, you’ll find most in the city. Some of the best places to eat inside the area are:

  • Mizuya Chaya Restaurant
  • Kasuganinaijaya
  • La Terrasse
  • Azekuraya
  • Rokumei Coffee
  • Poku-Poku
  • Sakura Burger
  • Cafe Conce
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps
restaurant Nara japan

Where to Stay in Nara, Japan

Staying in Nara for the night? The city is small, so most locations will situate you close to all the top things to do. Choose from five-star hotels, traditional guesthouses, or budget-friendly hostels.

best restaurants nara japan

Nara Day Trip

Most people visit Nara on a daytrip from cities like Osaka or Kyoto. It’s accessible by train or bus, or you can hire a car to explore the surrounding area’s natural attractions.

Another convenient way to visit Nara on a day trip is to join an organized tour from a nearby city. This normally includes return transportation, a local guide, and entry fees to specific sites. 

temple things to do in Nara Japan

How to Visit Nara Park, Japan

Starting your route from Osaka or Kyoto? It’s easy to get to Nara from both cities by train or metro (approximately 1 hour travel time). You can arrive at Nara JR station (train) or Kintetsu-Nara Station. You have more seats available with the JR line, and your Japan Rail Pass covers you for most routes. (Buy your Japan Rail Pass in advance here)

bus nara jr station japan

Osaka to Nara Train

Take the Yamatoji rapid train from JR Osaka station to Nara. It takes 45 minutes and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. A quicker train (30 minutes) is available from Osaka Namba Station, but it’s a little more expensive and is not covered by your pass.

Kyoto to Nara Train

You can take a direct train to Nara from Kyoto Station in under one hour. The train arrives at Kintetsu Nara Station, and the Japan Rail Pass (JR Nara line) covers this route. (Buy your Japan Rail Pass in advance here)

train japan things to do in Nara

Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited access to all public transport throughout Japan. It’s a great option if you plan on taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) several times. It’s also multi-use for other trains, ferries, and buses throughout the country. 

bullet train japan nara

Getting Around Nara

Nara is a small city, and most of the things to do are located in Deer Park or just outside. Because of this, walking is the best way to get around; you can take in the beauty of all the temples at your own pace and interact with the friendly deer.

Tip: If you tire of walking, there are local buses, or you can join a bike tour and explore the city on two wheels! 

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exploring nara deer park japan

How Much Does Nara Cost?

Nara is a budget-friendly dream, mainly because the park is free to enter! If you just want to take in the beauty of nature, deer, and temple facades, you’ll only need to pay for your train ticket and deer crackers. However, if you’d like to understand more about Nara and see some of the many incredible temple artifacts, you may need to pay a small entrance fee.

Top Tip: Eating out in Japan can be expensive. To keep costs lower on your trip to Nara, grab a quick snack or an affordable takeaway lunch at the supermarkets 7-Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson. You can find delicious Onigiri (a rice ball with fish inside and packed in crunchy seaweed) or even mix a cup of frozen fruits into a smoothie.

Costs of Traveling in Nara

Travel on a budget in Nara, from $410 − $380 USD weekly per person, mid-range $1390 − $3230 USD, and high-end from $2870 − $4610 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

* Average daily costs
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Best Time to Visit Deer Park

Nara Park is surrounded by beautiful woodland, which means it’s lovely to visit in the fall when the foliage turns every shade of orange, red, and yellow. This scenery creates a spectacular backdrop for the temples, mountains, and free-roaming deer. Spring is also a fantastic time to visit Nara, as many cherry trees blossom, decorating temple entrances.

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Nara Park is open 24 hours and is free to visit, although each thing to do in Nara has varying opening times and entrance fees. That being said, Nara is a very popular city and can get busy during the day. Therefore, we recommend arriving in Nara as early as possible to enjoy the park and deer without crowds.

04/06/2024 https://www.saltinourhair.com/japan/things-to-do-nara/
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