An Insider’s Taiwan 5 Day Itinerary

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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 are my recommended Taiwan itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 weeks.)

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. You can also head here for more general tips for traveling in Taiwan.

Now, let’s get to it!

When to Visit Taiwan

Beimen, Taipei in the rain.
Beimei, the North gate of Taipei, on a rainy day

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!

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.

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.

Many decide to stay in Jiufen, one of the most popular day trips from the city. Here’s my detailed guide to Jiufen, including the best hotels there.

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. Just make sure you time it with room to spare. See my article on how to get to Jiufen for all the info.

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

Ximending, one of the best areas to stay in Taipei
Ximending, the coolest neighborhood 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.

You can also search for the best hotel deals in Taipei here on Agoda and Booking.

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.

Main altar of Longshan Temple, the first place to begin on your Taiwan travel itinerary 5 days
Morning chanting at Longshan Temple

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, 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 inevitable long lines).

Or, for an even more thrilling experience, stand on the actual roof of Taipei 101, which includes entry to the regular observatory.

View of Taipei from Elephant Mountain, an absolute must when spending 5 days in Taipei
Taipei viewed from Elephant Mountain

If you prefer natural views, head one MRT station further to Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain). This is the most accessible of the “Four Beast” mountains and the famous famous of all the hikes in Taipei.

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, 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 Taiwan street food guide to decide what’s best to eat!

Tempted to stay in Taiwan longer yet? 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.

National Palace Museum in Taipei
National Palace Museum Taipei

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 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.

Roof detail at Guandu Temple Taipei
Roof of Guandu Temple

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.

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.

  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! 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.

Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, Maokong, Taiwan
Silver Stream Cave & Waterfall

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, 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 in Southern Taiwan to see the incredible Foguangshan Monastery and the biggest Buddha in Taiwan. If you ride the HSR (High Speed Rail) both ways, it’s doable!

A more realistic option would be to spend two days (one night) to visit Taroko Gorge in Hualien County. But if you just plan to do day trips from Taipei, here are some of the best ones:

1.  Shifen Waterfall, Jiufen, Jinguashi, Yehliu & Keelung

Jiufen, one of the most popular day trips from taipei
Go back in time in Jiufen

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. 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.

2. Day trip to Jiaoxi Hot Spring Village

Jiaoxi hot spring, an easy Taipei day trip to include on your Taipei 5 day itinerary
My son and I at Jiaoxi Hot Spring

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. 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 & Rainbow Village

Rainbow Village Taichung, an easy day trip from Taipei
My wife and kids at 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.

Some people even go as far as Sun Moon Lake; it can be done, but it’s a little rushed for a 5 day trip in Taiwan, unless you are willing to spend less time in Taipei.

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!

6 thoughts on “An Insider’s Taiwan 5 Day Itinerary”

  1. Hello Nick,
    I’m Shaun from Singapore. Thanks for your postings. they are very helpful and informative.

    I will be making a tip to Taipei and Taichung this December 22-Jan23.

    I have a couple of clarifications :

    1. Is it difficult/dangerous to come down from Elephant Mountain after Sunset ? i reckon it is easy to get from the foot of the mountain to the nearest night market ?
    2. You mentioned about cherry blossom in winter. Where would be the best place to catch the sight ?
    3. I have a total of 9 nights – am thinking whether spend 5 nights in Taipei or Taichung. This is my family’s first trip to Taiwan.


    • Hi Shaun, coming down from Elephant Mt in the dark is super easy. The path has lights, and there are usually lots of people. And from the foot of the mountain, you can walk to Tonghua Night Market (25 minutes), or walk to Xiangshan MRT (10 min) and take the MRT to any other night market, like Raohe, Ningxia, Shilin, etc.
      2. The best month for cherry blossoms in Taiwan is February and March. At the end of January, some cherry blossoms might be just starting, but it won’t be very impressive yet. The best place to see them in January is Pingjing St Lane 42 in Shilin district, Taipei. See lots of info in this article:
      3. Probably Taipei has more things to see, so maybe you can spend 5 there. Please note that Rainbow Village, one of the most famous places in Taichung, is closed right now, but it is supposed to reopen maybe in January.

  2. Hi, I have only 5 days in tsipei. I plan to visit beitou and followed by Yang ming Shan in the evening followed by dinner at at Yang ming Shan. I can take cab from fisherman wharf up to Yang ming Shan?

    • You could, but it would be expensive. It’s nearly a 1-hr drive from Fisherman’s Wharf to Yangmingshan Flower Clock, so it would probably cost around 1000 NTD.

  3. Hi, I love your blog about Taiwan and how detailed your are writing about itineraries here.
    Me and my friend is travelling to Taiwan next year Feb for 5 days.
    Would it be worth it to stay in Nantou for a night and from Nantou to Taichung for a day tour then back to Taipei?

    Thanks a lot…

    • I think that yes, it’s worth it, if you want to see those places. Sun Moon Lake is the most popular destination in Nantou. I suggest you start your day early, taking the regular train (2 hrs) or HSR (1 hr) to Taichung, then go directly to SML by shuttle bus (90 min). Then you can have the whole afternoon and evening to explore. The next morning, go back to Taichung by shuttle and spend the day there before returning to Taipei.


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