I highly recommend a full day for the northern part of Kyoto. You can buy a 1 day pass (¥1,000) for the Eizan Electric Railway which gives you access to the Eizan Line and Kurama Line. You can even enjoy the Maple Tree Tunnel (Momiji no Tunnel) between Ichihara and Ninose Station which gives you breathtaking views of the fall leaves. Tickets can be bought in Demachiyanagi Station which is 30 minutes from Kyoto Station. Before you start the day, make sure you have a full breakfast as there are not a lot to eat in the temples and the food stalls are quite expensive.
Heizan Area (Eizan Line)
From Demachiyanagi Station, take the Eizan Electric Railway to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station for Rurikoin. You will need to line up for tickets to Rurikoin and you will be allocated a timeslot. It is very crowded during peak season, so be prepared. The temple gives you magical experience, especially the most famous photo spot – a black table with a smooth surface reflecting the red leaves. I waited for one hour before I can get in so do come early! If you want to skip the wait, you can still enjoy the sceneries as there is a short walkway under maples (Momiji-no-Komichi) towards the cable car station to Mount Hiei. Here you have two options: Take the cable car to the Enryakuji Temple or take the bus to Sanzen-ji. Both of the options take around 30 – 45 minutes. I personally prefer Sanzen-ji as there is a direct bus. To travel to Enryakuiji Temple, you need to take 2 cable cars and then take the bus before you get there. Also, I think Sanzen-ji displays some of the most spectacular fall foliage in Kyoto!
Kibune Area(Kurama Line)
Going back to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station, take the Electric Railway to Takaragaike Station to switch to the Kurama Line. For people who have plenty of time, you can take the train to Kurama Station and make a visit to Kurama-dera Temple. Since I spent a lot of time in Rurikoin because of the queue, I skipped Kurama and stopped at Kibuneguchi Station to make a visit to the Kifune-jinja Shrine. You will pass through a tunnel of maple trees between Ichihara Station and Ninose Station! The train will slow down and the lights will be turned off in the cabin after 4:30pm as the maple tree tunnel will be specially lit up. This was definitely the highlight of my day! Moving on to Kifune-jinja Shrine, it is recommended to take the bus from Kibune station because the walk to Kibune village is approximately 30 minutes. Kibune village is filled with local restaurants and traditional inns beside the river where you can finally have some lunch or afternoon tea. In Kifune Shrine, you can obtain fortune written on paper slips where you can only reveal the messages by dipping it into the holy water. Since it is very popular amongst tourists to get their blessings, they specially printed a QR code on the fortune paper for translations.
Opening Times: October 1～December 10 (10:00～17:00)
Admission Fee: ¥2,000
Address: 55 Kamitakano Higashiyama, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-0067, Japan
Sanzen-in Temple (三千院)
Opening Times: March to Dec. 7th (8:30-17:00), Dec. 7th to Feb (9:00-16:30)
Admission Fee: ¥700
Address: 540 Raigoin-cho, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, zip:601-1242
Kifune-jinja Shrine (貴船神社)
Opening Times: May to Nov, Jan.1 to 3 (6:00-20:00), Dec.to Apr (6:00-18:00)
Admission Fee: Free
Address: 180 Kurama-kibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Eizan Electric Railway