A traveler's favorite for centuries and one of Japan's most famous sights, the gold-covered main hall of Kinkaku-ji temple seems to float between the sky and the pond of Kyoko-chi that it stands over. It was originally built in the 14th century as a villa for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, a samurai lord. Snap photos while walking around Kyoko-chi, and see the temple from Sekka-tei Cottage — the view from here can't be beat.
Not far from the Golden Pavilion, the Zen temple of Ryoan-ji is famed for its mysterious yet beautiful rock garden. This grouping of 15 rocks set in raked gravel is a delight to contemplate from the veranda of the Hojo, the residence of the temple's head priest. Walk around the tatami rooms, and admire the painted fusuma sliding doors. Don't miss the picturesque tsukubai stone washbasin with a bamboo pipe in the back — designed for the tea ceremony, it's inscribed with a Buddhist maxim saying one should be happy with what one already has.