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Must-Visit Attractions in Taiwan

The incredible majesty of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is just one of Taiwans many bounties

Visitors to Taiwan are spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do and places of incredible natural beauty to visit on the island – with so many attractions, it’s hard to figure out what to see. Let us do the hard work for you, with our list of the most beautiful tourist spots in Taiwan.

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The one-time tallest building in the world may no longer be a record holder, but it is still one of Taiwan’s most impressive buildings and well worth a visit. The 728-ton mass damper that allows the building to survive the island’s many earthquakes is an amazing piece of engineering and can be seen from various points within the building.

Home to one of the largest collections of Chinese imperial artifacts, the National Palace Museum offers a look into imperial China’s past. The many thousands of items on display were rescued by Chiang Kai-Shek’s government as they fled mainland China during the cultural revolution.

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Taroko Gorge

Taroko gorge and hiking paths

A couple of hours’ train ride from Taipei lies Taroko National Park, home to one of the most visited natural wonders in Taiwan. Take the trail to the Eternal Spring Shrine which features a stunning waterfall.

Yushan National Park

taiwan travel destinations

Another of the most beautiful national parks in Taiwan , Yushan National Park is the setting for the country’s tallest mountain along with several other picturesque peaks such as Sanqingshan.

Alishan Scenic Mountain Area

Alishan’s mountain railway is an ever popular tourist destination with both local and foreign tourists. The train winds its way to the top of the mountain where there are plenty of easy hiking trails that offer fantastic photo opportunities.

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan and a great destination for a short trip. There are scores of hotels located around the lake which is busy with yachts taking tourists from one side to the other. There is also a cable car here that takes you to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village.

Maokong gondola which operates between Taipei Zoo and Maokong

This well-known spot is one of the best places in Taipei to enjoy a cup of tea. The incredible scenery is worth the trip alone, but it is perhaps the gondola ride from the zoo to Maokong which has made it one of the most popular day trips to make during a stay in Taipei.

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

Located on the edge of Lotus Lake, a scenic area in the heart of Kaohsiung, these two pagodas are possibly the most popular attractions in the port city. Visitors enter the temples through the dragon’s and tiger’s mouths and can enjoy a view of the lake from the top of each tower.

Maolin National Scenic Area

South of Kaohsiung lies the region known as Maolin National Scenic Area. This is where you’ll find Purple Butterfly Valley, the wintering home for a million Euploeini butterflies. An incredible sight to behold if you’re lucky enough to arrive at the right time of the year.

Rainbow Village

This colorful neighborhood was the brainchild of local man Huang Yung-Fu. He decided that the ex-military village he lived in was too drab and so took a few paintbrushes to the walls – he hasn’t yet stopped.

Miramar ferris wheel

Located in the Miramar Entertainment Park, the Miramar ferris wheel dominates the local skyline. And with very few tall buildings to obstruct the scenery, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city.

One of Taiwan’s most popular weekend trips is a trip to the archipelago of Penghu. This sandy tropical paradise has plenty of beaches scattered throughout its islands and is a must for seafood lovers.

Shilin Night Market

taiwan travel destinations

There are plenty of night markets located throughout the country, but one of the most famous and easily accessed is Shilin Night Market. There’s an incredible selection of the best street food on offer, while the shops and stands are packed with bargains.

If street food gets your mouth watering then you should book a spot on our Epic Trip in Vietnam , where you’ll get to go on street food tours of both Hanoi and Hue City.

Yangmingshan geysers

Yangmingshan National Park is the most conveniently located of Taiwan’s national parks just a short bus ride outside Taipei city. The park is home to a dormant volcano which is why there are so many hot springs in the area. Xiaoyoukeng is the best place to see the geysers – there is also a visitor center, and several pathways and hiking trails.

Longshan Temple

taiwan travel destinations

Built in the 1700s, this Buddhist temple is now home to many gods from neighboring temples that were demolished. The temple survived an air raid during World War II and is one of the most popular temples on the island.

Chimei Museum

This private museum was established by the Chimei corporation in 1992 but moved to its current location in 2014 and contains a large collection of Western art, musical instruments, and weapons. Its design is heavily influenced by European architecture, making it one of a kind in Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The incredible majesty of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is just one of Taiwan’s many bounties

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Taipei, the main feature of this hall is the large statue of Chiang Kai-shek, flanked by an honor guard. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard at set times during the day.

Kenting Street

Popular among locals as a beach holiday destination, Kenting National Park is home to waterfalls, hiking trails, and forests. But it is the beach areas near Kenting Street that are a must-see for lovers of sun, sea, and sand.

Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

Even for those with no interest in Buddhism, this museum is impressive. The Buddha statue on the museum and the pagodas lining the avenue are alone worth the trip to Kaohsiung.

Fort Zeelandia

Built in the 1600s by the Dutch East India Company, this former Dutch stronghold was a place of import during their rule over the western part of the island in the 17th century. The fort is now restored to its former glory and is one of Tainan’s most popular attractions.

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10 Best Places to Visit in Taiwan

Last updated on October 3, 2023 by Alex Schultz - Leave a Comment

Located to the southeast of China , the island nation of Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and its bustling and vibrant cities are full of beautiful old temples, fantastic museums and lively night markets which offer up a stunning array of delicious cuisines. Away from its busy streets, many visitors enjoy exploring Taiwan’s incredible nature such as the beautiful Sun Moon Lake and spectacular Kinmen Island.

A bastion of democracy and human rights, Taiwan has long been at loggerheads with China which still lays claim to the country and the Taiwanese are friendly and welcoming people who proudly uphold their independence.

With such a vast array of diverse things to do, visitors to Taiwan will have their time cut out trying to fit everything into a memorable trip. Explore this Asian island with our list of the best places to visit in Taiwan.

10. Kaohsiung [SEE MAP]

Kaohsiung

A bustling city, full of life and energy, Kaohsiung has something for everyone to enjoy and consequently it is a favorite tourist destination with foreigners and locals alike. Acting as both the maritime and industrial hub of the country, it is the third most populous city and commerce and trade have ensured that there is a wide mix of peoples, cultures and communities, which is reflected in the delicious cuisine on offer.

With great weather all year round and beautiful scenery surrounding it, it is a fantastic place to do outdoor activities, and both hiking and cycling will take visitors to many of the best viewpoints. In addition to all of this, Kaohsiung is home to lots of historic sites, and more and more museums are sprouting up each and every year.

9. Wulai [SEE MAP]

Wulai

Located in the south of New Taipei City, Wulai is home to the Atayal people and is famous throughout Taiwan for its hot springs. As such it is now a tourist town and many people come here to wallow in the warm waters, learn more about the rich indigenous culture and explore the surrounding nature.

With loads of outdoor activities on offer, you can go hiking in the forests, go fishing in the river and also camp amongst the wild while enjoying the delightful scenery. Visitors can also buy some of the indigenous arts and crafts on sale and try some of the local food.

The undoubted highlight of any visit to Wulai is wallowing in the hot springs which are so abundant and the town’s mountainous setting only makes sitting back and taking in the view all the more magical.

8. Kinmen Islands [SEE MAP]

Kinmen Islands

This group of islands is located in between Taiwan and China and is famous for being the site of a battle between the Nationalists and Communists in 1949, although it is now more commonly known as a popular tourist destination.

With loads of lovely scenery to be found on the islands, it is sometimes called ‘the park in the sea’ as there are so many bright flowers, forests and nature reserves for visitors to enjoy, with Kinmen National Park being the most popular on offer.

Historic buildings abound in Kinmen. There is lots of delightful old architecture for tourists to gaze upon, and a number of wonderful beaches can be found scattered about here and there. Famed for its local products and its delicious cuisine, the Kinmen Islands are certainly worth a visit when in Taiwan.

7. Kenting National Park [SEE MAP]

Kenting National Park

Considered by many to be the oldest national park in the country, Kenting is located in the south of Taiwan on the Hengchun Peninsula, and is a very popular tourist destination. With loads of lovely scenery on offer, visitors mostly come to enjoy the wonderful beaches and the tropical climate that makes it so appealing.

Bathed in beautiful sunshine, Kenting is marvelous to explore and there is loads of fauna and flora on show. One of the must-see attractions is the huge Eluanbi Lighthouse, which towers over its surroundings. A fabulous national park to visit, Kenting also hosts the famous Spring Scream festival which attracts thousands of music lovers every year.

6. Alishan National Scenic Area [SEE MAP]

Alishan National Scenic Area

A wild and wonderful place, the Alishan National Scenic Area is very mountainous and actually contains twenty-five mountains that tower to a height of two thousand meters or more. Exploring the hills, valleys, waterfalls and forests is a magical affair, and the scenery is stupendous to behold.

There are numerous trails and paths that will take you to some of the best viewpoints. A great way to see a lot of the reserve in one go is to take the Alishan Forest Railway, which snakes its way through forests and along mountainsides before stopping off at Fenqihu, a picturesque village with the ruins of a Shinto temple.

Home to the Tsou people who are renowned for their tea making, Alishan is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit and your visit will live long in your memory.

5. Lukang [SEE MAP]

Lukang

The second oldest town on the island is a mesmerising place to visit, and it is particularly renowned for its delicious local cuisine and stunning architecture.

Located in the northwest of the country, it was once an important seaport and trading center, although its standing has long since declined. Thankfully that has meant that its historic buildings remain intact and there are remarkably over two hundred temples for tourists to visit, with Longshan and Matzu being among the most popular.

There is a wide range of architectural styles on show. Among the dishes that visitors to the city just have to try are the ox tongue cakes and oyster pancakes, which are specialties in the region.

4. Tainan [SEE MAP]

Tainan

Formerly the capital of imperial Taiwan, this ancient city is well worth a visit and there are loads of interesting sights and cultural landmarks for visitors to enjoy. One of the most popular parts of the city to visit is the Anping District, which is the historic heart of Tainan.

This area has lots of beautiful old temples scattered about, as well as Fort Zeelandia which was built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. There are a number of great museums, such as the Chimei and Koxinga Museums, and there is loads of fantastic shopping to be had. Stop off at the night markets for some of the local cuisine.

With lots of lovely nature surrounding Tainan, you can easily take a day trip to the Nanhua or Hutoupi Reservoirs, or even head off to Taijian National Park.

3. Taroko National Park [SEE MAP]

Taroko National Park

Full of beautiful nature and incredible landscapes, this national park takes its name from that of the impressive gorge that runs through it, and as such it is well worth checking out when in Taiwan. Carved out over centuries and millennia by the winding Liwu River, it is Taroko Gorge that is the undoubted highlight of the area, along with the steep valleys, mountains and more features throughout the park.

With a number of great outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy, you can be river rafting one minute, hiking through the canyons the next and be bathing in the Baiyang Waterfalls later that same day.

The scenery on show is absolutely gorgeous wherever you go, and some of the best views are from the delightful Eternal Spring Shrine and the Swallow Grotto. A great time to visit is during the Taroko Music Festival, when you can explore and experience the culture and traditions of the people and communities that live in the area.

2. Sun Moon Lake [SEE MAP]

Sun Moon Lake

The delightfully named Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in the country and is a popular tourist destination amongst locals and foreigners alike. As such there are loads of hotels and resorts located along the lake’s shores and there are numerous restaurants, shops and bars that cater to the visitor’s every need.

With lots of outdoor activities on offer, you can go sailing on the lake, go for a delightful hike or bike ride in the hills surrounding it or relax on a boat trip across its tranquil waters and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. In addition to the stunning nature, there are some great temples for visitors to visit and there is also a cable car ride that offers up unforgettable views of the lake below.

1. Taipei [SEE MAP]

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Taiwan

The capital of Taiwan is a marvelous place to visit, with a plethora of things for visitors to see and do. It is not only the political and economic hub of the island, but also the cultural one, as there is a lively arts and culture scene.

With an intoxicating mix of old and new to be found in the delicious food and stunning architecture, it is a captivating city to visit. Old temples are located amidst the skyscrapers, and the towering Taipei 101 actually used to be the tallest building in the world.

Fantastic restaurants, shops and bars abound in this bustling city, and there are loads of attractions on offer such as the Taipei Zoo, the Botanical Garden and the wonderful temple of Hsing Tian Kong.

For an authentic look at the local culture, head to the fun and friendly Raohe Street Night Market for some great food and entertainment, while numerous museums such as the National Palace Museum are on hand to help you delve further into the rich cultural heritage of Taiwan. After your time in Taipei, you’ll come away tired but happy at all of the amazing things that you’ve seen and done.

Map of Taiwan

Map of Taiwan

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The Wandering Quinn Travel Blog

18 Best Places to Visit in Taiwan in 2024! Taiwan Tourist Spots!

Categories Asia , Taiwan

Taiwan may be a small island but it is full of incredible places to visit in Taiwan! Taiwan Tourist Spots include  cultural-historic cities , port cities,   modern cities , National Parks and Islands , Taiwan really has it all!

Best of all, it’s easy to travel around Taiwan by train and bus and thanks to the size of Taiwan island, it’s possible to see a lot of Taiwan in 1 week or 2 weeks . Although if you have 1 month in Taiwan to spare, I’d say to go for it as you won’t regret visiting Taiwan!

Best Places to Visit in Taiwan

Related Posts:  2 Week Taiwan Itinerary!  / 1 Week Taiwan Itinerary! / How Much I Spent in Taiwan!

Best Places to Visit in Taiwan

FIRST TIMERS GUIDE TO TAIWAN

I’ve been to Taiwan twice. I love the country so much! I have written lots of posts to help you visit Taiwan, start with my 8 Helpful Tips For Planning a Trip to Taiwan from Start to Finish and the Best Places to Visit in Taiwan !

TAIWAN SIM CARD The best way to stay connected in Taiwan is to buy this EasyCard & Sim Card package deal in advance . You’ll need an EasyCard to get around on transport in Taiwan anyway and at the same time you can get a Taiwan Sim Card with 4G and pick them up at Taipei Taoyuan Airport when you land!

GETTING AROUND TAIWAN

The Metro within cities in Taiwan is really great, easy to use and so safe. You’ll need an EasyCard which you top up with credit to use the metro and buses. To get around Taiwan, I loved travelling by train . As a tourist, we can’t use the direct Taiwan train booking system. Instead you can go to a train station a few days before and purchase your ticket, or book online in advance using 12GO Asia !

Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and in all honesty, although Taiwan has so much to offer as you’ll see below, spending just 2-3 days in Taipei will give you a really good insight into what Taiwan is like and if you happen to decide to spend longer in Taipei, like 5 days in Taipei, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Taipei as it’s the biggest out of the Taiwan Tourist Spots!

I think Taipei is one of the most underrated cities in Asia and one of the best places to visit in Taiwan !

Related Post:  12 Taipei Travel Tips and Things To Know about Taipei!

I love Taipei because it’s a really easy city to get around. There are plenty of Taipei attractions and things to do in Taipei to keep you busy but because it’s not a super popular city and apart from the Taipei 101, which you must visit, there are no other super iconic places which make sightseeing in Taipei pretty relaxed.

If you’re interested in what to do in Taipei you can sightsee at places like the Taipei 101 and Chiang Kai-Shek Monument Hall which is probably the second most iconic place in Taipei . But you can also visit the themed cafes of Taipei like a toilet restaurant and the Friends cafe. Hit up a night market in Taipei like Shilin Night Market and Raohe Night Market which Taiwan is very famous for, and go hiking up Elephant Mountain.

Aside from the must-see places in Taipei , other reasons I love Taipei is because the Taipei Metro (MRT) is incredibly efficient and easy to use, it’s a safe city, the people in Taipei are lovely and there’s so much accommodation making it the best welcome to Taiwan that you can have!

Recommended days to spend in Taipei: 2-5 days.

best places to visit in Taiwan, taipei city and taipei 101 in distance

Day Trips from Taipei

What’s really great about Taipei is how many places to visit near Taipei there are! Here are some of the most popular day trips from Taipei and places near Taipei that can be visited in just a few hours and are also best places to visit in Taiwan :

To learn about the Japanese colonisation to modern-day Taiwan and eat some amazing street food, visiting Juifen from Taipei is a good idea as it’s one of the biggest Taiwan tourist spots.

Explore the Northeast Coast of Taipei and stroll through Jiufen Village. Learn about Taiwan’s mining history and enjoy a scenic tour along the Northeast Coast.

If you’ve seen photos of an old street with street lanterns near Taipei, this is Shifen, definitely one of the most popular and best places to visit in Taiwan!

4. Yehliu Geopark

You’ll be mistaken for even being in Taiwan here! Here is my friends guide on h ow to get to Yehliu Geopark from Taipei !

It’s very possible to see Juifen, Shifen and Yehliu in one day on a day tour , in fact, this is the best way to do it so keep this day tour from Taipei in mind when planning your Taipei itinerary.

Join a group tour from Taipei to North Taiwan, where you’ll discover Yehliu Geopark’s rock formations, Jiufen’s mountain village, and launch sky lanterns in Pingxi.

5. Beitou Hot Springs

Closer to Taipei than you’d think, this slice of nature with actual hot springs is a good half-day trip from Taipei.

Explore the volcanic terrains of Yangmingshan National Park, visiting numerous historically and culturally important sites like the Beitou Hot Spring Museum.

6. Yangmingshan National Park

To go hiking in Taipei and for another one of the best places to visit in Taiwan , head to this National Park near Taipei!

best places to visit in Taiwan, ocean and rocks at Yehliu National Park

7. Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung is a port city in Southern Taiwan and if you don’t fly into Taipei you’ll probably fly into Kaohsiung or out of Kaohsiung as it has the second biggest airport in Taiwan. 

Kaohsiung’s tourism is increasing a lot, it used to be a city that tourists didn’t go to, but not anymore. This is now one of the  best places to visit in Taiwan!

Related Post: Best things to do in Kaohsiung & 2-3 Day Kaohsiung itinerary

For things to do in Kaohsiung, if you like temples, there are plenty of temples in Kaohsiung to visit, especially around Lotus Pond which used to have the perfect Feng Shui, plus there’s an incredibly huge and impressive Buddhist Monastery near Kaohsiung.

There are 3 brilliant night markets to visit, a unique and cool creativity park called Pier 2 , and you can catch a ferry over to Cijin Island which will make you feel like you’re on holiday!

Kaohsiung is easy to get around thanks to its MRT system and although many of the Kaohsiung attractions may seem far apart, by MRT they are all really easy to get to.

Recommended days to spend in Kaohsiung: 2-3 days.

best places to visit in Taiwan, dragon and tiger pagoda kaohsiung

To help you plan your trip around Taiwan, have a look at all of my Taiwan Blog Posts here!

8. Taichung

To be honest, Taichung is pretty hard work to visit but I have to include it in this list of best places to visit in Taiwan because the best reason to go to Taichung is for its day trips!

Related Posts: 1-3 Day Itinerary for Taichung &  How To Do a Day Trip from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.

As a city, there are not many tourist attractions in Taichung and it’s hard to get around as everything is very spread out and there’s no metro system, not like in Taipei or Kaohsiung.

Things to do in Taichung include visiting the Rainbow Village which is really nice to visit although very small so it takes an hour max, and it takes about 30 minutes by taxi from Taichung city to the Rainbow Village or a lot longer by bus.

Taichung has a few night markets and Fengjia Night Market is the largest one in Taiwan, and that’s saying a lot so this is worth visiting.

Another thing Taichung is popular for is its fame for being the creator of Bubble Tea. Chun Shiu Tang on Siwei Street is the original Bubble Tea store in Taichung and a popular place to visit in Taichung. In all honesty, though, Chun Shiu Tang is a chain of Bubble Tea stores in Taiwan and the tea you’ll get in here will be the same and there’s nothing particularly special about the Chun Shiu Original Store in Taichung, and it gets busy!

Recommended days to spend in Taichung: 1 or 2-3 if you want to take day trips.

9. Sun Moon Lake

It’s really easy to get a bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake and do a day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung.

At the bus stop, they sell Sun Moon Lake passes which include bus travel, a boat ticket, a ropeway ticket and they can include bike hire too. It takes 1.5-2 hours to travel from Taichung City to Sun Moon Lake and once you’re there you need about 4-5 hours to see the lake and head over to Ita Thao Village. Even though you don’t need long, based on my trip, its still one of the best places to visit in Taiwan and a big Taiwan tourist spot!

Related Post:  How To Do a Sun Moon Lake Day Trip from Taichung!

10. Dakeng Hiking Trails

From Taichung you can also get a bus to Dakeng Hiking Trails.

There are a number of hiking trails and they are numbered, note that some of them are harder than others and the Dakeng trails in Taichung can get very busy on weekends so it’s the best time to go hiking in Taichung is on a weekday if you can. The easier trails get particularly busier than the harder trails too.

best places to visit in Taiwan, Rainbow village in Taichung

11. Hualien  

Hualien is a city along the East Coast of Taiwan, the city itself doesn’t offer much in terms of Taiwan tourism but it is a great base to see more of Taiwan’s impressive East Coast from which one of the big attractions in Taiwan!

If you are confident in riding a scooter/moped, this is the best way to get out from Hualien and explore the coast. Places to visit near Hualien on Taiwan’s East Coast include Beibin Park,   Nanbin Park  and Four-Eight Highland .

In addition to this, for things to do in Hualien, I found the Hualien Night Market to be good so make sure you make time to eat there one evening.

If you don’t want to hire a scooter or a car, I found the bus system is a pretty good way of how to get around Hualien and I used the public bus to go to Taroko National Park .

Recommended days to spend in Taichung: 2-3 including Taroko National Park

best places to visit in Taiwan, Hualien night market

12. Taroko National Park

I visited Taroko National Park as a day trip from Hualien and it’s one of the best places to visit in Taiwan if you want to go hiking in Taiwan !

Related Post:  How to Do a Day Trip to Taroko National Park via Bus from Hualien!

To hike some of trails in Taroko National Park you need to get a permit which can be tricky to get, however it is possible to hike many of the trails in Taroko Park without a permit, including the famous Taroko Gorge , and there’s even a regular bus service throughout the park if walking isn’t for you or you want to walk and get the bus (which is what I did, you can read about this here).

The centre of Taiwan is full of nature and hiking in Taiwan is one of the popular things to do in Taiwan for tourists and for locals.  Taroko National Park is one of the most visited National Parks’s in Taiwan due to its ease so I think this should be on your Taiwan itinerary to show you another side of the Island to the big cities.

Tour Taroko Gorge, an Asian wonder, in a day from Taipei, guided by your personal driver. Experience striking attractions and scenic trails.

Note that Taroko, like all of Taiwan’s hiking trails and National Parks, gets very busy on weekends as lots of Taiwanese like to venture out hiking too so if you have the flexibility I’d recommend that the best time to visit Taroko National Park is during the week.

Recommended days to spend at Taroko National Park: 1 day.

best places to visit in Taiwan, river and rocks at Taroko Gorge

Tainan used to be the capital of Taiwan back in 1683–1887 but it’s still the cultural capital of Taiwan now and therefore a good place to visit in Taiwan. Although initially, the city seems pretty similar to Taichung in architecture once you reach the centre you’ll start to see the history.

Tainan has a big Dutch influence thanks to the Dutch occupying the South of Taiwan for a number of years and this can be best seen at Fort Provincia and Chihkan Tower which used to be a Dutch outpost and are popular things to do in Tainan. Shennong Street tucked between the many normal streets of Tainan is a pleasant surprise filled with little shops and restaurants and many Chinese lanterns. This may be the Taiwan you have been thinking of.

More things to do in Tainan include visiting  Anping where you can visit Fort Zeelandia and Anping Tree House for fairly unique places to see in Taiwan as no other city I’ve seen has these kinds of attractions. Finally, Tainan isn’t short of night markets and the most popular night market in Tainan is the Flower Night Market .

The only downside to Tainan, in my opinion, is its lack of metro like Taichung and the fact that Uber doesn’t currently work in Tainan so you have to use the buses (which can be tricky to work out in Taiwan I’ve found) or get a taxi by the meter so keep this in mind when planning your best places to visit in Taiwan!

Recommended days to spend in Tainan: 1-2 days.

best places to visit in Taiwan, Tainan Fort

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  • How Much I Spent in Taiwan!

14. Taitung

Taitung is much less visited than other cities in Taiwan but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and if you are not a ‘city person’, Taitung will be a good place to visit because you can hire a scooter and be in Taitung county seeing nature and more of the East Coast of Taiwan in a short amount of time.

One of the popular Taitung attractions is the aboriginal tribes and people, in Taitung you’ll be able to learn about them and taste some of the local aboriginal food, one of the big reasons it’s one of the best places to visit in Taiwan!

Recommended days to spend in Taitung: 1-2 days.

15. Kenting National Park

Kenting is in the very Southern tip of Taiwan and closest to Kaohsiung. Some blog posts recommend that you can visit Kenting National Park on a day trip from Kaohsiung but the bus takes a few hours so it will be a long day.

The best way to see Kenting is to hire a car or get the bus to Kenting from Kaohsiung and hire scooters but do be sure to look into the situation around driving licences. 

Kenting does look beautiful online with incredible white beaches and Kenting Town is full of restaurants and bars, but I heard from 2 different travellers that they didn’t enjoy it that much which is what made me decide not to go.

I don’t think Kenting is a good place for solo travellers to visit in Taiwan due to how to get around, but it does seem good for families or a group.

Recommended days to spend in Kenting National Park: 2-3 days.

16. Green Island

Taiwan is not just about the mainland, there are islands in Taiwan to visit too! Green Island Taiwan is a volcanic island located on the south-east coast of Taiwan and is accessible by boat from Taitung or by plane from Taipei or Taitung airports.

The best way to get around Green Island is by electric scooter, you can explore the island in just a few hours due to its size and explore the beaches on Green island, its local villages and its history at places like the Human Rights Memorial.

Recommended days to spend on Green Island: 2-3 days.

17. Penghu Islands

Located on the western side of Taiwan are the  Penghu Islands which are one of Taiwan’s best-kept secrets! The Penghu Islands are made up of 90 islands, although a number of these are uninhabited. Things to do in Penghu Island include surfing and windsurfing in its awesome waves. Penghu also has the world’s first submarine postbox you can dive or underwater helmet-walk to send a waterproof postcard.

Recommended days to spend in Penghu Islands: 2-3 days.

18. Keelung

Keelung is in the very North of Taiwan and is another Taiwanese port city. I docked here for a day on a cruise trip around Japan.

There are a few things to do in Keelung like visiting Temples , Chung Cheng Park , an abandoned building and it’s night market but in all honesty, there are not many tourist attractions in Keelung so if you are on a tight itinerary for Taiwan , I’d recommend leaving Keelung or going on a day trip from Taipei to Keelung as there are much better cities in Taiwan to visit.

Experience Keelung on foot with a local, savoring Taiwanese street food at the Night Market, featuring delicacies like herbal tea and curry noodles.

Recommended days to spend in Keelung: 0.5-1 day.

best places to visit in Taiwan, view of Keelung city

How to Get Around Taiwan?

Trains in taiwan.

Now you know the best places to visit in Taiwan, how easy is it to get around Taiwan?

It’s actually very easy! Taiwan is connected by train the whole way around the island . There are train lines that loop of the outer edge of the island. Trains in Taiwan are fairly inexpensive (not like Japan!), and for most train journeys in Taiwan, you can choose from the TRA which is a local train but is still very quick and comfy, or HSR which is the high-speed rail train. The high-speed trains in Taiwan are extremely fast and they do cost more than the TRA. However, due to the small size of Taiwan, all trains will take between 1-4 hours.

For tourists in Taiwan you can buy train packages like this which give you unlimited train travel in Taiwan for a certain amount of days:

3 Day Tourist Rail Pass for Taiwan’s High-Speed Trains.

5 Day Tourist Rail Pass for Taiwan’s Local and High-Speed Trains.

You can also buy train tickets online via Klook for Taiwan’s trains for example:

High-Speed Train from Taipei to Taichung.

High-Speed Train from Taipei to Tainan.

12GO Asia is another way you can book trains in Taiwan and check the running schedule. 12GO Asia is the biggest transport booking platform in Asia, so book your Taiwan train here !

Buses are another way to get around Taiwan and buses connect all of the major cities . For example, Taipei to Taichung is a popular bus route in Taiwan.

best places to visit in Taiwan, hello kitty pink train in taiwan

TAIWAN ITINERARY HELP

Here are my top Taiwan itinerary posts to help your plan your trip:

  • 1 week Taiwan Itinerary!
  • 18 Best Places to Visit in Taiwan!
  • How to Plan a Trip to Taiwan!

TAIWAN ON A BUDGET

Taiwan isn’t the cheapest country but it’s not the most expensive either and can be travelled on a reasonable budget. Here’s my post on the cost of travel in Taiwan and how to travel Taiwan on a budget !

Car Hire in Taiwan

Hiring a car in Taiwan is very popular, the roads and driving in Taiwan is extremely good, not like many other Asian countries which foreigners can find hard to drive in. I met a few people who had hired a car in Taiwan so I recommend looking into this to give yourself total freedom.

When it comes to getting around Taiwan cities, as mentioned above, Taipei and Kaohsiung have the MRT metro which is easy and reliant to use. Other cities without a metro have a bus system, Uber also works in most places in Taiwan.

To get around on public transport in Taiwan you’ll need an EasyCard which can be used throughout the country.

If you are flying into Taoyuan Taipei Airport you can buy an EasyCard and Sim Card package deal at the airport to save you time and hassle!

easy card picture | how to get around taiwan

Best Time of Year to Visit Taiwan

I have visited Taiwan in March and early November which are both great times to visit Taiwan as the weather was good, not wet and not too hot.

In the summer months, Taiwan gets extremely hot and sweaty as well as bringing rainy season with it so summer in Taiwan is not a good time of year to travel to Taiwan. In winter in Taiwan, the country cools down, especially in Taipei in the North however it doesn’t get too cold.

The best months to visit Taiwan are during Spring and Autumn I say

  • More of my Taiwan Posts:
  •   2 Week Taiwan Itinerary!
  • 1 Week Taiwan Itinerary!
  • ALL TAIWAN POSTS

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Friday 27th of December 2019

Dear Ellie, I just found your amazing blogs and vlogs! I will be going to Taiwan in April and I will be definitely sourcing from your precious articles. Also, you gave me lot of courage to travel solo since all my family is scared about it. I love your style of travelling. Thank you so much! I would have one question.. do you recommend any site for searching the train/ bus timetable? I will not rent a car and would like to round the island clockwise :) Have a great travels and thank you for inspiring! Simona (Prague)

TheWanderingQuinn

Tuesday 7th of January 2020

Hello, this is so nice to hear and thank you for letting me know. Taiwan is so incredibly safe and the people are really nice so you will be fine. To be honest, I have always found it hard to find train times online, I don't think people book them online there. The best thing to do is to go to the station when you arrive and ask then and book a ticket for a few days time. It seems like everyone does it and I have never had a problem with trains or buses being fully booked in advance. :)

Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

The Perfect Taiwan Itinerary And Complete Taiwan Travel Guide

By: Author Lotte

Posted on Last updated: January 31, 2023

Categories Taiwan

1-month-taiwan-travel-itinerary-phenomenalglobe.com

Did you know Taiwan has the largest number and density of high mountains in the world? While this island may be small in size, it has much to offer!

From beautiful beaches to modern skyscrapers and from colorful street art to delicious cuisine, Taiwan has it all.

This Taiwan itinerary will guide you around the highlights of this green island that used to be called ‘Ilha Formosa' (meaning ‘ beautiful island ‘ in Portuguese). A fitting name as Taiwan is absolutely gorgeous!

Taiwan itinerary

Taiwan Itinerary - empty road in Kenting

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We're very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).

Itinerary for Taiwan and Taiwan travel map

In the map below you can find our Taiwan itinerary, at the end of the post you can download this map.

Taiwan itinerary map

Click here for the interactive map

The ultimate Taiwan itinerary

  • Day 1-3: Kaohsiung
  • Day 4-6: Kenting National Park
  • Day 7-9:  Tainan
  • Day 10-11:  Taichung
  • Day 12-13: Sun Moon Lake
  • Day 14-19:  Taipei (part I)
  • Day 20-23: Hualien and the Taroko Gorge
  • Day 24-29:  Taipei (part II)

The Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

Important things to know when planning a trip to Taiwan

Taiwan is a great destination year-round, however, Spring (March-April) and Autumn (October-November) are the most popular times to visit. From mid-May until September, monsoon season causes a lot of rain, especially on the East Coast. We visited in May and while we did experience some rain, the weather was good on most days. However, we did adjust our travel plans because of the (terrible) weather forecast, and instead of traveling the entire length of Taiwan's East Coast (in the pouring rain), we opted to spend more time in Taipei (where it was still sunny). During Summer (June until August) Taiwan is hot and humid with temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius. Winter is low season in Taiwan, though it usually doesn't get that cold (around 10 degrees).

The official currency in Taiwan is the  New Taiwan dollar  ( NT $) .   Here  you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 34NT$ and $1 approximately 30NT$.

Dry beef noodle Kaohsiung

Plan your Taiwan trip like a pro with these tools: ? Pick up an EasyCard for cashless payments and to use public transport. ? Book discounted tickets for Taiwan's high-speed rail. ? Stay connected with a  Taiwan Wifi router . ? Plan your journey with the  T aiwan Lonely Planet . ?️ Find your dream accommodation on Booking.com or Agoda . ? Book the best tours via Klook or Get Your Guide . ?️ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing .

Taiwan travel tips

In general traveling around Taiwan is very easy. This beautiful small country is safe and well-organized and, as I already mentioned, the people are super friendly.

Nevertheless, here are some travel tips to make your Taiwan trip even easier (and cheaper!).

Bicycles in Kaohsiung city Taiwan

Buy an EasyCard

I recommend that as soon as you arrive in Taiwan, you pick up an EasyCard .

You can use this pass all over Taiwan to pay for transport (MRT, bicycles, buses, trains, ferries, etc.). The Easy Card gives you a discount on transport fares and saves you the hassle of having to pay with coins.

You can top up your credit in 7-11 and Family Mart (you can also pay with your EasyCard in these shops and several others).

Pick up a Wifi router at the airport

During our trip to Taiwan, we used a portable Wifi router with unlimited data to stay online.

We could connect all our devices (and we have a lot ) and had excellent reception everywhere in Taiwan (except in the tunnels on the East coast). Click here to book your Wifi router .

