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Like any season, winter in Taiwan comes with some ups and downs. The winter weather in Taipei and the north of Taiwan is not ideal, but it’s the perfect time to soak in Taiwan’s incredible array of thermal hot springs. In the tropical south, however, it can still be warm enough to go to the beach and swim in the sea.
Taiwan in winter also comes with a smorgasbord of holidays and festivals. What’s more, cherry blossoms start blooming in winter, not to mention the fact that it is even possible to see snow in Taiwan in winter (it won’t be easy, though!)
It may surprise you to learn that, according to tourist arrival numbers, December is actually the most popular month of the year to visit Taiwan. This is because of winter break in neighborhing countries, but also many people come for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations in Taiwan.
After that, January is the second slowest month of the year, while February and March see tourist arrivals picking up again. Some people smartly avoid visiting during Lunar New Year in Taiwan, while Taiwanese abroad flock to the country at this time to visit their families.
In this article, I will help you decide whether winter is really the best time of the year to visit Taiwan FOR YOU, and I’ll provide all the tips and info you need for planning your Taiwan winter trip. I’ll also cover winter and Christmas events in Taipei and across Taiwan, including where to see the best Christmas lights, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year events, and even where to sit on Santa’s lap!
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Table of Contents
When Is Winter in Taiwan?
Winter generally lasts from December to March in Taiwan. December is a transitional month; it can be surprisingly warm, especially in recent years, but at some point in the month winter does really kick in, and you’ll definitely want to dress extra warm to watch those New Year’s Eve fireworks at Taipei 101!
January and February are the peak of winter in Taiwan. Sometime in late January to late February is also when Taiwanese people have a week off work (and students usually 2-3 weeks off school) for the Lunar New Year holiday; see my detailed guide to visiting Taiwan during Lunar New Year for all the information about what will be open and closed, and the best days to travel, during that time.
Winter usually persists into March, and by the end of the month, spring gradually arrives. I’ve also got monthly guides: Taiwan in December, Taiwan in January, Taiwan in February, and Taiwan in March.
It’s important to note that the winter seasons is more distinct in the sub-tropical north of Taiwan, including Taipei, Yilan, and Taroko Gorge. The south of Taiwan, which lies below the Tropic of Cancer, is more tropical, meaning there is less of a winter season. During winter, the temperatures in the far south are often 5-10 degrees warmer than in the north.
Taipei Winter Weather
If you’re from a tropical country like the Philippines or Singapore, winter weather in Taipei may seem VERY cold to you. On the other hand, if you come from a very cold city in Canada, like my family does, you may still wear shorts and a T-shirt for most of winter in Taipei, as my father does when he visits.
Even though cold weather may seem like downside, the other seasons aren’t perfect, either. Spring in Taiwan has lots of rain and summer in Taiwan is TOO hot. As you can see, there’s really no “high,” “low,” or perfect season to visit Taiwan in terms of weahter, although autumn is my personal favorite for these reasons!
Taipei and other parts of Northern Taiwan have the chilliest and wettest weather in Taiwan in winter. The entire season is characterized by gray skies, occasional drizzling rain, and damp, cool weather that chills you to the bone. There are still sunny days, though, so it’s not as bleak as it sounds.
The average temperature in Taipei in winter is the mid teens Celsius (around 60°F), but when it drops as low as 7°C (45°F), it can actually FEEL quite cold. It’s the humidity that makes it feel much colder than the number indicates, plus the fact that most homes don’t have internal heating. For example, I dress the same for 10 degrees in Taipei as I would in my dry hometown for zero degrees.
January and February are the months when you will really feel this in Taipei, but this winter weather often carries on well into March. By the end of March, it usually starts warming up to more comfortable temperatures.
Not sure if winter in Taipei is for you? See my detailed guide for the best month to visit Taipei.
Winter Weather across Taiwan
However, head further south and all of that will change. Cities and counties on the central west coast, including Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, and Yunlin are significantly drier than Taipei in winter, and a few degrees warmer.
Once you cross the Tropic of Cancer in Chiayi county to Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and Taitung, the climate in Southern Taiwan becomes decidedly tropical, which means there’s less of a difference between summer and winter. You can expect the temperature to be about 5 degrees warmer than in Taipei most of the time, with almost no rain.
