🏯 The 5 Best Kyoto Private Guided Tours [2024 Reviews]

While Tokyo may be one of the hottest tourist destinations at the moment, I highly encourage you to visit the breathtaking city of Kyoto as well. Steeped in centuries of tradition and culture, with historical elegance and impressive natural beauty at every turn.

However, if you really want to make the most of your trip, I highly recommend partaking in one of the 5 top guided private tours of Kyoto.

I’ve carefully selected these 5 based on the value for the money, quality of the experience, and other factors that made these all worth the time and money. Let’s get started!

Best Private Guided Tours of Kyoto

10 Must-see Spots in Kyoto One Day Private TourKyoto Private Custom Highlight Tour with Licensed Guide (4/8h)Private Kyoto Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems, Personalised
editors choice
Location:Koyamakitakamifusacho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8142Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216Hotel pickup (or Japan, 604-8004 Kyoto, Nakagyo
Start:9:00 AM9:00 AMBetween 8:00 AM & 12:00 PM
Duration:8 hours2 to 8 hours3 to 8 hours
Includes:Nationally licensed guide, 10 must-see Kyoto sightsProfessional local guide, private tour, transportationPrivate, personalized walking tour with a local guide, customizable

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Rated Private Guided Tours of Kyoto For 2024

  1. 10 Must-see Spots in Kyoto One Day Private Tour
  2. Kyoto Private Custom Highlight Tour with Licensed Guide (4/8h)
  3. Private Kyoto Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems, Personalised
  4. Private Kyoto Tour with Government-Licensed Guide and Vehicle
  5. Kyoto Private Night Tour: From Gion District To Old Pontocho

Kyoto Private Guided Tour Reviews

1. 10 Must-see Spots in Kyoto One Day Private Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Departure: Koyamakitakamifusacho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8142
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM
  • Includes: Nationally licensed guide, 10 must-see Kyoto sights

If you’re only spending a day or two in Kyoto or it’s your first time visiting, don’t look any further, because this first tour should be at the top of your list.

The 10 Must-see Spots in Kyoto One Day Private Tour is the perfect way to spend an entire day in this enchanting city, where you don’t have to worry about just being another head in the crowd.

Rather, you have an expert guide to lead you through 10 unmissable spots that have defined Kyoto’s rich heritage and culture, offering an intriguing insight into its intense past.

Starting at 9:00 am, we definitely made the most of our day by kicking things off early and missing the vast majority of tourist crowds. With groups maxing out at just 3 participants, it’s one of the smallest tour groups I’ve encountered which makes for a very personal, customized excursion.

After meeting at Kitaoji Station, we headed out to the Golden Pavilion, where I took plenty of photos by the gold exterior and learned how it used to be the political center of the shogun.

One of the highlights for me was walking through the Bamboo Forest Street, which I didn’t even realize was in Kyoto, but had definitely seen it many times in the media.

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We then arrived at the Tenryuji Temple, which is absolutely stunning with its maple leaves and outlook over an ethereal garden. The Togetsukyo Bridge is a place I had to come back and visit with more time, as its scenic beauty nestled into the western Kyoto hills was simply too breathtaking.

Another cool moment was visiting the historic Gion district, where we strolled down the narrow alleyways lined with traditional Machiya houses.

I even caught a glimpse of a geisha before arriving at the busy Nishiki market with a ton of seafood, seasonal produce, and other treats.

We made plenty of other stops, but my favorite was undoubtedly the Kiyomiu-dera Temple, where I got to soak in the day’s experiences and the panoramic views of the city from high atop Mount Otowa.


More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

2. Kyoto Private Custom Highlight Tour with Licensed Guide (4/8h)

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 2 to 8 hours
  • Departure: Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8216
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM
  • Includes: Professional local guide, private tour, transportation

Perhaps what you’re looking for is a short but sweet tour that’s easy to fit into a busy schedule, or you’re just interested in seeing very specific sites.

If that’s the case, check out the Kyoto Private Custom Highlight Tour with Licensed Guide, which will immerse you in the very essence of this legendary place, tailored to suit your interests. So, lace up your walking shoes, grab a jacket, and get ready to discover Kyoto’s ancient past.

When I met up with my guide, I was surprised to see that I was the only one in my group, but then I remembered that it is a completely private experience and I had no one else in my party that day.

So, me and my guide set out just the two of us as he asked me if I had any particular interests in Kyoto (or in general) that could be used to tailor the tour further. I am a huge history buff and foodie, and he created a fantastic itinerary off the top of his head that played to both of those subjects.

Our first stop of the day was a visit to the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits on top of a hill that overlooks the entire city.

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Not only are the vistas breathtaking but the architecture and history behind the temple are equally as intriguing. The historic Gion district was a must for me, where it felt like I’d been transported back in time with little cobblestone pathways, wooden Machiya homes, charming tea shops, and much more.

I also loved getting the opportunity to try the local cuisine through 2 different restaurants based on recommendations by my guide, who is a local and knows the best places.

The soba noodles with dried herring and the boiled tofu were my favorites, and I stuffed myself with them before we took a leisurely stroll around the lush nearby gardens. All in all, this was a truly unique, special experience that I’d recommend to literally anyone.