You can pick up the router upon arrival at Taoyuan international airport or Kaohsiung airport and use it throughout your Taiwan trip.

You can simply return the device to the service counter where you picked it up, or use a 24-hour drop-off box available at the airports mentioned above if you happen to have to catch a flight outside of business hours.

Be prepared to use Google Translate a lot

While the people in Taiwan are very friendly and always willing to help, I was surprised to learn that many Taiwanese don't speak English. At all.

They will still try to help you through and Google Translate makes it a lot easier. You can download the app for free in the App Store or the Play Store .

Qingshui Cliffs Taiwan East Coast

Our Taiwan trip: facts and figures

  • I traveled with my husband; our trip started in Kaohsiung and ended in Taipei. Our Taiwan trip itinerary was  29 days in   total.
  • We traveled around Taiwan by public transport (train, bus, and MRT). In Kenting National Park and Hualien, we rented a scooter. In Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, and Taipei we used the public bicycle rental systems, bus, and MRT to get around.
  • During our trip around Taiwan, we spent approximately   2065 NT / €63 / $69 per day as a couple. If you want to know more about the costs of our Taiwan trip , check my budget breakdown .
  • I have written detailed guides for most places we visited in Taiwan, in these guides you can find detailed information about our day-to-day activities, transportation, and detailed information about our accommodation . You can find the links to those posts in the itinerary below.

Where to find great budget accommodation in Taiwan

taiwan travel destinations

In the table below you can find our Taiwan accommodation. I’ve also written a separate post about the places we stayed in Taiwan with more details about these places.

Note: Prices for these hotels depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Use ‘click here' to see the latest prices on Agoda and Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.

* Unfortunately, the Airbnbs we stayed at in Kaohsiung and Taipei are no longer available due to Covid-19. I've done my utmost to find a suitable alternative (see table) .

How to spend a month in Taiwan

Ideally, if you have a month in Taiwan as we did, you'd make a full circle around the island. You can either start and end your trip in Taipei or in Kaohsiung, as these are the largest hubs for international flights.

As I mentioned above, unfortunately, we didn't get to finish our Taiwan loop because monsoon season started and the East Coast was soaking wet.

Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun during the additional time we spend in Taipei and I don't regret making this decision. Below you can find our day by day one month Taiwan trip.

If you have less time available to explore Taiwan, don't worry, I've got you covered. Further on in the post, I also suggest shorter options (5, 7, and 10 days, plus 2 and 3 weeks) for your Taiwan travel itinerary.

Day 1 – 3: Kaohsiung

Love River Kaohsiung Taiwan

Kaohsiung isn't a well-known city, at least I had never heard of it before traveling to Taiwan. Of course, that could also just be me being ignorant…

Anyway, Kaohsiung is the third-largest city in Taiwan and this is where we started our trip. Kaohsiung is an important harbor city but also has many interesting sights.

My recommended activities for Kaohsiung are:

  • Cycle the bicycle trail along the Love River . Worthwhile stops are the Kaohsiung 228 Peace Memorial Park, Zhongdou Wetlands Park, Botanical Garden, and the Lotus Pond.
  • Cycle around the Lotus Pond. Another great bicycle trail goes around the Lotus Pond, on the south side of the lake you can find the colorful Tiger and Dragon Pagodas.
  • Visit Qijin Island . This small island is only a 5-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Here you can explore the Cijin Coast Park, admire the view from the Cihou Lighthouse and visit the Maritime Museum.

Book your Kaohsiung accommodation: 85 Good Time Hotel

Click here to read about more things to do in Kaohsiung .

Day 4 – 6: Kenting National Park

Beach in Kenting National Park

From busy Kaohsiung, we traveled to the green Kenting National Park, in the South of Taiwan.

Fun fact: did you know there are 9 National Parks in Taiwan ?

Kenting National Park is beautiful, the beaches are pristine and the empty roads through lush green jungle make it the perfect place for a scooter road trip.

Some of the best places to visit in Kenting are:

  • Maobitou Park : a great spot to admire the beautiful ocean views and impressive rock formations.
  • Hengchun night market: try out lots of typical Taiwanese dishes and snacks and wash them down with a boba (bubble tea).
  • Kenting town: take an hour or so to explore the town, but leave plenty of time to relax on a pretty Kenting beach, with white sand and stunning blue water.

Book your Kenting accommodation: Light Blue Bed & Breakfast

Click here to read about more things to do in Kenting .

Day 7 – 9: Tainan

Colorful temple in Tainan, Taiwan

Our next destination was Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and one with a Dutch history which made it extra interesting for us (being from the Netherlands and all).

Back in 1624, the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or United East India Company in English) built Fort Zeelandia in Tainan and used the city as their ruling and trading base.

Besides the Dutch Fort, there are many beautiful temples in Tainan. In fact, there are more Buddhist and Taoist temples in Tainan than in any other Taiwanese city! The top spots in Tainan you should visit are:

  • Koxinga’s Shrine : an impressive shrine dating from 1663. Also, take a stroll around the stylish garden in front of the complex.
  • Fort Zeelandia: this fort was built by the Dutch in the early 17th century and used as a trading outpost. It's a great place to learn about (part of) the tumultuous history of Taiwan.
  • National Museum of Taiwan History : another excellent place to learn about Taiwanese history and its many invaders throughout the decades (the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Chinese, and the Japanese).

Book your Tainan accommodation: Tie Dao Hotel

Click here to read about more things to do in Tainan .

Day 10 – 11: Taichung

Skyline Taichung

Unfortunately, it was raining during the majority of our time in Taichung. We made the most of it though and went to the movies, ate wood-fired oven pizza, and hung out in cute cafes.

However, if the weather is a bit nicer, you can easily spend three days here as there are many things to do in this interesting city! Highlights in (and around) Taichung are:

  • Rainbow Village : a short distance from Taichung city center you can find what is perhaps the most colorful village in the world. Painted by Huang Yong-Fu in a desperate attempt to preserve his home that was about to be torn down by the government, this artsy village has now become one of Taiwan’s most famous attractions!
  • Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House : the birthplace of Taiwan's famous boba, aka bubble tea. Here you can take a bubble tea-making class and learn how to create these delicious and highly addictive concoctions yourself.
  • Taichung Second Market : an authentic wet market with 100 years of history. Here you can eat local dishes created from secret family recipes handed down for generations!

Book your Taichung accommodation: Modern Inn

Click here to read about more things to do in Taichung .

Day 12 – 13: Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan on a cloudy day

Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan and a very popular place to visit. It sure is a gorgeous place, unfortunately, the rain that found us in Taichung followed us to Sun Moon Lake.

We had planned to do lots of outdoor activities, like cycling around the lake and hiking up Mt. Shuishe.

Instead, we spent most of our time in the Starbucks in Shuishe Village, running outside whenever the rain stopped for a brief moment to take pictures of the still beautiful-looking lake.

Nevertheless, there are tons of things to do at Sun Moon Lake when the weather is nice:

  • Follow (part of) the Yuetan Bike Path : a 29 kilometers bike route that goes around Sun Moon Lake. You can also opt for a shorter section of approximately 12 kilometers.
  • Ride the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway‭: from the Ropeway, you can enjoy the best views over the lake and forested mountains.
  • Visit the Wenwu Temple and Ci En Pagoda : these beautiful constructions‭ are highly worth a visit, and both can be reached with the  Round-The-Lake-Bus .

Book your Sun Moon Lake accommodation: Itathao Motel

? Discount : if you're planning a trip to Sun Moon Lake,  check out the Sun Moon Lake ropeway combo pass , which includes the ropeway, bike rental, and a boat trip over the lake.

Day 14 – 19: Taipei (part I)

Taipei skyline at dusk

I loved Taipei! I'm not usually one for big cities for a long period of time, but I really enjoyed our time in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. We spent 12 days there in total and still didn't run out of things to do.

What I loved most about Taipei is how easy it was to get away from the busy part of town and find some peace and quiet.

There is so much nature just a subway ride away from the center! For example, we hiked a mountain trail in the Maokong area and didn't come across anyone else.

I've written an extensive post about Taipei and a blog about day trips from Taipei , but to sum up, here are some of the main Taipei highlights to add to your Taipei itinerary.

Admire the view from the iconic Taipei 101

Go up to the observation deck on the 91st floor for marvelous birds-eye views of Taipei city ( purchase a fast-track ticket here ).

Explore the National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum Taipei Taiwan

This huge museum houses one of the world's largest collections of ancient Chinese artifacts and is highly worth a visit. Click here to buy your ticket online .

Hike the Elephant Mountain trail

A steep but short walk to the top of Elephant Mountain (a 183-meter high hill) offering beautiful views over Taipei and the aforementioned Taipei 101.

Visit Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a huge and impressive building. Try to time your visit to coincide with the changing of the guards (every hour on the hour from 10 am to 4 pm).

Also visit the nearby Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness, National Concert Hall, and the National Theater.

Eat your way around Shilin Night Market 

Shilin Night Market is one of the best night markets in Taiwan, and also one of the largest in the country. Sample some famous street food dishes such as stinky tofu, fried buns, bubble tea, and oyster omelet.

There are so many food stalls you'll inevitably find yourself coming back a second night to try out more typical Taiwanese foods and snacks.

Take a day trip to Maokong

This is a pretty little village on the outskirts of Taipei that can be reached via the Maokong gondola ( buy your online ticket here ) or bus.

There are several great hiking trails around the village, which is known for the cultivation of high-quality tea.

Book your Taipei accommodation: Comma Boutique Hotel

Click here to read about more things to do in Taipei .

Day 20 – 23: Hualien and the Taroko Gorge

Qingshui Cliffs Taiwan

The East coast was my favorite part of Taiwan and I have only seen a small section! There are steep cliffs, a stunning blue ocean, marble mountains, and a green jungle.

It's much less populated than the rest of Taiwan, only 4% of the Taiwanese live on the East Coast. We spent 3 days in Hualien and used this relaxed city as a base to explore the famous Taroko Gorge and the area south of Hualien.

Some of the best things to do around Hualien are:

  • Qinshui Cliffs : the combination of the steep cliffs and the vivid blue color of the ocean is a spectacular sight.
  • Taroko Gorge: one of the most popular places to visit in Taiwan and rightly so, it's a beautiful place. There are hiking trails, waterfalls, rope bridges, and amazing views wherever you look. Click here to book a day trip from Taipei or take a Taroko tour from Hualien city .
  • East Coast National Scenic Area : we rented a scooter and went for an adventurous drive along the coast and mountainous area south of Hualien.

Book your Hualien accommodation: Honey B Trip B&B

Click here to read about more things to do in Hualien .

Day 24-29: Taipei (part II)

View from Elephant Hill Taipei

Because of the approaching typhoon season, it was already very rainy on the East Coast. Therefore we did not continue south to Taitung ( cycling Taiwan’s east coast is a very popular option) but went back to Taipei instead.

In Taipei, we had mostly sunny days for the remainder of our trip and there was a lot more to do in and around Taipei so this was the best option for us.

But I sure would love to see more of the East coast of Taiwan!

Alternative Taiwan itineraries (5, 7, and 10 days + 2 and 3 weeks)

Taiwan itinerary 5 days.

If you just have 5 days to travel around Taiwan, don't worry! While you cannot see everything the island has to offer, you can get a taste and feel of the country.

This is how I would spend a Taiwan 5 day itinerary:

  • Day 1-2: Taipei
  • Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, Maokong , or Yehliu Geopark )
  • Day 4: travel to Sun Moon Lake
  • Day 5: explore Sun Moon Lake and return to Taipei

Da'an Forest Park Taipei

Taiwan itinerary 7 days

For a 7-day Taiwan itinerary, I'd suggest the following:

  • Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, Maokong or Thousand Island Lake and the Shiding tea township )
  • Day 5: explore Sun Moon Lake and travel to Taichung ( book HSR tickets with a discount here )
  • Day 6: Taichung
  • Day 7: Taichung and return to Taipei

With this Taiwan 1 week itinerary, you will get to explore the buzzing capital as well as Taiwan's second-largest city, Taichung, and one of Taiwan's absolute highlights: the beautiful Sun Moon Lake.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Taiwan itinerary 10 days

This 10 day Taiwan itinerary not only includes the two major cities of Taiwan (Taipei and Taichung), but also the two most beautiful natural sights: Taroko Gorge on the East Coast and Sun Moon Lake in the middle of the Island.

  • Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, or Maokong )
  • Day 4: travel to Hualien
  • Day 5: visit Taroko Gorge
  • Day 6: travel to Sun Moon Lake
  • Day 7: Sun Moon Lake
  • Day 8-9: Taichung
  • Day 10: Return to Taipei

For days 4-10 of this Taiwan 10 day itinerary, it's easiest to rent a car as this will allow you to explore Taroko Gorge independently.

It's also the easiest way to travel from the East Coast to the West coast. If you opt to travel via public transportation, the best way to travel from Hualien to Sun Moon Lake is via Taipei.

Blue ocean near Taroko Gorge and Hualien

Taiwan 2 week itinerary

If you have 2 weeks in Taiwan, I'd recommend traveling either from North to South or vice versa. Your 2 week Taiwan itinerary could look like this:

  • Day 1-3: Taipei
  • Day 4-5: Sun Moon Lake
  • Day 6-7: Taichung
  • Day 8-9: Tainan
  • Day 10-11: Kenting National Park
  • Day 12-14: Kaohsiung

This 2 week Taiwan itinerary is especially suitable for people looking to travel in one direction instead of a loop.

Evening light on Maobitou Park in Kenting Taiwan

Taiwan 3 week itinerary

If you don't mind a fast-paced itinerary, you could make a complete loop around Taiwain in three weeks. For this 3 week Taiwan itinerary, I'd suggest the following route:

  • Day 6-8: Taichung
  • Day 9-10: Tainan
  • Day 11-13: Kaohsiung
  • Day 14-15: Kenting National Park
  • Day 16-17: Taitung
  • Day 18-20: Hualien and Taroko Gorge
  • Day 21: Return to Taipei

You will be traveling a lot with this 3-week itinerary for Taiwan and I'd recommend avoiding monsoon season (which is especially bad on the East Coast).

This itinerary for 3 weeks in Taiwan will show you very different sides of Taiwan. You'll explore several interesting cities, spend enough time at the most beautiful lake in Taiwan and also visit two National Parks (Taroko and Kenting).

Gaomei Wetlands Taichung

Planning a trip to Taiwan: in conclusion

I had a great time in Taiwan and hope this post will help you plan your trip to this wonderful little island.

You can download the map and table with the transport information below. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me a message !

This post was updated in November 2022.

Complete guide to plan the perfect Taiwan trip: itinerary (5, 7 and 10 days + 2, 3 and 4 weeks) with highlights plotted on a map so it’s easy for you to find them. Detailed information how to get from A to B in Taiwan and useful travel tips how to make the most of your trip to Taiwan. Including Kaohsiung, Kenting National Park, Tainan, Taichung, Sun Moon Lake, Taipei and Hualien (Taroko Gorge). #Taiwan #Asia

ViaTravelers

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

Hello, Lotte! Thank you for thsi great blog! Taiwan is such a fascinating place to visit, and I love the Itinerary you gave. It makes an almost two-week trip to Taiwan packed and great!

Monday 4th of October 2021

Thanks for your kind words about my Taiwan itinerary:-) It's such a great country, too bad it's been closed since Covid... Anyway, enjoy your time in Amsterdam (I saw you went on a canal boat trip on your IG).

Monday 18th of January 2021

Thanks so much for sharing such an amazing post of your experience in Taiwan! I've always wanted to visit this country, and your post helped me add even more to my Taiwan must-visit list.

Sunday 24th of January 2021

Thank you for reading my Taiwan post and great to hear it's inspired you (even more) to visit this amazing island. I really loved our time there and would love to go back to explore more (and eat more delicious food...) One day!

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

Thank you so much for all this information. I truly appreciate it! I have been Virtual traveling since C19 and once this pandemic is contained and global green light turns on, Ilike to take my boys (husband and son) to Taiwan. Stay safe and god bless. Thank you

Sunday 10th of January 2021

Hi May Twu,

Thank you for reading my post and most welcome! For now, virtual travel is what will have to do... Hopefully, things will improve in 2021 with vaccine campaigns starting up. I hope you can visit Taiwan in the near future!

Stay safe and thanks again! Lotte

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

Hi. Thanks for the very informative itinerary!

May I know which month did you went to Taiwan? Thanks.

You are welcome! We went to Taiwan in May and left at the start of June. Have a nice trip:-)

Thursday 22nd of February 2018

Thank your for post, it's very useful! Taiwan looks really amazing.

Saturday 24th of February 2018

Thank you, Taiwan is amazing indeed:-)

The Ultimate Taiwan Itinerary (2023)

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taiwan travel destinations

Having completed our own amazing two week Taiwan itinerary exploring the cities, mountains and scenic areas of Taiwan we’ve put together our recommended Taiwan itinerary. From chaotic Taipei to the beauty of Taroko Gorge to the natural wonder of Alishan, Taiwan is breathtaking and one of our favorite places to visit in Asia.  For those of you planning your own Taiwan itinerary, we wanted to share our Taiwan travel guide including the best things to do and what to see in Taiwan. 

Taiwan Itinerary

Table of Contents

Taiwan Itinerary and Route

Most visitors touring around Taiwan either pick up a rental car and self-drive or use a mix of high-speed trains, tourist shuttles and taxis/private drivers to explore the country.

By rental car: With its excellent roads and good driving standards, Taiwan is the perfect country for a road trip. We followed a circular route starting and ending in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city and the point of arrival and departure for most Taiwan travellers – check prices now!

By public transport:  this Taiwan itinerary can also be completed by a mix of trains and buses. On the west coast of Taiwan, the major cities are serviced by High-Speed Rail – check prices here!

  Click here to reserve Taiwan Rail tickets!

Taiwan Route and Map

Here is a map of the route we recommend taking around Taiwan.

The Route:  Taipei – Taichung – Alishan – Kaohsiung – Kenting – Taitung – Taroko Gorge – Taipei

taiwan travel destinations

Click here for the Google map

How to Use This Google Map:  Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.

Renting a car in Taiwan

Navigating Taiwan by rental car is relatively easy and we highly recommend renting a car in Taiwan if you are comfortable driving. The roads are high-quality, driving standards are generally good and fuel is extremely cheap (compared to the UK and Ireland).

We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. Klook.com is a great option as it includes international rental car companies as well as some local options. Book your car now with Klook.com  where you will find the best rental car prices.

Taiwan itinerary tip: An International Driving Permit is mandatory when renting a car in Taiwan so make sure to get an IDP in your home country before departure if you are planning on driving a rental car.

Book your rental car with Klook!

Taiwan itinerary tip: Taipei is extremely well serviced by public transport and its subway is easy to navigate. As such, a rental car isn’t necessary in the city. If you are starting your Taiwan itinerary in Taipei, we recommend only picking up a car after you’ve explored Taipei rather than reserving at the airport on arrival. We picked up our rental car on our last morning in Taipei and left the city immediately for Taichung.  

Taiwan Itinerary

Sim Card & Internet

As with most countries, having mobile data during a trip is invaluable for navigation and research. There are lots of options on arrival at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) – we reserved a Chunghwa Telecom 4g sim through Klook who offer a slightly discounted rate on the airport price – click here for prices!

Taiwan itinerary tip: the Chunghwa desk only opens at 8am so make sure your flight times will work if you reserve in advance.

  Click here to reserve a SIM card!

How long to spend in Taiwan

From the chaotic Taipei to the magnificent sunrises in Alishan, the peaceful Taroko Gorge and the colourful Taichung there’s a lot to squeeze into a Taiwan itinerary. We recommend budgeting around 14 nights to explore Taiwan at a leisurely pace. This will allow you enough time to visit all the major sights and explore each destination fully.  You might wish to cut some things out if you have less time.

Best Time To Visit Taiwan

Depending on your tolerance to high temperatures, you may want to plan your visit to coincide with the cooler months! During the summer, temperatures are consistently over 30° and typhoon season is in full force. Spring and Autumn are a great time to visit Taiwan and its mild winters also mean the winter months are a good option.

Taiwan itinerary tip:  We visited Taiwan at the end of September and we managed to experience a heatwave as well as some typhoons which luckily changed direction at the last minute! The temperatures in Taipei were stifling and we had to retreat to air-conditioned buildings until late in the afternoon.

Taiwan Itinerary

Daily Taiwan Itinerary

We’ve outlined our day to day Taiwan itinerary as a starting point for planning your own Taiwan experience.

Days 1 to 4: Taipei

Taiwan’s capital city really surprised us with the wide variety of things to see and do. After arriving at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport we recommend spending the next three or four nights in Taipei. This will allow you to explore the main sights and to enjoy everything that this fun and chaotic city has to offer. We took the train from Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) to Taipei Main Station – click here for tickets

Click here for MRT tickets to Taipei

An EasyCard makes travel around Taipei and Kaohsiung incredibly easy. The EasyCard is a travel card that you can pre-order in advance and pick up in Taoyuan International Airport. You can preload the card with credit and use it on the metro and buses in Taipei. You can also bundle it with a sim card option that you can pick up at the same time – check prices now!

Buy your EasyCard now

Taiwan Itinerary

From toilet-themed restaurants to colourful temples, stunning nature and awesome day trips, there’s plenty to squeeze into 4 days in Taipei. Check out our round-up of the best things to do in Taipei for more detailed information and photos of each of the attractions. Also check out our detailed Taipei itinerary to help you plan your time in the city. If you are travelling with kids make sure to check out our guide to the best things to do in Taipei with kids .

Taiwan Itinerary

Where to Stay in Taipei

There are many great accommodation options in Taipei.

  • CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending Branch–  we stayed in the CityInn Ximending branch and highly recommend both the location and the hotel. Rooms are compact but fantastic value, service is excellent and the hotel is just a few moments walk from the MRT, a Taipei essential  –  check prices now!
  • Taipei Garden Hotel – another great option located close to Longshan Temple and Ximending –  check prices now!
  • Dandy Hotel, Daan Park – clean, comfortable and located across the street from Taipei’s biggest park, Daan Forest Park –  check prices now!            

Click here for the best Taipei hotel prices

Day 1: Taipei 101, Maokong Gondola and Shilin Night Market

Start the day with a trip to the observation deck of Taipei 101, Taipei’s most iconic building. The 101 story building resembles a giant bamboo stick and the 91st-floor outdoor observation deck offers amazing 360-degree views of the city.

We booked our tickets for Taipei 101 via Klook and highly recommend it. You can reserve your timeslot in advance and for the best price using the Klook app. It’s super simple and avoids waiting in extra lines when Taipei 101 gets busy.  Taiwan activities were mostly discounted when we booked in advance –  check prices now!

Click here to book your Taipei 101 ticket

Taiwan Itinerary

From Taipei 101 make your way to the Taipei Zoo MRT Station where the scenic Maokong Gondola cable car departs. The 30minute glass-bottomed cable car stops at the colourful Zhinan Temple before continuing to the quaint mountaintop village of Maokong known for its tea plantations and tea shops.

Taiwan Itinerary tip:  We purchased combo tickets for the Maokong Gondola and an evening double decker sightseeing tour from Klook in advance and it was awesome value. The gondola is closed most Monday’s so make sure to plan your trip around the gondola’s opening hours – click here to purchase the gondola and night tour combo tickets!

Click here to purchase Gondola tickets

Finish the day with a visit to Shilin Night Market, Taipei’s largest night market with over 500 stalls. There are some incredible Bid Gourmand stalls serving dishes such as Hai You Pork Ribs and Bin Small Sausage in Large Sausage, where the sausage wrapped in sticky rice is a huge hit. There’s a lot more to Shilin than just food and you can do everything from playing arcade games to praying in the temple located in the centre of the market.

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 2: Elephant Mountain, CKS Memorial Hall, Ximending and Raohe night market

Start the day with a short but steep sunrise hike up Elephant Mountain which rewards with some of the best views of Taipei. The trail is well maintained with plenty of rest stops and some awesome viewing platforms.

Taiwan Itinerary

After admiring Taipei from Elephant Mountain it’s time to explore the history of Taiwan with a visit to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The CKS Memorial is an important Taiwanese landmark erected in honour of the first president of Taiwan.

Taiwan Itinerary

A themed cafe is a Taipei staple and a trip to the Modern Toilet Restaurant in Ximending is as novelty as they come. The entire restaurant is toilet themed. Meals are served in toilets, drinks in bedpans and the seats are full-sized toilets! Having filled up on poo themed dishes take a stroll around Ximending, one of Taipei’s quirkiest neighbourhoods.

Taiwan Itinerary

If you prefer a serious foodie treat, eat at the Fuhung Noodle Restaurant. The shop is located just north of Ximending and is home to some of the best noodles we’ve ever had.

Taiwan Itinerary

Longshan Temple is next on the agenda. Longshan is Taiwan’s most famous and well-loved temple and is located in the historic neighbourhood of Wanhua.

Taiwan Itinerary

If you still have some energy, the Raohe Night Market is a short MRT ride away and is perfect for an early evening walk through.

Taiwan itinerary tip: our favourite dish in Raohe was the Fuzhou Shizu Black Pepper Buns. They are not to be missed!

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 3: A Taipei park, the world’s highest Starbucks and Beitou Hot Springs

Start the morning with a visit to one of Taipei’s parks. Our favourites are Daan Forest Park, Taipei’s largest park, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, a repurposed art, design and cultural venue and 228 Peace Memorial Park, a poignant tribute to the thousands of Taiwanese who died in the February 28, 1947, massacre.

taiwan travel destinations

Visit the world’s highest Starbucks which is located on the 35th floor at Taipei 101 and offers spectacular views of Taipei. A visit to Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a reservation and the coffee shop has a minimum spend for visitors.

Taiwan itinerary tip:  The Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a telephone reservation. Ask you hotel desk to make the reservation as you will likely need to speak Mandarin.

Taiwan Itinerary

Spend the afternoon at the Beitou Hot Springs which are just 30 minutes outside Taipei and accessible via the MRT. There is a wide range of options for bathing in the hot springs: there are less expensive public hot springs as well as private baths and upscale hotels and resorts. As well as bathing, the scenic Beitou Hot Spring Park is beautiful to explore together with the Hot Spring Museum and Library which are located within the park.

Day 4: Jiufen, Shifen and Yehliu Geopark

Taipei is surrounded by amazing natural beauty and a day trip outside the city is an essential addition to any Taipei itinerary. Shifen, Jiufen and the Yehliu Geopark are a great combination to discover a taste of Northern Taiwan.

The Yehliu Geopark contains a fascinating collection of unique geological formations in an otherworldly landscape created by sea erosion. It’s a beautiful coastal walk and a very popular stop outside Taipei.

Taiwan Itinerary

The old street in the charming town of Jiufen is a tourist magnet with visitors indulging in local specialities such as glutinous rice cakes, peanut ice cream and fish balls in between souvenir shopping. The A-Mei Tea House is one of the most prominent landmarks in Jiufen and offers both great tea and great views!

Taiwan Itinerary

Shifen is famous for both its old street and its scenic waterfall. The old streets of Shifen, located around the railway track, are where visitors congregate to release colourful lanterns bearing their wishes in life.

Taiwan Itinerary

Taiwan itinerary tip : we visited Jiufen, Shiefen and Yeuhliu Geo Park using our rental car. If you prefer to use a tour, Klook offers a great shuttle bus options which ferries passengers between the key sights of Jiufen, Shifen and the Yehliu Geo Park on the North East coast of Taiwan –  click here to reserve shuttle bus tickets!

Click here to reserve shuttle bus tickets

Days 5 and 6: Taichung

After a few days of exploring Taipei, it’s time to head south to Taichung, Taiwan’s second-largest city. Taichung is busy and colourful and was a surprise hit in our Taiwan itinerary! There are lots of things to do Taichung and it is also the gateway for the immensely popular Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions.

Where to Stay in Taichung

Taichung is a surprisingly large city and choosing where to stay can be tricky. We recommend:

  • CityInn Hotel Plus – Taichung Station Branch – we loved the CityInn brand in Taiwan. Located in east Taichung beside Taichung’s main train station, the CityInn Hotel Plus is a great option. Rooms are clean and modern and the extra facilities like free common areas with coffee/refreshments and on-site laundry are invaluable –  click here to book now!
  • La Vida Hotel – Regularly rated as one of the best hotels in Taichung, La Vida Hotel is a great option for those who want easy access to the Feng Chia Night Market. With European designed rooms the hotel is super comfortable and great for a stay in Taichung –    click here to book now!
  • The Hung’s Mansion – where we chose to stay in Taichung and it’s a great option if you are driving like we were. With free parking, large comfortable rooms and great food, Hungs Mansion is also a short walk to the incredible Feng Chia Night Market – click here to book now!

Click here for the best Taichung hotel prices

How to get to Taichung

I t took us around 2 hours to drive between Taipei and Taichung .  I t takes one hour to travel by High-Speed Rail between Taipei and Taichung –  click here to buy rail tickets!

Click here to buy tickets to Taichung

Things to do in Taichung

Taichung deserves at least one full day to explore and, if we were to return, we’d allow two days! Start the morning at Rainbow Village , Taiwan’s most colourful neighbourhood before heading north of the city to the beautiful Zhongshe Flower Market. As well as a sea of flowers, props such as pianos, swings, and tractors make for great fun and great photo opportunities.

Taiwan itinerary tip:  tour buses arrive at Rainbow Village shortly after its 8am opening so we recommend arriving as close to 8am as possible. Zhongshe Flower Market tends to get busy in the afternoon when families congregate for barbeques.

Taiwan Itinerary

Animation Alley is a great pit stop with its cartoon and Magna themed street art.

taiwan travel destinations

The 921 Earthquake Museum is a poignant place to visit: it is located on the site of a former junior high school and crosses the fault on which the earthquake occurred. The exterior remains as it did after the earthquake on Tuesday, 21 September 1999.

Taiwan Itinerary

There are endless food and drink options in Taichung: our three favourites are Chung Shiu Tang, the touted home of Taiwan’s famous bubble tea, Miyahara for its Pineapple Cakes and I’m Talato, an ice cream shop with an ice cream floatie filled pool.

Round up the day with a trip to Feng Chia Night Market where the food is good and the clothing unique.

Taiwan Things to do in Taichung

Day 7: Sun Moon Lake

How to get to Sun Moon Lake: Sun Moon Lake is a 1hour 15-minute drive from Taichung and is easily accessible by bus from both Taichung (approximately 2 hours) or Alishan (up to 3.5hours).

The cycle path surrounding the turquoise blue waters of Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular ways to explore the Sun Moon Lake area. There’s also a scenic gondola cable car that offers beautiful views of the lake and connects it with the Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village.

Taiwan Itinerary

Our other favourite stops were the Ci-En Pagoda and the Wen-Wu Temple . The 8 story Ci-En Pagoda requires a short uphill hike and is renowned for its views over the lake while the Chinese style Wen-Wu is vibrant and loud and there are lovely views of the lake over the burnt orange rooftops.

taiwan travel destinations

Finish the day with some street food at Ita Thao before returning to Taichung for the night.

Taiwan itinerary tip: the drive between Taichung and Sun Moon Lake takes about 75 minutes so we preferred to base ourselves in Taichung. Sun Moon Lake accommodation tends to be more expensive given its tourist draw and we were happy to drive.

Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake

If you wish to stay in the Sun Moon Lake area, some good options are:

  • Fleur de Chine Hotel Sun Moon Lake: expensive but excellent with beautiful views over the lake – check prices now!
  • Mei Jen House: homestay with great rooms, a vegan breakfast and an awesome sunrise tour. A great small but budget-friendly option in Sun Moon Lake – check prices now!

Click here for the best Sun Moon Lake Hotel prices

Day 8: Alishan

A mix of wilderness and tea plantations characterize the mountainous Alishan National Scenic Area. The Alishan sunrises are legendary in Taiwan and our time in Alishan was a highlight of our trip. From chasing the ‘Yun Hai’, the coveted sea cloud sunrise, to the historic railway and the stunning hiking trails Alishan is an excellent addition to any Taiwan itinerary.

taiwan travel destinations

Where to Stay in Alishan

  • Alishan House/Alishan Hotel – the best hotel in the Alishan National Scenic Area and where we spent our night in Alishan. Rooms are expensive but the location is outstanding. It is worth the extra for the upgrade from the dated standard room in the old building to a superior room in the new building. Guests are not allowed to drive into the Scenic Area but the hotel runs a regular shuttle bus between the car park and the hotel – check prices now!
  • Wankou Hotel: 5 minutes walk from the train station, Wankou Hotel is a good less expensive option to Alishan House. Nice views, clean rooms and good value accommodation – check prices now!
  • Cing Shan Hotel : basic option located close to the train station, rooms are compact – check prices now!

Click here for the best Alishan Hotel prices

Taiwan Itinerary

How to get to Alishan

The High-Speed Railway takes less than 40 minutes between Taichung and Chiayi Station and, from Chiayi, the bus takes 2 hours. Direct buses from Sun Moon Lake take up to 3.5hours. The drive from Taichung took around 3 hours in total.

Things to do in Alishan

There are 5 Wonders of Alishan and, although luck and weather dependent, most visitors strive to see them all. The 5 Wonders of Alishan are:

  • Alishan Forest Railway
  • The forest trails
  • The sea of clouds
Taiwan itinerary tip: With some planning it’s possible to see Alishan’s Wonders during a one-night stay. If you wish to explore more extensively or at a more leisurely pace then extend the stay to two nights.

Aim to arrive in Alishan in the afternoon and take advantage of some of the stunning hiking trails in the area. Our favourite hike was to the Sacred Tree, estimated to be 3,000 years old before it collapsed in 1997. It’s located at the Sacred Tree (Shenmu) Railway and the trails pass giant red cypress trees which are over 1,000 years old.

After exploring the Alishan trails make sure to catch a famous Alishan sunset – we watched it from the amazingly located observation deck at the Alishan House Hotel , one of the best sunset spots in the Alishan Scenic Area.

Click here to reserve the Alishan House Hotel

Taiwan Itinerary

It’s an early start in order to catch the legendary Alishan sunrise. We arranged our shuttle bus to the train station through the Alishan House Hotel on arrival the previous afternoon. After a 4:30 am wake-up call, we boarded the train to Chusan and watched the sunrise from the viewing platform.

After checking out we stopped by the Alishan Post Office and posted a traditional Alishan wooded postcard before leaving for Kaohsiung.

