Enryaku-ji (延暦寺) is an old and large temple located at the top of Mt. Hiei in the north-east of Kyoto. It was registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1994. Due to its location on top of a mountain, Enryuku-ji has a particular atmosphere that temples located in Kyoto city itself don't have. But Enryaku-ji doesn't have the immaculate zen gardens of the city; instead you will find many old buildings hidden in various parts of the forest that covers the mountain.
Enryaku-ji was built in 788 by Dengyo Daishi, making it, at 1200 years old, one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. It is now spread across three main areas: To-do, the original one with the large Konpon-Chu-do hall and the museum (Kokuho-den) that contains many national treasures, the nearby Sai-to "campus" and the more distant Yokawa area. The later is 4km from the main temple buildings, and is thus less visited.
Visiting Enryaku-ji can take a whole day, starting by escaping from Kyoto with the Heizan line, up to Yase-Heizan-guchi terminus station. From there, a cable car and a rope way lead to the summit of Mt. Heizan. It takes about 15min from the rope way station to the first temple buildings. There is another cable car on the east side of the mountain that will bring you close to the Sakamoto station, near Biwako lake. On the way back you can stop at Miidera station, which is close to... Miidera, another large temple (the Biwako canal starts near this place). Changing trains again at Hamaotsu will bring you back to Yamashina and Kyoto. 20 minutes north of Sakamoto station is the Saikyo-ji (西教寺) temple, if you have some time left. You can also visit Ruriko-in (瑠璃光院) and Renge-ji (蓮華寺) in the morning before climbing to Enryaku-ji as these two temples are located near the lower cable car station.
Nearest location: Hiyoshi-taisha 日吉大社 (2.2km)
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 左京区, Sakyo-ku, 延暦寺, Enriyaku-ji, temple, 寺院, 仏閣, UNESCO world heritage