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I’m not going to lie to you. Spending 5 days in Taiwan is not enough! I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to leave wishing your had more time to explore this compact yet extremely rewarding island nation! (And if you change your mind, here is my recommended Taiwan itinerary for 1 to 3 weeks.)
But if that’s the number of days you’ve got this time, I’m here to help. Below I will cover exactly how to plan a Taiwan itinerary for fives days. it will pack in as many local restaurants, night markets, attractions, and experiences as you can handle with your limited time!
I run the Taiwan Travel Planning group and have helped hundreds of travelers plan their trips to Taiwan. I’ve lived in Taiwan for over 10 years and my kids were born and raised there. Feel free to join the group and I’ll be happy to answer any question you may have. You can also head here for more general info about planning a trip to Taipei and more tips for traveling in Taiwan.
Now, let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
When to Visit Taiwan
Starting from the beginning: when is the best time of the year to visit Taiwan? Well, the answer is quite complicated, as there is no distinct high and low season in Taiwan. Do you want to see cherry blossoms and soak in hot springs? Then winter in Taiwan is for you. Or do you want to hit the beach and brave the crowds (and possible typhoons)? Then opt for summer in Taiwan. Or are spring and summer the ideal seasons?
But to really do these questions justice, I’ve written a detailed guide to the best time to visit Taipei and the best time to visit other parts of Taiwan. In those articles, you’ll find links to a dozen other articles I’ve written specific to visiting Taiwan in each month of the year.
I recommend using Klook to get loads of discounts for traveling in Taiwan. Register with this link to get TWD100 off your first activity. Also consider getting a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass; read my Taipei Fun Pass guide to see how it works.
How to Plan Your Taipei 5 Day Itinerary
Did you notice I wrote “Taipei five day itinerary” and not “Taiwan five day itinerary”? That’s because my first piece of advice for you is that if you only have five days in Taiwan, I don’t think you should stay anywhere besides the capital city, Taipei.
Why is that? Well, there are simply SO MANY things to see in Taipei (here’s my list of 50 great ones) that there is no reason to waste a whole day moving to another city and checking into a new hotel. Even if you do, you’ll hardly have time to explore that new city before having to make your way back to Taipei and the Taoyuan Airport.
Moreover, with so many insanely awesome possibilities for day trips from Taipei (here are 40 I recommend), you will be able to choose from numerous sights spanning northern (and even central, if you want) Taiwan without ever having to switch hotels.
Assuming that you have five entire days in Taipei, not counting the day you arrive and check into your hotel, I would suggest spending 2-3 days exploring Taipei City, and 2-3 days doing day trips from the city. Take your pick!
Still want to spend a night or two out of the big city? Some travelers do decide to do this even with such short time.
Others opt for a night or two in Taichung city, including a visit to nearby Sun Moon Lake. And still others decide to ride the train to Hualien city on the East Coast for visiting Taroko Gorge. It can be done in one night if you plan it well, but maybe sure to book your train in advance (up to 28 days – it often sells out). And it’s not even that crazy to travel all the way down to Kaohsiung city for a night or two, since the High Speed Rail can get you there in only 2 hours – book your HSR ticket here to get a discounted fare.
To save time, you can plan it so that you return to Taipei on the same day of your departing flight, and connect directly to the airport via Taipei Main Station (coming from Hualien) or Taoyuan Station (if riding the HSR from Taichung or Kaohsiung). From either one, you can hop onto the Airport MRT.
Where to Stay in Taipei
So now that we’ve covered when to visit Taiwan and why Taipei is the perfect home base for visiting Taiwan in 5 days, it’s time to decide where you’ll stay in the city. Which is another challenging question. With so many awesome neighborhoods, and thousands of hotels to choose from, how can you even narrow it down?
I’ve made this decision simple for you by breaking it down into the seven best neighborhoods to stay in Taipei depending on what kind of traveler you are, with hotel recommendations for all budgets for each of them. I’ve also got guides to the best low-budget hostels and best high-end resorts.
Taiwan Itinerary for 5 days
OK, now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of your Taiwan 5 day itinerary (or “Taipei 5 day itinerary”, right?) I’m mostly going to be checking off the top sights in the city in a logical order below, but if you are the kind of traveler who prefers to get off the beaten track or do urban exploration, you’ll find loads of ideas for doing so in my list of things to do in Taipei.
Also note that this itinerary packs in a lot, so please make adjustments according to how speedily or slowly you travel, and if visiting in summer, consider that doing anything outside in the midday is like torture…
Day 1: Central Taipei Sights
Start your day bright and early at Mengjia Longshan Temple, the city’s most important and well-known temple. Be there for 6:00 or 8:00 a.m. if you can, when a mesmerizing chanting ceremony takes place for around 45 minutes each time. See more information in my guide to Taipei’s top temples.