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 9: Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung is a large port city in Southern Taiwan. Although we used it as a stopover between Alishan and Kaohsiung, we soon discovered it is vibrant and charming in its own right.

Where to stay in Kaohsiung 

  • Grand Hi La –  one of the best hotels in Kaohsiung. With a perfect location in the centre of the Sanduo shopping district, Hotel Cozzi has luxurious rooms and high-end furnishings which make for a truly amazing stay – check prices now!
  • Hotel Cozzi  – this large luxury hotel is conveniently located above a shopping mall right in the centre of Kaohsiung and is a great option for exploring the city. There are lots of restaurants close to the hotel –  check prices now!
  • Hotel Dua –  g reat transport connections via the adjacent MRT station the Hotel Dua is a great location for exploring the city  –  check prices now!

Click here for the best Kaohsiung Hotel prices

How to get to Kaohsiung

Take the bus from Alishan to Chiayi Station (journey time is around 2 hours 10 minutes) and, from there, take the train to Kaohsiung, a further 2 hours 10 minutes. Our drive time was around 3 hours in total.

Things to do in Kaohsiung

We only had a half day to explore Kaohsiung as we used the city as a stopover on our journey between Alishan and Kenting. The city deserves at least to days to see properly and if you are staying in the city, some of the best things to do in Kaohsiung are:

  • Kaohsiung Night Markets: the Ruifeng Night Market is considered one of the best night food markets in Taiwan and its stalls serve up a mouth-watering array of local delicacies.
  • Lotus Pond and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas: visitors to Kaohsiung are encouraged run into the mouth of the dragon and out of the tiger’s jaws at the 7-story twin Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. The reward is a reversal in fortune and a turn from bad luck to good.
  • Cycle Cijn Island: Cijn Island is a black sand beach on a narrow strip of island in the city. The island, accessible by ferry or bridge, is a popular day excursion in Kaohsiung.
  • Dream Mall: Kaohsiung’s Dream Mall is the largest in Taiwan and East Asia and even boasts an amusement park with a Ferris Wheel on its rooftop!
  • Pier 2: once an abandoned warehouse site, Pier 2 now houses a large scale open air public art display. The quirky sculptures and artworks are a real treat and the area is vibrant and lively and one of the best places to visit in Kaohsiung.

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 10 and 11: Kenting

The seaside town of Kenting is located at the southern tip of Taiwan and is famous for its picturesque beaches and lush green national park.

Where to stay in Kenting

Accommodation in Kenting is a mix of resort-style beachside hotels and smaller, boutique-style options.

  • Caesar Park Hotel – resort hotel with direct beach access and an abundance of kids activities including a kids recreation centre in the basement –  check prices now!
  • Chateau Beach Resort – located by the beach, just 5 to 10 minutes from Kenting Main Street. The hotel has stunning ocean views and a nice pool area – check prices now!
  • Amanda Kenting – we opted for the smaller Amanda Kenting Hotel. The Moroccan themed hotel has great rooms, a lovely indoor pool and free exotic costume rental for photos! – check prices now!

Click here for the best Kenting Hotel prices

How to get to Kenting:

take the Kenting Express Bus from Kaohsiung’s Zuoying HSR station to Kenting. The journey time varies between 2 and 3 hours. The drive time is less than 2 hours.

Things to do in Kenting

Kenting is the perfect spot for some rest and relaxation. While we didn’t follow a strict itinerary, our favourite activities included:

  • a ride on the Kenting Hai World Semi Submarine with its glass-bottomed panoramic views of the Kenting coral reefs
  • paddling in the tidepools and shallow swimming spots
  • visiting Baisha White Sand Bay, a beautiful beach which featured in the movie The Life of Pi
  • exploring Kenting National Park and its lighthouse
  • standing at the southernmost point in Taiwan which is marked by an observation station
  • indulging in the street food, clothes and carnival games at the Kenting Night Market
  • Snorkeling in Wanlitong Beach

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 12: Taitung

Taitung is a sprawling, coastal town and a popular stopover between Kenting and Taroko Gorge. It is home to the Beinan Cultural Park, one of the largest and most important cultural sites in Taiwan. Taitung also acts as a gateway to the volcanic islands of Green Island and Orchid Island.

Where to stay in Taitung

  • Kindness Hotel – clean and comfortable option with good breakfast and evening night snacks in Taitung city –  check prices now!
  • Papago International Resort – although one hour outside Taitung it is a great location for a stopover between Kenting and Taroko Gorge. Lovely outdoor pool, hot tub and hot springs with a children’s playground – check prices now!
  • Inn by the Village – located close to the railway, rooms are modern and spacious and the breakfast decent – check prices now!

Click here for the best Taitung hotel prices

How to get to Taitung:

take the bus from Kenting to Fanglaio (journey time 1 hour). From there, take the train between Fanglaio and Taitung (90 minutes). The drive time is 2 hours 30 minutes.

Things to do in Taitung

If you have time to explore Taitung some of the best things to do are:

  • Beinan Cultural Park: the largest and most important cultural site in Taiwan. It was excavated in the 1980s when thousands of slate coffins were unearthed together with jewellery, pottery and tools.
  • Brown Road: home to the famous Mr Brown Taiwanese Coffee and surrounded by rice fields and mountains.
  • Orchid Island and Green Island: volcanic islands off the coast of Taitung famous for snorkelling, hot springs, coastal scenery and strong Aboriginal culture.

Taiwan Itinerary

Day 13 and 14: Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge is another stunning stop in Taiwan. Taroko means magnificent and splendid and the mesmerizing scenery makes it more than deserving of the name. The steep mountains are covered in thick forest and a deep gorge carved out by the Liwu River, winds through the forest floor.

Taiwan Itinerary

Where to stay in Taroko Gorge

Visitors to Taroko Gorge can stay in the Taroko National Park, close to the entrance to the park or in nearby Hualien where the trains from Taipei arrive and depart. We recommend staying in the park for both the close to nature experience and the convenience for sightseeing.

  • Silks Place Taroko: we treated ourselves to a gorge view room in the luxury Silks Place Taroko which is located in the heart of the Taroko National Park. The facilities are amazing: there’s a rooftop outdoor pool (where we enjoyed a movie screening in the evening) and hot tubs, an indoor pool and tennis courts – check prices now!
  • Taroko Village Hotel: located less than 1km from Swallow Grotto, the Taroko Village Hotel is a less expensive option to Silks Place for guests wanting to stay inside the Taroko National Park – check prices now!
  • Chateau de Chine Hotel Hualien: if you opt for Hualien the Chateau de Chine Hotel is a good choice with its colourful exterior and spacious themed rooms– check prices now!

Click here for the best Taroko Gorge Hotel prices

Taiwan Itinerary

How to get to Taroko Gorge:

we drove from Taitung to the Taroko National Park (around 4 hours). Public transport services the nearby city of Hualien, a 4-hour bus journey from Taitung. If you are arriving from Alishan you can take the bus to Taroko Gorge. If you are arriving from Taipei, an express train serves Hualien.

How to get around Taroko Gorge: there are a few options for navigating Taroko National Park. We used our rental car to explore. Many guests use a taxi/private car or rent a motorbike. If you are based in Hualien, it’s easy to join a tour – reserve a Taroko Gorge tour here!

Things to do in Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge is all about nature and most visitors spend the day hopping between its best short trails, bridges and viewpoints!

Begin the day with a hike through the relatively easy 4km Baiyang Trail which rewards with a stunning water curtain as well as magnificent views of the gorge along the way. Start early to avoid the crowds, bring a flashlight to navigate the tunnels and beware of the monkeys! Due to loose rock visitors are only allowed to the entrance of the first Water Curtain.

The next stop is the ever-popular Swallow Grotto, one of the best places from which to view the gorge. It is a short and flat footpath in the middle of the park and the surrounding river walls are lined with swallow nests

Taiwan Itinerary

The Taroko Eternal Spring Changchun Shrine is one of the most popular sites in the park. The stunning temple sits atop a natural spring and was built in honour of the many who lost their lives building the highway through Taroko National Park.

taiwan travel destinations

We also loved the Chingxi Suspension Bridge and the Cimu Bridge. On the way out of the park make sure to stop at the stunning Qinghui Cliffs where visitors have the opportunity to admire the three distinct color tones that make up the Pacific Ocean

Taiwan Itinerary

Taiwan itinerary tip: some of the trails in Taroko Gorge are closed due to weather damage so make sure to check the official website for the latest trail availability. There is a Visitor’s Centre at the entrance to the park which also provides trail information.

Day 15: Depart Taipei

Day 15 is a day of leisure until it’s time for your flight from Taipei.

How to get to Taipei: take the bus from Taroko Gorge to Hualien or Xincheng Station and then hop on the train to Taipei. The drive took around 3 hours.

For more on Taiwan

  • Check out our round up of the best things to do in Taipei!

16 thoughts on “The Ultimate Taiwan Itinerary (2023)”

My husband and I are planning a trip to Hong Kong & Taiwan in December. The plan was 7 days each; however, after reading your itinerary it is beginning to look like I’m going to have to wrangle more days in Taiwan. The experience looks amazing!! Also, I really like the layout of your page. It gives me what I’m looking for without having to hunt through the fluff. Thanks!!

Thanks Amy, so happy you liked the post. Taiwan is amazing, Hong Kong too!

Have an awesome trip!

My husband and I are also going to HK & Taiwan at the end of November into mid-December. We are spending 8 days each that’s because we have friends and relatives in HK so we planned 3-4 days meeting people. However, I think 8 days in Taiwan is still too short to explore and enjoy, every where we go is going to be a rush. We are skipping the east side of the island. If you have not finalize your trip, I would suggest to spend less time in HK since it’s a much smaller city, and allocate more days in Taiwan. Enjoy your trip!

How did you find travel with the little one, was it mostly pram friendly or did you use a carrier?

We used a mix of carrier and stroller. Sometimes on the subway it was easier to carry him than search for an elevator!

Overall, it was a really baby friendly trip! We cover our family travels on Show Them the Globe , there’s some Taiwan articles over there too!

Hi Elaine – great blog post! We are thinking of traveling to Taiwan, possibly next Dec and would like to hire a car for convenience, rather than use public transport. Are hotels with cheap/free parking easy to find outside Taipei? How about parking in general at tourist sites (esp. at Taroko Gorge)? Are tourist sites/viewpoints signposted at Taroko Gorge? Many thanks for any info you could supply!

Hi Elizabeth

Parking was included in places like Alishan (the public car park where the hotel shuttles pick up from), Taroko Gorge, Kenting. It was only included in a few hotels in Taichung but i guess that’s to be expected in a city. In Taroko Gorge, parking was easy to find at some viewpoints but there are only a few spaces at the smaller view points so you might have to wait. We did some of our sightseeing before breakfast and had the viewpoints almost to ourselves!

Have a great trip Elaine

Hi Elaine, Great blog. Thanks for sharing all this information on Taiwan. Can you please share something else? Did you book all your accomodation in advance or were you able to just drive into a place and find accom when you got there? I look forward to your reply as we are headed to Taiwan at the end of December this year. Thanks Janie

It was really busy when we were there in September. I’m sure you get accommodation as you go but, for the more popular places, I’d probably reserve in advance.

Great post. A question: what is the best season to tour Taiwan based on your research or experience? Many thanks. I probably will have more question as we go deeper into our planning. Many thanks.

Spring or Autumn. Winter is fine if you don’t mind low temperatures. Summer is hot and humid and avoid typhoon season. We got caught in the tail end of the season in late September but it was ok.

Did you every drive in the taipei city area? Is it easy to drive and to find parking?

Planning to rent car over there since we have elderly with us. Thank you

Hi Nabihah, yes we drove in and around Taipei City during our time in Taiwan. Driving was surprisingly easy and while parking was tricky if you plan it in advance there are parking spaces in most places. Have fun

We are thinking of going with our little one when she turns one in Sept/Oct (hopefully that is okay time,probably Oct though is better?). Since you have 3 little ones, do you have recommendations with traveling with a little one? She is currently 4 months old and we just booked our flight from Canada to Hong Kong. We plan to add Taiwan in there as well. It’s great to hear that your trip was baby friendly!

Oh one more question, is it better to fly with little ones during the day or night!?

I much prefer night flights so the kids can sleep through most of it. We just flew 10 hours from Dublin to LA and back over Christmas and the daytime flight was so hard trying to entertain our one year old! She just wants to be free to run around and explore! The night flight was so much easier as she slept for 90% of it. I’ve always been really lucky with night flights but you do run the risk that they won’t sleep at all – if you think there’s a good chance they won’t sleep I’d probably stick to a daytime flight.

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Best Time to Visit

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Guide

Best Taiwan Hotels

Top Things to Do in Taiwan

Best Beaches

Food to Try

Top Things to Do in Taipei

Best Museums

Best Restaurants

Nightlife Guide

Getting Around Taipei

Day Trips From Taipei

Your Trip to Taiwan: The Complete Guide

taiwan travel destinations

When it comes to Western tourists, Taiwan is still under the radar when compared to Japan, Mainland China, and Hong Kong, yet it manages to take the best of all three and jam pack those into a tiny island. From Taipei's pulsing, future-forward districts of Xinyi and Ximen and nightlife, to lush swathes of nature, outdoor activities, and mineral-rich hot springs, stunning arts, creativity, and culture, to excellent transportation options including a bullet train, and wide array of Chinese, Japanese, and indigenous cuisines, Taiwan offers something for every traveler.

Planning Your Trip To Taiwan

  • Best Time To Visit: While the majority of Taiwan falls into the subtropical category climate-wise  , the winters can be substantially drier, pleasant, and even cold enough during January and February to require a jacket and other winter apparel. Fall's October and November months are a sweet spot when it comes to weather, while March through May are warmer and see cherry blossoms, and are also hot enough to hit the beaches in Taiwan's tropical south.
  • Language: As with Mainland China, Taiwan's official language is Mandarin  , which became the case post-WWII. However, Taiwan is multilingual thanks to both its indigenous cultures and periods of occupation, and other common tongues include Taiwanese Hokkien and Hakka.
  • Currency: The New Taiwan Dollar (TWD).
  • Getting Around: The Taiwan High Speed Rail system runs almost the entire length of the island from North to South, with stops in a dozen cities including Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Zuoying/Kaohsiung (there may be line extensions in the future as well). A robust assortment of public transportation routes also exist for bigger cities, like Taipei's MRT subway/rail , and buses to and from airports, while taxis are also readily available and not expensive. Conveniently for those who can't read Chinese characters, Uber is present in Taipei (again), while the Taiwan ride hailing app Find Taxi also has an English language option.
  • Travel Tip: The Chinese New Year is the equivalent of the West's holiday season, and for as long as several weeks locals take leave of their jobs, close up small businesses and restaurants, and return to their hometowns or head overseas on vacation. It's a double-edged sword for tourists to visit during this time, since on one hand, you'll avoid crowds and lines, and can experience the colorful Lantern Festival and parades, but you'll also find some attractions, activities, restaurants, and stores closed, especially on the New Year itself.

Things To Do

Like Japan to the north (albeit without the snow and subtropical temperatures!), Taiwan offers a diverse and distinct combination of city, nature, culture, and adventurous activities including relaxing, natural hot springs, and more blended all together in the same city! Just Taipei alone can serve as a holistic sampler of everything Taiwan has to offer, yet it's so easy to traverse other cities all over the island thanks to the high speed rail, you can curate an extensive sampler itinerary from North to South.

  • Explore Taiwan's Famed Night Markets: If you ask a Taiwanese expat what they miss most about home, chances are they'll say the vibrant night market culture of their homeland. Spread all over the country, with dozens in major cities, these markets offer a wide array of street food and trendy delicacies, including the aptly named stinky tofu, frisbee-sized tapioca flour crispy crusted chicken cutlets, "coffin bread," and much more including clothing, gadgets, and other goods.
  • Soak in Taiwan's Natural Hot Springs : Like Japan, Taiwan boasts mineral-rich hot springs and resorts built around them (as well as more humble, public access, low-cost facilities). Conveniently, a handful can be found in the Beitou district in Taipei (which is home to a Hot Spring Museum as well!) while other popular hot spring destinations include Hualien County's Wenshan , Miali County's Tai'an, and Jiaoxi's Tangweigou Hot Spring Park.
  • Take in The City Views From Taipei's 101 Tower: The world's largest tower when it first opened in 2004   (and now ranking number 10), this stacked cup-shaped skyscraper features an incredible multi-level observation deck from which you can see both the modern cityscape and natural wonders it's nestled in, plus a xiao long bao (soup dumpling) lunch afterwards at the ground floor's Din Tai Fung restaurant.
  • Enjoy the Splendor of Taroko Natural Park : Once you've had your fill of modern metropolis delights in Taipei or another larger city, explore the stunning glory of Taroko through its many trails and iconic gorge.

Explore more of the best Taiwan has to offer with articles on the top 15 things to do In Taipei , our Taipei city guide for LGBTQ+ visitors , and overview of the Taipei 101 tower .

What To Eat And Drink

The past decade has seen an evolution of Taiwanese cuisine thanks to innovative fine dining chefs who take earthy local, seasonal ingredients to technique-forward Michelin star levels at restaurants like Taipei's RAW and Mume , and Taichung's Singaporean-Taiwanese fusion venue JL Studio . Some of the foods most often associated with Taiwan are accessible, unpretentious, and delicious; most famously, "bubble/boba tea," which entails a tea, juice, or even milk beverage served with a scoop of chewy tapioca pearls. Although only invented in the 1980s, it's now an international phenomenon, and Taiwan sees all kinds of innovative, creative new takes and artisanal brands as well as big chains making the beverage.

Stinky tofu is one of the most popular—and aptly named—street foods in Taiwan, so much that there is even an entire street dedicated to it. Shenkeng Tofu Street is located in New Taipei's Shenking district, and offers many takes on the odious acquired taste and smell, as well as non-stinky tofu iterations and even deserts.

Xiao Long Bao is another Taiwan must-eat. Known in Western countries as "soup dumplings," this staple may have originated in Mainland China and its Shanghainese iteration is found all over the world (a bit flabby, with a thick dough skin that contains soup and usually succulent pork), but Taiwan's Michelin-starred chain Din Tai Fung helped popularize Taiwan's daintier, thinner-skinned, one-or-two-bite sized version both domestically and abroad. You'll find twists on Din Tai Fung's formula and fillings in restaurants all over Taiwan.

Bubble tea aside, the Taiwanese also satisfy their sweet tooth with the signature local snacks, Pineapple Cake and nougats. The former can be found everywhere, including airport shops and 7-Eleven, but for the good stuff, the handmade, real pineapple-filled shortcakes from SunnyHills are a must (but do note their limited shelf life, as with all preservative-free foods). Nougats are also found all over Taiwan, but local gourmands feel the yummiest can be snagged at Taipei's Okura Prestige Hotel shop (they get snatched up fast during holidays for gifts).

Where To Stay

Taiwan offers a pretty wide range of accommodations and price points, from international chains to local luxury and boutique properties. Taipei's Chinese palace-style Grand Hotel is an architectural icon (albeit inconvenient to public transport) and classic. More contemporary, newer properties like Mandarin Oriental , W Taipei , and Hotel Proverbs offer primo city district locations and gorgeous modern decor.

In contrast to Hong Kong, Taipei's hotels are a steal price-wise, especially its local boutique properties (unless there's some major convention or function). Although heavily regulated, Airbnb does have a Taiwanese presence and is currently legal. However, as with some other destinations the legal lines get blurry over specific kinds of stays, some hosts only speak/write in Chinese, and their house rules can be more strict than in other Asian countries. However, price-wise they are extremely reasonable.

For TripSavvy's current top hotel picks, check out the best Taiwan hotels .

Getting There

Located outside city limits and requiring a chunk of time to commute a la Tokyo's Narita, Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is the country's biggest, busiest air transportation hub and home base for EVA Air and China Airlines (both offer direct flights to and from U.S. cities). Two terminals, with a third in the works, feature oodles of places to eat and drink, from Taiwanese fare to Starbucks and even some local craft beer.

There's a second, conveniently located but smaller area airport, Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA), which services cities within Taiwan and China, and a couple of other Asian countries. Southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH) is the second largest/busiest air hub, with more than two dozen Asian airlines and destinations, including Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Macao serviced.

Culture And Customs

Although any business with an international or Western clientele, especially five-star hotel brands, will generally have an English-speaking staff and wording on map apps, English isn't that prevalent on a whole in Taiwan (and English translations for the same road or business can be phonetically spelled out in many different ways). A Chinese-English translation app can be extremely valuable for communicating, and having locals enter the Chinese letter names of destinations directly into your favorite map app is also an extremely helpful tool for finding places and getting around independently of tours, guides, etc. Taiwanese people are typically friendly, unpretentious, and polite, so don't be afraid to ask for assistance!

Money Saving Tips

  • The food choices are plentiful and prices are cheap at Taiwan's night markets, making these a perfectly thrifty way to fill up your belly with authentic local fare.
  • Another unique Taiwan attraction is its creative art parks: imminently walkable and photo-friendly districts (often comprised of abandoned factories or military facilities) now filled with murals, galleries, craft shops, cafes, and exhibitions (though some of the latter do charge admission). These include Taipei's Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and Huashan 1914 Creative Park , Tainan's Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park , and Kaohsiung's Pier-2 Art Center .
  • Book a trip during low season, which is usually both during the chillier winter months and late summer's hot, monsoon-plagued time, which also happens to be the "Ghost Festival," which is when the entirety of Taiwan is believed to be haunted by spirits and it's considered ill-advised to travel (August to September).

Britannica. "Taiwan: Climate."

WorldAtlas. "What Languages Are Spoken In Taiwan?" April 25, 2017

Skyscraper Museum. "Supertall 2020: Lineup"

The Top 15 Things to Do in Taiwan

The Top 10 Foods to Try in Taiwan

Top 15 Things To Do In Taipei

20 Best Things to Do in Shanghai

LGBTQ Travel Guide: Taipei, Taiwan

New York City's Flushing Chinatown: The Complete Guide

The Top 15 Restaurants in Taipei

Top 10 Foods to Try in Hong Kong

Your Trip to Shanghai: The Complete Guide

The Best Time to Visit Taiwan

Getting Around Taipei: Guide to Public Transportation

Your Trip to Kolkata: The Complete Guide

Your Trip to Charleston: The Complete Guide

Weather in Taiwan: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Why This Gay Man Prefers to Travel Solo

Going Awesome Places

Detailed itineraries + travel guides

12 Days in Taiwan Travel Guide – Itinerary to Explore the Entire Island

Last Updated February 22, 2023 William Tang

You are here: Home » Travel Itineraries » 12 Days in Taiwan Travel Guide – Itinerary to Explore the Entire Island

Taiwan is known by many names but perhaps the most memorable one is Formosa .  Now that sounds a bit odd but it was in fact coined by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century.  Ilha Formosa   directly translates to “Beautiful Island” and they sure got it right.

Between the energy of the dynamic urban cities, bustling of the famed night markets, colourful culture, fascinating history, incredibly friendly people, and dramatic landscapes, you’ll be amazed at just how much awesome can be packed in this island.

This 12 day Taiwan itinerary (just short of two weeks) follows our journey around the entire island and is geared towards those that have the curiosity of a tiger and the adventurous courage of a dragon.  Now I will say it is a trip that required a bit of stamina to keep up but for the limited time we were there, I’m so glad we were able to see and do all the things we did.  That said, feel free to mix and match as you craft own trip as I know many of you are looking for a Taiwan 7 day itinerary.  As with all of our trip guides, I like providing as much detail as possible to make your planning that much easier.

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Table of Contents

  • Pre-Trip Guide
  • Day 1 – Hitting The Ground Running in Taipei
  • Day 2 – Spirited Away
  • Day 3 – Winding Up To Alishan
  • Day 4 – The Almost Sunrise
  • Day 5 – Artsy Urban Kaohsiung
  • Day 6 – The Surf Challenge
  • Day 7 – Fly With The Wind
  • Day 8 – Ridin’ in Taitung
  • Day 9 – Taroko Tribe In The Mountains
  • Day 10 – Shakadang Is My New Favourite Word
  • Day 11 – Tai Chi, Hot Springs and Shrimps
  • Day 12 – Mad Dash for Pineapple Pastry
  • Where to Stay

12 Day Taiwan Itinerary Pre-Trip Guide

12 day taiwan itinerary trip planning guide

Taiwan currency is the New Taiwan Dollar ($NT).  TWD is also another symbol that is used.

  • Mental math for North Americans:  To convert things quickly in your head, cut one zero and we divided by 3.  This brings it closer to USD.  For CAD, you just “add a little”.
  • Quick reference print outs:  Oanda’s fxCheatSheet  is pretty handy.
  • App: For iOS users, I recommend the free app xCurrency .

Taiwan uses the exact same electrical standard as North America:  110V/60Hz AC.

taiwan travel destinations

Best Time To Visit

Taiwan goes through a full four seasons however they are less pronounced and they lean towards the humid subtropical climate.  It’s all personal preference but the best time to go would be either in late spring (April to May) or autumn (November) for a great blend of comfortable temperatures and smaller crowds.  Also keep in mind that temperatures will vary depending on where you are in the country which means it’ll be much warmer in the south vs. Taipei vs. in the mountains.

  • Spring (March – May): Very mild and pleasant where only long sleeve is required [Average 15ºC to 27ºC]
  • Summer (June – September):  Very hot and humid with chances of rain as well.  Keep in mind that this is typhoon season as well [Average 24ºC to 31ºC]
  • Autumn (October – November): Begins to cool down but is still very comfortable [Average 18ºC to 30ºC]
  • Winter (December – February):  Jacket season where it can get foggy due to northeasterly winds from Siberia [Average 13ºC to 19ºC]

taiwan temperature averages in 12 day taiwan itinerary

How To Fly To Taiwan

Flights to Taiwan will vary drastically depending on where you’re flying from.  If you’re coming from Asia, there are a number of low cost carriers to choose from including AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, and Scoot.  For the rest of the world, the two big national airlines to look out for are China Airlines (SkyTeam) and EVA Air (Star Alliance).

The primary international airport is Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) and for most international travellers, that is where you will want to land.  What you may not realize though is that there are alternative airports that you can use to jump to different parts of the country or directly fly into.  The two other international airports can be found at Kaohsiung (KHH) and Taichung (RMQ).  Another popular airport that you might want to try to search if you’re coming from other parts of Asia is Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei (TSA).

I had the opportunity to fly EVA Air both direct from Vancouver and Toronto and had a fabulous experience with them.  Including a quirky interpretive dance safety video, pre-boarding complimentary tea, some of the best food I’ve had on the plane, and great service.

Where To Stay

There are so many choices for hotels in Taiwan that range from budget to mid-range and luxury.  In Taipei, you’ll find the big international brands but across the country, don’t be afraid to book local branded properties.  In this 12 day itinerary, you’ll see that we’ve chosen reasonably priced 4 star properties that all managed to impress.

Since you’ll be on the move quite a bit on this itinerary, homestays traditionally may not be a good option but if you can find one that only requires a minimum of 2 nights, you could swing it.

For where to stay in Taipei , make sure to read the neighbourhood guide to find out the best properties you can stay at

For the whole island, look on Booking.com for the best prices.

How to Get Around

Unless you’re travelling to one of the smaller islands of Taiwan (i.e. Penghu or Xiao Liu Qiu), your best bet is to take advantage of the excellent land transportation options that are available.

The best way to cover large distances along the west coast of the island is the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR/HSR) which is equivalent to Japan’s bullet train.  At a top speed of 300 km/h, you can get from Taipei to Kaohsiung in just over 1.5 hours.  In cities and towns that aren’t covered by THSR/HSR, there are traditional trains covered by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA).

In the big cities such as Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Taichung, you have an extensive and efficient subway network which is also called the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.

There are always buses  to fall back on. In the cities, I’d recommend using them only if you know the route and schedule.  That being said, if you’re going to be doing places like Alishan, Kenting, and Taitung, you’re going to need to familiarize yourself with what’s called the  Taiwan Tourist Shuttle .  These are buses created in coordination with the tourism bureau to make it easier for travellers to get to popular sightseeing destinations.  They’re typically more conveniently marked with English which makes things easier.

Taxis are easy to hail in the big cities and if not you can always get your hotel to call one for you.  Expect this to be your most expensive mode of transportation.

Scooters are often the preferred way of getting around in places like Kenting not to mention the most fun.  Roads aren’t crazy hectic like in Thailand so it’s quite safe.  What you need to know though is that they require local motorcycle licenses to drive motorized scooters.  Electric scooters are much easier to rent as long as you’ve done it before.  If you haven’t, they might reject you or you’ll be required to do a small lesson like we did.  If you continue reading the itinerary portion of this guide, you’ll learn why you really need one to get around.

Car rentals are another way to get around that often doesn’t get much attention.  Make sure you book in advance and do your research in advanced as English will be at a minimum when engaging with car rental companies and driving directions.  Make sure you have your international drivers license.

Lastly, I’d like to mention private drivers as this is another popular way to see the country.  These are typically taxi drivers that have their own side business.  I never had a chance to book one but did run across a cabbie that told us about his services and read about quite a number of them on TripAdvisor forums .  The beauty of this is that you can create your own itinerary and do it in the comfort of a private vehicle, skipping complicated commutes, and saving time as well.  It may be hard to find English-speaking drivers but I’m sure they’re out there.  This is best used for day trips such as up to Yehliu Geopark, Danshui, Jiufen, etc.

 Tips: 

All the types of contactless IC cards you can find in Taiwan

  • What’s confusing in Taiwan is that there are multiple types of contactless cards (EasyCard, icash 2.0, and iPass).  I’m not going to pretend to be able to explain differences between them but the one that you want to get is EasyCard as it’s the most widely accepted around the country for most local transit (MRT and buses) and stores.  You can buy them at MRT stations but convenient stores like 7-11 and Family Mart sell them too.  Warning:  7-11 will try to sell you on their icash cards but make sure you get EasyCard (don’t make the same mistake that I made).  The beauty of the EasyCard is that all credit can be refunded at MRT stations whereas it is not easy/impossible with the other cards.
  • In Taipei, there is also something called the Taipei Pass that you can consider where you can get unlimited rides for the number of days that you purchase.  Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it as the EasyCard is just more hassle free and keeps things flexible.
  • Uber is available but isn’t worth it if your ride is less than $NT 35 or if surge pricing is on but on longer rides they can be marginally cheaper.  They’re operating in a restricted mode in Taipei only where cars can only drive for Uber if the car is rented from a specific company.  You’ll also find that most regular cabs don’t take rechargeable cards nor credit cards so expect to pay cash.
  • While Google is pretty good at providing schedules and directions for public transportation especially in Taipei, I’d recommend getting a local to help you when possible especially when it comes to buses.

Do I Need A Visa?

There are a number of visa regulations that depend on your nationality.  For most of you, the good news here is that you will most likely be visa exempt or you’ll be able to purchase a visa on arrival, eVisa, or an Online Travel Authorization Certificate.  Your best is to get most up-to-date information on visas for Taiwan .

If you’re coming from one of the 60 countries that don’t require a visa, you’re in luck.  As a Canadian, all I needed was a passport that was not expiring in the next 6 months, and I was granted a 90 day stay by the customs official after landing at the airport.  I didn’t have to visit the visa on arrival desk or anything – just walk right to the customs counters.

Wifi, Data, and Must Download Apps

The most important question is whether you should get a SIM card or a personal hotspot.  This comes down to whether you’ll be making calls or not and the answer will most likely be that all you care about is data.  If that is the case, you’re going to want to pick up a personal hotspot (pocket wifi) .   Taiwan’s rates are so cheap for unlimited use and the great thing about it is that you can share wifi with everyone in your group.

I reserved my device from a Chinese site called APTG that rents out WiFun and as unlimited data usage for $NT 100 per day (~$3.36 USD).  What I like about them is that you can actually get them to deliver it to your hotel ($NT 180 fee).  You just might need someone local to help you out.

If that’s a little complicated, there are also device rental shops right outside of arrivals at TPE.  The one I remember seeing is Unite Traveler (find them here ).

Before you leave home, here are a few apps that you should download to make your life on the road easier.

  • TP Metro – Lightweight app by rGuide that has a map of the Taipei MTR for quick reference.
  • Skype – This will be even more critical if you’re going with the personal hotspot option.  The few times we had to make calls, having credit with Skype definitely came in handy.
  • Google Maps – The offline feature of Google Maps is helpful as a backup if the wifi dies (dead zone or out of battery).

Luggage Storage Solution

One of the things I love about Asia and Taiwan in particular is how good they are with their luggage storage options.  This is super handy when you’ve got that awkward in between time from the point you check out into your hotel in the morning and you have to catch a train or bus to somewhere else but still want to explore without lugging it around.  That’s when those lockers really come in handy.

The traditional solution – The standard way to do this is to go to find a locker in a train station where there are usually large clusters of multi-sized lockers.  They’re not expensive and for instance Zuoying in Kaohsiung only cost $NT 50 for 3 hours.  You just have to remember to have cash on hand.  The challenge though is that if you’re not near the obvious places for lockers, it’s a bit of challenge to figure out where you can go.  The other thing to consider is size.  There’s no way of knowing whether the large lockers are available and what if you need somewhere to store something in a fridge?

The Airbnb of lockers – That’s where Lalalocker comes in.  Instead of hunting an elusive locker, all you have to do is check their platform to see what lockers are available in your area.  All you have to do is book your locker, show up, drop off your stuff, and pick it up when you need it.  It’s all part of the share economy where you’ll find locker locations anywhere from restaurants, stores, and hotels.  It’s completely safe, and the price is a flat rate of $NT 150 for large luggage and $NT 70 for small luggage for the whole day.

Store your stuff with Lalalocker

Going Awesome Places has an exclusive offer with Lalalocker. Use code GOINGAWESOMEPLACES to save $NT 30 per booking.

Book your storage locker

What To Prepare

This really depends on what time of year you’re planning your Taiwan itinerary and I won’t list out everything we brought but I would recommend you read my previous packing lists for trips to Ireland , South Africa , Ethiopia , and Peru .

