Ryokan Nara – The most famous thing in Nara these days is arguably the adorable deer who reign freely in Nara Park, but that’s not the sole reason why its visitors increase year on year. It’s the day trip that goes hand in hand with visiting Osaka and Kyoto, not only because it is one hour away from both areas, but also because it’s a beautiful getaway from the flashing lights of Osaka and the numerous temples of Kyoto. It still features a little both of both, but the amalgamation of religious shrines and tall mountains in Nara makes it a unique area to explore, whether it be as a quick day trip or slowly over a few days.
If you’re in it for the long run and want to explore the depths of Nara without having to worry about catching transport back to where you came from, then we highly recommend booking in a ryokan in the area. There are plenty to choose from, and some will even offer the greatest views, most relaxing onsen experiences, and/or memorable kaiseki cuisines you will ever have in Japan.
Below we’ve listed a few of the favourites in Nara, which cover all budgets and all types of travellers.
Ryokan Nara #1 – Heijo
Are stunning views your cup of tea when traveling? Look no further than Heijo – their best asset is most definitely the incredible view of Nara City which stretches far into the horizon. It’s one of the most raved on features of this ryokan by past guests, so you can bet you won’t be disappointed, especially if you’re visiting during special seasons like Cherry Blossom season or Autumn Leaves season. There’s a free shuttle bus that will transport you to and from Nara Station on a 10-minute trip. You won’t get bored, as there is a summertime outdoor pool to relax by, LCD TVs in all guestrooms, and public onsens to experience. Dine on an incredible kaiseki dinner made with fresh seasonal ingredients, and wake up to a stunning set breakfast.
Why Guests Love It: “The hotel is located in the mountain which has fresh air and cherry blossoms. In the morning you can drive 10-minutes to the mountain top where there are wild deer, Sakura, and the view of the whole Nara city which is fantastic!”, “The location of this hotel is wonderful! Amazing view of Nara and Todaiji. The staff are very nice and helpful, and food is awesome. Do not miss the dinner at the hotel, it will be a perfect experience!”.
Book It Here: Heijo Ryokan
Ryokan Nara #2 – Asukasou
This conveniently located ryokan offers customers the options of either sleeping on western-style beds, or on Japanese futons. Quality of rooms, however, remain high regardless of which you pick. Tatami mats are present in both styles of rooms, and wooden furnishings complete the western rooms, whilst shoji sliding doors encapsulate the Japanese vibes of the futon rooms. There is a massage service as well as public baths on-site for your comfort, or else reserve the family bath for complete privacy whilst you indulge in the wonderful Japanese experience. If you reserve the Japanese-style guest rooms, a multi-course kaiseki dinner will be served in the privacy of your room.
Why Guests Love It: “Everything was absolutely great, the public bath on the rooftop at night was especially great! Our tatami-room was really, really big and had a nice garden view. The location is perfect, staff are friendly, and service is great.”, “The receptionist is extremely friendly and even remembered my name. They speak English too. The breakfast was super delicious. The room was clean and lovely, really appreciate the small snack provided as a welcome.”
Book It Here: Asukasou
Ryokan Nara #3 – Hotobil
This family-owned ryokan is one of the most unique entrances on this list – its host is probably going to be one of the kindest person you’ll ever meet. There are only two rooms available in this ryokan, with each being able to house a small family (this hotel has been classified as only being available to women and their families). Guests sleep on a traditional futon bedding arrangement on the floor, and bathroom facilities are shared.
As centrally located as can be, this ryokan is only a 10-minute taxi ride from Nara Station. The shining star of this ryokan is the Japanese breakfast you will be served. Raved on by multiple guests as the best traditional Japanese meal they had across Japan, the personal touches and years of experience by the host can be immediately tasted in the classic style of the Japanese meals. If you’re after an intimate ryokan experience, this should be your number one choice.
Why Guests Love It: “Landlady was very friendly, providing drinks on arrival. Breakfast was gorgeous, both Japanese and European. The bread and home-made preserves for yoghurt were yummy.”, “The Japanese breakfast made by the landlady was marvellous. That is the most classic local food during our trip. Hot water bag in bed also brought us warmth after a long walk in the rain.”
Book It Here: Hotobil
Ryokan Nara #4 – Tsubakiso
Tsubakiso goes back 80-years as a veteran Japanese townhouse, and today serves as one of the most popular ryokans in Nara. Located just 5-minutes from Kintetsu-Nara station, prepare to be greeted with a quaint Japanese garden and wooden structures. All guest rooms provide futon bedding on tatami mats, with air-conditioning, an LCD TV, and a private bathroom. If you’re all about sight-seeing, Kofuku-ji Temple is only a 10-minute walk away, and both Kasuga Shrine and Todai-ji Temple are only 2km away. Don’t let that fool you though, because despite its central location, it’s still located in a quiet, humble residential neighbourhood.
Why Guests Love It: “We had a delightful stay. The hostess was incredibly kind, gracious, and welcoming. Her breakfast was delicious, and the rooms were very comfortable.”, “The room was beautiful and looked over a charming garden courtyard. The owner left out special treats every day which were presented artistically.”