After snapping loads of photos, walk or backtrack one stop on the MRT to funky Ximending, a pedestrian only district of cool cafés, shops, street art, and more. It’s the perfect place to find souvenirs for your Taiwan trip. Most things open up around 11 a.m. Assuming you’re ready for lunch, consult my guide to where to eat in Ximending.
After lunch, either take a siesta or continue you urban explorations on Dihua Street, considere Taipei’s oldest street. Alternatively, pop over to Xingtian Temple to have your fortune told in the Fortune Teller Underpass, and/or experience Taipei’s most famous seafood market: Addiction Aquatic Development, which is a short walk from Xingtian temple.
Next up, in the late afternoon, head to modern Dong Qu (Eastern District) to get up close and personal with Taipei 101, once tallest building in the world, and top icon of Taiwan. Order your ticket online beforehand for the Taipei 101 89th and 91st floor Observation Deck (choose the “express pass” option to skip the lines, which often take up to one hour).
The steep but short (around 20 minute) walk up through the forest leads to unparalleled postcard views of Taipei 101 and all of Taipei. Continue past the first few lookout points to leave the crowds of tourists behind, and try to time it to be up there for sunset.
Next, Tonghua Night Market, one of Taipei’s best night markets, is within walking distance of the base of Elephant Mountain. Dig in to local delights, and use my Tonghua Night Market guide to find out what to eat!
If you prefer to sit for dinner, here’s my guide to Taipei’s top restaurants, spanning all styles and budgets.
Tempted to stay in Taiwan longer? See my recommended 55 places to visit in Taiwan for more inspiration.
Day 2: Northern Taipei
After racing around Taipei on day 1, it’s time for a more relaxing day. If you’re into museums, the National Palace Museum houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Chinese artifacts.
Buy your ticket online and start early to beat the crowds. Take bus R30, 255, M1, 815, S18, S19, 304, or 300 from Shilin MRT station exit to get there.
If you prefer the outdoors, consider one of these hikes in Taipei. #6 on the list would be perfect for today’s schedule, as it is also on the red MRT line.
After the museum or hike, head back to the MRT and continue north on the red line to Beitou. Then transfer onto the small pink line and ride it one stop to Xinbeitou. Beitou is Taipei’s only hot spring village and one of the most famous Taiwanese hot springs. It was first developed by the Japanese during their occupation of Taiwan.
There are a dozen or so historical sights in lovely Beitou worth seeking out, not to mention the countless hot spring spas and traditional bathhouses to choose from. See my guide to Beitou to plan your time there, and don’t miss the hot spring ramen for lunch!
Next, head back to the MRT and continue north to Guandu Station, from which it’s a 10-minute walk to Guandu Temple, one of the oldest and most interesting in the Greater Taipei area. Inside you’ll find a tunnel through a hill to a river lookout point with a 1000-armed Kuanyin statue.
Back at the MRT, continue your journey north to the terminal station, Tamsui (also spelled Danshui). There you’ll find a lovely riverside promenade lined with food stalls and interesting shops. Learn all about it in my guide to Tamsui district.
Swipe your EasyCard or Taipei Fun Pass to board one of the ferries to Bali, a similar promenade on the other side of the river, or to Fisherman’s Wharf, a picturesque harbor at the point where the Danshui River meets the sea. If the timing is right, make sure to stick around for the famed sunset. To get back to the MRT, either ride the river ferry, take a bus, or ride the new Tamsui LRT from Lover’s Bridge to Hongshulin Station (the station after Tamsui).
Arriving back in Taipei, stop at Jiantan MRT station for Shilin Market, the largest and most famous in Taipei, or try to get a spot at Din Tai Fung, Taipei’s most famous restaurant. The restaurant is also included on this Taipei night tour.
Fun Idea- Consider including a Taiwanese cooking course in your Taipei travel itinerary!
Day 3: Southern Taipei
For day three of your Taipei 5 day itinerary, you can either follow the below plan, or start making day trips from the city. If you decide on the latter, head over to my recommended Taipei day trips article and start considering your options!
If you decide to stay in the city again on this day, hop on the MRT to Taipei Zoo Station, the last stop going southeast on the driverless brown line; get a seat on the front car for a fun view!
From there, ride the Maokong Gondola, which starts just a few hundred meters from the MRT station. For a more exhilarating ride, get in the line marked “Crystal Cabins” and they’ll put you on one of the glass-floored cars. The 35-minute ride offers stunning glimpses of dense jungle, the zoo, tea farms, and Taipei 101 in the distance.