For Taiwan specifically, here are a few must-haves that you’ll want to pack and things to consider to make your life easier on the road:

  • Power bank – A high capacity power bank such as Anker’s 20,100 mAh , is a must-have in my mind considering the fact that your phone will be your lifeline for on-the-fly translations, maps, transit, and last-minute searches.  The personal hotspot devices drain battery like crazy so you’ll need to charge them halfway through the day.
  • Waterproof jacket – You never know when it’s going to rain and I sure was glad to have something like the Columbia’s OutDry gear with me.
  • Booking your train tickets ahead of time – It was truly a blessing for us to have MyTaiwanTour help with reserving of all the main trains that could be booked based on our itinerary.

The 12 day Taiwan itinerary

This is how our 12 days looked like during our trip to Taiwan.  With this day by day breakdown, you’ll get a clear picture of everything that we did and all the spots that we hit up.  Where I can, I also provide personal travel tips (signified by ) so look out for those.

Interactive Map

>> Day 1 – Hit The Ground Running In Taipei <<

Views of Taipei 101 from Xiangshan Elephant MOuntain

The perfect way to start your trip and get over your jetlag is to arrive in the heart of Taiwan and start wandering.  Go and take in Taipei’s iconic landmarks, feed your hunger at the bustling night markets, and jump right into the colourful culture.

With limited number of days in Taipei, you’ll want to make it count and pick the places that interest you to help decide what you’d like to focus on.  You won’t be able to do everything but remember that you’ll have the rest of your trip to make up for it.

For me, since I had been to Taipei before, my focus was on places I hadn’t been to which meant cutting out a lot of the highlights that other guides will take you to (i.e. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Taipei 101, and Longshan Temple).  What you’ll see below are all the places we managed to hit up in the first day before there was nothing left in the tank.  The focus for the day was primarily food and also getting set up with things like the pocket wifi and EasyCard.

★  Elephant Mountain

Stairs of Elephant Mountain Xiangshan

The views from Elephant Mountain or Xiangshan are arguable the best in the city and very easy to get to as long as you have it mapped out ahead of time.  The path to it will seem a little obscure but once you come out of the subway, you’ll no doubt see other tourists making their way there.

The hike itself isn’t particularly long but I would recommend preparing yourself for some serious stair-master.  The ascent is a sheer 20 minute climb but thankfully there are lots of places to stop, benches to rest, and great views from the forest.

Elephant Mountain is but one of the peaks in a collection of trails that make up the Four Beasts Mountains.  That said, if you’re like me and primarily interested in that epic shot of downtown Taipei, just focus on hiking straight up until you reach the Six Giant Rocks to get those iconic photos of you on the rock.  There’s also big platform below the final steps up that is great for views.

Detailed Xiangshan Elephant Mountain Trail Map

TIPS: Sunset is the best time to go as you get the insane explosion of colours if the weather cooperates and past sunset you get the night skyline as well.

WHERE TO EAT

Yongkang Beef Noodle

★ LUNCH: Yongkang Beef Noodle It would be a mistake not to try Taiwan’s famous beef noodle soup.  When I arrived, there was a modest line outside the restaurant but turnover is relatively quick here and I was seated within 10 minutes.  I ordered the non-spicy version of the beef noodles and spare ribs, both of which were PHENOMENAL.  The beef was perfectly cooked in juiciness and fat.  The noodles had also just the right amount of bounce.  #believethehype

Smoothie House on Yongkang Street

★ SNACK: Smoothie House You can’t miss this when you walk along the famed Yongkang street.  This big yellow building at the corner is home to the mango shaved ice that CNN made famous (or at least that’s what the signs tell me).  I ordered the mango shaved ice and it was oh-so heavenly.  The shavings from the block of mango ice fluff onto a mountain which translates to a wonderfully light and melt-in-your-mouth taste that you can only equate to eating fresh snow off the ground.  If that wasn’t enough mango, you get real mangoes drizzled with mango sauce and then panna cotta to top it off.

TIPS: There’s not a whole lot of seating on the ground floor but what isn’t obvious is that there’s inside seating upstairs.

Jing Mei Night Market Skewers

★ DINNER: Jing Mei Market In search of something a little bit more local and off-the-beaten-path, I was recommended to this night market in the southern part of Taipei.  I wanted a night market that wasn’t packed with tourists and I wanted to see where real locals ate.  I found it in this night market.  The streets weren’t overcrowded here, the food especially the octopus, fried sweet potato balls, sponge cake, and oyster omelette were all very good and noticeably cheaper than what you’d find in Shilin night market.  It’s not a large market but I quite enjoyed that it wasn’t overwhelming.

WHERE TO STAY

★  The Sonnien Hotel  (2 nights)

Sonnien Hotel Room

We couldn’t have asked for a better hotel to start the trip.  Modern, clean, and the most fluffy of beds, it was just the right size and conveniently located.

Walking distance to Yongkang Street and equidistant from Daan Park station on the Red line and Zhongxiao Xinsheng on the Blue/Yellow line, we had no trouble getting to everywhere we wanted to go our first two nights in Taipei.

Sonnien Hotel Taipei Outdoor Entrance

The buffet breakfast included with our stay was also fabulous with everything from hot dishes like noodles, stir-friend vegetables, dim sum, salad, congee, and miso soup.  It was so good that I often regretted eating so much because there was so much other food to eat throughout the day!

TIPS: If you arrive super early in the morning like we did, I actually booked an extra night’s hotel so we wouldn’t be forced to hit the road right away.  Instead, the room was ready for us and I was able to take a nap.

CHECK RATES

Save money on your trip to Taiwan

I travelled through Taiwan primarily through the help of a local company on the ground called MyTaiwanTour .  They were the ones that booked my train tickets and hotels which made my life so much easier . They are an operator based out of Taipei and specialize in custom-tailored solutions and English-based packaged tours around Taiwan.  I highly recommend them!

Save 5% on tours with MyTaiwanTour by using code  WILL19.

>> Day 2 – Spirited Away <<

Famous Miyazaki Spirited Away Inspiration In Juifen

After a day getting your fill of a few of Taipei’s highlights, it’s time to shake things up and head north.  What’s there you ask?  If you’ve ever wanted to launch your own sky lantern, explore the remains of a Japanese gold mine, and walk through streets that inspired Miyazaki’s classic “Spirited Away”, you’re in for a treat.  And yes, you get to do ALL of that in a day.

  A post shared by Will ✈🌐 GoingAwesomePlaces (@goingawesomeplaces) on Dec 5, 2017 at 2:58pm PST

★ Jiufen and Pingxi Day Tour with MyTaiwanTour

Golden Waterfalls Near Jinguashi

One of the things I love about Taiwan is that it isn’t very hard to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and get a big dose of charm, history, and culture in the northern towns.  Choosing MyTaiwanTour was a no-brainer as they made it really easy to book online and is the English speaking tour that we were looking for.

In our spacious van, our group of 7 spent the day exploring these spots:

  • Jinguashi Mines :  Coming into Taiwan, I had little knowledge of its Japanese occupation past and this was my introduction to what is fascinating history.  Front and centre in the Shuinandong area are the remains of a very serious mining operation as you get to see from afar and close up the abandoned buildings, funicular, tunnels, and land-based smoke stacks.
  • Golden Waterfalls :  Located just a bit further up from the mines, watch the water tumble down what really does look like a gold-laden waterfall.
  • Jiufen :  Once a prosperous gold mining town, Jiufen is now a popular tourist destination known for being the inspiration of Myazaki’s “Spirited Away”.  Spend just a few minutes here and you can see why it has that enchanted quality to it.  Adorned with strings of red lanterns, old tea houses, and streets lined with delicious local treats, we were let loose here for lunch.  My only regret is that it we easily could’ve spent more time getting lost in its maze of alleyways.
  • Shifen Old Street in Pingxi : If you’ve ever wanted to get the FULL experience of building a giant sky lantern from scratch, write your own wishes, and launch them to the heavens, consider your dreams fulfilled.  What makes this even more picture perfect is that you get to do this in a small town while standing in between live running train track.

We came out of the tour with a better appreciation for Taiwan’s history, our tummies filled, and our wishes delivered.  I would highly recommend this day trip as it’s one that would be very difficult to do on your own and I very much enjoyed the service of our guide and driver, Summer and Tom.

Sweet Potato, Taro and Green Tea Balls in Juifen

★ LUNCH: Jiufen Sure, Jiufen does get insanely packed with tourists, but we we didn’t let it bother us too much because we were hungry hippos on a mission.  Our guide, Summer, gave us a few tips on what to look out for and then we were unleashed!

Here is what we picked up along the way ( for our favs):

  • Stinky tofu
  •  Sweet glutinous balls
  • Mochi on a stick
  • A-Zhu peanut ice cream roll (九份阿珠雪在燒)
  • Taiwanese meatball

Total damage?  $325 TWD which is equivalent to a $11 USD lunch for two.  DEAL!

★ DINNER: Shilin Night Market

All Kinds of Sausage at Shilin Night Market

This is perhaps Taiwan’s most famous and largest night market and with its grid of streets lined with a variety of traditional, western, and local cuisines and merchandise.  It’s very much a choose-your-adventure kind of experience where you’ll start off in one corner of the market and slowly make your way to the other side.  Just make sure to come with an empty stomach.

MyTaiwanTour was kind enough to give us the option for drop-off after our day trip and mentioned Shilin Night Market as an option.  We jumped on the opportunity because it is a bit of a distance from the Taiwan core and you really can’t say no.

TIPS:  Make sure to try fried pork buns, bubble tea, wild boar sausage, and octopus.  Beyond food, I highly recommend dropping a few coins on any one of the claw game booths, try your hand at one of the carnival games and the underground floor that is part of the covered section of Shilin.

>> Day 3 – Winding Up In Alishan <<

Watching Clouds Roll Over Trees At Alishan Observation Deck

Alishan is one of Taiwan’s most visited national park and for good reason.  Located way up above the clouds, it’s here that you’ll find the most magnificent terrain of giant red cypress trees that are more than 2,000 years old, Rivendell-like hiking trails, and trains from a different era.  This region is also well-known for its tea because it is grown at such high altitude.

The tricky thing about Alishan though is that it’s quite the journey to get there and one that isn’t necessarily the most clear when it comes to English instructions.  When constructing your itinerary, you’ll also quickly realize that you easily need to account for 2 days to make it work.  As a result, this day is dedicated to getting to Alishan which is quite the adventure on its own.

HOW TO GET THERE

There’s so much information about this that it really deserves its own dedicated article so make sure you read the full guide on everything you need to know about Alishan .

Alishan Forest Railway Museum

Since we elected to take the bus up to Alishan, we could have easily bypassed the small town of Fenqihu but I’m sure glad we didn’t.

Fenqihu is an old town that used to be a legitimate refuelling stop for the trains heading their way up to Alishan for what used to be a lumbering operation.   Today, it is mainly a rest stop for travellers that want to see the fascinating railway museum, the old street which features food specialities, similar to that of Jiufen, and most importantly their famous ‘Fenqihu bento box’.

TIPS:  There are lockers at the train station for $NT 30 for 3 hours which is perfect for your refuelling stop.

★ Sunset from Alishan House

Sunset from Alishan House Observation Deck

Psst…I’ll let you in on a secret.  The sunsets from Alishan House are just incredible.  Now I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but whether you stay there or not, I would recommend sneaking inside and going up to the 8th floor observation deck .  If you’re lucky, you’ll see the sea of cloud that Alishan is known for.

I ended up showing up here towards the end of the sunrise because I wasn’t sure if the rain would dissipate but when I got there it did.  I had a mind-blowing 20 minutes filming a timelapse of the waves of clouds climbing the mountainside.

★ LUNCH: Fenqihu Bento Box Place

Fenqihu Bento Box Man

There’s probably a more proper name for this place but when you get to Fengqihu, everyone will know what you’re talking about and if not, just follow the posters of the bento box to a 7/11 along the main street.  You can either take a bento box to go for $NT 100 or eat in for $NT 120 for the authentic metal container experience.

Fengqhu Classic Bento Boxes On Way To Alishan

The epitome of Taiwanese comfort food, it comes with a bed of rice with a pork chop, drumstick, tea egg, and a mix of fresh and preserved vegetables.  It was the perfect lunch, so much so that we started with one and ended up with two for the both of us.  If you decide to eat in, you can also have their mushroom and bamboo shoot soup.

TIPS:  If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, you can buy a metal bento containers for $NT 300 (includes the meal).  We were thinking about picking one up but they couldn’t confirm whether it was oven safe or not.

★ DINNER: Room Service at Alishan House

The truth is we were exhausted by the time we got to our hotel and it just seemed like too much work to take a shuttle back down to the train station where there were a number of local restaurants.  The restaurant at the hotel was also a little expensive for our tastes since it was a buffet ($NT 900 if I remember correctly).

If you’re curious, we ended up ordering fried rice and noodles from Alishan House’s room service but if we had a little bit more energy, I’m sure we could’ve had a better meal at the entrance to the park and near the visitor centre.

★ Alishan House

Alishan House Lobby

I’m not sure if I’d recommend staying anywhere else if you come to Alishan.  It’s one of the few properties that is inside the Alishan Forest Recreation Area and is most definitely the nicest.  For quite a reasonable nightly rate, you get a number of bonuses and conveniences that more than make up for the cost.

  • Massive room that you can tell was recently renovated, has a huge bathroom, and complete with fireplace and balcony
  • Hiking trails in the park start right from the hotel which means you don’t need to purchase additional train tickets from the Alishan station to Zhaoping station
  • Complimentary shuttle service to and from the train station
  • Convenience of purchasing sunrise train ticket from the front desk
  • Willing to hold bags for you as you explore the next day
  • The most decadent of breakfast buffets
  • The observation deck is just awesome

A nice bonus is that each room comes with a single-serving of the region’s famous Alishan tea.

>> Day 4 – The Almost Sunrise <<

Hiking Alishan Forest Trail

They say there are 5 wonder of Alishan but the most well-known of them all and the one that everyone goes crazy for is the sunrise.  There’s good reason for it as it’s apparently ranked #16 in sunrises around the world.  Now where that list comes from, I have no idea, but I heard it from the crazy local guy shouting to the crowd of sunrisers so it’s gotta be real right?

Alishan Sunrise Commentary Guy

Now I can’t promise that you’ll see a sunrise there but what I can promise you is that the forest trails in the rest of recreational area are quite the magical experience especially when you get that moment by yourself and you feel that you can hear every pin drop.  Whether you’re watching the train run through what seems like an ancient track, you’re feeling puny standing beside giant trees that are actually ancient, or you feel like you’re in a scene lifted from the ancient forest of Mirkwood of the Woodland Realm 🤓.

Now what are the rest of the wonders of Alishan?  There’s the sunset, forest train, forest trains and cloud sea.  What I love about Alishan is that it’s not overwhelmingly large and with one day, you can easily see all the wonders and not feel like you missed out on anything else.

HOW TO GET TO THERE

For a detailed account of how the sunrise works, how to get back down to Chiayi, make sure you read the full Alishan Guide .

★ Alishan Sunrise

As Close To A Sunrise From Chusan in Alishan

I have no doubt that when you can actually see a sunrise, the view is quite glorious.  We weren’t quite lucky enough due to the time of the year but that’s kind of how it goes!  That said, I do consider ourselves lucky that it wasn’t a total wash when it came to the views as the sky opened a few times and we also saw the forming and flowing of clouds in the valley beneath us.

The sunrise itself isn’t on any peak called Alishan but in fact an adjacent mountain called Chusan.  That is why you have to take a separate train from Alishan to Chusan station so you can rise up to an elevation of 2407 meters to look at the surrounding mountain range.

If you get hungry up there, there are a line of stalls that open specifically for the sunrise.  The food may not be very good but it’ll help tide things over until breakfast.

TIPS:   The sunrise position changes throughout the year.  In the winter time, the sun comes up towards to the right side and in the summer, it’s more towards the left side so pick a spot accordingly.

TIPS:   Tripods are allowed but just note that you’ll be jockeying with other people for space so be careful.  Also, you’ll notice that there’s a single tree near the middle and beyond the fence that will make it challenging how you want to frame your shot (to have the tree in your shot or not).  I started with a wide angle lens but eventually went for a longer lens to capture the detail in the clouds.  Just be prepared to adapt to the changing weather conditions.

★ Alishan Forest Trails

Amongst Giants in Alishan

Beyond the sunrise, there’s a magical network of trails in the National Forest Recreation Area to be discovered where ancient trees stand tall and a narrow-gauge train runs through.  You’ll catch yourself wanting to take photos from every angle here as it’s photogenic everywhere you walk through.

For the full details of how we broke down our day between sunrise and hiking the Alishan forest trails, make sure to read Everything You Need To Know About Alishan .

In retrospect, coming to Taiwan in December and during low season worked out quite well for us in that it never felt like there were an immense number of people which was one of my biggest worries in reading about everyone else’s experiences.  The train ride up to Chusan wasn’t ridiculously packed, the trails were never lined with tourists, and the buses to and from the park were never full.  Now if you came during high season, I’m sure the experience would be a little different.

What we missed:  Giant Tree of Mt. Shuishan and extended hiking trails like the one up to Tashan

Besides the breakfast at Alishan House, we didn’t actually end up having a proper meal the rest of the day.  We just had a bunch of snacks that we had accumulated from the trip so far and things we picked up at 7-11 or Sushi Express takeout we grabbed at the Chiayi THSR station.

By the time we got to our hotel in Kaohsiung, we were both too lazy and tired to head back out.

★ Hoya Resort Hotel

Hoya Resort Kaohsiung Breakfast Buffet

This is a practically brand new hotel in Kaohsiung which was a nice surprise because the room was modernly decorated, very spacious, clean, and comfortable.  It’s also neighbour to the Kaisyuan and Jin-Zuan Night Market which is key because the truth is that it’s a little bit far from the centre of the city.  Just note that Kaisyuan is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Jin-Zuan is only open on the weekend.

I usually don’t complain too much about location but once you’re off the subway, there’s quite a long walk without a true sidewalk to get to the hotel or you have to hail a cab which isn’t very convenient.  As a result, we didn’t end up going back out the night we arrived.  My recommendation would be to find a hotel closer to the Zuoying THSR station or Formosa Boulevard Station (where you’ll find Dome of Light) to avoid the long commute especially if you’er only staying the one night.

>> Day 5 – Artsy Urban Kaohsiung <<

Dragon Entrance Of the Twin Pagodas in Kaohsiung

The southern city of Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second-largest city is nothing like its bigger brother and that’s what makes it such a worthy destination.  Where Taipei feels packed in, aging, and sprawling, you immediate feel that there’s so much more breathing room here with its wider streets and modern urban landscapes of skyscrapers, airy cafes, gentrified spaces, bicycle lanes, and ferris wheels on the tops of malls.  There are less people rushing around, less cars on the road, and fewer people to be seen.

The biggest surprise of all was perhaps the vision the city had in converting a once-thriving industrial port into a hub of art, design, and entertainment.  With its graffiti, art installations, galleries, trendy cafes, and boutiques, it’s the perfect place to wander.  We kept making more and more discoveries here that what was supposed to be an hour-long stop turned out to be our whole afternoon.

This is your only day to explore the city before catching a shuttle bus down to Kenting so make the most of it!

★ Tiger and Dragon Pagodas

Tiger and Dragon Pagodas in Kaohsiung

Feel down on your luck and looking for a way to turn things around?  Look no further than this beautiful twin pagoda.

Run into the dragon’s mouth and out of the tiger’s mouth, said no one…ever!  This little superstition has had locals and tourists alike running through to reverse one’s fortune for centuries.  Now whether you believe in luck or not, you’ll still be impressed with the extraordinary detail of the largest paper mache dragon and tiger you’ll ever see.

Climb up one of the pagodas to get a great view of Lotus Lake and the number of other pavilions that line the shore.

TIPS:   This is surprisingly difficult to get to mainly because it’s not on the subway line.  To save time, I would suggest taking the cab there.  We ended up commuting it and learned through a bit of trial and error that from Zuoying THSR station that you have to take the TRA train one stop south to Zuoying Station (I know, not confusing at all).  This is where the kindness of locals came in .

★ Pier 2 Art District

Pier 2 Art District

No one would’ve guessed that abandoned warehouses in Kaohsiung’s harbour would be the perfect spot for a quirky arts hub.  What they’ve done is truly remarkable by bringing in local artists to completely revitalize an area to become a fresh urban space to spark commerce, tourism, and creativity.

Get your camera ready and strike a pose because you’re going to have a ball roaming through the vibrant spirit of my favourite spot in the city.

TIPS:   If you keep going further down on Pier 2, eventually you’ll find SunnyHills which is a famous pineapple pastry shop in Taiwan.  Go inside and you’ll be offered tea and a sample of their cake.  It’s all free!

★ Dome of Light

Dome of Light in Formosa Boulevard Station in Kaohsiung

Located in the Formosa Boulevard Station, the main interchange stop on the MRT, this glorious display of coloured glass is something that will make anyone stop and stare for those passing through.  What’s impressive about it is the scale of the public installation and how it feels like it belongs more in a Las Vegas casino than a subway station.  When you come here, make sure to see if you can spot the four themes of Water, Earth, Light, and Fire.

What we missed:  Cijin Island, Love River, and Ruifong Night Market 

WHERE TO EAT ★ LUNCH: Gang Yuan Beef Noodles

Gang Yuan Beef Noodles Full Menu

You can’t have enough beef noodles.  That is a fact.  Being in a new city, we wanted to try another favourite and were not disappointed. As far as beef noodles go, the noodles are perfectly cooked with the right amount of bounce, and the beef, a remarkable balance of fat, juicy, and tenderness.  Now if I were a judge, I’d say Yongkang Beef Noodle has the slight edge for the soup base and impossibly tender pieces of beef.

The menu is pretty easy to understand here as there aren’t many choices and as a bonus, since they do get many international visitors, they also have an English menu right up at the counter.

★ SNACK:  buonopops

buonopops Ice Cream in Kaohsiung

If you’re looking for Instagrammable ice cream, this is the place but when it comes to how it actually tasted, I don’t know if I’d be able to recommend it.

★ DINNER:  A-Fei Restaurant

Seafood Stirfry Dish At Afei's Restuarant

By the time we reached Kenting, it was quite late and so it was perfect that our hotel for the night also had its own restaurant downstairs.  This was in fact the first time on our trip we had a sit-down dinner.

We ordered fresh seafood paired with stir-fried vegetables, rice, and beer with live music in the background which made for the perfect end to our day.  A-Fei even came by to say hello and chat which was a nice welcoming touch.

Where To Buy Bus Tickets To Kenting From Kaohsiu g

Luckily, getting to Kenting is pretty straightforward.  When you’re at the Zuoying THSR station, look for a special booth that sells shuttle bus tickets to Kenting on your way down to metro station.  The good thing about this shuttle is that it is quite frequent (practically every 30 minutes from 8:30AM to 7:10PM).

There are two ways you can pay.

  • Discounted roundtrip tickets – $NT 600 which has an open ended return date
  • Pay with EasyCard – This is already discounted but you’d have to pay the amount of fare required for each leg you make.

If you’re desperate or missed the last bus, there is always the sketchy local people standing at the bus stop offering people direct rides to Kenting.

TIPS:   The roundtrip ticket is a pretty solid deal and definitely cheaper than paying through EasyCard.  The only downside is that you can’t use your EasyCard credit to pay.

TIPS:   If you have a luggage situation for your day trip exploring Kaohsiung, you can either leave your luggage at your hotel if it’s central enough or you can use the super convenient luggage lockers at the Zuoying THSR station.  It only costs $NT 50 for 3 hours (little more than $1.50 USD).

★ A-Fei Surf Inn (2 nights)

A-Fei Surf Inn Kenting Room

This was probably our big surprise hotel stay of the entire trip and I say that in a good way.  Locals and travellers make their way to Kenting because they want to do one of three things:  surf, beach, and party.  A-Fei ticks off all of those boxes.

We were kind of dropped into this world of A-Fei that pretty much offers everything you would want or need.  Want to go surfing?  He’s got the gear, the transportation, and instructors.  Want to go to the beach?  Nanwan Beach is right across the street.  Want to eat?  Breakfast is covered, and they’ve got fresh seafood cooked to order for lunch and dinner.  Want to party?  They have live music every night and a super friendly owner in A-Fei himself that loves hanging out with his customers.

I haven’t even mentioned our room yet which is uniquely decorated with an eclectic yet appropriate mix of memorabilia from west coast surfing USA, wood carvings from Bali, and decor reminiscent of Hawaii.  It’s a distinct hotel room that gives homage to the great surfing capitals of the world and has a chill vibe that made us feel at home.

>> Day 6 – The Surf Challenge <<

Loading Up A-Fei's Surfing Van

Kenting occupies the most southern part of Taiwan and is the country’s very own beach vacation destination with long stretches of sand, big waves, turquoise waters, rugged high cliffs, and low hilly terraces.  Locals and travellers alike come to Kenting to escape and experience the outdoors in a carefree way.  With the humidity and temperatures up a notch, there’s plenty of activities to do.

For us, it was the first time we were able to shed our rain jackets and long sleeves and were able to trade them in for shorts and flip flops – a much welcome change to our fast-paced schedule.  In Kenting, we made the best of it with our mix of water and land-based fun.

★ Surfing with A-Fei Surfing

Staying at A-Fei’s was intentional in that we knew we wanted to go surfing in Taiwan at some point in time.  Kenting is the perfect place to do it we learned in the winter as the wind was coming in from a northeasterly direction which meant that Taitung would be too strong, leaving Kenting more favourable for beginners.

We let A-Fei and his team know that we wanted to surf the night before and we were pretty much all set to go after breakfast the next morning.  Practically everyone staying at A-Fei’s was surfing so we all got together at 9AM, grabbed our gear (rashgaurd, boots, wetsuit and board), and proceeded to load up a classic Volkswagen T40 hippie van.

Jialeshui Beach in Kenting

Since the waves weren’t looking great across the street at Nanwan Beach, A-Fei decided that we would attempt the beach at Jialeshui which is also where he has his other surf shop and guesthouse (Nanu).  We got dressed at the Nanu shop and went down to the beach.

We had grand visions of riding surf like pros in Kenting but as we got down to the beach and received instructions for where we needed to paddle to, it quickly became apparent that we were in way over our heads.  With a no-fear mentality, we still jumped into the water with our boards and made it out to where we needed to be but the waves were simply too large for us and we floundered like poor helpless fish.  The paddle back to shore was even more difficult as the waves were pushing us into the rocky shore as we tried to maneuver around.  I ended up being smacked on the head with my board and my wife in the shin.

A-Fei Surfing Skills

Overall, I thought the surfing operation was run quite smoothly end to end where as a group we got transport to the beach, had a place to store our clothes at the Nanu shop, could rinse off, and be driven back to Nanwan.  From the beach, I could see that the others were able to rock some serious surf.  You just kind of needed to know what you were doing.

Cost:  $NT 700 for gear rental (board, booties, and wetsuit)

TIPS:   If you’re a beginner like us but have done a few lessons already, let them know that you want to do the beginner surf or tag along one of the introductory lessons.  This way you only have to pay for rental but still be within sights of an introduction instructor.

★ Scooter Adventures

Riding A Scooter in Kenting

The best part about Kenting isn’t necessarily any specific beaches or sights but it’s the chance to live like a local and drive the most popular form of transportation.  You see scooters all over Taiwan but in the big city it’s a little overwhelming so when you get the chance to do it in the tropical south, you have to jump on the opportunity.

What we soon learned though is:

  • Beyond the fun factor, you kind of need a scooter in Kenting because there isn’t much of public transit there
  • It’s not very easy to rent a scooter as a foreigner – gas powered scooters require a special Taiwan license and battery powered scooters require experience

A-Fei suggested a nearby scooter shop which we visited but when they asked if we had ridden a scooter.  I replied honestly “no”.  Initially, they said it would be too dangerous for us but then called his boss and said that he would give us a lesson in their other store.

We got picked up and driven to their main store.  The lesson itself was pretty simple but I’m glad that they spent the time to teach me how to drive it, do things like make turns on streets, and what not to do.  They even watched me drive up and down the street.  Once we got the go-ahead, we signed some basic papers and we were on our way.

At this point it was already past 3PM so she charged us half a day’s rental for $NT 500 including the discount since we were guests of A-Fei’s.  The nice part is that they said we could return it anytime in the night since they live upstairs and that they’d be able to give us a ride back to our hotel.

Sail Rock Kenting By The Beach

We didn’t have too much time to explore all of Kenting on a scooter but did manage to hit up Sail Rock and Eluanbi Lighthouse before turning back around to do the night market.

TIPS:   Kenting is honestly hard to enjoy without a scooter or your own transportation simply because there isn’t much in the way of frequent-enough public transit.  Without a scooter, you’re more or less stuck in whatever part of town you’re in.

What we missed:  If we had more time, we would have loved to have done a full loop around Kenting and make more stops along the way.  ATV-ing was another popular Kenting activity that would’ve been fun to do.  

★ LUNCH: A-Fei Restaurant

A-Fei's Restaurant For Lunch

A-Fei convinced us to have lunch at his restaurant downstairs which actually worked out quite well since our room is right above the restaurant.  Throughout the morning, he was telling us about his awesome pork and lamb dishes so we couldn’t refuse.

A-Fei hustles hard but he wasn’t kidding about how fresh and tasty his food is.  If you’re staying at A-Fei’s, it’s definitely a good idea to have at least one main meal there.

★ DINNER:  Kenting Night Market

The lively Kenting Night Market

There’s no livelier place in Kenting than the night market along the main downtown drag.  What’s incredible about it is that it’s the main artery through the town with regular car traffic passing back and forth but amidst it all are portable carts that get rolled in and massive crowds fill in once the sun goes down.

As far as the food goes, it’s a lot of the standard fare that you’re going to expect to see at any night market.  We had an assortment of pastry, fresh coconut, green onion cake, “sausage in a sausage”, bubble tea, and ice cream to round out our meal for the night.  There wasn’t anything unique per-say but it was a fun way to cap off our day and having our finger on the pulse of the town.

>> Day 7 – Fly With The Wind <<

Getting Ready To Take Flight Paragliding in Luye Gaotai

Continuing along the coastline, arrive in the city of Taitung.  On the onset, it may not feel remarkable as a destination on its own but stay a few days and you’ll slowly be able to unravel adventure, ecological, cultural and culinary gems that have led to it being dubbed as “garden of Taiwan”.

After a half day commute from Kenting to Taitung, we settle into our hotel for the night but the biggest surprise was to come.  I had read that paragliding was a popular activity in the region.  Having been yearning to do it for years now, I knew that I had to pounce on this opportunity.  With a contact I found online, we called to find out what the situation was.  Through my broken Mandarin, I learned that the winds were starting to change and that if we wanted to do it, it had to be that day.  We immediately packed our things and hauled ass out of there.

The paragliding experience was a dream come true for us.  Soaring through the sky with our feet dangling over the expansive farmland below and surrounded by the vastness of mountains and valleys, my fear of heights was immediately dashed.  The crazy thing is that I got to do it twice too.

Getting to Taitung

From Kenting, you have to take the shuttle bus back towards Kaohsiung but get off a little earlier in a place called Fangliao.  It’s here where you catch the local train that will take you straight into Taitung.

Getting to Luye Gaotai

Waiting for the tourist shuttle bus would have taken too long and so we got our hotel to hail a cab for us.  It cost us $NT 700 (~$24 USD) but we managed to get to paragliding spot by 3PM.

Getting Back to Taitung From Luye Gaotai

East Rift Valley Tourist Shuttle Bus

This was a bit of an unexpected adventure for us.  We knew from our printed bus schedules that there was one last tourist shuttle bus at 5:10PM.  We started our way down when we learned that there was a cheaper way back to Taitung via a train from Luye.  We got to the train station at 5:27PM but we soon learned that we had to wait until 6:40PM which gave us time to grab a spontaneous dinner with our new Taiwanese friend.  In retrospect we should’ve just stayed on the bus because we would’ve gotten back in the city by 6:30PM.

★ Soaring Paragliding (翱翔飛行傘)

Soar Paragliding Canopy Near Taitung

The two places I knew we could do paragliding in Taiwan was near Taitung and Hualien.  With two days in Taitung, I knew that this was the best spot to do it and it worked out fabulously for us.  Perched up on a giant hillside, Luye Gaotai is the perfect place for paragliding with its cliff that overlooks a chessboard of farmland.

For the full experience, read more about it .

Cost: 

  • $NT 2500 for a minimum 10 minutes or $1800 for 5 minutes ($60 – $84 USD)
  • $NT 400 to rent an action cam (GoPro extendable stick free to rent if you bring your own device)
  • Phone:  Mr. Chen +886-956 377 533
  • Website:   Facebook Page

TIPS:   If you look online, you will no doubt find activity aggregators selling packages for paragliding but the truth is, there’s only one operator in the Luye Gaotai area and it’s Soaring Paragliding.  Also advisable to call a day before you get to Taitung to find out what the weather conditions are like.  It helps to speak Mandarin but with how friendly they are there, I’m sure you’ll be fine with English.

TIPS:   Make sure to bring your passport for registration purposes.

★ DINNER: Fried Chicken and Tofu

Taiwanese Fried Chicken and Tofu

Another on-the-fly meal we had as a result of our transit improvising.  With the help of our local friend that we met along the way, he pointed out a popular fried chicken spot along the main street of Luye which turned out to be quite amazing.  The chicken was fried to perfection in that Taiwanese popcorn chicken flavour tossed with salt and pepper.  Equally as incredible was the fried tofu which was probably an even more of a surprise of the night.

★ MATA Indigenous Cultural Resort

MATA Indigenous Cultural Resort Entrance

I honestly have mixed feelings about this “resort”.  In seeing the name of the property, you’d expect that they’d have a full-fledged indigenous cultural experience available for guests but upon arrival, all we got from the receptionist was a feeling of “there might be a performance tonight…maybe?”

The property itself is beautifully built with a giant replica of a wooden boat used by one of the tribes and other various artifacts on display.  Outside, there’s also a large field that I can only presume is used as a stage for performances but perhaps it’s only used during high season or if there are large tour groups.

On one hand, I loved the hotel for its clean and spacious room, and amazing breakfast but couldn’t help feel shafted that we got absolutely no culture other than the visuals and CD that was played in the lobby.

TIPS:   Bike rentals are free for 3 hours but if you want to take it out for longer just let them know.  If they’re not busy, it shouldn’t be an issue.

