Mount Koya, or Koyasan, is in the heart of the Kii Mountains, just 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Kyoto. Most visitors to Mount Koya arrive either by train and cable car or by car, although buses are available. Car traffic can be quite heavy on weekends and the road to Mount Koya winds through the mountains; if you are not an experienced mountain driver, a private transfer might be a better option.
If you love hiking, you can even walk from Kyoto to Mount Koya along the Kumano Kodo, Japan's ancient pilgrimage trails. If this hike sounds appealing, consider taking an 11-day self-guided Kumano Kodo hiking tour.
On your way from Kyoto to Mount Koya, consider stopping in Osaka to enjoy its well-known food scene or to visit Osaka Castle. Nara, Japan's first permanent capital, is also a worthwhile stop, perhaps as part of a 7-day Japanese cycling adventure. The Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
By Train and Cable Car
Duration: About 3 hours
To get from Kyoto to Mount Koya by train, you will need to take a JR train to Osaka and then travel by taxi or subway to Osaka's Namba Station. From there, Nankai Railways' Nankai Koya Line takes you to Hashimoto, where you must transfer to a local train headed to Gokurakubashi Station. From there, transfer to a cable car to travel up the mountain to Koyasan Station. The final leg of your journey, a taxi or bus to the town center, takes just ten minutes.
By Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 2-3 hours, depending on traffic
The fastest way to drive from Kyoto to Mount Koya is via the Meishin, Kinki, Hanwa, and Keinawa Expressways. These toll highways connect you with National Route 371, the road to Mount Koya. If you visit Mount Koya between November and April, be sure your car is equipped with snow tires.
By Bus or Bus and Taxi
Duration: 3 hours
Keihan Bus offers two departures daily to Mount Koya's Okunoin-mae bus stop from Kyoto Station. From there, you can transfer to a local bus or take a ten-minute taxi ride into town.