If you plan to visit the zoo as well (see below), then you get this Maokong Gondola and Taipei Zoo combo ticket to save a little money. Both are included on the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass and Transport Pass (for the gondola only – it’s an optional add-on), or you can simply swipe your EasyCard for both attractions like most locals do.
On the way to Maokong, you can get off at the second last stop, Zhinan Temple, to have a look at this large, fascinating temple complex, and admire the views.
Otherwise, just continue on to the final station, Maokong. There, you’ll see signs point to traditional teahouses in all directions. Most of these have patios where you can enjoy tea while overlooking tea fields and rural landscapes. There is also a convenience store and several food stalls near the gondola station.
If you like hiking, there’s a short (about one hour return, but somewhat tricky to find) trail to Silver Stream Shrine and Waterfall, a small shrine buried in the jungle. Show the name in Mandarin (銀河洞越嶺) to locals who can point the way. The GPS location is 24.95861, 121.58318.
If you’ve got kids or just like zoos, then visit Taipei Zoo on the way back down. A smart thing to do is to get off at Taipei Zoo South Station (the second stop). This zoo entrance is at the top of the zoo (the zoo is built on a hill), so then you can walk downhill through the zoo back to main entrance near the MRT. If you’re doing zoo only, then enter the zoo’s main entrance and ride the small train (TWD 5 or swipe EasyCard) to the top, then walk down.
If you’ve still got time to spare once you make it back to central Taipei, consider visiting anything you’ve missed so far. Other attractions you might want to consider are Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Huashan Creative Arts Park, Treasure Hill Artist’s Village, the weekend-only Jianguo Jade and Flower Market, Da’An Forest Park, or snacking on Yongkang Street.
Days 4 and 5: Day Trips from Taipei
As I said above, with 5 days in Taipei, I think that at least two of those days should be day trips from Taipei. Choosing one may not be so easy, though; I’ve listed no less that 40 excellent day trip ideas here.
I understand this may be a little overwhelming, though, and some of those 40 ideas can be combined into one day. So here let me give you possible itineraries that include the top contenders. Also, beach lovers should make use of my guide to the best beaches around Taipei, or you van visit one of these fun amusement parks and water parks.
If you are really determined to see it, you could even make a day trip all the way to Kaohsiung to see the incredible Foguangshan Monastery, Lotus Pond, and/or Pier 2 Art Center. If you ride the HSR (High Speed Rail) both ways, it’s doable!
1. Shifen Waterfall, Jiufen, Jinguashi, Yehliu & Keelung
These are the classic, most popular day trips from Taipei. Seeing all five in one day is a stretch, but with careful planning or by joining a tour like this one, this one, or this one, you can easily tick off several one day.
Shifen is Taiwan’s widest waterfall, and getting there involves a fun ride on the Pingxi Railway Line, which itself has several other worthwhile stops. Jiufen is probably the single most popular day trip from Taipei, with Jinshuashi (including the Golden Waterfall) being an easy add-on. Keelung is a good place to end your day, with its awesome night market and easy access for getting back to Taipei. Here’s my article covering the many things to do in Keelung.
Last but not least, Yehliu Geopark on the coast is a must-see with its cool seaside rock formations. If you want to visit all these on your own in a single day trip, it’s possible but a little slower and more complicated. I explain exactly how to do it in my Taipei day trips guide.
2. Day trip to Jiaoxi Hot Spring Village
Jiaoxi Hot Spring is one of my favorite day trips from Taipei. It has more diverse (and cheaper) hot spring spas than Beitou in Taipei. On top of that, there are some beautiful waterfall hikes just out of town, a hot springs park where you can drink local craft beer, and hot spring ramen shops where you can soak your feet while you eat.
Read my guide to Jiaoxi Hot Spring for everything you may need to know.
The village is located in lovely Yilan County, about an hour from Taipei by bus. For visitors with kids, Yilan is loaded with family-friendly places to visit, but they are a little spread out. So consider hiring a driver or renting a car for the day to visit them.
3. Day trip to Taichung & Rainbow Village
Do you remember when I said at the beginning of the article that I day trip from Taipei could mean going as far as central Taiwan? Well, here’s that idea! If you hop on the HSR (reserve your tickets here!), it only takes an hour to get to Taichung, Taiwan’s middle city, while the bus or regular train takes two hours.
In Taichung, you can explore fun coffee and ice cream shops, artsy attractions, the 921 Earthquake Museum, Gaomei Wetlands, Fengchia and other night markets, and of course Rainbow Village. See more things to do in Taichung here.
From Taichung, it’s only 90 minutes by bus to Sun Moon Lake. You could do it as a day trip from Taichung (or even from Taipei!), or opt to spend the night there for a less rushed visit.
Well, that brings us to the end of this Taiwan itinerary for 5 days. Did you find everything you need? Please let me know in the comments!