More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

3. Private Kyoto Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems, Personalised

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 3 to 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel meetup (or Japan, 604-8004 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Nakajimachō
  • Departure Time: Between 8:00 AM & 12:00 PM
  • Includes: Private, personalized walking tour with a local guide, 4 different tour options through highlights and hidden gems

If the previous tour caught your attention, I have another alternative that I find quite a bit similar with its full customization!

The Private Kyoto Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems, Personalised experience also involves an expert local to guide you around on a special itinerary made just for you and your party!

Depending on what you select and your time constraints, your tour will last anywhere from around 3 to 8 hours, making it easy to fit into busy schedules!

Our tour start time was also a bit flexible, which made it easier to schedule into our day and we headed out to meet our guide at the Starbucks Coffee shop at the Kyoto Sanjo-ohashi Bridge.

What I really enjoyed about this one was that while we saw a few of the top tourist sites, the majority of our day consisted of hidden gems that I hadn’t spent much time at or visited at all, previously.

Although, our time spent at the bigger tourist hot spots was great too, as we’d arrived early enough that we’d missed the bulk of the crowds!

No visit to Kyoto is complete without seeing some of its famous landmarks, like the Kinkaku-ji Temple, the ethereal Bamboo Grove, and the historic streets of Gion.

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As we walked and explored, our guide shared all kinds of fascinating stories and anecdotes, offering a much better education than any history book.

Our party was really into nature as well, and we took a beautiful hike up the hills, where we saw all kinds of interesting shrines, statues, and jaw-dropping vistas.

Getting to see the Pontocho District was also something truly special, lined with traditional shops and restaurants where no cars are able to pass by. I loved it so much, we went back at night where you’ll see red lanterns illuminating the magical streets.

This was a truly priceless tour that made for an unforgettable day, with a very unique guide who offered us not only value, but a lasting friendship.


More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

4. Private Kyoto Tour with Government-Licensed Guide and Vehicle

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: Between 8:30 AM & 12:00 PM
  • Includes: Licensed local English-speaking guide, private transport in air-conditioned vehicle, parking fees, fuel surcharge, highway fees, choose 4 to 5 spots to visit

When you’re short on time, convenience is king, and that’s exactly what we have here. The Private Kyoto Tour with Government-Licensed Guide and Vehicle experience is a one-of-a-kind, flexible tour where you get to handpick from a list of gems to visit.

As it is completely private, there’s no need to worry about the guide just taking you on some run-of-the-mill tour that so many people unfortunately experience.

What I love about Kyoto is that it offers a look into Japan’s past and present, with a deep feeling of tradition and an ease of transportation that you simply won’t find in Tokyo.

More specifically, if you’re at all interested in Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist religious practices (the shrines, temples, etc.), this is a must-see. One other aspect I love about this tour, is that they pick you up right from your hotel and you get to see a ton of sites as you don’t have to walk.

After we boarded our air-conditioned vehicle, we got comfortable and spoke with our guide about what we were most interested in so he could create a plan.

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We wanted to see a little bit of everything, from tranquil temples and ancient sites to vibrant streets and picturesque gardens. This is also a great way to visit sites that you’ve already seen if you’ve been on more than one Kyoto tour like I clearly have!

I thought our guide did a great job at storytelling, explaining the significance of the shrines and other sites in a way that made sense for all of us.

One of the highlights for me was seeing Nijo-jo Castle, where we explored off-limits quarters that the vast majority of tourists don’t get to see. Combine all that with our guide being a safe driver, having a clean and nice car, and vast knowledge about just about everything we saw, you can’t go wrong here.


More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

5. Kyoto Private Night Tour: From Gion District To Old Pontocho

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Departure: 103-2 Hashimotochō, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8011
  • Departure Time: 5:00 or 6:00 PM
  • Includes: 2 drinks (local beer or non-alcoholic drink), 4 hours with host, private walking experience

Even if you plan on going on one of the other tours on this guide, please do yourself a favor and sign up for this one, as well! It’s crazy what a difference you’ll see in Kyoto depending on whether it’s daytime or at night.

The Kyoto Private Night Tour: From Gion District to Old Pontocho will let you see the city’s ancient streets as they’re illuminated by the soft glow of lanterns, taking on a mysterious allure.

Led by a knowledgeable guide who knows all the hidden gems and lesser-known corners, you’ll get to know Kyoto in a way that few travelers have the chance to.

We met up with our guide just as the sun set, where they asked us about any specific interests to tailor our tour a bit more to them. However, we trusted them so we just followed them to the most enchanting, interesting places around the city.

I loved getting to see the historic Gion district lit up with traditional paper lanterns, as well as old Pontocho, where we even caught sight of a geisha.

As it is an exclusive, private tour, it was just me and a few friends, and with our guide we were all laughing, joking about, and having a great time.

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Our guide was very chatty and kind – so much so, that it felt like he’d been a longtime friend who was showing us around his city with the best intentions. Hanamikoji Street was super cool to see at night, with a magical vibe to it as the soft lights illuminate the little cobbled road.

Pontocho Alley is known as the prettiest street in the entire city, and if possible, it’s even more lovely once dusk settles.

We eventually ended up grabbing a drink and sitting down by the Kamogawa River while taking in the sights and chatting with our guide, which was a great little break. Overall, I find this tour to be a can’t-miss opportunity!


More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

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The 10 Must-see Spots in Kyoto One Day Private Tour is our Editors Choice for the best Kyoto private guide tour

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