>> Day 8 – Ridin’ in Taitung <<

Riding Bicycles in Taitung

Taitung is truly a remarkable stop along the journey around Taiwan as it faces the sea, is set against mountains and is rich in aboriginal heritage.  In fact, the city and its surroundings boasts the most prehistoric sites in Taiwan, which means there are many natural offerings and cultural centres that explore the long history of indigenous people.

While we would have liked to have visited one of these cultural centres, our schedule and timing meant that it wasn’t possible.  As a result, we decided to take our free bike rentals from the hotel and explore the city on two wheels.  This turned out to be a lot of fun, being able to leisurely weave through public spaces, parks, and the downtown area.  The best part of the day turned out to be the food.

TIPS:   Cultural centres are closed on Mondays so if you hope to visit them, schedule around this.

★ Taitung  Forest Park & Seashore Park

Taitung Forest Park Tunnel

These two parks are perfectly designed for the bicycle.  With its expansive network, you’re free to wind through the park and experience Taitung’s laid back lifestyle and clean ocean air.  The most surprising parts here are certainly the undeveloped rocky seashore which has quite the unique view, an enormous man-made lake that is popular for swimmers and rowers, and birds nest-like lookout platform.

Entrance fee:  $NT 30 for the Forest Park

TIPS:   If your hotel doesn’t have bike rentals, the forest park has bikes for rent for $NT 100 for 3 hours.

★ Old Taitung Railway Station

Exploring Old Taitung Train Station

In the centre of the city is the old train station that used to run through.  It’s an open-air museum/art village with the remains of an old train that you can climb into, and a repair terminal complete with the remains of signal lights.  In the surrounding space, you’ll also see the development of new art spaces that are just in the final stages of building.

What we missed:  Sights along the East Coast Line: Xiauyeliu Scenic Area(小野柳), Jialulan(加路蘭) Donghe Steamed Buns(東河包子), Amis Folk Center(阿美民俗中心), and Sanxiantai(三仙台遊憩區).  

★ LUNCH:  Rong Shu Xia Rice Noodles (榕樹下米苔目)

Rong Shu Xia Rice Noodles Bowl

This restaurant is highly recommended in Taitung and with good reason.  Along one of the main drags of the city, this place is hard to miss with its long lines that wind out from the restaurant.  What makes this place special is its rice noodles which have the thickness of udon and freshness of hand-pulled noodles.  They’re also special in that they’re very short and in an elongated teardrop shape.

Rong Shu Xia Rice Noodles Storefront

The ordering process is a bit different than what you might be used to but essentially while in line, you have to fill out a piece of paper.  You also need to have a table number by the time you order so if you can, get your partner to grab a seat somewhere first.  Drinks are also pre-made so after you order you grab them from the person working by the refrigerator.  Sounds complicated I know but you’ll figure it out eventually.  They also have English menus so ask for that if you don’t get one right away.

Other must-try items are the local pork with vegetables (side dishes behind the glass display) and the pineapple iced tea.

★ SNACK:  Chen’s Mochi

Chen's Mochi Sesame Flavour

If there’s a king of mochi, I think I’ve found it.  Look through the glass window and watch the mochi masters knead fresh sticky rice flour and roll them into balls to the eventual final product.  They serve up the most delicious of sticky rice desserts with my favourite fillings including black sesame, peanut, and red bean.

TIPS:   If you miss Chen’s in Taitung, don’t worry because there’s always Hualien which is also well-known for mochi.

★ DINNER:  Dongdamen Night Market

Dongdamen Night Market Gate in Hualien

This was perhaps the most disappointing of night markets.  Ironically it was probably the most organized, with the night market on a dedicated plot of land, wide streets, and permanent stalls.  To me, it lacked the grunginess of night markets, character, and a little bit of the chaos.   We also showed up late in the night which meant the streets weren’t very busy.  Personally, I think I prefer large crowds at night markets because it also means there’s quick turnover of food and nothing sits for too long.

Where we actually wanted to go was  Dai’s Dumpling but when we got there, it was closed for the holidays.

★ Azure Hotel

Inside A Azure Hotel Room in Hualien

The check-in process was very smooth, and the room was 4 to 5-star calibre.  What made this hotel a great to place to stay was the fact that it is on the main street that runs through Hualien which means everything is walking distance.  And then there’s the breakfast buffet which is as good as any other that you’ll see in Taiwan except it also has its own DIY noodle bar – the cherry on top!

Since we knew we were going to do a two day hike through Taroko, we spent the evening re-organizing our packs to only carry the essentials.  For everything else, we stuffed another backpack to leave behind.  The hotel was great in allowing us store this bag for an extra night.

TIPS:   To get to the hotel from the train station, there’s no easy way with the bus so hop on a cab once you arrive in Hualien.

>> Day 9 – Taroko Tribe In The Mountains <<

View From Truku Tribe B&B

Taroko, in the local Truku aboriginal language, means “magnificent and beautiful”.  When you set your eyes on mountainous landscape, bio-diverse vegetation, turquoise rivers, and marble-walled canyons, you’ll see why this is one of Asia’s top scenic wonder.

There are magic places in the world.  This is one of them.

While many travellers take one of the stream of tour buses that come through the main gate and jam all the sights in a day, we wanted to do something a little more unconventional. Everyone’s seen photos of the 18km stretch of Taroko Gorge that make it to postcards but few have seen it from the point of view of the indigenous tribes that still live in the tranquility of the mountains.  With our 2 day trek up to the villages of Datong and Dali, there was the promise of us being able to dig deep into local culture and take in a slice off nature that travellers rarely ever see.

★ 2-Day Guided Hiking Tour 

Hiking Up Dekalun Trail in Taroko National Park

If your goal in Taroko National Park is to hike through challenging terrain, interact with indigenous tribe members, and take in incredible mountain scenery way above the clouds, this is the activity for you. It is by no means easy, so my word of caution is that if you want to do this trek, you need to be physically fit and have some experience with long hikes with long portions of uphill and downhill.

The hike doesn’t have a specific name that you can look for but what it is a chaining of several trails that ultimately take you up to the villages of Dali and Datong before you descend back down to the end of the Shakadang Trail.

Eating Lunch Outside Church In Dali Village

Your first day in Taroko consists stair climbing along Dekalung Trail, a visit to Dali Village, before meandering through the side of the mountain along an old logging road.  All of this leads to the arrival of a B&B built by a local Truku tribe member, named Dadao.  With diminishing sunlight, you’ll be able to look out into the nearby mountain peaks, mystical clouds, and Datong village below.

After settling in and showering (yes there is running water!), your host cooks a fabulous dinner.

Fresh Salmon For Dinner In Tribal B&B In Taroko

My favourite part was sitting around of the campfire and having simple conversation with the guide translating for us while sipping on a cup of hot tea and listening to the crackle of the firewood.

Hiking Trails:  Dekalung Trail -> Dali Trail ->  Shakadang Logging Road

  • This tour was booked through MyTaiwanTour and the details are as follows:
  • Hiking permits
  • Transportation (pick up and drop off)
  • 1 night accommodation at the tribe B&B
  • Dinner and breakfast
  • Travel insurance

Cost:  

  • 1 person: $NT 22,600
  • 2 people total: $NT 24,800
  • 3 people total: $NT 27,000
  • 4 people total: $NT 28,700

TIPS:  Your guide picks you up and will park at the national park overnight.  This means that you don’t actually need to store your bags at your hotel.

★ LUNCH:  7-11 Food

Before heading into Taroko National Park, we made a stop at a 7-Eleven and picked up additional supplies for our trek.  We stocked up on water and also a few onigiri (Japanese rice triangles) which is perfect hiking food.  Plus we had extra mochis from Chen’s.

★ DINNER:  Cooked by Ah-Ma 

Photo With Ah-Ma at Dadong's B&B in Taroko

I don’t know if we were just ridiculously hungry but our 7-course meal hit all the right spots.  With fresh supplies brought from the city, Ah-ma cooked an assortment of salmon, chicken, fresh vegetables, tofu, and soup that was clearly too much for the 4 of us.  What amazed me was how she was able to cook such delicious dishes even with the limited amount of supplies, equipment, and appliances.

★ Truku Tribe B&B

taiwan travel destinations

Considering you’re high up in the mountains and away from civilization, it’s a marvel that a house of concrete, wood, and corrugated metal sheets could even exist.  I had pretty low expectations of the B&B before coming but was surprised to learn that they had running water, hot water tank, a proper toilet, electricity for lights, and propane for cooking.  To top that, the dorm rooms are fashioned similar to Japanese ryokans with clean laminate flooring, sliding doors and furnished with mats, blankets, and pillows.  Sure it’s not a 4-star hotel but more important to me was the hospitality of the host and that surprised us with the luxury of shower and toilets.challenging

To temper your expectations, you have to understand that the B&B is a structure built by Dadao himself for the express purpose of being able to host hikers.  This means that this isn’t a representation of what a real village home is like.  The other thing is that this home is perched high up in the mountains away from any other villagers so you’re also not going to be amongst a community of Truku families.

>> Day 10 – Shakadang Is My New Favourite Word <<

Views From The Shakadang Trail in Taroko

This day is about contrasts.  The views you get at the top of the mountain dramatically change as you make your way back down to the blue-green Shakadang river which is filled with large perfectly-round boulders, and jagged walls of marble.

You’ll feel pretty gross by the end of it all but when you finally get back to Taipei, that shower you take will be the best thing ever.

★ 2-Day Guided Hiking Tour

Jungle Like Hiking In Taroko

The second day of hiking is possibly even more challenging than the first because a section of the hike takes you through a trail that has typhoon damage.  On top of the on and off rain, and muddy conditions we had, there are a number of natural and man-made obstacles you’ll need to ninja through.  None of it is particularly dangerous but you’ll want to make sure you watch your step.  I came out of it with my legs completely shot and feeling wobbly every time I stopped for a break.

Steps To Climb Coming Down The Mountain in Taroko

The best part of the day was when we finally made it to the Shakadang Trail after 3.5 hours of downhill punishment.  I remember holding up my arms in the air and shouting “WE DID IT!!!” in relief.

Along this famous trail is where we got our first glimpse of the beauty that Taroko National Park is known for – naturally carved out canyons where turquoise water pass through rock overhangs and multi-coloured marble boulders.  Along the way, there’s also a small Truku tribe market place where we devoured the best sausage of the entire trip.

Highlights of what you’ll see:

  • Liwu mountain peak with views of the ocean on the other side
  • Datong Village
  • Dramatically changing scenery as you make your way down
  • Shakadang Trail

Hiking Trails:  Datong Village Trail -> Tongli Trail -> Trail down to Sanjianwu -> Shakadang Trail

TIPS:   The mountain is always 2-3 degrees cooler than at ground level so make sure you prepare your layers when packing for a trek like this one.  You also never know when you might get hit with rain so you’ll also want to pack the appropriate waterproof gear which at a minimum should include a jacket, waterproof shoes, and rain cover for your bag.

★ Ximending Youth Shopping District

With its abundance of bright lights, shops lining the maze of streets, trendy shopping, and a nightlife, it’s no wonder that it’s been called the “Harajuku” of Taipei.  Unlike a traditional night market, there’s more than food here which makes it a great place to wander.

★ BREAKFAST:  Tribe Breakfast

Tribal Breakfast In The Mountains of Taroko

Ah-Ma cooked another great meal for us that was way more food than we could finish.  It was all the energy we needed to last until dinner as we had quite the catchup we needed to do on our way down.

★ SNACK:  Shakadang Trail Sausage

Whether you do the Shakadang Trail on your own or as part of a trek, you MUST stop at this stall for these home-made sausages.  With a magical mix of ginger, honey and who knows what else, you won’t find this anywhere else in Taiwan.

★ DINNER:  Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle

Eating Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle

This shop is impossible to miss with its large crowds of tourists either slurping away or queueing in anticipation.  The good news is that the lines move very quickly as they efficiently fill up bowl after bowl.  What makes them special is that they make a unique style of rice noodle that is completely different from the ones we had in Taitung.  Extremely thin and flat, these noodles are similar to some of the noodles you find in Vietnamese Pho but in a thick and somewhat gelatinous soup base.  Mixed in the broth are diced bits of pork intestines which may turn some off but is honestly as indistinguishable as tendon or tripe in pho.

Taking the train back to Taipei turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than we expected mainly because we took way too long to get back down and we missed our originally booked train.

The way the drama played out is our original train was supposed to be at 4:30PM but by the time we left Taroko National Park, it was already 3:45PM.  Rushing to the Hualien train station, our guide tried to get our tickets switched to a later train but were told that we could either swap them for a slower train that would arrive late in the evening.  Otherwise, if we wanted anything earlier, we would have to forfeit these tickets and get them ourselves.  Not wanting to get into Taipei so late especially considering how long of a day we’ve had already, we made the no-brainer decision to buy new train tickets for $NT 340 per person ($11 USD).

★ WESTGATE Hotel (2 nights)

Inside A Room in Westgate Hotel Taipei

We couldn’t have asked for a better hotel in Taipei.  Located right at the doorstep of Ximending and seconds away from the subway, it was overly convenient to get around the city and at the end of the day, we could always come back to the hotel and get our fill of more food and snacks before heading home.

Westgate Hotel Taipei Lobby

Upon entering the hotel, you immediately notice that the boutique and modern lobby is both welcoming and luxurious.  From the check-in to check-out the staff were extremely courteous and friendly, willing to help at every turn.  What I loved about the property is how one-of-a-kind artwork can be found all over including my favourite sculpture of two boys free falling off Taipei 101 with their suitcase in hand.

The rooms themselves are spacious and a modern open concept where we felt immediately at home after a weary day of travel.  The bathroom is elegant and clean while the bedroom is cozy, and beds overly comfortable.

For breakfast, expect to be tempted with plenty of tasty Asian and Western foods, and great service from the wait staff.

>> Day 11 – Zen, Heat and Fishing <<

taiwan travel destinations

With one final full day in Taiwan, there are a lot of options open to you but if your preference is to take it easy and end on a relaxing note with a dash of excitement, pull off an unconventional day trip that combines the best of what Taipei has to offer.

Wulai is a mountainous district south of Taipei.  It’s known for its old street, hot springs, natural sights, and the area’s indigenous Atayal people.  It’s an easy day trip from Taipei that gets you out of the city and into a place that is very walkable, easy to explore, and not too crowded.

If there are other things that you want to check out, treat this as a free day.  There are a lot of choices here so if you’re looking for a few ideas, here’s what we were also contemplating:

  • Hiking Teapot Mountain
  • Beitou Hot Springs (i.e. SweetMe Hotspring Resort)
  • Hiking Yangmingshan
  • Yehliu Geopark
  • Danshui/Tamsui Old Street
  • Maokong Gondola
  • Everything else in Taipei you might not have seen such as the National Palace Museum, Chiang Kai-Shek  Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, other night markets

★ Tai Chi at Muzha Zhongshun Temple (木柵忠順廟保儀大夫)

taiwan travel destinations

Every morning, there are temples all over Taipei where the local community gets together to practice Tai Chi.   Instead of paying for lessons, why not join one of these sessions and try your best not to embarrass yourself while at the same time, learn how hard it is.  What looks like a moving form of yoga and meditation is actually a fluid art of motion with its ying-yang balance of dance and martial arts while all in slow motion.

Now it will be pretty daunting to jump into one of these sessions if you don’t know anyone but thankfully we had someone like Joshua from MyTaiwanTour to introduce us and give us permission to film the experience.  Comfortably at the back of the group, we did our best to imitate the experienced Tai Chi-ers, occasionally tripping on my own feet and stopping to stare at the combination of pushing and parrying.

A little bit about Joshua Samuel Brown

Joshua is someone I was extremely grateful for during my travels in Taiwan.  He was instrumental in providing tips on local spots to explore in the country and we were also lucky enough to have him show us around a few spots you might’ve seen from the Taiwan in 12 Days YouTube series .  Joshua is the former Editor-in-Chief at MyTaiwanTour , acclaimed author of the upcoming Formosa Moon, co-author of numerous Lonely Planets, all-around expert in Taiwan, and just a great guy.  Make sure to read the Joshua Samuel Brown blog which has a true local’s perspective of the country and much more!

With how friendly the Taiwanese are, you can easily find a local temple to visit and find out whether they’d welcome a drop-in student.

Schedule:  Everyday at 8:30AM – 10AM

★ Wulai Old Street

Wulai Old Street

The old street of Wulai is a short distance but packs in quite a number of things.  If you enjoy street food, left and right you’ll find a ton of different shops that sell snacks, drinks and cooked food.  You’ll also find several independent shops specializing in clothing, art, foods, and crafts.

Another interesting fact about Wulai is that it’s the closest accessible aboriginal village from Taipei which makes it a great place to learn about the fascinating culture and people of the Atayal tribe with the Wulai Atayal Museum.

Don’t forget to walk around and outside of the street to find attractions such as Wulai Falls and Yunxian Playground.

★ Yen Town Hot Springs

Inside the Hot Springs Pool of Yen Town

Along the old street of Wulai, you’ll find this hidden gem and the perfect hot springs for my wife and I.  Many hot springs in Taiwan are of the onsen (Japanese hot springs) variety where male and females are split, and are nude.  Understanding that this may not be comfortable for everyone, it is actually a challenge to find hot springs that are couple friendly, aren’t crowded, and have clean facilities.

All you need to bring with you to Yen Town is your swimwear, a shower cap and you’re all set.  In this intimate and beautifully set hot spring, you’ll find a rejuvenating set of pools that vary from ice cold to 40C+.  To mix things up, you’ll also find an open air room temperature swimming pool, intense pulsating showers, and lane of rounded pebbles for feet therapy.

Entrance of Yen Town in Wulai

Price:  $NT 400 per person

TIPS:   Yes you read that right, in Taiwan it is mandatory to wear head caps to cover your hair.  Yen Town expect for you to have your own.  This means you can either purchase one or come prepared with basic shower caps from the hotel.

TIPS:   A custom that is strictly enforced here for sanitary reasons is to rinse your feet with the water from the pool before entering.

The convenience of WESTGATE Hotel meant that we had to take advantage of it with our daily walk around to see what fun boutique shops we could find and other treats we could buy.

★ LUNCH:  Local Aboriginal Restaurant on Wulai Old Street (烏來小吃店)

Aboriginal Restaurant in Wulai

There isn’t exactly an English name for this restaurant so I’ve included the Chinese name which you’ll see in the sign.  It’s actually right across from the Wulai Atayal Museum.  This is a restaurant cooked by aboriginal locals and is a chance to try a variety of dishes that are hard to find elsewhere.

Not knowing what was good there, we tried an assortment of fish, vegetables, soup, pork, and rice that turned out to be quite good.  The highlight was definitely the rice cooked in bamboo and the fried fish.

★ DINNER:  Aquatic Addiction Development

Aquatic Addition in Taipei

Aquatic Addiction Development (AAD) is quickly becoming a must-see place for seafood-loving foodies.  Carved out of the Taiwan Fish Market, this is a brand new and modern type of market that has a little bit for everyone.  Near the entrance you have what looks like a wholesale area with tanks filled with fresh catches.  From there, you step into the main section of AAD which is a cross between a really up-scale supermarket and sit down sushi and seafood bar.  Upstairs, there’s a hotpot restaurant and then you have the entire outdoor wing of the market which has more food, another restaurant, and additional seating.

We ended up ordering a tray of salmon sashimi, scallops and Calpis for $NT 590 ($20 USD).

TIPS:   You’d think a market like this accepted credit card but it doesn’t.  Make sure to bring enough cash.

Taipei Prawn Shrimp Fishing

★ DINNER:  Prawn Fishing (全佳樂釣蝦場) You can’t leave without doing the favourite past-time of Taiwanese.  Indoor shrimp fishing has become a popular form of entertainment, transforming something that is still an important industry into sport.  Huddling around a smoke-filled room centred around a shallow pool, serious pros and wannabe anglers wait patiently for bobbing buoys.  Beneath the depths of the bubbling water are large prawns waiting to steal your bait.

Prawn Fishing Catch

Okay, I admit it’s probably not for everyone but for something that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, you just have to experience it for yourself.

This is how it works.  You essentially purchase fishing game time and starts at 1 hour and goes up to 3 hours.  Dried shrimp bait and custom fishing rods are provided and the rest is up to you to catch as many as you can in the time you paid for.  When you’re done, the shop owner cooks the prawns on a skewer dusted with salt.

It’s a bit of a test of patience that Anthony Bourdain clearly didn’t have much of in Season 2 of The Layover .  Don’t expect your tummies to get filled here but the satisfaction of catching anything at all is something to rejoice here.  In the hour we were there, we caught 6 but the owner felt pity for us so he topped it up to 10.

Address:   台北市中山區錦州街190號

Cost:  Starts at $NT 300 for an hour

TIPS:   HAH got none for ya.  Good luck!

Getting to Wulai

Take the MRT all the way to the Xindian Station (last stop on Green Line 3) and find Bus Stop B located along Beiyi Road (北宜路一段).  Wait for bus 849 bound for Wulai and all you have to do is get off at the last stop.

>> Day 12 – Mad Dash for Pineapple Pastry <<

Sunset At Taoyuan Airport With Plane

Depending on when your flight leaves, you may or may not have time to squeeze in one last bit of Taiwanese goodness before you go.  The best souvenir to bring home for friends and family in my opinion is pineapple pastry since it’s something that just isn’t as good outside of Taiwan.

You’re probably wondering, well can’t you get pineapple pastry at any Asian supermarket?  Yes, that’s true but all of these are packed with preservatives and as a result contain smaller traces of pineapple.  The real stuff from Taiwan is made with fresh ingredients and will only last 2-4 weeks before expiring.  That’s why I recommend buying these squares of sweet goodness on your last day so you have a chance to pass it along to friends and family.

TIPS:   Remember to get your tax refund before you go through security/customs.  At the primary international terminal (T2), go down one level from departures and you’ll find it.  SunnyHills is also on this floor.

★ Chia Te Bakery

Chia Te Pineapple Pastry In Hand

Perhaps the most famous pineapple pastry bakery in town and while they make a variety of Chinese bakery goods, people from all over the world come here for one and one thing only – pineapple pastry.  These are made in the traditional style where these square-sized desserts are filled with mildly sweet and moist strings of pineapple and surrounded by a soft, buttery crust.  There is only one store and they’ve been open since 1975.

★ SunnyHills

SunnyHills Pineapple Pastry Experience Taipei

You’d think one bakery was enough but you really have to try the modern, and some say, better take on pineapple pastry.  SunnyHills is everything that Chia Te isn’t.  Where Chia Te is reminiscent of your typical no-nonsense Chinese bakery with bright lights, shelving with product, and queue for the cashier, SunnyHills is a much more refined, contemporary experience where it is more of a tea house than it is a bakery.

When you enter one of their stores, you’re greeted with friendly service staff and even before promoting any product, they get you seated.  This is when they serve you a complimentary cup of tea and one of their products.  This gives you a chance to use all of your senses to appreciate their food.  When you’re ready, you go up to the counter and place your order.  You’ll most likely be buying pineapple pastry and when you do, it comes in a beautiful packaged box and a recyclable linen bag.  Like I said, it’s very much an experience.

Focusing in on the pineapple cake itself, what makes it different from Chia Te is in its shape which is rectangular, the density of the crust, and the filling a bit more tangy.  Some say it’s more fresh than the competition but I think it’s all in your taste preferences.

TIPS:   If you qualify for tax refund, the staff will let you know and they have a separate desk to help you with the filling out of the form.  Officially, I believe purchases over $NT 3000 are eligible for tax refund but we were able to get it with a purchase of $NT 2680.  This is good for a 5% VAT tax rebate at the airport.

TIPS:   If you don’t care for the in-store experience of SunnyHills, note that there is a storefront at the airport.  The difference is that at the airport, they only stock the box of 10 and not the box of 16.

★ LUNCH:  Din Tai Fung (Original Xinyi Location)

Original Ding Tai Fung In Xinyi

It would be almost embarrassing to leave Taiwan without going to their internationally-famous Ding Tai Fung.  Known for their great-tasting xiao long bao (soup dumplings), it’s the kind of perfection that I haven’t been able to find replicated anywhere else and that includes Shanghai where it is known to have originated from.

If you come early enough  (10:20AM in our case), you’ll be able to get a table pretty quickly.  Otherwise, expect to take a number and wait awhile.

★ SNACK:  Ice Galaxy

Ice Galaxy Mango Shaved Ice To Go

There were a whole bunch of other dessert spots that we wanted to hit up in Taiwan but with literally 15 minutes left before our airport pick up, I ran over to the closest shaved ice restaurant in Ximending which turned out to be Ice Galaxy.  They’re not famous per say but it still lived up to my expectations for shaved snow packed with mango.

If we had more time we would have liked to have visited Roji Shaved Ice or Bingzan.

WHERE TO STAY IN TAIWAN

Here is the compilation of everywhere that I stayed on my trip and would highly recommend

sonnien hotel in taipei

SONNIEN HOTEL

Conveniently located hotel where I stayed at the beginning of my trip to Taiwan.  This was a super clean and spacious property that included a fabulous breakfast as well.  Couldn’t have asked for more.

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westgate hotel in taipei taiwan entrance

WESTGATE HOTEL

Right next to Ximending in Taipei, this is equally a great hotel to stay at in Taipei.  Sonnien Hotel was already pretty modern but WESTGATE takes it up a notch.  They have an amazing breakfast as well.

alishan house hotel in taiwan

ALISHAN HOUSE

The nicest property in Alishan for sure, we were given this extravagant double king-sized bed complete with balcony and fireplace.  It’s also located in the best spot to do your hike around Alishan.

hoya resort hotel in kaohsiung

HOYA RESORT HOTEL

One of the newer properties in Kaohsiung.  While it was extremely comfortable and spacious here including a smashing breakfast, I did find that it was a bit further from the action that I would’ve liked.  That said, it is right next to a night market!

a-fei hotel hostel in kenting

A-FEI HOTEL

Some call it a hostel but it’s really a hotel right by Nanwan Beach in Kenting.  You’ll typically find the owner, A-Fei, who is a blast to be around.  This is the perfect place for surfing as well since they have their own lessons and gear rental.

mata indigenous cultural resort in taitung taiwan

MATA INDIGENOUS CULTURAL RESORT

Quite the unique property that focuses on Taitung’s heritage of indigenous cultures.  The rooms are nice but the star feature are the displays and shows that they offer.  They have a great breakfast and they offer free bike rentals.

azure hotel in hualien taiwan

AZURE HOTEL

Centrally located hotel in the city of Hualien.  Loved their breakfast as they had their own noodle bar.  The room was quite modern, comfortable, spacious, and clean as well.

TAROKO NATIONAL PARK

taroko mountain hiking homestay

TAROKO MOUNTAIN HIKING HOMESTAY

Not exactly something you can book off the cuff but if you work with a company like MyTaiwanTour, they can put together a custom trip to trek up to the mountains of Taroko and stay with someone like Ah-Ma!

MyTaiwanTour

TAIWAN ITINERARY FINAL THOUGHTS

Taiwan may be a small country, but it’s big on heart, is guaranteed to fill your tummies with delight, and will surprise you over and over again with its amazing activities and attractions.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this guide is really only meant to be a starting point for your planning.  As a trip planner myself, I’ve always found that it’s way easier to see what someone else has done and go from there.  Feel free to make changes to it and tweak it to your liking based on what you’re interests are and your travel style.

Enjoy and do let me know how your trip goes!

How About You?

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This trip was sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau but all opinions are my own because I had one amazing time there and I seriously need to share this with the world!

About William Tang

William is the Chief of Awesome at Going Awesome Places which is focused on off-the-beaten-path, outdoor adventure, and experiential travel. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries to help others plan their own trips, and providing helpful tips and tricks to guide readers to travel better. Make sure to learn more about William to find out his story and how Going Awesome Places started. He is a member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), and Travel Massive. He has also featured in Reader's Digest, Entrepreneur, Men's Journal, and Haute Living.

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Taiwan remains largely undiscovered and seriously underrated by Western travellers, but those that make it here are in for a real treat. In the 1990s Taiwan became the first true Chinese democracy, developing a sense of civil society bewildering to its giant neighbour across the Taiwan Strait. Since then, popular culture has blossomed on the island, an eclectic mix of Chinese, Western, Japanese and indigenous influences. It has sensational food, traditional Chinese and aboriginal festivals and exuberant temples, yet the biggest surprise is Taiwan’s hinterland: think towering mountains, eight national parks, a selection of alluring offshore islands and numerous hot-spring resorts.

Where to go in Taiwan

Betel nut beauty, hot springs.

Taiwan’s perception problem stems in part from its astonishing economic success. The Taiwan Miracle , the island’s transformation into one of the world’s richest countries in less than fifty years, created images of endless manufacturing plants and overcrowded cities. The long struggle to establish a distinct political and cultural identity in the shadow of its big brother on the mainland hasn’t helped – for years its rulers insisted that Taiwan was the “real China”. Not any more: Taiwan has preserved much of the civilization and many of the traditions lost on the mainland, but while its political future remains uncertain, Taiwan has developed a dynamic culture all of its own.

One of the most endearing things about the island is the overwhelming friendliness of its people – Taiwan is one of the most welcoming countries in the world, and you are bound to encounter numerous acts of generosity or kindness throughout your travels, whether it’s a taxi driver rounding down a fare, a stranger helping with directions or a family providing a bed for the night. Eating in Taiwan comes a close second, with a vast array of Chinese food and local delicacies on offer. Travelling around the island is relatively straightforward, though the lack of English can make things a challenge at times, particularly as most timetables tend to be displayed solely in Chinese. Taiwan is a relatively rich country compared to China or southeast Asia, but prices are generally lower than in most other developed nations, and the willingness of almost everyone you meet to help means it’s almost impossible to get stuck.

Most visits to Taiwan begin in Taipei, the capital and largest city, home to Taipei 101, the National Palace Museum and some of the island’s best restaurants, bars and night markets. It’s also surrounded by a host of worthy day-trips including the cable car to the teahouses of Maokong, the hot springs at Beitou and the volcanic peaks of Yangmingshan National Park. The storm-battered North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area is a short ride away, as is the wonderful night market in Keelung, the intriguing Pingxi Branch Line Railway and picturesque Shifen Falls. Nearby, the old mining towns of Jinguashi and Jiufen are deservedly popular for their historic streets and teahouses, while the Northeast & Yilan Coast National Scenic Area contains some of the most rugged coastline on the island. Southwest of Taipei, Hsinchu makes an excellent base for trips to Hakka country, the primary home of Taiwan’s small but influential Hakka minority, while Shei-Pa National Park provides an opportunity to tackle some of Taiwan’s largest and most memorable peaks. Nearby, Taian Hot Springs is perhaps the island’s most alluring hot-spring resort.

The east coast

Central Taiwan is home to some spectacular scenery, though it pays to spend a couple of days in vibrant Taichung, renowned for its teahouses and lively nightlife. Not far from the city, Changhua is noted principally for its Great Buddha Statue, and atmospheric Lugang is celebrated for its craftsmen and classical architecture. East of Taichung, picture-perfect Sun Moon Lake makes a fitting introduction to Taiwan’s mighty central ranges, a place for languid lakeside walks and gorgeous views. Just outside Puli, to the north of the lake, Chung Tai Chan Monastery is a man-made wonder, a remarkable blend of modern architecture and Zen Buddhism. Heading south, Chiayi provides a staging post for the cool valleys and Tsou villages of the Alishan National Scenic Area. Beyond this lies Yushan National Park and the scintillating hike up Taiwan’s highest mountain, commanding awe-inspiring, cloud-capped vistas.

South Taiwan is the most traditional part of the island, with Tainan making the obvious introduction to the region, a modern city crammed with historic sights, particularly temples, complemented by superb food. Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second city and an earthy counterweight to Taipei, its smattering of sights enhanced by a growing number of parks, outdoor cafés and bars. Nearby is the elegant monastery at Foguangshan, while the dramatic Southern Cross-Island Highway heads east across the mountains to Taitung, slicing through the northern end of Maolin National Scenic Area, rich in Paiwan and Rukai culture. The southern tip of Taiwan is dominated by Kenting National Park, with its popular beaches and surf spots.

The east coast is a world apart, isolated from the rest of Taiwan until very recently and still home to the greatest concentration of its indigenous tribes. Most visitors make for Taroko National Park, with spectacular Taroko Gorge at its heart, in parts an incredibly narrow gap between lofty walls of stone. Hualien is the largest settlement on the east coast and makes the ideal gateway to Taroko, with plenty of opportunities to buy its famous marble, tasty dumplings and sweet-filled rice cakes. From here there are two routes south: the East Rift Valley is noted for its hot springs and rafting on the Xiuguluan River, while the coastal road twists past isolated beaches and Ami villages. Both end up at the laid-back town of Taitung, location of the National Museum of Prehistory and base for trips to Ludao (Green Island) with its exceptional outdoor springs.

Taiwan’s offshore islands have their own distinctive cultures and histories. Penghu, in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, is an archipelago of magnificent beaches, old temples and crumbling fishing villages, a haven for windsurfing and other watersports. Just off the coast of China’s Fujian province, the Matsu Islands provide a rare taster of traditional northern Fujian culture, as well as Taiwan’s recent military history. The theme is continued on Kinmen, literally within sight of the now booming mainland city of Xiamen and rapidly remodelling itself as an open-air museum.

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Betel nut , the seed of the Betel Palm ( Areca catechu ), has almost iconic status in Taiwan, where chewing it is often viewed as stereotypically Hoklo or Taiwanese behaviour. It’s also big business: some estimates claim the industry nets annual revenue of around NT$20bn. In Taiwan it’s particularly popular with truck drivers, who prefer its stimulating effects to coffee: the nut is wrapped in areca leaf, topped with slaked lime paste and chewed without swallowing. Its most celebrated by-product is the betel nut beauty ( bīnláng xīshī ), scantily clad girls hired to sell the nuts from glass-encased booths on roadsides all over the island. More ominously, betel nut is a known carcinogen : Taiwan has one of the highest rates of mouth and throat cancer in Asia, primarily as a result of chewing the nut.

With over 150 locations scattered all over the island, Taiwan has the world’s second highest concentration of hot springs after Japan – many were developed commercially during the Japanese occupation and offer the same quality, scenery and therapeutic effects at a fraction of the cost. Many of the most famous springs are piped directly into hotel rooms and spa pools, where you can sample the waters via public baths or private tubs, but there are still places, usually in the mountains, where springs gush naturally from rocks or rivers and can be experienced for free. It’s important to acquaint yourself with hot-spring etiquette before having a dip: unless the pools are mixed sex, you’re expected to be naked, and you should shower before getting in.

