Tradition meets history and natural beauty on Kyoto’s sacred mountain.
Home to the Enryaku-ji Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Hiei straddles the border between Kyoto and Shiga prefectures.
The mountain is not only known for offering a spectacular view of Kyoto, but it’s also famous for its legendary “marathon monks,” who attempt to complete “kaihogyo,” a 1,000-day marathon challenge to reach enlightenment.
To reach the summit of Mount Hiei, visitors have a couple of options. Cable cars run from both the Kyoto and Shiga sides of the mountain. If you’re coming from Kyoto, you can take the Eizan cable car—the steepest in Japan—most of the way up and then transfer to the ropeway for the final part of the ascent. The whole journey takes about 15 minutes.
On the Shiga side, the Sakamoto cable car will get you to the top in 11 minutes. It has a great view of Lake Biwa, and with a length of two kilometers, it’s the longest cable car ride in Japan.
Alternatively, you can hike the 848-meter summit of Mount Hiei in about three hours from Kyoto’s Shugakuin Station. The walking trail takes you through a dense forest, which then gives way to towering cedar trees.
Keep an eye out for wildlife as you make your way up!
The path is steep and narrow in some places—particularly at the start—but it shouldn’t be much of a challenge even for inexperienced hikers. This is s a popular route for local climbers, but it isn’t too crowded on weekdays.
Whichever way you decide to take, when you reach the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic view, the fascinating history, and the beautiful architecture of Enryakuji.