What - this route goes between what are arguably Japan's two most significant tourist attractions, both of them cities with more history and culture than you could explore in several lifetimes... and you STILL want "alternatives"?

Well, OK. Let's say you've explored everything there is to see in Kyoto and Nara and somehow you're still young enough to get on a bicycle. Assuming you're not interested in seeing the nearby cities of Osaka and Kobe (and I don't recommend you go there by bicycle anyway), here are a few directions in which you might extend your trip.

- The simplest way to "extend" this trip is to make the most out of it by exploring Arashiyama itself. This entire area is actually one of the nicer cycling areas in the Kansai: you can spend a whole day just going from the famous bridge at Arashiyama up the left bank of the Katsura River (shown here) as far as you can go, then back to explore the temple areas on the right bank. This area morphs naturally into Sagano, one of the most rural parts of the Kyoto area, and a wonderful place to wander through in autumn and admire the brilliantly colored leaves. You can even extend the trip further by taking the tunnel through to Kiyotaki, a pretty gorge in the upper reaches of the river. Needless to say, this route will be featured on this site in the future.

- Nara is a natural jumping-off point to other historical points south. In fact, a nice day-trip would be to head due south from Nara through Tenri (headquarters for the Tenri-kyo sect of Buddhism, and worth a visit even by non-believers to see the enormous head temple) and explore the rolling hills of Asuka, a treasure-trove of Japanese history from the period that bears its name (Asuka Period, 672-694 a.d.). From there, if you still have the time and energy, you could cycle over a 500 km pass (or go by more crowded highway) to Yoshino, famous for cherry blossoms in spring. (A future route on this site will describe a nice way to get east to west from Ise to Yoshino and all the way to Wakayama.)

- Lake Biwa  (shown at left) is not far from Kyoto - and, fortunately, there's already a whole section devoted to it on this site. Point your browser here. The best way to get there is probably via the Uji River, along a route known to Japanese as the "Ujigawa Rhine" (or "Line" - I've never been able to confirm which is correct). For the record, the river is pretty, but it doesn't look much like either the German Rhine or a "line"...

- Nice routes also lead from Kyoto all the way up to the Japan Sea. You can either go up the west side of Lake Biwa or up the road to the west that goes along the other side of Mt. Hiei. When you reach the coast, you can either head east to Echizen or west to Wakasa (shown here). At the height of summer, I'd recommend the latter, especially on a weekend - the Wada-Takahama section of Wakasa Bay is a real party scene on the weekends, with vactioning Kansai youth and families playing in the surf by day and illuminating the sky with a small fortune in aerial fireworks by night.
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