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Taiwan Travel Guide

Taiwan was a big surprise for us. I always pictured boring, crowded cities, but actually most of the island is covered with green mountains and good hiking ops .

Even the capital city Taipei was amazing, with cool monuments, good food, and Taiwan's unique mango ice cream. Read through this complete Taiwan travel guide for more info on what to expect!

Quick Facts

Mandarin Chinese

Buddhism & Taoism

Taiwanese Dollar (TWD)

Visa free entry for 60+ nationalities

Tropical & subtropical; warm & humid year round

Power Plugs

The main airports in Taiwan are in Taipei (TPE), which is located on the north side of the island, and Kaohsiung (KHH), which is on the south side of the island. These two airports have lots of direct flights from other countries around the world. You can shop for flights to Taiwan on Skyscanner.

Taiwan is a very safe place to travel, with a low violent crime rate of 0.8 per 100k inhabitants (89% lower than the global average). The country had 12 million tourist arrivals in 2019.

Most of Taiwan, including Taipei, has a subtropical climate, while the very southern part of the island is tropical. The nicer, cooler months are from October to May, when temps range from 13 to 23 °C (55 to 75 °F). June to October is the typhoon season, and also the hottest time of year.

Train transportation here is extremely cheap and efficient. It's shocking. We took some train rides in Taipei that cost less than 30 Taiwanese dollars ($1 USD). Uber is also available in Taipei.

Hostels and private hotels are available from 500 Taiwanese dollars in many cities like Taichung and Kaohsiung, although Taipei hotels are a bit more pricey. Meals are normally about 150 to 300 TWD depending on location.

The best Taiwan tours & activities

My latest blog posts about Taiwan

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Jiufen Taiwan is one of the most popular day trips from Taipei city. This town is a perfect blend of history, nostalgia, shopping, and sightseeing, and it’s …

Taroko Gorge Taiwan: The Taroko National Park In Hualien

The awesome Taroko Gorge National Park in Hualien is a bit like Taiwan’s version of the Grand Canyon. This is a huge marble gorge with steep rock …

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Spotlight: East Coast Scenic Route

Take one of Asia’s ultimate road trips

Hualien Starts Here   Tantalizing Taroko Gorge   Taiwan’s Best Beaches   Is Yilan Worth Visiting?   Renting a Car in Taiwan   The Truth About Taitung  

Spotlight: East Coast

Asia’s ultimate road trip

Hualien Starts Here   Tantalizing Taroko Gorge   Taiwan’s Best Beaches   Is Yilan Worth Visiting?   Renting a Car in Taiwan  

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On the hunt for inspiration—or just information—for your next trip to Taiwan? My name is Robert Schrader, and you’ve arrived in the right place. I’m a veteran Taiwan traveler with half a dozen years under my belt—and I’m delighted you’re here.

Feel at home in Taiwan’s cozy capital

See the famous Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

Take a delicious journey back in time

Whether you need tips on top Taiwan destinations, Taiwan trip ideas or travel advice about topics like Taiwan SIM cards and trains in Taiwan, my Taiwan travel blog is where you need to be. I’ve circled the island dozens of times—I’ve lived in Taipei for over a year!—and my posts combine the wisdom I’ve gained with insightful, informative personal anecdotes.

Enjoy a Whirlwind Week in Taiwan

Taiwan proves that big adventure comes in small packages—so small, in fact, that you can see everything in a week if you budget your time right. After a couple of nights in Taipei, rent a car and drive clockwise along the island’s wild east coast, ending in the southern metropolis of Kaohsiung before heading back north via the futuristic high-speed rail line.

A Whirlwind Week

Taiwan proves that big adventure comes in small packages—you can see everything in a week if you budget your time right. After two nights in Taipei, drive along the wild east coast, ending in Kaohsiung.

taiwan travel destinations

Taroko Gorge

Hike through enchanting grottos to forlorn shrines

Visit the home of high-mountain Oolong tea

Bask on Taiwan’s most beautiful beaches

Taiwan is a place I always think I know completely—then I get on a train or bus to somewhere seemingly random, and I’m blown away. As you’ll see browsing through my Taiwan travel blog posts, this capacity for spontaneous adventure is precisely what makes Taiwan such a joy to discover. In fact, I love it so much I decided to move here!

See All of Taiwan

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If there’s one word I could use to describe Taiwan, it would be “harmony.” Taiwan’s cities are a pastiche of East-meets-West cosmopolitanism, while the larger culture perfectly mixed stoic Japanese traditions with wilder elements that might be more at home in Southeast Asia. To say nothing of the food—I could write a Taiwan blog just about that!

See Authentic Taiwan in Just Two Weeks

The longer you devote to Taiwan, the more authentically you can experience its culture. Whether you sip delicate oolong tea amid the emerald fields of Alishan, embark on exciting hikes from rough-and-tumble Hualien or discover history in the former capital city of Tainan, Taiwan is definitely worth a deep dive.

Taste Authentic Taiwan

The longer you devote to Taiwan, the more authentically you can experience its culture. Sip delicate oolong tea atop the emerald peaks of Alishan, or discover history in the former capital city of Tainan—Taiwan is definitely worth a deep dive.

Enjoying Taiwan is easy, but planning a trip to Taiwan can be a nightmare. Commission a custom Taiwan itinerary—and let me sweat the details. Get a personalized video consultation, detailed day-by-day itinerary and more!

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17 Things to See and Do in Taiwan

The picturesque seaside mountain town scenery in Jiufen, Taiwan

I lived in Taiwan for a few months as an English teacher. I loved my time there and have always felt the country was really under-appreciated. Carrie Kellenberger is an expat who has been living in Taiwan for ten years. She runs My Several Worlds and in this guest post she lists out all the amazing things you should see and do there!

Every country in Asia is beautiful, but Taiwan is special for many reasons. The people are warm and hospitable, it’s incredibly budget-friendly , and, according to the UN’s yearly World Happiness Report, Taiwan consistently ranks as one of the happiest places in East Asia .

While it might be a small island, you would be amazed at the never-ending variety of sights and fun things to do here. With over a hundred mountain peaks above 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), over a hundred hot springs scattered around the island, both golden and black-sand beaches, nine national parks, world-class museums, glittering skyscrapers, stunning temples, and a huge number of night markets that are second to none, Taiwan has something that everyone can enjoy.

Here’s my list of the best things to do Taiwan to help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit!

Table of Contents

1. Eat, Eat Eat (Especially at the Night Markets)!

2. experience taiwanese tea culture, 3. check out the northern coastline, 4. hit the beaches, 5. soak in the hot springs, 6. go island hopping, 7. visit tainan, taiwan’s oldest city, 8. see old taiwan, 9. get off the beaten track on orchid island and green island, 10. explore the mountains, 11. go hiking in taroko national park, 12. head east, 13. witness some chaos, 14. see tianhou temple, 15. explore fo guang shan monastery, 16. visit a taiwanese aboriginal village, 17. take part in the pingxi lantern festival.

People eating at a street-side stall at Keelung Night Market in Taiwan

There are over 30 night markets in Taipei , New Taipei, and Keelung (and over 70 night markets across Taiwan). My personal favorites are Shilin, Keelung, and Raohe Street in Taipei.

Don’t miss eating xiao long bao, also known as soup dumplings, a favorite staple food here. They are made out of a thin pastry folded into a type of bag that is then stuffed full with a meat-and-vegetable mixture and a tiny amount of soup, then garnished with raw ginger and soy sauce. Biting into one of these is a flavor explosion in your mouth.

If you’d like to really dive deep into the different sides of Taiwanese cuisine, take a guided food tour . On this food tour, you’ll first dine at the Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung (famous for their xiao long bao) and then experience the Raohe Street night market, all with a local guide.  

Tea pickers working in the mountainous tea plantations of Taiwan

The Taiwanese also have their own type of tea ceremony that takes elements from both Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies while adding their own cultural flair. Here, tea ceremonies are less focused on the rules and more about bringing people together.

Jiufen, Jwu Jiu Teahouse, and Pinglin are some of the best places to visit if you want to sample tea and learn more about how it’s made. You can also ride the Maokong Gondola up a mountain to a secluded teahouse where you can take in the amazing views while enjoying some tea.  

People walking around huge, sandstone colored rock formations in Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan

Guided tours are also available . The benefit to these tours is that you’ll have someone explain what you’re seeing. Signage isn’t great. If you can, I would definitely recommend a guided tour.  

Beaches may not be the first thing that you think of when Taiwan comes to mind. But with almost 1,000 miles of coastline (it is an island after all!), a great beach is never that far away.

Each region of the country offers something different. For example, the north is best known for its golden and black-sand beaches, while Kenting on the southern tip of the island offers a lively beachside nightlife. White Sand Bay is the most popular and a great place to soak up the sun, swim, snorkel, or even go diving (just keep an eye out for jellyfish!). Other great beaches are South Bay and Little Bali Bay.  

the Beitou Hot Springs just outside Taipei, Taiwan

As part of the Taipei metro area, Beitou is easily reachable by metro. Prices start at 60 TWD per person for a soak in Beitou Public Hot Spring, making it a very affordable choice for anyone looking for some R&R. If you’d like to splash out, there are plenty of more upscale hotels and resorts too.  

Panoramic view of the lush and green Penghu Island, Taiwan

The beautiful islands of Penghu just off Taiwan’s western coastline comprise the biggest archipelago and are especially well known for their golden beaches. All of the islands are distinct, and you can take a boat that will drop you off at one island for a few hours and then take you to the next one, so you can literally go from snorkeling to observing sea turtles to wandering through traditional villages made out of coral in a single day.  

This is Taiwan’s oldest urban area, established by the Dutch East India Company in 1624. Located in the south near Kaohsiung, Tainan was the capital of Taiwan from 1683-1887. There are all kinds of temples to visit here (don’t miss the Confucius Temple), several night markets, a historic old town, and a massive department store reminiscent of the Ginza district in Tokyo. There is also a nearby mangrove and wildlife reserve (it’s part of Taijiang National Park) just 30 minutes away by car.  

Traditional architecture in Kinmen, Taiwan

Additionally, you’ll be able to see historical military sites like underground tunnels and bunkers hidden in the countryside, and visit insightful museums to learn more about the unique history of the islands. The region is also known as being the producer of Taiwan’s famous gaoliang (kaoliang) grain alcohol, made from fermented sorghum.  

Located just off the southeastern coast, these lush islands are a treat to visit. Here you’ll find hiking, swimming, and diving. The best way to explore these islands is by renting a scooter so that you can get further off the beaten path and have an adventure exploring at your own pace.

Green Island has amazing saltwater hot springs — one of only three such hot springs in the world! Orchid Island is home to the indigenous Tao people, Taiwan’s most isolated indigenous tribe. They’re best-known for their traditional hand-carved wooden canoes and underground homes.  

Green mountains covered in clouds with a small village in the foreground in Taiwan

If you want to stretch your legs, climb to the summit of beautiful Jade Mountain and watch the sunrise (it takes two days to hike). This beautiful peak is almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level, giving it sweeping views in every direction.

Wuling Peak on Hehuan Mountain, around 3,275 meters (10,745 feet) above sea level, is another good hike for anyone looking to spend more time outdoors. But what really makes this place special is that the peak is so high, you can look down into a sea of clouds below!  

Ready for another city break? This national park covers 92,000 hectares (360 square miles) and offers visitors a chance to hike the numerous trails through mountainous terrain and dramatic gorges. You can stop to dip your feet in swiftly flowing mountain rivers and to marvel at the shrines and temples.

You can visit the park solo (which, if you’re staying in the nearby town, is easy to do) or as part of a full-day tour from Taipei . If you’re tight on time, the guided tour is the best option because it comes with transportation and a guide. Admission to the park is free.  

To really enjoy Taiwan’s majestic beauty, don’t forget Taiwan’s eastern coastline like most international visitors do! The east coast highway has some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in the world, from plunging sea cliffs and splashing surf to beaches, nature reserves, and rural towns a world away from the big city.

For maximum flexibility, Taiwan’s East Coast is best explored on a road trip, though there are buses that go down the coast. There is also a train line that hugs the coast a bit when heading south from Taipei, though it then veers inland.  

Crowds of people walk under a traditional archway in the Ximending neighborhood Taipei, Taiwan

The center of the neighborhood is the Red House, a well-known cultural landmark and marketplace where local artisans sell their wares. The massive outdoor plaza behind it is the epicenter of the city’s LGBTQ scene and is surrounded by many different welcoming bars and shops.

Give yourself bonus points for checking out all the super cool street art; you won’t find it on the main thoroughfares, but if you venture onto some of the smaller side streets, you’ll soon find yourself in a world of brightly decorated alleys and lanes.  

While you’re in Ximending, it’s worth stopping by one of the oldest temples in the city, Tianhou (also known as the Ximending Mazu Temple, after the in-house deity Mazu, goddess of the sea). Around since 1746, it’s one of three major temples in Taiwan from the Qing period. It’s located on a main thoroughfare but it’s very easy to miss the entrance.

Stepping through the entrance to this beautiful Taoist temple filled with mythological creatures, smoky incense, lucky goldfish, and people paying respect to the gods is truly a surreal experience. You’d never know this quiet oasis is in one of the busiest areas of Taipei !  

Expansive path with pagodas, leading up to the giant golden Big Budda, at Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan

One of the central features of the complex is the Buddha Museum, which houses tooth relics of the Buddha himself along with various shrines, galleries, exhibitions, vegetarian restaurants, and even a Starbucks (really). Behind the museum lies the Great Path of Buddhahood, a broad pathway flanked by eight identical pagodas, leading up to the 108-meter-high golden Big Buddha.

I’ve been to many temples and monasteries in my lifetime, but this one takes the cake.  

If you can’t make it to Orchid Island (see above), there are plenty of other places to learn about indigenous Taiwanese tribes. The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village near Sun Moon Lake is the most popular destination. It’s the largest outdoor museum in the country and is half cultural village, half amusement park. Each of the nine small villages in the park represent and are run by a different tribe. In each, you can watch cultural performances and see how a variety of traditional crafts are made.  

One of the coolest events in Taiwan, the Pingxi Lantern Festival involves releasing hundreds of paper lanterns into the sky. (Many newlyweds also include this meaningful tradition as a part of their wedding celebration.) If you don’t want to brave the crowds, you can easily purchase a lantern and light one on any of Taiwan’s beaches. This is one of the biggest events in all of Taiwan so be sure to get tickets in advance to avoid the ticket lines.

Taiwan is very environmentally friendly, so make sure you go with the eco-friendly paper lantern options that disintegrate, leaving no residue, and don’t cause fires. The company My Taiwan Tour also currently offers biodegradable paper lantern tours in Shifen.

There are many things about Taiwan that make it an incredible place to live; it’s easy to take some of those things for granted once you’ve been here for a while. I frequently hear that people think Taiwan is very Westernized, and while I agree that it is to some extent, there are still plenty of authentic Taiwanese experiences to be had!

Taiwan is and continues to be an unexpected travel destination that continues to delight visitors to this day. There is no place like it!

Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has been living in Asia since 2003. She moved to Taiwan in 2006 and became a permanent resident in 2012. She loves entertaining guests and travelers to Taiwan. You can read about her adventures and life there at her blog, My Several Worlds .

Book Your Trip to Taiwan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Use Skyscanner . They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Two of my favorite places to stay are:

  • Formosa 101
  • Meander Taipei

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Taiwan? Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Taiwan for even more planning tips!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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66 Unmissable Things to Do in Taiwan in 2024

Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.

Welcome to the ultimate Taiwan bucket list! Taiwan is a small country that packs in a seemingly unlimited number of awe-inspiring attractions, from the towering skyscrapers of Taipei to isolated aboriginal tribes on offshore islands .

Here I’ve compiled my favorite things to do in Taiwan, all things I’ve personally done (most of them several times) in my 10+ years living in this country . These include the most popular Taiwan attractions as well as my favorite off-the-beaten-track things to do in Taiwan.

Deciding what to do in Taiwan can be tough, with so many famous tourist spots as well as lesser-known ones. Whether you’re only here for a quick stopover in Taiwan or staying for weeks, the possibilities just seem endless!

The suggestions below are organized into sections covering Taipei, the North, East Coast, Central Mountains, and the South of Taiwan. To find out how to map out the below attractions for your visit, please see my recommended Taiwan itinerary for 1-3 weeks .

For everything else you need to know about visiting the country, here’s my general guide to traveling in Taiwan and my Taiwan-focused website, TaiwanObsessed .

Have questions about traveling in Taiwan? Read these Taiwan FAQs or ask your questions in my Taiwan Travel Planning group !

Table of Contents

Taiwan Essentials

  • I recommend Insubuy or Safety Wing (see why in my guide to insurance for Taiwan ) and Kiwi.com for flights (see how to find budget flights to Taiwan ). Also check if you need a visa for Taiwan .
  • Use Klook to find great deals and discounts on attractions, transportation, and more around the country. I highly recommend it and use it all the time! Sign up here to get NT$100 off your first booking. Also read my guide to other useful apps for traveling in Taiwan .
  • Consider getting a Taipei Fun Pass , which can save you money if used well.
  • If you decide the above pass isn’t worth it for you, you can simply buy an EasyCard , which covers public transportation in major cities in Taiwan. See my EasyCard user’s guide .
  • I recommend picking up a copy of the best Taiwan travel guidebook and reading these facts about Taiwan .
  • Pre-pay for your portable WiFi device or local SIM card for pickup at the airport. Read my guide to picking up your SIM at the airport and whether you should get an eSIM for Taiwan .
  • If you plan to travel by High Speed Rail , you can buy discounted HSR tickets online – read how to book seats with them here .
  • If you’re short on time, you can squeeze in Taiwan’s top sights on this 5-day Taiwan tour or let Life of Taiwan plan a fully customized luxury tour of Taiwan for you. Tell them Nick sent you over!
  • Check out the best cooking classes in Taiwan here .
  • Find out about Taiwan’s money and when to tip in Taiwan .

When to Travel to Taiwan

There is no distinct high or low travel season in Taiwan; tourist numbers go up and down by the month and depend on a lot of factors. What’s more, the weather and climate varies considerably from north to south and seaside to high mountain areas.

Do you want to bask in Taiwan’s summer heat? See cherry blossoms? Soak in hot springs? Go hiking in mild weather? Avoid typhoons and the rainy season? To help you decide the best time to visit, I’ve written articles covering each month of the year in Taiwan, which are summarized in my post on the best time to visit Taiwan .

If you only have a short stay, read my guide to doing a stopover in Taiwan . Now, let’s get to the top attractions in Taiwan!

Taiwan’s Top Experiences

The below are what I consider the most unmissable experiences in Taiwan. In the following sections, I’ll cover the more specific places to visit across Taiwan, from north to south.

Legendary Night Markets

Food stalls and a red octopus statue at Ruifeng Night Market

If someone asks me what to do in Taiwan, but I can only choose one answer, it would be to visit a night market. Taiwan is known across Asia for its night markets, and many foodies visit the country JUST to dine in its night markets.

I’ve made it my mission to visit every major night market across Taiwan (this may be a lifelong endeavor, as there are hundreds!) Here are my guides covering the best night markets in Taipei , night markets in Taichung , night markets in Tainan , and night markets in Kaohsiung . For vegetarians and vegans, here’re my vegetarian night market recommendations .

To get a taste of what you’ll be eating, I’ve compiled 101 Taiwanese foods you’re most likely to encounter there. Taiwan is also famous for its teas , and there’s even an underground chocolate culture in Taiwan .

Over 100 Major Hot Springs

Remote Lisong Hot Spring in Taitung County Taiwan

Taiwan is a thermal hot spring paradise. Sitting on the Ring of Fire, the island nation has one of the highest concentrations of natural hot springs in the world.

You can experience Taiwan’s hot spring culture by hiking to wild springs, soaking in Japanese-era bathhouses, or getting a luxurious private hot spring room with your loved one.

Find out everything you need to know in my guide to the best hot springs in Taiwan . I’ll be introducing specific individual ones below.

Welcoming People & Unique Culture

Taiwanese people holding up a rainbow colored Taiwan flag at Pride Parade in Taiwan

Taiwanese pride themselves on being super friendly and welcoming to foreign visitors, and they really are. They want the world to know that their country exists, and to this end they welcome outsiders enthusiastically. Taiwanese society is one of the freest in Asia, and the country was the continent’s first to legalize equal marriage rights.

Taiwan is also known for its convenience store culture, with one of the highest concentrations of convenience stores in the world. Grabbing a cold beer and instant noodles from 7-Eleven to enjoy at a nearby park is a classic Taiwan experience, while the “ding dong” of the automatic 7-11 door is a sound that most Taiwanese associate with home.

To learn more about Taiwanese culture, read my guide to Taiwanese language and (more related articles coming soon!) Also, please don’t confused Taiwan with Thailand, like so many people do. To clear this help, here’s my article explaining the many differences between Taiwan and Thailand .

Unbeatable Hiking and Outdoor Activites

Me standing on top of a rock at the peak of Jinmianshan trail in Taipei, holding my arms out with a blue sarong blowing in the wind

Taiwan is one of the world’s great hiking destinations. In fact, the country has the world’s highest concentrations of high mountains, with 268 peaks above 3000 meters (9843 ft), including Yushan, which is taller than Mount Fuji. Over 2/3rd of the island consists of mountains!

Amazingly, some of the best hikes in Taiwan can be found right in and around the capital. Here’s my guide to the best hikes in Taipei . Several of these are located on Yangmingshan , a semi-dormant volcano right in the city! I’ve also written about the best hikes across the island here and here .

Besides hiking, some other popular outdoor activities in Taiwan are river tracing , riding hot air balloons , whale watching , scuba diving , surfing , and more.

Beaches and Offshore Islands

My friends on Fulong Beach Taiwan in summer

While Taiwan isn’t quite as famous for its beaches as countries like Thailand or the Philippines, it still has its fair share of good ones.

Here I’ve compiled my favorite beaches near Taipei . In the south of Taiwan, there’s so good surfing to be had, while Kenting National Park at the southern tip of Taiwan has some of the best beaches on mainland Taiwan.

But it’s no secret that Taiwan’s outying islands have the best beaches in Taiwan. The Penghu Islands and Green Island are top contenders here. I’ll be covering Taiwan’s offshore islands in individual entries below, as there is much more to them than just beaches.

Colorful Festivals and Events

Yanshui Beehive Festival, one of the craziest things to do in Taiwan during Chinese New Year

The Taiwanese calendar is dotted with exciting festivals and events, from traditional Chinese festivals to pool dance parties, and everything in between.

In this article, I cover the 60+ festivals in Taiwan , in the order they will come from January to December. Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in Taiwan, but can also be a challenging time to travel.

Mesmerizing Temples

Temples are some of the best places to visit in Taiwan

Taiwanese temples must be seen to truly understand. Most of them are explosions of color and detail, known for their intricate carvings and details. These are living places of worship, with equally complex rituals and prayers taking place daily. They are free to enter for all.

Temples in Taiwan may fall under Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, folk religion, or, more often than not, a combination of two or more of the above.

Learn more in my guide to the best temples in Taipei and temples in Tainan , the spiritual and historical heart of Taiwan. I will cover a few more notable temples in Taiwan further below.

Things to Do in Taipei

Taipei is such as enticing city that you could easily spend weeks there and never run out of things to do. It’s no wonder so many visitors end up getting stuck there for life, myself included!

For even more ideas, check out my articles on unmissable things to do in Taipei City .

I’ve also got articles covering where to stay in Taipei , the best hostels , Taipei day trip ideas , and my recommended itinerary for 2 days / 3 days / 4 days / 5 days .

Survey the capital from Taipei 101

Incredible view from Taipei 101 observatory, one of the top things to do in Taiwan

Ride one of the world’s fastest elevators to the 89th floor observation deck for a 360-degree bird’s eye view of Taipei from Taipei 101 ( read my Taipei 101 guide for more info than you’ll find here!)

This famous Taiwan landmark is a skyscraper shaped like a stalk of bamboo. Be sure to check out the enormous 730-ton stabilizer ball in the center, which keeps the once tallest building in the world from falling in the event of an earthquake. Don’t miss the excellent souvenirs sold there too.

Save money and buy your ticket in advance online , and choose ‘Express Pass’ to skip the long lines. For a more thrilling experience, try the Skyline 460 Observation Deck , which is on the actual roof of Taipei 101, and includes entry to the regular Observation floors. You can also get a massage inside Taipei 101 , with an epic view!

The Taipei 101 Observatory is also included on the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass , which is a great way to save money while traveling in Taipei. See my guide to the fun pass here . After visiting Taipei 101, dine at Taiwan’s most famous restaurant nearby.

Also don’t miss one of the events of the year in Taiwan in December , when fireworks shoot from the sides of Taipei 101 to celebrate New Year’s Eve! Find the best spots to view the Taipei 101 fireworks here .

Some of the best luxury hotels in Taiwan are around Taipei 101.

Bathe in Beitou’s thermal waters

Wondering what to do in Taiwan? Check out Millennium hot spring in Beitou!

Visiting Taiwan in winter ? Beitou is the only MRT-accessible hot spring in Taiwan. It sits at the base of Yangming Mountain in northern Taipei City. Learn how to spend an amazing day exploring the area in my guide to Beitou Hot Spring .

Beitou’s hot springs were first developed by the Japanese. Several Japanese-built structures remain, including the Xinbeitou train station, Hot Spring Museum, Beitou Museum, and Puji Temple.

Public Millennium Hot Spring in the Hot Spring Park is the cheapest choice, while Spring City Resort has the best family-friendly hot spring facility.

For a classier soak, try Hotel Royal Beitou .

Exlore Ximending, the “Shinjuku of Taipei”

Street Art in Ximending, Taipei

Ximen, Taipei’s funkiest neighborhood, has been cool since Japanese times. The pedestrian shopping district attracts crowds of local youths and travelers.

It is here that you can find cosplay cafés, piercing and tattoo parlors, ice cream shops with weird flavors, and MTV parlous (private rooms to watch a movie). Ximen is also home to Taipei’s largest LGBT district, historic Red Theater, a weekend arts and craft market, and over a dozen movie theaters.

Get more ideas in my article on weird things to do in Ximending , find out what to eat in Ximending , and read about my experience getting a knife massage in Ximending .

Learn more in the city’s excellent museums

Museum of World Religions Taipei

For starters, you can’t miss the National Palace Museum , arguably the most important museum in the Chinese-speaking world. The colossal structure houses some 700,000 artifacts. If you book your ticket online , it includes entrance to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi .

Next door, you’ll find the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aboriginals. You can save money by getting this combined ticket .

For art lovers, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Taipei Fine Arts Museum are musts. If you are visiting Taipei with kids , consider the Land Bank Exhibition Hall of the National Taiwan Museum, which houses a dinosaur exhibit, or the Miniatures Museum of Taipei .

Admission to numerous museums and art galleries in Taipei are covered with the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass .

Ride a YouBike along Taipei’s riverside parks

Taipei YouBike

Renting a YouBike is a quintessential Taipei experience! The signature yellow and orange bikes (produced by Taiwan’s own Giant Bicycles) are available from literally hundreds of drop-off points throughout Taipei City and New Taipei City .

As a foreigner, it can be a little tricky to rent one. Although many people don’t realize this, you can actually rent one without an EasyCard and local SIM/phone number. I explain how to do it in my YouBike guide .

Some of the best riding to be had in the city is along the city’s numerous riverside parks. A favorite ride of mine is to rent a bike at Yuanshan MRT station, riding past the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Lin An Tai Historical Home to reach the Dajia Riverside Park, continuing along to Raohe Night Market and Songshan Ciyou Temple.

YouBikes are also available in major cities across Taiwan.

Ride a glass floor gondola over tea fields

Maokong Gondola glass bottom cable car

The Maokong Gondola ascends from Taipei Zoo MRT station into the foothills surrounding Taipei, where light, fruity Baozhong oolong tea is grown. To ride in a glass floor gondola, make sure to get in the line marked “Crystal Cabins.”

You can get off at Zhinan Temple station for commanding city views from a stunning temple, or continue to the final stop, Maokong station, from where you can walk to numerous tea houses overlooking tea farms and hiking trails.

Don’t forget to try the tea-flavored soft serve ice cream!

Use your EasyCard to ride the Moakong Gondola, and return tickets are included if you get the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass .

You can also get a deal on Maokong + Taipei Zoo tickets here.

Admire CKS Memorial Hall, one of Taipei’s most iconic structures

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall honors Taiwan’s former dictator and is the city’s most prominent historic landmark. The imposing, octagonal, 76-meter blue and white structure is definitely worth a visit.

In the same large square sit the classical Chinese-style National Theater and Concert Hall. Teens can often be seen practicing dance moves on the walkways around the two buildings.

The best view of the square can be had from Liberty Square Arch on the NW side of the square.

CKS Memorial Hall is included on this Taipei Double Decker Bus Tour .

Explore Taipei’s world-famous food streets

Stinky tofu taiwan

Besides its famous night markets, Taipei is also known for several food streets.

Shenkeng Old Street is otherwise known as the “stinky tofu street” or “tofu capital of Taiwan. This is the best place to try stinky tofu, Taiwan’s most infamous snack.

Yongkang Street is known for its mango shaved ice , traditional teahouses, and high concentration of excellent local restaurants, while Burma Street (also called Zhonghe Myanmar Street) in New Taipei City has the country’s best collection of Burmese restaurants.

Last but not least, Addiction Aquatic Development is an unmissable spot for anyone who loves seafood, whether you want it in seafood hot pot, BBQ, stand-up sushi bar, or an economical sashimi plate to take away.

Play with kitties in a cat cafe

A hand feeding a package of wet cat food to a black and white cat sitting on a table in a cat cafe in Tainan

Did you know that the cat cafe trend started in Taiwan? Find out where it all began in my guide to the best cat cafes in Taipei and around Taiwan .

Since there, there are over a dozen good ones in the city, not to mention several more in cities across the country. Some of these are just regular cafes with a few cats hanging out inside, while others are full on affairs where you pay to spend time with dozens of furballs, including rare breeds.

If you still haven’t found your accommodation in Taipei, read my guide to where to stay in Taipei or see this list of the best Taipei hotels .

Things to Do in Northern Taiwan

Northern Taiwan is dominated by Yangmingshan National Park , a huge dormant volcano massif. The North Coast Highway (Provincial Highway 2) is dotted with enticing attractions ranging from beaches and cliff diving to night markets and historic villages.

New Taipei City, a huge city surrounding Taipei, is home to some of the best day trips from Taipei , while Taoyuan city and Hsinchu county offer possibilities for getting off the beaten track.

Take in a romantic sunset in Tamsui

Sunset at Lover's bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Danshui

Tamsui (Danshui) is a district of New Taipei City with a popular riverside promenade at the end of the Taipei MRT red line. It’s a lovely spot where the Tamsui river, which flows through Taipei, meets the sea.

The promenade is lined with food stalls and children’s games, while in the evening it takes on the air of a seaside night market. There are also a few historical sights in Tamsui, including the Fort San Domingo . Entrance is included in the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass .

Catch a river boat (also included on the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass or swipe with EasyCard ) to Fisherman’s Wharf, a large dock that is famous for having some of Taipei’s best sunsets. The prime spot is Lover’s Bridge, which connects the dock to the shore.

Gorge on seafood at Keelung Night Market

Miakou (Keelung) Night Market, one Taiwan's best night markets

The night market in Keelung, northern Taiwan’s largest port, is so special that it gets its own entry here. Not only does it specialize in delicious seafood (there’s something for everyone if you don’t like seafood), but also every stall has its specialty marked in English, and it is easily Taiwan’s most photogenic night market. Find my food recommendations in my food guide to Keelung Night Market .

The market’s Mandarin name is Miaokou (or “Temple Entrance”) Night Market, named after the large temple at its core. You can reach Keelung in 40-60 minutes from Taipei on the regular train, or visit it after a day trip to Jiufen (see below).

Besides the night market, there are many other interesting things to do in Keelung . See my Keelung guide for more info. Find even more ideas in this article by my friend.

Photograph oddly shaped rock formations at Yehliu

Yehliu Taiwan

Yehliu Geopark is the most popular day trips from Taipei. It is a narrow cape jutting out into the sea, with unusual rock formations carved out by sea winds. It’s a stunning, almost lunar landscape.

The most popular formation is shaped like a queen’s head and typically has a long line of visitors waiting to take a selfies in front of it. If you arrive on your own, you can skip the entrance line with this online admission ticket .

Yehliu is also included on this day tour to Jiufen and Shifen waterfall and the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass .

Find out why everyone thinks Jiufen inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

A-Mei Tea House Jiufen

The former gold mining town turned atmospheric tourist market called Jiufen snakes its way up the mountain, commanding impressive views of the sea. It is easily the most popular of the many day trips from Taipei.

Here’s my guide to Jiufen and all the info you need for getting from Taipei to Jiufen on your own.

You can skip the line at Amei Teahouse , Jiufen’s most iconic building. Jiufen is also part of this Yehliu, Jiufen, and Shifen tour .

The same public buses that go to from Taipei or Ruifang to Jiufen also continue 10 minutes further to the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park , which offers impressive views, mining history, a golden waterfall, and a hike to the remains of Shinto shrine. You can even eat ice cream topped with real gold flakes there!

Hang out with cats at Houtong Cat Village

Wondering what to do in Taiwan? How about the Houtong Cat Village?

The 9-stop Pingxi small train line provides access to some gorgeous mountain villages that make for a pleasant day trip from Taipei as well as some incredible hiking. After getting on the train at Ruifang, the first notable stop is Houtong, otherwise known as Taiwan’s “cat village”.

Once a coal mining town, Houtong’s modern claim to fame is its 100+ resident cats.

It all began in 2008 when a local cat lover began taking care of resident strays. Visitors today can buy cat-themed souvenirs, snacks and drinks, and of course, pet and photograph tons of cats.

The tiny village occupies either side of Houtong train station, with a cat tail-shaped tunnel connecting the two sides.

Shifen Waterfall, Taiwan’s widest

Shifen Waterfall, the most famous waterfall in Taiwan.