In the far south of Taiwan, such as Kenting National Park, the sea is warm enough to swim in year round (some days can be quite windy though), and the surfing never stops at Dulan in Taitung, although waves tend to be rougher in winter.
You will, however, want to avoid the offshore islands like Green Island, Penghu, and especially Orchid Island in winter, when the weather can become cool and very windy, and many services close for the season. One exception is if you want to go to Penghu specifically for windsurfing.
It is still possible to visit high mountain resorts such as Cingjing Farm (1748 meters) and Alishan (2500 meters) in winter, but it will be even colder. The average temperature at Alishan at the peak of winter is a high of 10°C (50°F) and low of 6°C (43°F). Snow is quite rare but not unheard in these places.
Does it Snow in Taiwan?
Yes, it does snow in Taiwan! But almost exclusively on the tops of high mountains deep in the island’s Central Mountain Range. It is extremely rare to see snow in any major cities or lowland areas in Taiwan, and many Taiwanese have never touched or even seen snow in their lives.
That’s why, in late January of 2016, the locals in Taipei City were ecstatic when a few inches of snow fell in Yangmingshan National Park and other areas on the edge of Taipei City. There were even traffic jams of locals driving up to see it. My family and I witnessed people driving down from the mountains with little snowmen built on the front of hood of their cars, and cute videos appeared on social media showing kids (and adults) playing in snow at the side of the road for the first time in their lives.
The same thing actually happened again in early February 2018. However, these are freak occurrences, and certainly not the norm in Taiwan. Even if you visit Taiwan in the middle of winter, you should not expect to see any snow unless you venture deep into the high mountains, at location’s I’ll mentioned below.
Even at Alishan National Scenic Area (2500 meters), seeing snow in winter is very rare. I went there once at the peak of winter, and I only saw some frost on the Alishan Forest Railway tiles in the early morning. It was still very cold though!
Where to See Snow in Taiwan
It’s important to emphasize that it’s not easy to see snow in Taiwan. You are probably going to have to travel to a remote area, either by private car or on a bus that only runs once or a few times per day. You may have to contend with crowds of locals trying to get there too. And you also need to be lucky, because some spots only sometimes have snow.
Having said all that, here are your best options:
If you are truly determined to see snow in Taiwan, then there are certain mountains that offer the best opportunities. The top spot is Hehuanshan (elevation 3422 meters), which is practically synonymous with snow in Taiwan. In fact, Hehuan Mountain even had a ski lift years several ago, used by the elite during the Martial Law period. The ski lift is still visible to those hiking to the mountain’s east peak.
But Hehuanshan is NOT easy to get to. It is located in Nantou County, the country’s only landlocked county, but near the boder with Taichung and Hualien. Although it is closer to the east coast, there’s no public transportation from that side, and the highway from Taroko Gorge going up to Hehuanshan is often closed due to landslides. When the road IS open, it can be hard to find a driver willing to make this difficult drive.
Most people reach Hehuanshan from the Taichung side (west coast) by driving up winding Highway 14A to Wuling Pass (3275 meters), the highest navigable pass in Taiwan. Wuling (武嶺) is not to be confused with Wuling Farm (武陵農場) 1.5 hours away in Taichung, a resort town famous for flower viewing and close to Snow Mountain (see below). Hehuanshan is a short drive after the Wuling Pass. Upon reaching Hehuanshan Service Station, there are lookout points and a few hiking trails on Hehuanshan (some of which require a permit). This is where snow can often be seen in winter.
Driving up there when there’s snow can be dangerous. The highway, which is quite winding and difficult to drive during normal weather, can become a slippery mess with snow on it. Cars in Taiwan do NOT have winter tires on them, so they are not equipped to handle driving on snow. What’s more, when there is snow, a lot of Taiwanese people go up there to see it, so the narrow road can become clogged with vehicles.
There are no hotels at Hehuanshan. The closest is Songsyue Lodge (松雪樓), which has private rooms and hiker-style shared rooms. The former are extremely hard to book, especially since they only take reservations on their website (Mandarin only), and it’s not an easy process to navigate. Most visitors stay in Cingjing Farm and make a side trip to Hehuanshan from there.
