Are you the kind of person who mixes cardio with culture? With 2000 shrines and temples spread across 827 square kilometres, Japan's ancient former capital Kyoto provides ample opportunity to stretch your legs.
Two-wheeled trip to temple heaven
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) offers a variety of two-wheeled tours, taking in both major tourist attractions and hidden gems. Located conveniently close to Kyoto Station, the KCTP office houses a variety of well-maintained city and mountain bikes with comfortable seats and baskets on the front. Tours will take you through the backstreets of Kyoto to temples, shrines, rivers, food markets and through the alleys of Gion, home to Kyoto's geiko (geisha) culture.
Kyoto is relatively flat in its central areas, meaning most tours aren't difficult for novice cyclists, and its streets are arranged in a grid, making it difficult to get lost. If you don't fancy taking one of the tours (which are well worth the money) then just hire a bike for the day and make your own way around the city.
For more information contact the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project.
Mountain hiking and hot springs
The towns of Kibune and Kurama are located in adjacent valleys about 30 minutes from Kyoto by train. They're connected by a walking trail that takes about two hours to complete. Start off in Kibune, a resort town with expensive ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) in summer these set up platforms over the town's river where you can grab a fancy lunch. The beginning of the trail leads past several small temples and shrines, along with the exposed roots of a large Fuji tree. Progress to the Kurama side of the mountain and you'll reach Kurama-dera, a large and famous temple with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Finish off at Kumara Onsen for 1100 yen you can grab a spot in the rotenburo (outdoor bath) and soak up the heat with a view of the mountain.
To get to Kibune-guchi station, hop on the Eizan Railway at Demachi-Yanagi station in Kyoto. You'll need to walk a couple of kilometres up a quiet road and through Kibune itself to get to the start of the track. Kurama is one stop further along the line.
A brisk walk through history
Waraido Guide Networks runs twice-weekly walking tours of Gion, the Kyoto district synonymous with geiko (geisha is not the preferred term in Kyoto). In about 100 minutes of brisk walking you'll see working geiko boarding houses, famous tea houses (actually drinking establishments where the women perform), historical sites, a specialist geiko hair salon and various shops that sell accessories to the women who choose to enter this unique tradition. It's a great way to deepen your understanding of Kyoto while it's a thrill to see a Geiko or Maiko (apprentice) walking the streets, without a guide you are unlikely to scratch the surface of the deep culture and history that surrounds Gion. The tour costs just 1000 yen look for the guide holding the red flag outside Kitaza, which is just north of Gion Shijo subway station.
For more information contact Waraido through its website.
Kyoto ran its first-ever full marathon in 2012. The 42km course winds through the west, north and east of the city, passing by some of Kyoto's most famous landmarks, including Kinkakuji (the golden pavilion) and Ginkakuji (the silver pavilion), and ending up not far from the massive Torii gate of the Heian Jingu Shrine. The marathon will run again on Sunday, March 10, 2013, with registrations most likely opening in August.
See the Kyoto Marathon website although details of the 2013 event weren't up at time of publication.
Getting there: Kyoto takes about three hours on the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo and is about 35 minutes from downtown Osaka.
Read more about Kyoto
Luxury Kyoto (and how to fake it)
Ghosts, gods and samurai - Kyoto's hidden stories
The writer stayed as a guest of the Kyoto Tourism Council.