Shifen, another stop on the Pingxi train line after it veers inland, is famous for Shifen waterfall, the widest in the country and sometimes called the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan.” The narrow train station is very atmospheric and popular among tourists.

Many visitors like to set off paper lanterns at Shifen train station. This practice is associated with Pingxi, three more stops in on the train line. Pingxi is the site of the annual Pingxi Mass Sky Lantern Release , one of the most famous festivals in Taiwan. You can also access the Pingxi Crags (see next entry) from Pingxi Station.

Find out how to get to Shifen Waterfall here or consider joining this very convenient tour to Shifen, Yehliu, and Jiufen .

Ascend vertical crags on three amazing hikes

Pingxi Crags hike, Taiwan

Taiwan as a whole is a paradise for hikers, and there are three hikes in the Greater Taipei area that stand out if you are looking for adventure. As scary as they may look, all of them are easy enough for anyone who is relatively fit.

The first is the Pingxi Crags, a series of trails leading up a cluster of sheer vertical crags. All the ascents are fitted with ropes and ladders and it is very safe. Still, your heart will be in your throat.

The second is Huangdi Dian hike in Shiding District, which is a little tougher, as it involves a long uphill slog before the trail reaches the peak, which features a gorgeous and incredibly picturesque ridge walk.

Third, and probably the pick of the bunch, is Wuliaojian trail in Sanxia district, a incredibly varied hike that includes rope ladders, cliffs, ridges, views, and pretty much everything that can make a hike awesome and fun. Again, it’s a little challenging (mentally, more than anything, if you dare to look down), but anyone who is in decent shape can do it.

Bathe in colorful water at Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan

Jiaoxi hot spring in Yilan County

Among the many hot spring villages in Taiwan, Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan County is my personal favorite for its many colorful, scented hot spring tubs and herbal steam rooms. Besides soaking in springs, you can also hike to impressive waterfalls, eat hot spring ramen, and drink local craft beer while soaking your feet in a hot spring creek in Jiaoxi.

Find out how to do all of this and more in my guide to Jiaoxi Hot Spring . Also see my Yilan travel guide and find more fun things to do in Yilan .

Yilan is also known for its cool guesthouses & B&Bs .

Sample award-winning whiskey at Kavalan Distillery

Kavalan Whiskey Distillery, Yilan, Taiwan

Did you know that Taiwan produces some of world’s best whiskeys? The World Whiskies Awards named Kavalan’s Vinho Barrique the world’s best single malt whisky in 2015 and the Solist Amontillado Sherry Single Cask Strength the World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt Whisky in 2016.

Entry and a tour of the distillery are free, or you can enjoy a more intimate tour in English with unlimited sampling and make a bottle of your own blend of whiskey to take home on this Kavalan Distillery tour .

The Kavalan Distillery is located in Yilan County and can easily be visited as a day trip from Taipei. Consider to combine your visit with Jiaoxi hot springs (see last entry) then visit Luodong Night Market before heading back to Taipei.

If craft beer is your thing, then the excellent Jim & Dad’s Brewing company is just down the road.

Experience aboriginal culture and hot springs in Wulai

Aboriginal millet wine vendor on Wulai Old Street

Wulai District of New Taipei City is home to Taiwan’s northernmost aboriginal tribe, and the closest one to Taipei City. Wulai is many local expats’ favorite day trip from Taipei, for its riverside thermal hot springs, awesome hiking and river tracing, wild scenery, and delicious aboriginal treats.

Read my guide to Wulai for all the details.

Spend a day at Leofoo Village, Taiwan’s most famous theme park

Leofoo Village Theme Park, Taiwan

While Taiwan has loads of great amusement parks , Leofoo Village in Hsinchu county remains the most famous. It began as a safari park and still has a safari section, but now also includes four huge themed areas of rides as well as a great water park. Don’t miss the screaming condor, a totally insane inverted rollercoaster.

You can save nearly 50% of your entrance fee by buying your ticket online before you go.

Shop for ceramics in Yingge

Tea set from Yingge, Taiwan

Yingge is the undisputed pottery capital of Taiwan. Here’s my guide to Yingge .

There are more than 800 businesses specializing in ceramics around Yingge Old Street. Here you can find tea sets and all manner of pottery ranging from cheap and functional to pieces of art that belong in museums.

In fact, there is a museum in town: the Yingge Ceramics Museum, and it is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.

If you prefer to visit with a knowledgeable guide, check out this Taiwanese folk arts tour .

Things to do on the East Coast of Taiwan

The rugged east coast of Taiwan is know for its wild scenery. Going south from the plains of Yilan, the coast becomes increasibly dramatic, culminating at the Qingshui Cliffs and Taroko Gorge in Hualien County . Continuing south to Taitung brings visitors to remote Taitung County, the bread (or rice) basket of Taiwan, where you can surf year-round.

Click here for even more ideas on  things to do in Hualien and things to do in Taitung .

Test your nerves at the Qingshui Cliffs

Qingshui Cliffs, Hualian, Taiwan

On the rugged and wild east coast of Taiwan, the infamous Suao to Hualien highway, especially the portion known as the Qinshui Cliffs, is the most dramatic.

You’ can take in the cliffs as a part of a Taroko Gorge day tour from Taipei , a less rushed tour from Hualien , by hiring a driver (my preferred option), or by renting a scooter in Hualien and going there on your own (international license or local Taiwanese scooter license needed).

Here you can stop at the side of the highway and gaze down to the sea hundreds of meters below. The Qingshui Cliffs are included on most tours of Taroko Gorge, as they are just a short drive from the entrance to Taroko Gorge.

Find out how to plan this and other hualien activities in my suggested Hualien itinerary .

Marvel at dramatic Taroko Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of Taiwan”

Taroko Gorge, one of the most famous Taiwan attractions

If you only visit one place in Taiwan outside of Taipei, make it Taroko Gorge in Hualien, the country’s premier scenic wonder. Traveling up between the dramatic, vertical walls of this narrow canyon is an experience you cannot miss. Here’s my detailed guide to Taroko Gorge .

The most impressive sights in the gorge include Eternal Spring Shrine built to honor those who died building the highway, the sapphire blue waters of Shakadang Trail, and cliff-hugging Zhuilu Old Trail.

Island Life Taiwan offers the best day tours of Taroko Gorge , with English speaking guides and aboriginal lunch included.

Spend the night in a cabin in a small aboriginal village Taroko Village Hotel ( see on Booking / Agoda / Klook / TripAdvisor ), or stay in the classiest hotel in Taroko Gorge: Silks Place Resort ( see on Booking / Agoda / Klook / TripAdvisor ).

The easiest and fastest way to get there is this direct flight from Taipei’s Songshan Airport to Hualien .

Take an aboriginal cooking course

Taiwanese aboriginal steamed rice in banana leaves

Hualien is also home to a large number of aboriginal people, including the Amis, the largest of Taiwan’s 16 recognized aboriginal tribes, and the Truku (Taroko) tribe, after which Taroko Gorge is named. One great way to experience Taiwanese aboriginal culture is by taking an aboriginal cooking course in Hualien.

In this highly recommended course, in which you can learn how to cooked local vegetables grown right in their garden, and finish them class by having a stiff local drink with the hosts. A vegetarian class is also available upon request.

Do adventure sports in Hualien

White water rafting in Taiwan

Wild, stunning Hualien County is filled with opportunities for adventure sports. One of the most exhilarating things to do in Taiwan is white water rafting in Hualien . The most popular route is on the Xiuguluan river, the only river in eastern Taiwan that cuts through the coastal mountain range. The 3 to 4 hour route includes over 20 rapids.

Other adventure activities in Hualien include whale/dolphin watching and paintballing .

Take a road trip through the East Rift Valley

East Rift Valley, Taiwan

While cycling or riding a scooter all the way around Taiwan is a local rite of passage, most would agree that the most pleasant and scenic portion in the east coast, especially the East Rift Valley in Hualien and Taitung Counties.

The East Rift Valley is a wide plain separating the Central and Coastal mountain ranges, and is famous for its quaint rural scenery, rice paddies, fruit orchards, hot springs, aboriginal culture, and cycling opportunities.

See my article on the east coast of Taiwan for information on planning your road trip.

You can also visit the East Rift Valley on this tour .

Cycle through rice paddies at Brown Boulevard in Chishang

Two kids on an electric bicycle in Chishang Taitung

One of the best ways to experience Taitung and the East Rift Valley is by cycling through its bucolic scenery of rice paddies and mountains.

The most popular place to do this is in a small town called Chishang. The area was catapulted to fame after an EVA airlines commercial starring a handsome Japanese-Taiwanese actor was filmed there. Now Taiwanese people love to go cycling through the rice paddies there to a tree named after him.

Learn how to do it in my guide to cycling and other things to do in Chishang, Taitung .

Be blown away by the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival

Taiwan hot air balloon festival

One of the best places in the East Rift Valley, and one of my favorite places to visit in Taiwan, is Luye, which is famous for the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival held every July in Taiwan and August in Taiwan .

At this time, dozens of hot air balloons, many shaped like cute animals or characters, get blown up on the gorgeous Luye Highland. Currently it isn’t possible for tourists to book a full balloon ride, but you can take a shorter, tethered ride here .

Even if you’re visiting outside of summer, the area around Luye is a gorgeous and laid back region for cycling, walking, or visiting tea farms. You can also visit Luye on a day tour from Taitung , and there are reasonably priced domestic flights from Taipei to Taitung .

See my article on Luye and the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival for more information.

Check out the surf in Taitung

Surfing at Dulan Beach, Taitung County, Taiwan

Taiwan’s may not be famous as a surfing destination, but it should be. The beach in Dulan, an enclave of artists, backpackers, surfers, and aboriginals on a gorgeous stretch of the coast in Taitung, offers some of the best surf in Taiwan year-round.

See my Dulan article for more information on where to surf, eat, and stay in Dulan.

Soak in a saltwater hot spring on tropical Green Island

Zhaori Hot Spring, one of the most unique things to do in Taiwan, Green Island, Taiwan

Green Island, located 33 kilometers off the coast of Taitung, has a distinct tropical/holiday feel, and is one of the best places in Taiwan to go snorkelling and scuba diving (see this Advanced Open Water course on Green Island). They’ll provide everything you need, with variable quality, or you consider bringing your own mask .

Green Island is also home to Zhaori Hot Spring, one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world. Sitting in the rock pools of this hot spring at night, listening to the ocean waves crashing beside us is one of my top experiences in Taiwan.

Get your Green Island ferry tickets here.

Things to Do in the Central Mountains of Taiwan

Taiwan has the largest concentration of high mountains in the world, with 286 peaks above 3000 meters. This includes Yushan in the Central Mountain Range, the tallest mountain in Northeast Asia.

Head to the central mountains to see snow in a subtropical country, find out where the best oolong tea in the world comes from, or see sunrises over seas of clouds.

See snow at Hehuanshan or Snow Mountain

Snow Mountain, Taiwan

Taiwan is a subtropical country (bordering on tropical in the south, as the Tropic of Cancer runs right through the country), but it is possible to see snow on mountaintops in the Central Mountain Range in winter.

Hehuan Mountain is the most popular place to do so, and every time there is a report of snow (usually around January or February ), Taiwanese rush up the mountain to see it and clog Highway 14, Taiwan’s highest automobile pass at 3275 meters.

The best way to go is on this sunrise tour from Cingjing Farm (see next entry) or this private tour from Taichung . Here’s my guide to seeing snow at Hehuanshan . There’s only one hotel at Hehuanshan (a former ski lodge!) and it’s hard to book. Find out how in my guide to booking a room at Songsyue Lodge .

For hikers, Snow Mountain (Xueshan) is a great opportunity to see snow. When I did the hike in February several years ago, we didn’t just spot snow; we had snow dumped on us and trudged through waist deep snow to reach the peak.

Taipingshan in Yilan is another mountain that recently received snow, while a few times snow has even fallen on Yangmingshan in Taipei! See here for more info on where to see snow in Taiwan .

Stay on a high altitude farm

Cingjing Farm, one of the best places to visit in Taiwan

Cingjing Farm is one of the most unique attractions in Taiwan; where else in Asia can you stay in a European-style farm on the top of a high mountain range?

The area around Cingjing was originally cattle land of the Seediq people. Later in 1961, it was converted to farmland for demobilized soldiers of the Republic of China army. An overnight stay at Cingjing comes with epic views and lots of farm animal spotting.

You can visit Cingjing Farm on this private tour from Taichung . Here’s my Cingjing Farm guide , how to get there from Taichung , and reasons I don’t really love Cingjing Farm , even though the region undeniably pretty.

Cycle or Scooter around Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Sun Moon Lake is the gem of the Central Mountain Range, and the road around it has been called one of the best cycling routes on earth. The lake is famous for its gorgeous panoramas, aboriginal culture, beautiful temples overlooking the lake, and the annual mass swim. May in Taiwan , June in Taiwan , and September in Taiwan are, in my opinion, the best times to visit.

Many visitors also come to ride the Sun Moon Lake Cable car to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park , which includes an amusement park that is a great place to view cherry blossoms in spring . Based on my research, this is the best day tour available of Sun Moon Lake , departing from Taichung.

Also see my in depth articles covering things to do at Sun Moon Lake , whether to buy the Sun Moon Lake Pass , best Sun Moon Lake tours , and Sun Moon Lake tea .

Spend the night on a tea farm

Shizhuo tea farm guesthouse

Taiwan’s most famous tea, Alishan High Mountain Oolong tea , is mainly grown around the villages of Shizhuo (Shizhao) and Fenqihu, near the end point of the Chiayi -to-Alishan small gauge railway. For more information, see my my guide to Taiwanese teas .

It is possible to spend the night at one of several guesthouses located on incredibly scenic Alishan tea farms. The area also features a network of hiking trails among the tea farms and has gorgeous sunsets. Another popular trail through tea fields, called Eryanping , is nearby.

We stayed at Cuiti guesthouse ( see on Booking / TripAdvisor ), while another beautiful option that we hiked to is Longyun Leisure Farm ( see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ).

Witness the sunrise over a sea of clouds phenomenon at Alishan

'Sea of clouds' sunrise, Alishan, Taiwan

Alishan National Scenic Area is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions, but for good reason. The area is famed for its high mountain tea, cherry blossoms , misty old growth forests, and sunrises over seas of clouds.

You need a bit of luck to witness the phenomenon. You can learn about the best sunrise points and more in my guide to Alishan . You’ll also find information on escaping the tourist crowds at Alishan, including a mesmerizing hike through a bamboo forest.

Another exciting aspect of visiting Alishan is riding the small gauge railway from Chiayi, but beware that part of the railway is out of operation since it was damaged by a typhoon. Find out more my article on how to get to Alishan . Note than there is a small entrance fee to Alishan, which you can pay online in advance with this deal that includes a famous lunch box en route to Alishan and an electric bus ticket to the sights in Alishan.

You can also get to Alishan by day trip from Taichung . If you take this 2-day Alishan tour, you can stay at Alishan’s best hotel for a reasonable price.

Climb Yushan, Northeast Asia’s highest peak

Peak of Yushan (Jade Mountain), Taiwan

At 3952 meters, Yushan (Jade Mountain) is taller than Mt. Fuji by just under 200 meters, but lacks the crowds. Climbing Yushan is relatively easy for anyone who is reasonably fit, including older children. See here for a detailed guide to hiking Yushan .

Yushan National Park is the remotest in Taiwan, and is home to an abundance of flora and fauna.

The ascent is usually done in two days, with most people hiking the final 1.2km from Paiyun lodge to the peak for sunrise before descending. I saw an incredible sunrise over a sea of clouds when I did the hike in my first year in Taiwan.

You need to apply for a permit well in advance, or contact me for information on an organized tour, as the number of daily trekkers is strictly limited.

Explore quirky Xitou Monster Village

Xitou Monster Village, Nantou

In the remote mountains of Nantou county , there’s an unusual attraction: a Japanese monster-themed village. The story behind it goes back to the Japanese occupation, honoring a friendship between a Japanese and Taiwanese man. Learn about this and more in my Xitou Monster Village post .

In the village there’s a Monster-Themed Hotel ( see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ), while visitor’s to the village can also try spooky snacks like stinging nettle baked buns.

You can visit Xitou Monster Village on this Monster Village Day Tour from Taichung , which also includes a stop at a Mochi Museum and bamboo forest.

Bathe in a mud hot spring at Guanziling

Guanziling mud hot spring, Taiwan

Another hot spring experience that makes it onto my list of best things to do in Taiwan is the mud hot springs at Guanziling in Tainan city . There you can bathe in muddy hot spring water, do a DIY mud facial, or rub thermal mud on your body. It’s said to be great for the skin!

The best resort in town to try it is King’s Garden Villa ( see on Booking / Agoda / Klook / TripAdvisor ). Nearby, you can also see an unusual natural phenomenon at Fire and Water Spring.

Learn everything you need to know in my guide to Guanziling or take this guided day tour from Tainan or Kaohsiung .

Things to Do on the West Coast of Taiwan

While Taiwan’s east coast is wild, the west coast is mostly developed, with never-ending cities and industrial areas blending together.

Still, there are a few green escapes to be had, and the area is rich in cultural attractions tied to the region’s Hakka and aboriginal cultures, modern arts, and some of the country’s oldest histrical sights.

Off the coast, the remote Penghu archipelago is halfway between Taiwan and China.

Experience Hakka culture in Hsinchu and Miaoli

Hakka pounded tea (lei cha) and mochi

The Hakka are a Han Chinese people who originated in central China. A number of Hakka migrated from southern China to Taiwan, and today they comprise 15% of the population of Taiwan. The Hakka mostly live in hilly or rural areas and are known for working hard but also taking time to relax. Their food tends to be hearty and filling.

In Hsinchu, a good place to get a taste of Hakka culture is the Neiwan Old Street, where you can find local specialties such as mochi, ginger lily-flavored glutinous rice, and lei cha , or Hakka pounded tea. Beipu is another popular Hakka town with an interesting Old Street.

In Miaoli, the Hakka Round House is built in the style of a traditional Hakka walled village, while the Hakka Courtyard is a beautifully preserved Hakka sanheyuan (three-sided southern Chinese courtyard home). Last but not least, the Hakka village of Nanzhuang is famous for its sweet osmanthus-flavored foods such as shaved ice. Find more details in my Miaoli travel guide and other things to do in Miaoli .

Order your HSR tickets to Hsinchu or Miaoli in advance and get an early bird discount.

Hike to cave temples on Lion’s Head Mountain

Lion's Head Montain, Taiwan

A 10-minute drive from Nanzhuang, Lion’s Head Mountain is one of the most underrated attractions in Taiwan. A network of easy hiking trails link a large number of temples, some of which are built into cliff walls or in caves.

The mountain is crowded with local hikers or weekends and practically empty on weekdays. Few foreign tourists ever make the trip. If you want to spend the night as we did, you can stay in the simple temple accommodation at Quanhua Temple, one of the most beautiful on the mountain.

See more information in my complete article on Lion’s Head Mountain and Nanzhuang .

Go strawberry picking in Dahu

Picking strawberries in Dahu, Taiwan

During strawberry season (January and February), the small town of Dahu becomes a tourist magnet for locals who come to pick strawberries in the numerous fields that line both sides on the highway in and around the town. You can read all about our experience picking strawberries in Dahu .

The strawberries grown in Dahu are huge, very sweet, and are an extremely popular item across Taiwan when in season.

There’s more to the Dahu strawberry experience than just picking them. The Dahu Wineland Resort is a giant complex dedicated entirely to strawberries. Here you can try a huge range of strawberry-flavored foods, such as beer, noodles, popcorn, sausages, shaved ice, popsicles, tea eggs, and more. The strawberry wine made on site is especially delicious.

Only 20 minutes away from Dahu, Tai’an hot spring village is one one of our favorites in Taiwan, where we strongly recommend King’s Resort Hot Spring Hotel ( see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ).

Take part in the world’s largest pilgrimage to a goddess

Matsu Pilgrimage Taiwan

Religious parades and processions seem to be taking place every other week wherever you are in Taiwan, but the biggest of them all is the 10-day Matsu Pilgrimage. The 300-kilometer pilgrimage to the Goddess of the Sea culminates on Matsu’s birthday, the 23rd day of the third lunar month (usually in April), and is one of the world’s great pilgrimages .

Raucous celebrations begin and end at Zhenlan Temple in Dajia, a coastal town in Taichung. Some 20,000 pilgrims then walk across 21 townships in three counties carrying Matsu in a sedan. Pilgrims are fed and housed by locals along the route, and foreign visitors are welcome to join in the festivities.

Become an Instagram star at Rainbow Village

Rainbow Village Taichung with kids

If you’re seeking a colorful, psychedelic background for your Instagram selfies, look no further than Rainbow Village in Taichung city. The walls of this traditional courtyard home were painted by the 100-year-old resident (as of 2023), a former Chinese solider in the KMT army.

Known as “Rainbow Grandpa,” he could for years be seen there maintaining the paintings on the walls of his home, which is entirely open to visitors. See here for my original guide to Rainbow Village (based on a 2018 visit) and my new guide to Rainbow Village (based on a late 2023 visit) after it was vandalized and most of the original murals were lost.

Rainbow Village is also on my list of best things to do in Taichung , and you can find out how to plan your trip in my Taichung itinerary post and Taichung travel guide . Consider stopping at Feng Chia Night Market , the largest and most famous in Taichung, on your way back to the city!

When it reopens, Rainbow Village is usually included on this Taichung attractions day tour .

See an unbelievable sunset at Gaomei Wetlands

Wind turbines and sunset at Gaomei Wetlands

On the coast of Taichung lies the beautiful Gaomei Wetlands, a 300-hectare area of preserved wetlands with huge wind turbines. Walk the wooden paths and see what kind of creatures you can find on the shore. Make sure to stick around for what is without a doubt one of the best sunsets in Taiwan. Here’s my detailed guide to Gaomei Wetlands .

Gaomei Wetlands is one of the most popular day trips from Taichung .

For the easiest way to visit, try this full-day tour , this other one , or this half-day sunset tour .

Experience traditional Taiwanese culture in Lukang

A street with a huge lantern display above it that looks like a long, winding dragon

Lukang, a coastal town in Changhua county , is one of the best places in Taiwan to experience traditional Taiwanese culture. The town is historically significant but didn’t modernize as much as others because it was decidedly not given railway access.

Lukang is famous for its Old Street, which features very traditional foods made by vendors going back multiple generations. The Lukang Matsu Temple is one of the country’s most important, while the Lukang Glass Temple is a one-of-a-kind modern variety.

Learn everything you need to know in my detailed guide to Lukang .

Delve into Taiwan’s colonial history in Tainan

A Japanese stone gate and other ruins on a red rooftop with other buildings in the background

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the country’s capital before it was moved to Taipei in 1894. There are loads of historical sights in Tainan , from Dutch Forts and centuries-old temples to Japanese-era Hayashi Department Store and 321 Art Alley Settlement, a military housing coming turned artist’s village.

On top of that, Tainan has some of the oldest temples in Tainan and several first kinds of their type in the country. Learn more in my guide to Tainan’s temples .

As if that weren’t enough, Tainan is also widely considered the culinary capital of Taiwan, with some of the best street eats to find in Taiwan. Explore the city’s best with my guide to Tainan’s night market scene .

You can visit Tainan’s colonial sights on this one-day tour or by hopping on the Tainan double-decker sightseeing bus . You can also save money by getting a Tainan Historical Sites Pass .

Hang out in a real-life treehouse in Anping

Mirrors reflecting the many tree branches inside Anping Treehouse

Anping Tree House is one of the most famous attractions in Anping, a coastal district of Tainan City. The treehouse is an abandoned warehouse on the site of Former Tait & Co. Merchant Warehouse, which once imported and exported sugar, opium, and other goods from Taiwan. After it was abandoned, it was taken over by banyan trees.

Today, visitors can walk along a series of elevated platforms through the treehouse to admire it from different angles. There’s also a cute cafe on site. The site is a short walk from Anping Old Fort , the original Dutch fort from when they colonized Taiwan.

Entrance to Anping Treehouse is only 50 NT, or even cheaper if you book your ticket online .

Shop for traditional snacks on the oldest street in Taiwan

A narrow lane in Anping with a mural with Japanese gods painted on it

Anping Old Street is a market street in Anping, the historic coastal district of Tainan City. It is adjacent to Anping Fort .

Today, Anping Old Street is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors flock there to sample local specialties like traditional candied fruits, shrimp crackers, deep fried wontons, and oyster rolls.

The Old Street is surrounded by cute narrow lanes and historic residences. You can also spot emblems of a lion with swords in its mouth, which once served as house markers and are now a symbol of Anping. Visit the area using my self-guided Anping Old Street walking tour .

Float through a stunningly beautiful green tunnel

A green canopy of trees over a canal

Sicao Green Tunnel is a bit of a tourist magnet, but there’s no denying that it is incredibly beautiful. The tunnel is a semi-natural natural canopy of branches and trees (humans have helped a little to create it) over a calm canal in Taijiang National Park, a wetlands region in Tainan City.

Tourists pile onto rafts to float down through the tunnel on a 30-minute tour. The tunnel is located in Annan district, a short drive north of famous Anping district. In my guide to Sicao Green Tunnel , I cover how to get there, and whether it is worth the trip.

If you do make the journey, you can combine it with a visit to Luerhmen Matsu Temple, the largest Matsu temple in the world.

Take part in the world’s most dangerous festival

Yanshui Rockets Festival Taiwan

On the same day that people in northern Taiwan are flocking to Pingxi to set off sky lanterns (the 15th day of the Lunar New Year), the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is rocking southern Taiwan.

See here for my write-up on the Yanshui Fireworks Festival and more information for planning your trip to Taiwan at this time of year in my guide to visiting Taiwan during Chinese New Year .

Participants crowd into the streets to get shot by barrages of bottle rockets fired from layered towers, some of which are round, resembling beehives, and shoot in all directions at once.

Even though full safety gear is a must, injuries are common. Personally, I’m glad I did it once, but I don’t think I’m brave enough for a second time.

Climb a salt mountain and photograph salt fields

Jingzijiao Wapan Salt Fields, Tainan, Taiwan

Salt used to be one of Taiwan’s most important exports, with a 7200-hectare region of salt production lying in the north of Tainan City. Thriving since 1665, the industry went into sharp decline and came to an end in 2002, unable to compete with cheap imports.

Some interesting relics of Tainan’s salt industry remain, notably the 20-meter Cigu Salt Mountain and nearby Taiwan Salt Museum. Besides learning more than ever wanted to know about salt, you can taste salted foods such as salty ice cream, popsicles, dou hua (soft dessert tofu), and coffee (don’t worry, they aren’t too salty).

Meanwhile, photographers flock to the Jingzijiao Wapan Salt Fields, where photogenic cones of salt dot the horizon on a traditional salt production field. The fields are especially stunning at sunset.

You can visit all three salt-related attractions on this Taiwan salt history tour or by chartering a private vehicle from Tainan .

Find out everything you need to know about visiting both attractions in my detailed guide to Cigu Salt Mountain and the Tainan Salt Fields .

Hang out in Penghu’s houses made of coral

Erkan Old Residences, Penghu, Taiwan

The windswept archipelago of Penghu (Pescadores Islands) lies about halfway between the Taiwan mainland and China in the Taiwan Strait and boasts a high concentration of temples, as well as some of the most beautiful and remote beaches in Taiwan.

Due to a lack of building materials in Penghu, which is dry and desert-like in places, locals incorporated materials from the sea such as corallite into their constructions, and you can spot seashells in the walls and fences on many homes.

A great place to see this is Erkan Old Residences on Hsiyu Island, where residents of such homes have set up cafés and shops in their homes. Penghu also hosts a huge fireworks festival in spring.

Learn how to plan a trip to the islands in my Penghu travel guide .

Things to Do in Southern Taiwan

The far south of Taiwan is noticeably more tropical than the north. Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s largest port, seems to be becoming a cooler city every year, while Kenting National Park in the far south is the perfect beach getaway.

To truly get off the beaten track, head to one of the offshore islands, some of which are a stone’s throw from China.

Admire the arts & culture Kaohsiung

Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung, the largest city and port in Southern Taiwan, was included on Lonely Planet’s list of best cities to visit in the world in 2018, for its awesome arts districts, lovely waterfront, and improving urban transportation networks. For more information than I’ll cover here, see my guide to Kaohsiung and the best things to do there .

Kaohsiung has been called the “street art capital of Taiwan” as the city government not only permits but encourages street art in particular zones. Some of the best spots to check out local works include Jiuru Street Art Factory, which is an old train station, and the art zone at Pier 2 Art Center . The city also regularly hosts street art festivals. Here’s an article with photos and details on how to find some of the best street art in Kaohsiung .

Kaohsiung is also known for its excellent night markets and amusement parks, including E-Da Theme park ( get a significant discount by purchasing your ticket online ) and SKM Park, which includes Go-Kart racing .

Ride a bike across Cijin Island

Statue of the words Cijin with palm trees around it

Cijin Island (also spelled Qijin) is a long skinny island that protect the port of Kaohsiung, the largest port in all of Taiwan. It only takes 10 minutes on the ferry to reach Cijin, after which the best way to explore it to hop on a bicycle.

Cijin’s many attractions include a long, black sand beach, the excellent Cijin Sunset Bar, Cijin Fort, and several art installations along the coast. There is also lots of fresh seafood to be enjoyed.

Spot wild macaques at Monkey Mountain

Monkey Mountain (Chai Shan and Shou Shan), Kaohsiung

Two mountains sandwiched between central Kaohsiung City and the sea, Chai Shan and Shou Shan, are home to a large number of wild macaques. One only has to take a few steps out of the city to spot them.

The macaques are quite accustomed to human gawkers, but beware that they are prone to stealing items from people. The best time to see the macaques is in the early morning or late afternoon. The mountain also features the famous LOVE Lookout of Kaohsiung, or you can hike down to Chaishan Secret Beach. The Kaohsiung City Zoo is also located on Shou Shan.

You can spot macaques as you climb Shoushan on this guided hike .

Spend the night at Fo Guang Shan monastery

Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung

Fo Guang Shan is one of the four major Buddhist organizations of Taiwan, and its enormous headquarters is located 30 minute’s drive east of the Kaohsiung city center. It is the largest monastery complex in Taiwan, covering over 130 hectares of land.

The original monastery complex is enormous and features tens of thousands of Buddha statues. Visitors can even spend the night in the Pilgrim’s accommodation. Read all about my experience staying overnight in the temple in my guide to Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Buddha Museum .

In 2011, an even larger addition was made: the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, which houses a Buddha tooth relic and has the largest Buddha statue in Taiwan, at 108 meters.

Snorkel with sea turtles and explore the coast of Xiaoliuqiu

Coast of Xiaoliuqiu, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Xiaoliuqiu, also known as Little Liuqiu, Little Okinawa, and Lambai Island, is a small island within easy reach of central Kaohsiung, perfect for a day or overnight trip. It is Taiwan’s only inhabited island made entirely of coral, not to mention one of the best places in the world to see giant sea turtles.

Popular activities on the island include snorkelling or scuba diving with sea turtles , freediving, beach hopping, cruising around on a scooter, exploring the coast, and hike through coral caves. For all the info, read about more things to do on Xiaoliuqiu island .

See millions of migrating butterflies at Maolin

Butterfly at Butterfly Valley in Kaohsiung and Pingtung

Every year from December to March , millions of butterflies descend on Maolin National Scenic Area in Kaoshiung and Pingtung counties, lending the park the name “Purple Butterfly Valley.”

The park has worked to conserve the butterfly’s environment, and visitors can take photos by following the necessary precautions to not disturb the butterflies.

Watch locals burn an entire boat for the gods

Boat burning at Donggang, Pingtung, Taiwan

In a ceremony called the Burning of the Wang Yeh boats, people torch an entire large boat throughout the night. The festival dates back over 1000 years to China and is conducted for the Wang Yeh deities, who are thought to prevent diseases.

The festival happens in autumn (usually October and November in Taiwan ) once every three years, in the year of the Bull, Dragon, Goat and Dog, with the next festival taking place in autumn of 2024.

They actually burn boats in several coastal areas, but the largest and most famous by far is the boat burning at Donggang in Pingtung County .

Visit Kenting, Taiwan’s first national park, on the southern tip of Taiwan

taiwan travel destinations

Kenting National Park is Taiwan’s premier beach resort and occupies the southern tip of the country. It is rich with beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and, on the long weekend in April , some of the best beach parties and events in Taiwan.

Kenting has the most beautiful beaches in all of Taiwan (with the exception of the offshore islands). You can also visit Taiwan’s best aquarium, the Kenting National Museum of Marine Biology .

You can get to Kenting in a couple hours by taking this bus from Zuoying High Speed Rail station in Kaohsiung. See my Kenting guide for more information!

Visit remote Orchid, Kinmen, or Matsu Islands

Grassland on Orchid Island, Taiwan in May

Orchid Island is a volcanic island located off the southwest coast of Taiwan. It is home to the Yami (or Tao) people, one of the smallest tribes of Taiwan and also the furthest removed from Mainland Taiwanese culture. They are known for the Flying Fish Festival in spring and beautiful handmade canoes. Here’s my complete guide to Orchid Island .

Kinmen consists of two main islands just off the coast of Xiamen, China, so close that you can easily see China from the islands. The main sights are related to military history, as this is a battlefront between Taiwan and China, but you can also spot rare migratory birds in Kinmen National Park.

The Matsu Islands, named after the goddess of the sea, are also extremely close to China. There you can explore fascinating tunnels, forts, and the habitat of birds including the Chinese crested tern, previously though to be extinct.

Well, that sums up my list of the best things to do in Taiwan! I know I couldn’t include everything, but if you feel I’ve made a major omission, please let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts

A guide to visiting Taipei in March and Taiwan in March

13 thoughts on “66 Unmissable Things to Do in Taiwan in 2024”

Nick this list is awesome! Not too far either; we arrived in Bangkok this morning. Good to be back in SE Asia! All booked up for this trip but I will see Taiwan down the road and enjoy some of this awesome-ness.

Hi Nick, This is a really comprehensive guide, thanks for sharing. I’d add Tainan Sicao Green Tunnel my kids loved it, and in Tachung the Liuchuan Riverside Walk stopping by Painted Alley and The Literature Museum.

Thanks a lot Shannon! I do mention Liuchuan Riverside Walk in my Taichung article. I haven’t been to the Green Tunnel yet but I’ve heard about it, so I definitely need to check it out ASAP!

