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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.
But if that’s the number of days you’ve got this time, I’m here to help you plan a Taiwan 5 day itinerary that will pack in as many local attractions, eats, 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 Taipei, after having called the Taiwanese capital home for over 10 years. Feel free to join the group and I’ll be happy to answer any question you may have!
Now, let’s get to it!
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.
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!
While you may find them a little repetitive after reading this article, I’ve also got dedicated itineraries for 2 days/3 days/4 days in Taipei. If you decide to stay in Taiwan longer, I’ve also published this itinerary for traveling around Taiwan in 1-3 weeks. Traveling with kids? Then check out these kid-friendly things to do in Taipei and how to plan a trip around Taiwan with kids.
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.
Taiwan itinerary 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 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 half an hour each time. See more information in my guide to Taipei’s top temples.
Next, ride the Taipei double decker bus or take the MRT (don’t forget to use an EasyCard or Taipei Fun Pass!) two stops to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the city’s most impressive traditional landmark. 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; 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 in historic Dadaocheng. Here’s my recommended walking route. Alternatively, pop over to Xingtian Temple to have your fortune told in the Fortune Teller Underpass.
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 “priority pass” option to skip the inevitable long lines).
If you prefer natural views, head one MRT station further to Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain). The most accessible of the “Four Beast” mountains, the steep but short (around 30 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, oh so convenient Tonghua Night Market, one of Taipei’s best night markets, is within walking distance of the base of Elephant Mountain.
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.
Next, head back to the MRT sand continue north on the red line to Beitou, then transfer on the small pink line to Xinbeitou. Beitou is Taipei’s only hot spring village, 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 detailed 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, Danshui. There you’ll find a lovely riverside promenade lined with food stalls and interesting shops.
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.
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; you can even pre-order online or dine there as a part of this Taipei night tour.
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! If you’ve got kids or just like zoos, then spend your morning at Taipei Zoo. A smart thing to do is to ride the zoo’s train-car from just inside the entrance near the panda house up to the top of the zoo, then work your way back down.
Next, or instead of the zoo, go for a ride on the Maokong Gondola, which starts just a few hundred meters from the Taipei Zoo 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.
Get off at the second last stop, Zhinan Temple, to have a look at this large, fascinating temple complex, and admire the views, before continuing 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 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.
At night, if you’ve got any energy left, consider checking out a traditional Taiwanese & Chinese opera performance at TaipeiEye.
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 possibilities 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.
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 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.
Last but not least, Yehliu Geopark on the coast is a must-see with its cool seaside rock formations.
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 detailed 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. If you love hot springs and are interested in Taiwanese aboriginal culture, Wulai Hot Spring in New Taipei City also makes for a great day trip from Taipei.
3. Day trip to Taichung
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, and of course Rainbow Village. See more things to do in Taichung here. Some people even go as far as Sun Moon Lake or making a rushed trip to Taroko Gorge in one day, but I wouldn’t recommend that.
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!