Without your own vehicle, you can try this Cingjing Farm and Hehuanshan tour from Taichung (minimum 2 people required) or take bus 6658A from Puli or Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan (only 6 departures per day, so don’t miss the last bus back!)
Snow Mountain, Yushan, and Taipingshan
Some other mountains that offer a good chance of seeing snow in winter in Taiwan are Jade Mountain (玉山 or Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan and Northeast Asia), Snow Mountain (雪山 or Xueshan), and Taipingshan (太平山) in Yilan County.
Hiking to the first two peaks requires two full days of hiking, and permits need to be arranged well in advance. Please contact me for my recommendations on the best local guides for these hikes. A very common question I receive is whether it’s possible to just walk up and see the snow at Snow Mountain from Wuling Farm, the adjacent tourist resort. But the answer is no – the snow is high up on the mountain, and requires several hours of hiking (and a permit) to see it.
I personally hiked to the peak of Yushan, but it was in summer so I didn’t see any snow. But when I hiked Snow Mountain in February, there was loads of it! I’m surprised we even made it to the top, because there was so much snow, and we couldn’t see anything from up there. Still, it was one of my most incredible experiences in Taiwan.
For Taipingshan, you can take a bus from Yilan to get there (only one per day in each direction). However, it doesn’t snow there as often as at the other mountains I mentioned. If it snows at Taipingshan, then it is usually in the news in Taiwan (including English news sites), and there is usually a huge rush of people going up to see it.
Where to go Skiing in Taiwan
Even though the ski resort at Hehuanshan has closed, did you know that it is possible to go skiing in Taiwan? Don’t get too excited, though. It’s a tiny, indoor facility with human-made snow, located at Little Ding-Dong Science Theme Park in Hsinchu.
See more information about it in my guide to the best Taiwanese theme parks.
For a fun winter idea, try taking a cooking course in Taiwan! There are many great ones to choose from.
What to Wear in Winter in Taiwan
For Taipei, you’ll want to bring multiple layers, because winter weather can vary quite a bit. A thin thermal shirt is great to keep your body warm, and you’ll definitely want a good sweater or jacket to put on top of it. A winter hat (“toque” where I come from) is also good for keeping warm.
Locals can be seen wearing full-on winter jackets, scarfs, and other winter gear at this time, but if you are more used to cold weather than they are, a thin jacket or normal hoodie will likely suffice. I’m from a really cold city in Canada, and while it’s true that the type of damp cold in Taipei really gets under your skin, so long as it’s not raining, there are winters when I’m still wearing a T-shirt outside half the time, except for those few weeks each winter when the temperature really drops.
While the rain volume in these months isn’t high compared to spring or summer in Taipei, when it does come, it tends to drizzle for days on end, making everything feel even damper and colder. A waterproof parka can be very handy, but an umbrella isn’t as essential as it is for those insane summer downpours. You can pick one up from any convenience store, so don’t bother packing one.
Keep in mind that most houses and cheaper hotels in Taiwan are not internally heated, so if it’s cold outside, it can feel like practically the same temperature inside. Therefore, a pair of comfy PJs or warm indoor clothing can be useful as well.
If you’re planning to spend most of your time in the south of Taiwan, it is less likely that you are going to need any kind of winter clothes. Bring a single light jacket or sweater just in case. When traveling along the east coast or anywhere near the sea in Taiwan, however, it can be quite windy.
On the other hand, if you’re heading up to Alishan, you are going to want full-on winter gear, especially if you plan to wake up in the early morning to stand around shivering and waiting for sunrise. They do sell winter hats, gloves, and even jackets at Alishan’s tourist village, just in case you forgot or don’t want to pack them.
Things to Do in Taipei in Winter
One of the most obvious (and best) things to do in the winter in Taipei is to head to Beitou Hot Spring. Whether you want to have a romantic date with a private hot tub, blend with locals at the public springs, dine on hot spring ramen, or just stand mesmerized before the steaming Hell Valley, Beitou is the place to be in winter in Taipei.