Hello, I live in Taoyuan and I would recommend DaXi old street be on the list since it’s famous for 豆乾(dried tofu) and the old buildings from the 19th century. And it’s not hard to reach-you could easily take a bus from Taipei and do it in one day. If you have one day for it, actually you could also visit Shimen Reservoir (absolutely beautiful during spring season!) and Cihu-where they butied Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo. Both of them were dictators but had influenced Taiwan so much.

Hi there, and thanks for your input! I have actually recommended Daxi, Shimen, and Cihu in my article on the best day trips from Taipei: http://www.nickkembel.com/day-trips-from-taipei/ In the future, I will consider putting it in this article too. I did really enjoy this unique area of Taiwan! – Nick

Great! BTW I am going to leave some suggestions there and you may take a look!

Thank you for your passion and love for Taiwan! The article is too splendid! You really like a local! Thank you for your sharing!

Thank you so much Angeri!

I’ve been binging on your web for few days already. Great content, pleasant style, useful information. Been living in Taiwan for quite a long time myself, many of things around lost their novelty values long time ago, yet, thanks to your guides, I can find some places fresh again. Diversity of possible experiences here is rather unusual. I learnt that you left the island. Hope that you and your family find home wherever you decide to anchor yourselves. Big appreciation for these tones of articles and pictures you have provided. All the best!

Hey Michal, thanks a lot for your comment and I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my site! We’ve been living in my hometown in Canada since early 2020, but planning to come back to Taiwan frequently once things are normal again. Take care, and enjoy exploring Taiwan further!

Wow! I love this comprehensive list! My itinerary is so long! I hope I can do everything in 5 days. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together! I’ll write another comment after I leave Taiwan^^

Thanks for reading!

Thanks so much for these amazing tips – never made me want to visit a country so badly! Seems like it has it all – thank you for taking the time and providing this free of charge in a beautiful format!

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Travel Advisory July 11, 2023

Taiwan - level 1: exercise normal precautions.

Reissued after periodic review with minor edits.

Exercise normal precautions in Taiwan.

Read the  Taiwan International Travel Information  page for additional information on travel to Taiwan.

If you decide to travel to Taiwan:

  • Follow the U.S. Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
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  • Review the  security report for Taiwan  from the Overseas Security Advisory Council.
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None required. Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends travelers to Taiwan be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. Vaccination information can be found here .

Declare cash amounts over 100,000 New Taiwan Dollars (NTD), foreign currencies over 10,000 USD, or over 20,000 Chinese Yuan (RMB). Customs details are here.

Embassies and Consulates

The American Institute in Taiwan, Taipei Main Office 100 Jinhu Road, Neihu District Taipei 114017, Taiwan Telephone:  +886-2-2162 2000 ext. 2306 Emergency After-Hours Telephone:  +886-2-2162 2000 Fax:  +886-2-2162 2239 Email:   [email protected]

The American Institute in Taiwan, Kaohsiung Branch Office 5th Floor, No. 88, Chenggong 2nd Road, Qianzhen District Kaohsiung 806618, Taiwan Telephone:   +886-7-335 5006 Emergency After-Hours Telephone   +886-2-2162 2000 Fax:  +886-7-338-0551 Email:   [email protected]

The United States maintains unofficial relations with the people on Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a private nonprofit corporation, which performs U.S. citizen and consular services similar to those at embassies.

Schedule routine American Citizen Services appointments online. Appointments are available Monday through Thursday except on Taiwan and U.S. holidays .

Destination Description

See the U.S. Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Taiwan for information on U.S.-Taiwan relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

If you wish to enter Taiwan as a tourist or short-term visitor (less than 90 days), you do not need a visa. No extensions or changes of status are permitted. For visa-waiver travel, your U.S. passport must be valid through the number of days you intend to stay. Six-month passport validity is not required.

If you plan to stay longer than 90 days or plan to work or reside in Taiwan, you need a Taiwan visa prior to traveling. Visit the website for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States for the most current visa information.

Taiwan and the United States both allow dual nationality. If you have dual Taiwan-U.S. nationality, you must enter/exit Taiwan on your Taiwan passport and enter/exit the United States on your U.S. passport.

See our website for information on  dual nationality  or the  prevention of international child abduction .

Also see our  Customs Information page .

Taiwan does not have any specific COVID-19 entry requirements for U.S. citizens.

Safety and Security

Potential for Civil Disturbances: Taiwan enjoys a vibrant democracy, and both spontaneous and planned demonstrations occur.  Monitor media coverage of local and regional events and avoid public demonstrations.

Potential for Typhoons and Earthquakes:  During the typhoon season (May through November),  Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau  issues typhoon warnings an average of five times a year (of which, three to four normally make landfall) and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. Taiwan also has severe earthquakes. The most recent severe earthquakes included one that caused 2,000 deaths in 1999 and another that caused 117 deaths with widespread damage in 2016.

Disaster Preparedness:

  • Follow the guidance of local authorities in the event of a disaster. See the National Fire Agency’s page for information on “ Disaster Responses .”
  • See the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website  on how to prepare for an emergency.  
  • See also the  Hurricane Preparedness  and  Natural Disasters  pages of the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
  • When an emergency arises, we will post up-to-date instructions specific to the circumstances of the event on our  website  and send messages to U.S. citizens who have registered through the Department of State’s  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) .

Crime:  There is minimal street crime in Taiwan, and violent crime is rare. Take normal safety precautions, such as avoiding travel after dark or in deserted/unfamiliar areas.  

See the U.S. Department of State's  and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime:  U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should contact the American Institute in Taiwan for assistance at +886-2-2162 2000. U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should also seek medical attention and report to the police as soon as possible for help.

  • Dial 113 to reach the Taipei Center for the Prevention of Domestic violence and Sexual Assault.
  • Dial 110 to report crimes to the local police.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See the U.S. Department of State’s website on  help for U.S. victims of crime overseas , as well as AIT’s webpage for  local resources .

  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
  • assist you with emergency needs that arise from the crime, such as finding shelter, food, or clothing.
  • provide information to facilitate access to appropriate medical care.
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
  • provide a list of local attorneys.
  • provide information on  victim’s compensation programs in the United States .
  • explain financial assistance options, such as assistance available to return to the United States.
  • replace a lost or stolen passport.

Domestic Violence:  U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence should call 113 for emergency assistance and dial 110 for an island-wide toll-free hotline. Dial 113 to reach the Taipei Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may also contact the American Institute in Taiwan for assistance at +886-2-2162 2000.

Domestic violence is considered a crime in Taiwan. Report to police and keep written records of all incidents. Preserve evidence such as medical records documenting injuries, photos of injuries, police records, and damaged clothing and weapons used against you. If you have a court-issued restraining order, present this to the police for use in the arrest of the offender.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties:   You are subject to local laws.  If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. See  crimes against minors abroad  and the  U.S. Department of Justice  website.

Arrest Notification:  If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison authorities to notify the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) immediately. 

  • The American Institute can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers .  
  • Taiwan authorities typically do not permit foreigners accused of crimes to leave Taiwan while legal proceedings are ongoing. 
  • Penalties for illegal drug possession, use, or trafficking are severe, with long jail sentences and heavy fines.
  • Taiwan also has the death penalty for certain violent crimes and drug offenses.  
  • See the U.S. Department of State’s  webpage  for further information. 

Labor Disputes:

  • Avoid labor disputes by establishing all terms and conditions of employment or sponsorship in the labor contract at the beginning of your employment.
  • If the dispute cannot be resolved directly with your employer, the American Institute can provide  a list of English-speaking lawyers .

Customs Regulations:  Taiwan has strict regulations on importing/exporting firearms, antiquities, medications, currency, and ivory. Contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington, D.C., or the nearest Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the United States for specific information  regarding customs requirements . See also  customs regulations .

Dual Nationality and Compulsory Military Service:  Taiwan has compulsory military service for Taiwan males between the ages of 18 and 36.  This includes dual U.S.-Taiwan citizens who enter Taiwan on their U.S. passports . Before you travel, contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington, D.C., or the nearest Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the United States to determine your military service status. 

Faith-Based Travelers:   See our following webpages for details:

  • Faith-Based Travel Information
  • International Religious Freedom Reports
  • Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
  • Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
  • Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad

Health Screening Process:  To detect and prevent the spread of diseases, Taiwan scans the body temperature of all arriving passengers with an infrared thermal apparatus. Symptomatic passengers are required to fill out a form and may need to give an onsite specimen or see local health authorities. See also the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website .

Judicial Assistance:  Authorities on Taiwan provide judicial assistance in response to letters rogatory from foreign courts in accordance with Taiwan's "Law Governing Extension of Assistance to Foreign Courts." For further information, please go to the  American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)’s website .

LGBTQI+ Travelers:  There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) rights events in Taiwan. Taiwan law prohibits education and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On May 24, 2019, Taiwan legalized same sex marriages upon registration with a local household registration office in Taiwan. Same sex marriages from other countries are recognized in Taiwan. LGBTQI+ individuals may still face lack of tolerance, particularly in areas outside the capital and largest city Taipei. See  Section 6 of our Human Rights Practices in the Human Rights Report for Taiwan  and read our  LGBTQI+ Travel Information page .

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance:  Taiwan law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and sets minimum fines for violations. By law, new public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to persons with disabilities. See  Persons with Disabilities in the Human Rights Report for Taiwan (2022) .

Students: See our  U.S. Students Abroad  page and  FBI travel tips .

Women Travelers: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for  Women Travelers .

Taiwan has modern medical facilities, with state-of-the-art equipment available at many hospitals and clinics. Physicians are well trained, and many have studied in the United States and speak English. Hospital nursing services provide medication and wound care but generally do not provide the daily patient care functions found in U.S. hospitals. Taiwan requires masks in healthcare facilities and ambulances to prevent the spread of diseases, including COVID-19.

For emergency services in Taiwan, dial 119.

Ambulance services are

  • widely available;
  • have emergency equipment and supplies;
  • and are staffed by trained medical personnel.

We do not pay medical bills . Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Taiwan hospitals and doctors do not accept U.S. health insurance.

Medical Insurance:  Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare to ensure the medication is legal in Taiwan.

Vaccinations: Be up to date on all routine vaccinations recommended by the U.S. CDC . Vaccinations are available at all major Taiwan hospitals.

Dengue Fever:  In recent years, Taiwan has seen cases of dengue fever, a virus common in subtropical regions that is spread through mosquito bites. There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent dengue. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. For information on how to reduce the risk of contracting dengue, please visit  the U.S. CDC website .

COVID-19: Major Taiwan healthcare facilities have COVID-19 testing capabilities and can administer FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

The American Institute in Taiwan does not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

For further health information :

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety:  Road conditions, lighting, and traffic safety in cities and on major highways are generally good. Roads in major cities are generally congested. Be alert for the many scooters and motorcycles that weave in and out of traffic. Motor scooters are common throughout the island. Be alert for scooters when stepping out of public buses or exiting a car. Exercise caution when crossing streets because many drivers do not respect the pedestrian's right of way. Be especially cautious when driving on mountain roads, which are typically narrow, winding, and poorly banked, and which may be impassable after heavy rains. For example, Taiwan’s central cross-island highway is meandering and often has poor visibility. Exercise caution when driving on highways.

Please see AIT’s website for more details on  Driving in Taiwan .

Traffic Laws:  Passengers in all vehicles, including taxis, are required by law to wear seatbelts. When exiting a vehicle, you are legally required to ensure that no motor scooter, bicycle, or other vehicle is approaching from behind before opening the door. You will be fully liable for any injuries or damages if you fail to do so. Do not turn right on a red traffic signal. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving without a hands-free kit in Taiwan. The legal limit for alcohol in the bloodstream of drivers in Taiwan is 15 mg per 100 ml of blood (0.03% BAC). This limit is strictly enforced. It is useful to have proof of car insurance and proof of ownership of the vehicle. On-the-spot fines are very common for minor traffic offences in Taiwan and are fixed for each offense. You will be told where to pay the fines and within what period of time. For more serious driving offenses, you will receive a court appearance.

Standard international driving laws apply with a few exceptions:

  • You must have a warning triangle in your car to use if you break down or are involved in an accident.
  • You cannot turn on a red light unless indicated.
  • Many drivers run red lights, especially just after they change.

In an emergency:

  • If you have a problem with your car, call the number on the rental documents or attached to the windscreen of your car.
  • In the event of an accident, you should call the police “110” and medical assistance “119.” Provide the police with all the important information including the type of accident, details of vehicles involved and if there are any injuries or fatalities. The second call you should make is to your insurance company.
  • You will need a police report for your insurance company. While waiting for the police, take photographs of the scene and take the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses. Do not move the vehicles unless it is necessary for safety reasons.
  • Police will not ask for bribes.
  • Police will ask parties involved in the traffic accident to do an alcohol test. This is standard operating procedure.
  • If riding a motor scooter, you must wear a helmet.

For specific information concerning Taiwan’s driver’s permits, vehicle inspection road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington, D.C., or the nearest Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the United States.

Public Transportation:  Public transportation is cheap, convenient, and generally safe. Uber is widely available for use. Taxis and buses may swerve to the side of the road to pick up passengers with little notice or regard for other vehicles.

Please refer to our  Road Safety  page for more information. Refer also to Taiwan’s  Road Traffic Safety Portal .

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Taiwan's air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the  FAA’s Safety Assessment Page .

Maritime Travel:  Mariners planning travel to Taiwan should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Maritime Security Communications with Industry (MSCI) web portal. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport website , and the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Navigational Warnings website .

For additional travel information

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
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  • See the  State Department’s travel website  for the  Worldwide Caution  and  Travel Advisories .
  • Follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook .
  • See  traveling safely abroad  for useful travel tips.

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Taiwan . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA ) report.

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A taste of Taiwan: why Tainan, Hualien and Hsinchu are cities to savour

Small yet spectacular, Taiwan is a melting pot of East Asian tastes, traditions and culinary techniques. Explore them at their best on a journey through three lesser-visited cities.

Taiwan, a series of small subtropical islands sat in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, is a destination known for its natural beauty. But these islands are also home to one of East Asia’s most exciting culinary scenes — one that has been influenced not only by the region's unique climate and lush landscapes, but also its rich, multi-faceted history. First inhabited by Austronesian-speaking Indigenous groups, Taiwan has acted as a cultural crossroads for over 500 years, having played host to Japanese, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese settlers. Now, Taiwan's streets sing with sizzling street food, are lined with world-class restaurants and boast dishes that cement the region's cuisine as a melting pot of ingredients and cooking techniques. 

With its spectacular street vendors and long list of Michelin-starred spots, the capital, Taipei, is often the go-to destination for food-focused visitors to Taiwan, many of whom are tagging a few days onto a longer East Asia trip. However, the country's extensive rail and bus network have made it incredibly easy to travel beyond the capital and discover some of Taiwan's lesser-visited culinary hotspots. Take the time to sample delicacies such as stinky tofu in the vast night markets of Tainan, learn about Indigenous Taiwanese culture through the cuisine in Hualien, or experience the coastal winds that make for perfectly dried persimmons in Hsinchu. There's plenty to savour in Taiwan.

One of the island’s oldest cities, Tainan is a must-visit for those wanting to learn about Taiwanese history, with traditional shrines, temples and museums located around every corner. But it’s also home to a dynamic, ever-evolving street food scene, with numerous night markets, such as Wusheng Night Market and Garden Night Market, frequenting large spaces outside the city centre. 

Packed with vendors and brightly lit stalls, these night markets are the perfect place to sample some of Tainan’s signature delicacies, including oyster omelettes, swordfish stews, stinky tofu and even danzai noodles — wheat noodles in a pork and shrimp broth, topped with meat sauce. Markets’ opening days and times can vary, so check schedules online before arriving.

For those who prefer to stay central to the city, plenty of small restaurants and cafes can be found around Tainan’s historic centre, offering everything from shrimp rice to shaved ice and bubble tea. There’s even unique old-house bars that blend traditional Taiwanese tea into cocktails. What’s more, the religious nature of the area means that Tainan is particularly friendly to vegetarians and vegans, as observant Taiwanese Buddhists often opt to eschew meat, onion and garlic.

Located on Taiwan’s mountainous east coast, Hualien is known as the gateway to Taroko Gorge , one of Taiwan’s most famous national parks. It’s a destination of wild, dramatic scenery, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, cycling and even surfing from its rocky beaches.

Hualien is considered by many to be the cultural heartland of the nation’s Indigenous people, thanks to their strong presence on this side of the island. This makes it an ideal spot to sample traditional dishes drawing from Indigenous Taiwanese culture. Local specialities include bamboo tube rice — made by cooking rice and pork inside a bamboo shoot — roasted wild boar, and vegetables flavoured with maqaw, a spice from the seeds of the May Chang tree that’s locally known as ’mountain pepper’. 

Visit in July to catch the Joint Aboriginal Harvest Festival, a celebration of the Indigenous communities local to Hualien. The event features a variety of songs, dances and cultural ceremonies, as well as plenty of stalls offering local dishes, seasonal produce and handmade crafts to purchase.

Tradition meets technology in Hsinchu. This coastal city is not only the home of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, but also the heartland of the Hakka community, a distinct cultural group that immigrated to Taiwan from mainland China in the 17th century. Here, travellers have the opportunity to visit some of the country’s premier technological institutions — such as Hsinchu Science Park and nearby National Tsing Hua University — before spending an evening at one of the city’s many izakaya, informal Japanese-style bars. 

Known as the ‘windy city’, due to its tempestuous coastal climate, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Hsinchu’s culinary specialities are often of the dried variety. Mifen, a type of vermicelli noodle made from rice, is first steamed and then dried in the winds, giving it a distinctive chewy texture. Other local delicacies include dried persimmons harvested from nearby fruit farms and Lei Cha, a traditional ground tea that forms a part of Hakka cuisine. 

Beyond Hsinchu City, travellers can visit the county’s tea farms or take on day hiking routes through Mount Egongj and Mount Niaozui. Just over half an hour’s train ride from Taipei, Hsinchu is an easily accessible alternative to the capital.

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Far & Wide

Most Affordable Travel Destinations in Asia

W e all want adventure in the great wide somewhere, but sometimes our bank accounts don't coordinate. Luckily, a lack of funds doesn't mean we have to give up travel, just that we have to forget the idea of luxury resorts and yachts. 

Asia is known for being a perfect affordable travel destination, providing amazing experiences, rich history and great food for a very reasonable price. Vietnam and Thailand come to mind first, but there are several other low-cost countries you can venture around for less than $100 a day. 

These are some of the cheapest Asian countries to visit on a budget.

Average daily cost:  $98*

As one of the smallest countries in Asia, Taiwan is often overlooked by travelers. But those wise enough to get to this island nation find one of the coolest places on the whole entire continent. 

Let us put it like this — we have  never  met  anyone  who didn't like Taiwan. There are very few other places that hold this honor. The locals are notoriously open and friendly (Taiwan is often deemed as the safest and most welcoming Asian country for LGBTQIA people), and there are a million things to do.

Taipei offers a typical bustling city vibe and great nightlife. It's also just a short train ride away from beaches and mountains. Food, particularly in street stalls, is very affordable and delicious. And it's easy to find bargain prices for accommodations. What's not to like?

*All average daily costs are based on estimates from  Budget Your Trip .

Best Budget Stay in Taiwan

For less than $20 a night, you can enjoy an actual hotel experience at the  Yi Su Hotel – Taipei Ningxia .

That's right, you don't have to stay in a hostel dorm to keep within budget. Amenities include free tea and coffee-making facilities in-suite, air conditioning and free WiFi.

13. Thailand

Average daily cost:  $94

Ah, Thailand, the place where every backpacker with no money and a proclivity for walking around barefoot ends up. The large Southeast Asian country has an undeniable charm with swirling temples hiding giant golden Buddhas, jungles vibrating to the stomps of elephants, limestone cliffs dipping into turquoise waters and some of the best food you will ever eat in your life. And it offers all this for very, very cheap. 

It's really no wonder why this country has become a broke gap-year traveler paradise, though some (us) would argue that this popularity has brought overtourism and overdevelopment to the country.

Our advice would be to head to the touristy spots for a couple of days and then hop to other places that aren't yet plagued with stalls selling tacky T-shirts to tourists. Oh, and get a  Thai massage  as often as possible.

Best Budget Stay in Thailand

For about $10 a night, the  Flower Power Farm Village & Restaurant  offers an idyllic escape on the island of Ko Phayam.

It offers simple and cozy bungalows, a restaurant that serves fruits right from the property and a peaceful setting. 

12. South Korea

Average daily cost:  $93

It's a bit surprising to see South Korea have a slightly lower average cost than Thailand, though we suspect this has to do with the fact that there are many ultra-luxury Thai resorts. 

Still, the beautiful peninsula of South Korea is much more affordable than people think. Accommodations will be your biggest expense, and food is generally very cheap and very good. You can easily pay $10-$15 for a Korean BBQ dinner at a restaurant in Hongdae, one of the most frequented nightlife districts in Seoul (yes, New York's K-Town prices are an absolute scam). Other delicious dishes like red pepper soup (gochujang) or kimchi fried rice are generally under 10 dollars — and that's including all the numerous and generous side dishes.

Soju is also  extremely cheap , as is norebang (the Korean equivalent of karaoke), so going out and having fun won't leave you destitute. Plus, you can travel around the country in the low-cost and highly efficient train and bus system. 

For more affordable Asian countries, check out Far & Wide.

El Nido, Philippines

Taiwan Stops New Group Trips to China Amid Tourism, Air Route Spat

Reuters

People look at flight information at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan April 12, 2023. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan told its travel agents on Wednesday to stop organising new group tours to China since Beijing has yet to allow such trips to the island by Chinese tourists and has altered a flight path in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Post pandemic, China has largely resumed permission for its nationals to visit a host of popular tourist destinations including Japan, but has yet to add Taiwan back on its approved list amid ongoing tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

China claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei.

Taiwan had planned to resume group tours for Taiwanese to China from March 1 after they were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tourism authority said those already organised from that date to May 31 could go ahead.

But "considering the change in the situation", including China not allowing Chinese to visit Taiwan and China's altering of a flight route through the Taiwan Strait last week, Taiwanese travel agencies cannot arrange any more tours, the Tourism Administration said in a statement.

Photos You Should See

Drum majors from the Mississippi Valley State University marching band parade down Jackson Ave during the traditional Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

China's Taiwan Affairs Office, responding to the tour move, said Taiwan was "blowing hot and cold" in having previously said it wanted such tours to resume, and then stopping them.

"This will only make the Taiwanese people and the tourism industry once again be dissatisfied with the political manipulation of tourism by the Democratic Progressive Party authorities," it said, referring to the ruling party.

Taiwan's government expressed anger after China "unilaterally" changed the flight path close to the strait's median line, saying it appeared to be a deliberate attempt to change the status quo for possible military means.

China has downplayed the furore, saying it is a routine measure to alleviate air space pressure.

Taiwanese are still able to visit China on individual trips, while Chinese who live in third countries have since last September been allowed to come to Taiwan again as tourists.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Philippa Fletcher)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters .

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Ascending 7000ft on Taiwan’s historic Alishan Forest Railway

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Feb 8, 2024 • 6 min read

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Gleaming red diesel engines propel a train of historic wooden carriages through Alishan Forest Recreation Area © Sean3810 / Getty Images

Our slow travel series explores how you can take more mindful journeys by train, boat, bus, or bike – with tips on how to reach your destination without flying, and what to see and do along the way. Here, we join Lonely Planet contributor Brian Healy on the 112-year-old Alishan Forest Railway in Taiwan following its recent makeover.

What makes a misty mountaintop forest even more magical? The train ride to get there.

Climbing some 7000ft over three (long!) hours, the narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway in Western Taiwan has long attracted rail enthusiasts.

Built by the occupying Japanese in 1912 as a way to bring timber down to Taiwan ’s densely populated west coast and ship to elsewhere in Asia, the undersized cars pass through 50 tunnels and across 77 bridges as they wind their way up to a dense area of old-growth trees.

The Alishan Forest Railway approaches Zhaoping station, Taiwan

From timber to tourism

Originally populated by the Indigenous Tsou people, this lush, high-altitude region has groves of Taiwania conifers, Formosa cypress, Douglas fir and other prized tree specimens. Together they make up the Alishan Forest Recreation Area .

Offering visitors relief from the sweltering coast, the railway faced closure on multiple occasions as the timber industry withered as Taiwan industrialized after WWII. Fortunately, rail enthusiasts rallied to save the route – and today, it exists as a delightful, eccentric jewel in Taiwan’s nationwide train network.

Mt Daito, seen from the Alishan Forest Railway, Taiwan

With Z-shaped switchbacks and looping tunnels, the railway is a marvel – or perhaps a folly – of engineering. Schematic renderings of the route look like geometric spaghetti.

Trains depart from Chiayi and scrubby green woods give way to staggering vistas of the plains as the train banks around an escarpment. Clattering over trestles, negotiating curves, passing through tunnel after tunnel (is this one the third or the twelfth?), the train makes its way slowly, inexorably, and almost imperceptibly, upward.

Shortly before Shizilu station, the spectacular rock face of Mt Daito (also called Mt Ta) appears – reminding passengers that the diminutive carriages have already traveled up some 5000ft (1500m). Only 2000ft (610m) more to go.

An engine of the Alishan Forest Railway pulls in the station, Chiayi, Taiwan

Keep an eye out for the narrowest tracks 

The railway originates from the main station of Chiayi, a regional city whose bustling side streets and night markets are well worth exploring. Uniformed rangers at a dedicated window hand passengers their tickets ( reserving online in advance is essential). You then follow well-marked signs to a separate platform where the tracks are visibly narrower than those on the main line a few feet away.

A beautifully painted, candy-apple-red diesel engine pushes the carriages, which have received retrofits. They now include air conditioning and new seats in a two-and-two configuration. However, you can still see their age in details like the heavy-metal hardware and an abandoned panel of switches and knobs that once controlled the cabin. The full-train intercom system is a less welcome upgrade. The conductor provides commentary for almost the entire ride, mostly in Mandarin.

We chug through Chiayi at street level. Dozens of motorbikes wait as we pass each grade crossing. The rear balconies of the city''s apartment blocks abut the track as we continue through the city's periphery. Finally, potato fields and groves of betel-nut palms appear.

The train calls at several sleepy stations before the climb begins. At 330m (1083ft), views of the hazy coastal plain below start to open up. The conductor informs us the track now reaches an astonishing 5% gradient at certain points. Hikers disembark at remote Dulishan station. I wonder if they are walking back to Chiayi on foot. The train continues its serpentine ascent. Due to typhoon damage, Shizilu – several kilometers short of the forest proper – is the uppermost stop on the line for now. A bus takes us to the reserve entrance via several switchbacks. Authorities expect to finish restoring the line soon.

A hiker among towering trees on the Tashan Trail, Alishan Forest Recreation Area, Taiwan

A short ride further up to a slow walk through the woods

Entering the park on foot, my husband and I hustle past the coach-choked visitor center and shopping plaza to Alishan train station, which will soon be the railway terminus again. It's a gleaming timber-beam structure that would hold its own against any depot in the Swiss Alps that offers passengers a bonus journey: a seven-minute jaunt up further to Zhaoping .

Fashioned from local (now endangered) Taiwanese cypress, the antique carriages have been lovingly restored. Their interiors give off a faint, pleasant smell of sanded wood and linseed oil. The cars creak and groan through open windows as the train navigates the short, very curvy final stretch. The bullet train sure doesn’t sound like this.

A few steps from Zhaoping station, we’re surrounded by huge trees that stretch up into the clouds. We walk a little further to get off of the main circuit. Suddenly, we have the forest to ourselves. We start up the Tashan Trail and tackle a few hundred of its thousands of steps before we meet the winding railway track once again. We then follow the smoothly graded track part of the way back down to Alishan station.

The ambiance of the verdant forest provides a surprising serenity. The active seniors, birdwatchers, schoolchildren and a few fellow foreigners we encounter are as engrossed by nature as we are – and all it took was a 111-year-old railway to the clouds.

A historic SL13 locomotive in Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park, Chiayi, Taiwan

A closer look at the equipment

Back in Chiayi the next day, we head to Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park , next to the depot that keeps the active rolling stock shipshape. It has vintage steam locomotives and carriages on permanent display. The leafy setting, the impressive and diminutive equipment, and the locomotive turntable make the scene as close to the TV show Thomas the Tank Engine as you can get in the real world.

I hear the signal bell activate and see the crossing gate lower as the morning departure sets out for its daily climb. I wave to the passengers as the train trundles by, wondering if they know what awaits them up there in the clouds.

The interior of a historic carriage on the Alishan Forest Railway, Taiwan

How to make it happen

The Alishan Forest Railway departs from Chiayi station every day at 9 am . There are two supplemental departures on weekends (at 8:30 am and 9:30 am.

As track-restoration work continues, outbound trains terminate at either Shizliu or Fenqihu stations. From there, you need to continue to Alishan Forest Recreation Area by bus. The return trip departs Shizliu at 1:50 pm. A one-way adult fare costs about US$15 ; tickets go on sale two weeks before departure and sell out quickly. Book ahead .

Within the park, branch lines featuring vintage carriages depart frequently from Alishan station to Shenmu and Zhaoping (US$3.25; no reservations necessary). One train a day leaves from Alishan station to the famous sunrise-viewing platform at Zhushan, timed to arrive just before daybreak (tickets US$4.75; reservations highly advised).

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Taiwan reports more Chinese balloons over Taiwan Strait

In its daily report on Chinese military activities, Taiwan's defense ministry said it spotted the first balloon on Saturday morning and the last one mid-afternoon, having spotted the same number of balloons on Friday.

Five crossed the northern and central part of Taiwan, according to a map provided by the ministry.

Taiwan's defense ministry said on Sunday it had detected eight Chinese balloons crossing the Taiwan Strait in the previous 24 hours, of which five flew across Taiwan, the second day in a row is has reported a large number of balloons.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei, has complained since December about the balloons, saying they are a threat to aviation safety and attempt at psychological warfare.

China's defense ministry did not answer calls seeking comment on Sunday. Both China and Taiwan are currently celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday, the most important festival in the Chinese-speaking world.

Last month, China's government dismissed repeated complaints by Taiwan about the balloons, saying they are for meteorological purposes and should not be hyped up for political reasons.

Chinese warplanes operate daily in the Taiwan Strait and often cross its median line that previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides. China says it does not recognize the existence of that line.

Taiwan last month elected Vice President Lai Ching-te as its next president, a man China describes as a dangerous separatist.

Lai, who takes office in May, has offered talks with China, which have been rejected. He says only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

The potential for China to use balloons for spying became a global issue last February when the United States shot down what it said was a Chinese surveillance balloon. China said the balloon was a civilian craft that accidentally drifted astray.

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  1. Must-Visit Attractions In Taiwan

    Sun Moon Lake Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan and a great destination for a short trip. There are scores of hotels located around the lake which is busy with yachts taking tourists from one side to the other. There is also a cable car here that takes you to the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village. Maokong

  2. 10 best places to visit in Taiwan

    1. Sun Moon Lake Best place to bike Located in central Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is renowned for hiking, boating, romantic walks and countryside temples. It's also famous for its bikeways, frequently found on lists of the world's most stunning biking paths in the world. There are multiple options, but we recommend the Shuishang Bikeway.

  3. 10 Best Places to Visit in Taiwan (+Map)

    7. Kenting National Park Considered by many to be the oldest national park in the country, Kenting is located in the south of Taiwan on the Hengchun Peninsula, and is a very popular tourist destination. With loads of lovely scenery on offer, visitors mostly come to enjoy the wonderful beaches and the tropical climate that makes it so appealing.

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    Taiwan Tourist Spots include cultural-historic cities, port cities, modern cities, National Parks and Islands, Taiwan really has it all! Best of all, it's easy to travel around Taiwan by train and bus and thanks to the size of Taiwan island, it's possible to see a lot of Taiwan in 1 week or 2 weeks.

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    For a 7-day Taiwan itinerary, I'd suggest the following: Day 1-2: Taipei. Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, Maokong or Thousand Island Lake and the Shiding tea township) Day 4: travel to Sun Moon Lake. Day 5: explore Sun Moon Lake and travel to Taichung ( book HSR tickets with a discount here) Day 6: Taichung.

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    Day 1: Taipei 101, Maokong Gondola and Shilin Night Market. Start the day with a trip to the observation deck of Taipei 101, Taipei's most iconic building. The 101 story building resembles a giant bamboo stick and the 91st-floor outdoor observation deck offers amazing 360-degree views of the city.

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    Taiwan's perception problem stems in part from its astonishing economic success. The Taiwan Miracle, the island's transformation into one of the world's richest countries in less than fifty years, created images of endless manufacturing plants and overcrowded cities.The long struggle to establish a distinct political and cultural identity in the shadow of its big brother on the mainland ...

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    55 Places to Visit in Taiwan Tourist Places in Taiwan Taipei 101, National Palace Museum, Rainbow Village, Yangmingshan National Park, Shilin Night Market, Longshan Temple, Ximending, Muzha Zoo, Chungbuk Fall Pine, Gaomei Wetland, Lihpao Land, Tian Yuen Temple, Fo Guang Shan, and many more.

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    Hike to cave temples on Lion's Head Mountain. Cave temple on Lion's Head Mountain. A 10-minute drive from Nanzhuang, Lion's Head Mountain is one of the most underrated attractions in Taiwan. A network of easy hiking trails link a large number of temples, some of which are built into cliff walls or in caves.

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    Address: 972, Taiwan, Hualien County, Xiulin Township, 富世291號. Contact: +886 3 862 1100. Opening Hours: Open 24 hours. Social: Website. 3. Sun Moon Lake. Nantou's Sun Moon Lake is one of the most scenic Taiwan tourist spots. It's approximately two hours away from Taipei city and as serene as ever. A park and lush forests surround the lake ...

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    Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.

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    Taiwan is great for solo women travelers Taiwan has a very low crime rate, and many solo women travelers report feeling safer here than in other destinations. Some train and metro stations have nocturnal women-only wait zones that you can take advantage of, especially if traveling alone at night. 16. Taiwan is a welcoming place for LGBTIQ+ ...

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  28. Taiwan reports more Chinese balloons over Taiwan Strait

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