Book It Here: Tsubakiso
Ryokan Nara #5 – Kotono yado Musashino
Considered one of the best-selling ryokans in all of Nara, it’s easy to see why once you step foot into the stunning ryokan. Everything has its place here, and its décor is quintessentially Japanese in every way. Wooden flooring and tatami mats give the ryokan an earthen feel, so you can immediately feel the zen once you enter the ryokan. There are public and private onsens onsite (both indoors and outdoors) for your convenience, and the kaiseki cuisine is said to be out of this world. Another thing to note is that the rooms are incredibly spacious for Japanese standards here, so rest-assured, you won’t be hugging your luggage in your sleep here.
Why Guests Love It: “The dinner and breakfast are excellent, tasted good and beautiful. Good experience for a Japanese ryokan.”, “Unexpected touches such as kimono services for female guests, in-room massage service.”, “The staff were beyond accommodating and hospitable”, “Superb room, very large, excellent bedding, outstanding food, great service, wonderful location.”
Book It Here: Kotono yado Musashino
Ryokan Nara #6 – Kasuga Hotel
Kasuga Hotel operates as one of the biggest ryokans you will come across. It offers both western-style and Japanese-style bedding arrangements, and includes a plethora of additional features that will make your stay here immensely enjoyable. The public baths have got to be its defining feature; there are multiple indoor and outdoor onsens, and they’re all equally stunning.
You can opt to dine on traditional Japanese cuisine for both breakfast and dinner, which includes a kaiseki meal made with the freshest local ingredients, and all guests are given green tea and yukata robes to wear. Kyoto is only a 45-minute train ride away, whilst Todai-ji Temple is only 15-minutes on foot away. Nara Park is a whooping 3-minutes away, so you can be amongst the deer each and everyday you’re staying here. If you’re after some souvenirs, the on-site souvenir shop will have you covered.
Why Guests Love It: “The fantastic accommodation and location to attractions and transport. The staff were wonderful.”, “Hot spring was good especially the outdoor one, slept like a baby after taking a night bath. Dinner and breakfast were nice, both quality and quantity.”, “Very care and professional staff! Amazing food. Felt like royalty! Love the outdoor and indoor onsen experience too!”.
Book It Here: Kasuga Hotel
Ryokan Nara #7 – Wakasa Annex
This ryokan is the epitome of a modern traditional Japanese inn. It extracts all the best features of a ryokan and a hotel and combines them to create this perfect mix of tatami mats, lowered furniture, a hot public bath, kaiseki cuisine, and technology. Choose between sleeping on fluffy futon bedding or western style beds; however, air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, an all-wooden private bathroom and soundproof walls are a staple in both room styles. Some even come with a gorgeous outdoor open-air bath! You can leave your luggage there if you want to go exploring before or after checking in or out, and if you’re after the whole shebang, the property staff can organise free English tours as well. If dinner is included in your package, the multi-course kaiseki cuisine is a true Japanese experience in itself.
Why Guests Love It: “The ryokan is located near the shopping district and most important, Nara Park itself! You will be able to find deer roaming around freely as you walk along the streets and parks.”, “The ryokan was a beautiful mix between modern and traditional design. We loved the layout of the room with tatami mat dining area, comfortable cosy beds and the outdoor hot tub. The staff were very polite and friendly.”
Book It Here: Wakasa Annex
Ryokan Nara #8 – Sarusawaike Yoshidaya
Sarusawaike Yoshidaya is a stunning ryokan located right in front of Sarusawa-ike Pond, meaning certain rooms with have some pretty stunning views! This ryokan is slightly different to most in that whilst some rooms do offer tatami mat flooring (and others feature wooden flooring), all beds are western-style, although some are lowered to the floor in a Japanese twist. Each of the rooms have a private bathroom that comes with free amenities, and the rooms are more generously sized than most ryokans. Kofuku-ji Temple is a mere 2-minute walk away, whilst Nara Park, Todai-ji Temple, and Kasuga Taisha are a 15-minute walk away.
Why Guests Love It: “The location was perfect for Nara sight-seeing. The staff were attentive and helpful. The food is excellent.”, “Nice public bath, amazing Japanese-style breakfast. Friendly staff.”, “We loved this property. The beds were very comfortable as was the rest of the room. Nice view from the room of the lake. They have private outdoor baths available to guests as well as the usual onsen facilities.”
Book It Here: Sarusawaike Yoshidaya
All these ryokans epitomise Nara in one way or another – from its authenticity to classic Japanese vibes, to modern-day comforts and even the fusion of technology with cultural practices. If you’re after completely immersing yourself into the experience, Kotono yado Musashino would be a perfect choice. After something more modern? Sarusawaike Yoshidaya has your comfort in mind. Want something in between? Every single other option is there for you, so your pickings are definitely not slim! Have fun perusing through this list!
If you are looking for more Ryokan recommendations in the Kansai area, feel free to check out these articles too:
I speak to you soon. 🙂