Here are all my recommendations for the best things to do in Beitou Thermal Valley, including the best hot spring spas for every budget.
Another favorite way for Taipei people to stay warm in winter is by spending a couple hours enjoying hot pot with friends. There are countless hot pot restaurants in Taipei, so they are easy to find – just copy-paste 火鍋 into GoogleMaps.
The quintessential soup base to choose in winter is mala or “mouth-numbing spicy”, which will warm your body through and through (and numb your mouth thanks to those delicious Sichuan peppercorns).
Most hot pot places are all-you-can-eat affairs with two-hour time limits, and these often include unlimited beer and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Just type “hot pot” into GoogleMaps to find one near you, but they can be packed! Fancier ones are à la carte and focus on higher quality ingredients; my personal favorite is Tripod King.
Another fun way to stay warm outside is by visiting one of Taipei’s many night markets, where crowds and steam coming off the foods create a warmer atmosphere, and a variety of belly warming foods are served. See my list of the best street foods in Taiwan to decide what to eat!
Yet another idea is to visit one of several museums and art galleries in Taipei. Find more info and ideas in my guide to the best things to do in Taipei.
Christmas in Taipei and Taiwan
Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Taiwan, nor is it a day off from school or work (unless it falls on a weekend). But shops, malls, and even the government take Christmas decorations pretty seriously in recent years.
In fact, Taiwan’s Christmas events and decorations have become a tourist attraction, with many visitors coming from nearby countries in Asia to experience Christmas in Taiwan.
Where to See Santa Claus
Santa is usually at the Regent from early December until December 31. In 2022, he’ll be there weekdays 18:00-20:00, weekends & December 25, 12:00-15:00 and 18:00-21:00). Just follow the hotel’s Facebook page, as they usually make a post about Santa and other Christmas activities they host sometime in early December every year, with some English usually provided.
In Taoyuan City, it is also possible to see Santa Claus and a Christmas and the “Gloriday Xmas Fantasy Parade” at Gloria Outlets. See announcements about these Christmas events on their news page.
The large plaza between Banqiao MRT/train station and New Taipei City Hall, as well as a new area around Fuzhong MRT station, is filled with an over-the-top display of Christmas lights, including tunnels of lights, Christmas concerts, fake snow, and more. Try for a weeknight to avoid the worst of the crowds, and avoid the first few days it is open, and the days closest to actual Christmas Day. The lights attract a sea of people!
In 2022, Christmasland is running from November 11 to January 2. See the official site for the event map and more details.
Other Christmas Events in Taipei
There is usually a Christmas Fair a Gongguan Water Park. The 2022 dates are from December 3- 31. You can expect Christmas lights for the duration of the event, plus some special performances and other activities (especially on weekends).
Other places to see Christmas lights in Taipei include the shopping district around Taipei 101, other major malls in the city, and Jiqin Christmas Alley (吉慶聖誕巷) in Beitou.
Christmas Events around Taiwan
In Keelung, watch for the large Christmas tree set up on Maritime Plaza beside Keelung Harbor, near the Keelung train station.
In Taichung, you can see Christmas lights at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Taichung Zhonggang store, National Taichung Theater, and Lihpao Discovery Land (a big mall and amusement park north of Taichung city center), and Wow Cool House (image above by @chinling_kuo on IG).
Taichung also has its own “Taichung Sweet Throbbing Heart” festival from December 16 2022 to January 2 in 2023, with lights and decorations around Taichung station and Luchaun Canal (綠川水岸步道).
In Kaohsiung, expect even more cool lights and art installations than usual at Pier 2 Art Center. There will also be an LED lights show from Kaohsiung Music Center (see below video) and more lights and decorations along the Love River nearby.
New Year’s Eve Events in Taipei
New Year’s Eve is also celebrated with enthusiasm in Taiwan, with the country’s largest event being the wild fireworks (and, in recent years, LED display) on Taipei 101.
Literally hundreds of thousands of people crowds into the streets of Xinyi District to watch. The most crowded area is north of Taipei 101, at Taipei Civic Plaza, where there is a stage with concerts and the country’s official countdown. The north also in the past had the best view of the LED lights show on Taipei 101, but in 2022, it should be the same from every direction.
