Visiting Taipei & Taiwan in December 2020

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According to the tourist arrival numbers, December is the most popular month of the year to visit Taiwan. Does that surprise you?

Some of the reasons people may want to spend December in Taiwan include taking their Christmas holidays abroad, escaping from cold weather in Europe/North America, escaping hot weather in Southeast Asia, or seeing autumn foliage in the mountains of Taiwan.

December is a transitional month between autumn and winter in Taiwan. Chilly winter weather usually arrives in Taipei sometime in December, while the south of Taiwan remains pleasantly warm and dry in December.

Christmas activities and one of the world’s most epic New Year’s Eve fireworks displays are the finishing touches that make December one of the best months to visit Taiwan.

 

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Taipei Weather in December

After the last few months of crisp, autumn weather, December officially marks the start of winter in Taipei. The average high temperature in Taipei in December is 21°C (70°F), while the average low is 15°C (59°F), which can be coolder than it sounds if you’re used to a dry climate.

While December can be cool, it is also the least rainy month of the year in Taipei, with only 75mm of rain (12 days with spots of rain, on average). For this reason, purely in terms of weather, December is the most pleasant of the winter months in Taipei; January is noticeably colder, while February tends to be both rainy and cold.

In recent years, there have even been some freakisly warm (or even hot) days in Taipei in December, but that is not the norm.

See here for my detailed guide to the best months to visit Taipei.

 

What to Wear in Taipei in December

If you’re mainly staying in Taipei, then jeans plus a few layers on top are ideal. When the sun pokes out, you may find a T-shirt will suffice, but most of the time, you’ll probably want to have a hoodie or light jacket on as well, especially for going out in the evening.

Visitors from countries with tropical climates such as the Philippines or Southeast Asia may want to bring more winter-like attire, as Taipei in December may be quite a bit chillier than what you are used to.

 

Find out where to stay in Taipei and read my tips and making the best use of the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.

 

Taiwan Weather in December

Yehliu Geopark, showing the weather in Taiwan in December
Yehliu Geopark on a brisk winter day.

 

Most of Northern Taiwan has similar weather to Taipei in December, including Yilan and Taroko Gorge in Hualien County. What’s more, anywhere near the coast, including Yehliu Geopark and Jiufen, can be quite windy, making it feel even cooler.

If you intend to go autumn foliage viewing in the mountains, or to high mountain resorts such as Cingjing Farm or Alishan, then it’s going to be even colder. For example, Alishan can go down to 10°C (50°F) in the early morning.

The further south you head from Taipei, the warmer it will get. Taichung is usually a few degrees warmer than Taipei, while cities further south such as Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Tainan can be a few degrees warmer still, and in Kenting National Park, it is still possible to swim on the beach in December. If you love mild/warm weather, then December is one of the best times of the year to visit these parts of Taiwan.

 

What to wear in Taiwan in December

Shorts and a T-shirt are enough to get by in the far south of Taiwan in December, but for Taipei and especially for visiting any forests or high mountain areas, you’ll want full-length pants/jeans, and multiple layers to keep your body warm.

For watching the sunrise at Alishan, you’ll even want to have gloves and a winter hat, but if you forget to bring them, they do sell them there.

 

Taipei in December: Best Things to Do

While Taipei may start to get fairly chilly in December, it surely won’t stop you from visiting any of the main Taipei attractions or night markets. Plan your sightseeing according to my Taipei 2 day itinerary.

By far the best antidote to the cool weather is taking a dip in a thermal hot spring. Beitou hot spring is Taipei’s very own hot spring resort, first developed by the Japanese when they colonized Taiwan. Read my detailed guide to Beitou to find out the best hot spring spas and hot spring related attractions to explore in Beitou.

 

Two kids walking along a hot creek in Beitou, one of the best things to do in Taipei in December
My kids running along the hot creek in Beitou Hot Spring Park. See here for more info on visiting Taipei with kids

 

Another good way to warm up is by spending an evening enjoying all-you-can-eat hot pot with friends; most places have a two-hour time limit.

On the 22rd day of the tenth lunar month (December 6, 2020), one of Taipei’s loudest traditional parades (and there are many of them) takes places in Wanhua District. The parade honors the birthday of the Qing Shan King and centers on Qingshan Temple, one of the most important Taipei temples. Rituals begin two days earlier, than take place well into the night of the 22nd (Dec. 6).

 

Inside Bangka Qingshan Temple in Taipei
Qingshan Temple in Wanhua District, which hosts a huge traditional parade in December

 

The Shilin Residence Chrysanthemum Show, held in the former residence of Chiang Kai-Shek, continues from November to December 15.

The annual Taipei Marathon will take place on December 20, 2020, and is a popular event for foreign participants to take part in. Recent years have seen over 100,000 runner takes part!

By December, most of the silvergrass and colorful autumn foliage is gone in and around Taipei; you’ll need to head into the mountains further south in Taiwan for the latter (see below).

 

Christmas in Taipei

Giant Christmas tree and Santa Claus in Taipei at the Regent Hotel, one of the best Christmas activities in Taipei
Christmas tree and Santa Claus at the Regent Hotel in Taipei

 

While Taiwanese families don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, nor is Christmas a public holiday, there have been an increasing number of Christmas activities in Taipei in recent years. Moreover, many malls and neighborhoods take Christmas decorations pretty seriously.

If you’re traveling to Taiwan with kids, you can see Taipei’s largest Christmas tree, and even sit on Santa’s lap, at the Regent Taipei. For Christmas decorations in Taipei, try the Gongguan Christmas display, which includes Christmas concerts and other activities for all of December.

But for the best of the best Christmas events in Taipei, you simply can’t miss Christmasland in Banqiao, New Taipei City. In the large square between Banqiao Train Station and New Taipei City Hall, you’ll find yourself in the midst of completely over-the-top Christmas lights display, including tunnels of lights, Christmas concerts, and more.

