There’s nothing quite like a dip in a hot spring bath in Japan. Whether you’re on holiday or living in the country, a trip to the onsen is an affordable luxury. Not only are hot spring baths very rejuvenating and therapeutic, but they also have numerous health benefits depending on what the minerals in the hot springs are.
When visiting the ancient capital city of Kyoto, you might have the urge to visit an onsen town or two nearby. While there aren’t any natural hot springs in the downtown Kyoto area — although there are many public baths known as “sento” — there are a few onsen towns in the mountainous areas around Kyoto.
The 7 Best Onsen Towns Near Kyoto
We listed below our favourite onsen spots near Kyoto and we placed them all on a map so you can locate them easily.
- Arashiyama Onsen (Kyoto Prefecture)
- Biwako Ogoto Onsen (Shiga Prefecture)
- Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture)
- Yuhigaura Onsen (Kyoto Prefecture)
- Nagahama Onsen (Shiga Prefecture)
- Wakura Onsen (Ishikawa Prefecture)
- Katayamazu Onsen (Ishikawa Prefecture)
1. Arashiyama Onsen (Kyoto Prefecture)
If you’ve read guides on Kyoto before, you’ve definitely heard of Arashiyama. This area is famous for the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, but not many know it is also an onsen town. The Arashiyama Onsen is a small onsen town with its own natural spring — hypotonic and weakly alkaline. The excavation of the onsen town began in 2003 and opened in 2004.
There are dozens of traditional inns in the town with both public and private open-air baths, offering panoramic, breathtaking views of the town. At Arashiyama Station, you’ll even find a hot spring facility called Arashiyama Onsen Eki no Ashiyu — the entry fee is 200 yen which includes an original towel! Another good one in the area is called Fufu No Yu Onsen.
Access from Kyoto: To get to Renden Arashiyama Station, take the JR San-In Line. You can walk to the bamboo forest and the onsen town from that station.
2. Biwako Ogoto Onsen (Shiga Prefecture)
Biwako Ogoto Onsen is so close to Kyoto, it makes the perfect full or half day trip. Also known as Ogoto Onsen, this town is right on the western shores of Lake Biwako with a reputable 1,200 years of history. Attractions in this town include the Hikone Castle, Okishima Cat Island and the Shirahige Shine (with a floating gate).
The town has about 10 onsen ryokan for your choosing. The Yumotokan Ryokan is a great option for your stay in Ogoto Onsen. It has amazing outdoor onsen (rotemburo) with a view on the lake Biwa.
Access from Kyoto: It’s just 20 minutes from Kyoto Station. Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line bound for Omi-Imazu. Continue as the Kosei Line and stop at the Ogoto Onsen Station.
More information on what to do in Ogoto Onsen here!
3. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture)
Kinosaki Onsen is a good one for a day trip. Located in the northern part of Hyogo Prefecture, the onsen town celebrated a history of nearly 1,300 years in 2020 — it is said that the town first sprung up around the year 720 after 1,000 days of prayer by the Buddhist Monk, Dochi Shonin.
It is one of the most tattoo-friendly ones in the region, as well as offering spectacular nature views. There is the Otagawa River that flows through the centre of this town, and dozens of green willows and cherry trees make the landscape.
There are seven hot springs in the town, with about 70 inns and hotels in the entire area. Some of the more popular places to stay are the Kawaguchiya Kinosaki River Side and the Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei.
For more accommodation options, feel free to check out our list of best ryokans in Kinosaki Onsen.
Access from Kyoto: Take the JR Hashidate Limited Express train, which takes 2.5 hours.
4. Yuhigaura Onsen (Kyoto Prefecture)
A seaside hot spring you should definitely visit is Yuhigaura Onsen. It is located on the west side of the Tango Peninsula, an unspoiled paradise just north of Kyoto. Not only are there hot springs in this town, but there are also beautiful sandy beaches and rocky cliffs. It’s one of the less touristy places in the country.
In this town, there is a kid-friendly public bath with modern open-air baths as well as indoor baths, called Hanayumi Onsen. If you’d like to stay overnight, the Kasyouen Hotel or Ichiboukan are good choices.
Access from Kyoto: Take the Hashidate Limited Express to Miyazu Station for the fastest way, and continue with the Kyoto Tango Railway on the Miyatoyo Line. Get off at Yuhigaura-Kitsuonsen Station. It takes about 3 hours and 10 minutes from Kyoto.
You May Also Like: Ryokan Etiquette – 10 Rules To Follow
5. Nagahama Onsen (Shiga Prefecture)
Located at the coast of Lake Biwa, in Shiga prefecture, is a town called Nagahama. This onsen town is known for having a lot of onsen ryokan in the area, both day-time uses and overnight lodgings.
One of the highlights of this town is the castle, belonging to the famous feudal lord in the 16th century Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The town’s shopping district, Kurokabe Square, is also one to check out if you’re in the area.
Check out the Onoe Onsen Ryokan Beniayu for your stay in the town.
Access from Kyoto: Take the super rapid express train on the Tokaido/Sanyo line to Nagahama Station. It takes about 38 minutes.
6. Wakura Onsen (Ishikawa Prefecture)
This next onsen town has a history of 1,200 years old. Wakura Onsen is one of the top tourist attractions on the Noto Peninsula. The hot springs is the main attraction of this town, and there’s not that much sightseeing to do other than visiting the morning market or renting a bicycle and exploring the area on wheels. In summer, there’s an impressive fireworks display.
Visit the Wakura Onsen Souyu, which is a public onsen bath with indoor and outdoor baths that has been open since 1641. Stay at Kagaya, one of the top-rated ryokan in the city, if you’re planning to stay overnight. Hotel Kaibo is a great affordable onsen hotel for daytime and overnight use.
Access from Kyoto: Take the Thunderbird Limited Express bound for Kanazawa, and at Kanazawa Station, transfer to the JR Ishikawa Railway Line. Take the Noto-Kagaraibi Limited Express and stop at Wakura Onsen Station.
7. Katayamazu Onsen (Ishikawa Prefecture)
A smaller onsen town near Kyoto is Katayamazu, more commonly known as Kaga Onsen Hot Spring Village. This onsen town is located on the shores of Lake Shibayama. It’s a short trip from Kanazawa, so making a trip down there as well is worth it.
Access from Kyoto: It takes 1 hour 48 minutes on the Thunderbird Limited Express train. Get off at Kaga Onsen Station and take a local bus to Katayamazu Hot Spring stop (11 minutes).
These seven onsen towns near Kyoto are all worth visiting if you have the time. Relaxing in an onsen is one of the most memorable experiences to have on a Japan trip, so be sure to check out the available ryokans in the towns you are planning to visit for the best onsen experience!