Getting to and away from Taipei 101 on that night can be challenging. The MRT runs for all night that night, but it is jam packed, with a long wait to get into the station, let along onto a train. If you plan to find a taxi anywhere near Taipei 101 in the couple hours after the fireworks, forget about it. The best idea is to walk for 20 minutes away from 101, then try.
Besides the area immediately around Taipei 101, other extremely popular (and crowded) vantage points for watching the fireworks include Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Elephant Mountain (photographers are known to claim spots a whole day in advance), other lookout points on the Four Beasts Mountains, Maokong Gondola area, and Fuzhoushan Park.
Dajia Riverside Park is another very popular spot, from where it’s possible to see both the Taipei 101 fireworks and smaller Miramar fireworks (the mall with the giant Ferris wheel) at the same time.
OK places you can try that may not be quite so bad are Guanshan Riverside Park, Rainbow Bridge area, Jinmianshan Trail, and Jiantan Mountain Trail (the latter three involve hikes). Learn more about these hikes in Taipei here. You can also see this Mandarin language article covering various fireworks viewing spots and what their view looks like.
First Sunrise of the Year on the East Coast
There is a custom in Taiwan of gathering to watch the first sunrise of the year on the east coast of the country. From Taipei, most people go to the sunrise event at Fulong Beach (read about Taipei’s main beaches here). The event includes a concert on the beach. In the past, they ran a “Happiness Train” from Taipei to Fulong after the fireworks, but so far there has been no word of such a train this year.
Other NYE Fireworks around Taiwan
Besides the country’s largest fireworks display in Taipei, most major cities in Taiwan have New Year’s Eve events of their own.
Down in Kaohsiung, you’ll have a choice of three major events. As always, there will be a major fireworks display at E-Da theme park. There will also be a New Year’s Party with concert Dream Mall (site of Kaohsoiung Eye Ferris Wheel) from 7 PM in Qianzhen district, also with fireworks at midnight. There will be two different stages, one on the Zhonghua Rd side of the mall, and one on the Chenggong side of the road.
There will also be concerts, activities, and an LED lights display from Pier 2 Arts Center, especially on either side of Dagang Bridge, as well as around the Kaohsiung Music Center. Here’s the official event page.
Lunar New Year in Taiwan
Visitors to Taipei in January and February will want to pay attention to when Lunar New Year falls that year (It will be on Jan. 22 in 2023). In the weeks leading up to it, Dihua Street in Dadaocheng becomes swamped with locals buying new year’s supplies; it can be fun to experience.
During the Lunar New Year holiday, many things close in Taipei. See my detailed guide to traveling to Taiwan during Lunar New Year to find out how best to plan your trip. The article includes all the details about what will be open or closed, and which exact days are the best or worst to travel – it’s more than I want to cover here.
On the 15th day of the Lunar New Year (February 5 in 2023), the Lantern Festival is celebrated with the famous mass lantern releases in Pingxi, New Taipei City. This is where you can see hundreds of “sky lanterns” floating up to the sky at the same time (it is said to be terrible for the environment, as they all eventually fall down and get stuck in trees).
The mass releases usually take place on several days around the actual festival date, often the two Saturdays closest to the holiday. I’ll update this article with the 2023 dates when they are announced – this year could be different because the holiday falls on a Sunday. Find out how to get there in my Pingxi Railway Line guide.
Besides the mass lantern releases in Pingxi, every city in Taiwan hosts their own smaller Lantern Festival, which usually involves a collection of cool lanterns (see below image) placed in a park of famous area of the city.
On top of that, there is also the national Lantern Festival Event, which takes place in a different city of Taiwan every year. This event usually has a stage with talks and concerts, more cool lanterns to see, and one ginormous lantern in the shape of the zodiac animal of that year.
In 2023, for the first time in 23 years, the national event will be hosted by Taipei City! It will be such a big affair that there will only be a short gap of less than one month between Christmas/New Year’s Eve activities and Lantern Festival activities.
From February 1 to February 4, Taipei City will test out its lanterns and lights, so you’ll be able to see them. Then the Taipei Lantern Festival officially runs from Feb 5 to 19. There will be lantern displays throughout Eastern Taipei, including Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei Arena, 44 South Village, and all around Taipei 101.