Beware of zillions of selfie-takers, though. To avoid the worst crowds try to come on a weekday, and ideally not right around the festival begins, or on weekends closest to Christmas Day.

 

My kids seeing the Christmas lights in Banqiao, New Taipei City in December
My kids at “Christmasland” in Banqiao, New Taipei City

 

New Year’s Eve in Taipei

New Year's Eve fireworks in Taipei at Taipei 101
The famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display at Taipei 101 (note all the people at the bottom!)

 

The Taipei 101 fireworks display on New Year’s Eve surely ranks as one of the world’s greatest. You’ll need to arrive in Xinyi District hours in advance to secure a decent spot (dress warm!) among the hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Besides the streets around Taipei 101, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is another super popular spot, as is Elephant Mountain (photographers arrive many, many hours early to set up their tripods in the best spots; good luck getting a decent view!) Tiger Mountain (connected to Elephant Mountain) or Bishan Temple offer good views from further away.

For many Taiwanese youths, the best place to take in the fireworks is the New Year’s Eve Bash held and Taipei City Hall Square, which features concerts from some of the country’s top pop stars, and of course a view of the fireworks.

For a totally insane perspective, you can even see the fireworks from the 89th floor of Taipei 101, of the building the fireworks are shot from (tickets super limited).

Beware that the MRT in the hours leading up to the fireworks can get so crowded that you literally can’t even get on; we got stuck in a station one year trying to board, and trains weren’t even stopping. What’s more, after the fireworks are done, it can be quite tough to get back home; good luck on finding a cab or squeezing into any nearby MRT station! My best advice is to start your night eating and drinking somewhere close (but not too close) to Taipei 101, then just walking over. And don’t forget public washrooms are hard to come by in Taiwan; the MRT station may be your only choice!

A second fireworks display and New Year’s Eve event in Taipei also takes place at Dajia Riverside Park.

New Year’s Eve is a super busy and expensive night to party in Taipei. Most night clubs have steep cover charges, and you’ll need to get a ticket in advance or wait in a long line.

 

 

Taiwan in December: Best Places to Visit

If you’re planning to do a full tour around the country in December, then begin by consulting my recommended Taiwan itinerary for 1-3 weeks, and find more ideas on my list of the 50 best things to do in Taiwan.

Will cooler weather, you may want to consider day trips from Taipei that involve soaking in hot water, including Wulai or Jinshan in New Taipei City and Jiaoxi Hot Springs in Yilan County. Note that Taroko Gorge is fine to visit in December, but do dress warm, and consider seeking out this secret hot spring.

 

Jiaoxi Art Spa Hotel, on of the best places to visit in Taiwan in December
Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan

 

Art & food lovers should dedicate a few days to Taichung during their trip; here’s my recommended Taichung itinerary, including of course Rainbow Village and Gaomei Wetland. Flower lovers should also consider checking out the Xinshe Flower Festival, held in Taichung in November and December. If you plan to be in Taichung for NYE, the city usually holds its main celebration and fireworks at Lihpao Village; see my article on the best Taichung Day trips for more information. Sun Moon Lake can be slightly chilly in December, but skies are often clear.

Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and Taitung are lovely to explore in December, with warm weather and almost no rain. To observe flocks of Taiwanese Purple Crow butterflies, head to Maolin Scenic Area. Kaohsiung hosts two major New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks displays, at Dream Mall and E-Da.

December is, along with November, the best month to observe autumn foliage in Taiwan. In Taoyuan, the best spots include Bade Bald Cypress Forest (八德落羽松森林), Shimen Reservoir (石門水庫), and Lalashan (拉拉山).

In Yilan, try Mingchi National Scenic Area (明池國家森林遊樂區), but you’ll need to drive to get there. The forest paths and “Bong Bong Train” at the peak of Taipingshan (太平山) are also an gorgeous location spot for autumn foliage viewing.

 

Wuling Farm, one of the best places to see fall colors in December in Taiwan
Beautiful Wuling Farm in late Autumn

 

In Taichung, Wuling Farm (武陵農場) has the best fall foliage, but remember that Wuling Farm is in the far east of Taichung, so it is actually more convenient to access from Yilan on the east coast than from central Taichung City on the west coast. Another option near Wuling Farm but further up the highway is Fushoushan Farm (福壽山農場).

Autumn foliage can also be seen at Alishan Forest Recreation Area in December; consult my guide to getting to Alishan to find out how to experience the foliage from the Alishan Forest Railway.

Meanwhile, Aowanda (奧萬大) National Forest Recreation Area in Nantou County is one of the country’s most famous autumn foliage spots; if you make it that far, also stop in at Cingjing Farm. Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區) is yet another prime spot for fall colors, and don’t miss Xitou Monster Village right next to it.

 

Xitou Monster Village, one of the best places to visit in Taiwan in December
Bizarre Xitou Monster Village, beside Xitou Nature Recreation Area

 

Down in Tainan, Hongye Park (紅葉公園) is the most well-known place to see beautiful fall colors. It is located adjacent to Guanziling (關子嶺), famous for its unique mud hot springs; taking a dip in the mud-colored water or rubbing the skin-smoothing mud on your face is an experience you can’t miss in Taiwan in December!

 

Conclusion: Is December a Good Time to Visit Taiwan?

Well the weather can be a little chilly in Taipei and the north of Taiwan in December, the sheer number of events in December in Taiwan can more than make up for it. What’s more, there’s hardly any rain across Taiwan in December, which makes it the best winter month in terms of weather.

From flowers and autumn foliage viewing in the mountains to some of the best Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations in Asia, it’s no wonder December is the most popular month of the year to visit Taiwan!

 

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