Seeing Cherry Blossoms in Winter
The first cherry blossoms of the season appear in Taipei in January at Pingjing Street (Shilin District) and in Wulai. In February (or sometimes not until early March), the best place to see them is Yangmingshan, while in March, Tianyuan Temple in Tamsui, New Taipei City, one of Northern Taiwan’s most impressive temples, has arguably the country’s most stunning display.
Other places around Taiwan to see cherry blossoms are at Wuling Farm (in Taichung, but usually reached from the east coast) in Feburary, while Sun Link Sea (Shanlinxi or 杉林溪, located past Xitou Monster Village) and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (beside Sun Moon Lake) in Nantou County, as well as Taian Police Station in Taichung are best in March.
Azaleas (Taipei’s official city flower) and calla lilies usually also start blooming in mid- to late-March. See more information in my guide to visiting Taipei in March.
Other Things to Do around Taiwan in Winter
There are virtually no places that you can’t get to just because it’s winter in Taiwan. I would only say to avoid the offshore islands, which can be very windy, cold, and most traveler’s services close down. One exception is if you’d like to go windsurfing in Penghu.
Therefore, I would still suggest following my detailed Taiwan itinerary for 1 week, 2 weeks, or 3 weeks for traveling around Taiwan, or my Taiwan itinerary with kids for those traveling with little ones.
These of course includes Taiwan’s most famous attractions: Jiufen, Taroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake, and Alishan. Taroko Gorge is just as magnificent even when skies are gray (in fact, low hanging clouds can make it even more stunning), and to beat the cold, head to this secret hot spring.
Sun Moon Lake can be fairly chilly in winter, but when the sky is clear (which is more likely in that part of Taiwan in winter), it is every bit as beautiful. Make sure to check out the Sun Moon Lake Pass deals before you go. Meanwhile, visiting Alishan in frosty winter can be quite the experience, just make sure to dress in full winter gear.
The perfect antidote to cool weather in Taiwan is the country’s many hot springs. Some of the best ones include Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan, Jianshi Hot Spring in Hsinchu, Tai’an Hot Spring in Miaoli, Ruisui Hot Spring in Hualien, Zhiben Hot Spring in Taitung, and Guanziling Mud Hot Spring in Tainan.
Winter is also strawberry season in Taiwan, and one very popular thing to do (among locals) is to head to Dahu, a small township in Miaoli, that is famous for its strawberry U-pick farms. You can read about our experience strawberry picking in Dahu here.
Another cool thing to do in winter is Taiwan is to visit Gaomei Wetland in Taichung or Sicao Green Tunnel in Tainan. Many migratory birds, including the black-faced spoonbill, can be seen in those two popular attractions in winter.
If you want to completely avoid the cold, wet weather in Northern Taiwan, then head to the far south, such as Dulan in Taitung, Foguangshan Monastery in Kaohsiung, Kenting National Park in Pingtung (where the weather can still be warm enough for the beach), or to Kaohsiung and Tainan (where “winter” means pleasantly warm days).
Winter is also a fine time for exploring the culinary and artistic attractions of Taichung, including famous Rainbow Village (but not this year – Rainbow Village is closed in 2022, and not expected to reopen until early 2023).
See here for more information on traveling around Taiwan during Chinese New Year, and my 50 favorite things to do in Taiwan at any time of year.
Conclusion: Is Winter a Good Time to Visit Taiwan?
While December is the most popular month to visit Taiwan by tourist numbers, once the chilly, gray weather kicks in, most tourists seem to be scared away in January and February. This is probably worsened by the fact that most of Taipei shuts down and it can be hard to travel around the island during Chinese New Year.
Still, winter has a lot going for it, whether you want to avoid crowds, bask in hot springs, see cherry blossoms, enjoy one of the many winter festivals, or even seek out snow in Taiwan. Moreover, much of the island actually remains warm in winter, so this may be ideal for anyone who wants to avoid the intense heat of spring and summer. If you decide winter is the best time to visit Taiwan, then embrace your decision, plan it well, and you will surely have a wonderful trip!