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Welcome to the ultimate Taiwan bucket list! Taiwan is a small country that packs in a seemingly unlimited number of awe-inspiring experiences, from the towering skyscrapers of Taipei to the isolated aboriginal tribe of Orchid Island. It’s no wonder that the once little known destination is seeing ever-increasing tourist numbers.
Here I’ve compiled 50 of my favorite things to do in Taiwan, all things I’ve personally done in my 10+ years living here. These include the most popular Taiwan attractions as well as my favorite off-the-beaten-track things to do in Taiwan.
Deciding what to do in Taiwan can be tough with so many tourists spots and off-the-beaten track possibilities; although I tried to keep this article to a reasonable length, it just keeps growing and growing.
The suggestions below are organized into sections covering Taipei, the North, East Coast, Central Mountains, and the South of Taiwan. To find out how to map out the below attractions for your visit, please see my recommended Taiwan itinerary for 1-3 weeks, and for everything else you need to know about visiting the country, here’s my detailed Taiwan traveling guide!
2021 note: Tourists are still banned from visiting Taiwan unless they are visiting for emergency purposes, have formal approval for business or emergency reasons, are moving there, or have local residency or citizenship. Any of the above will also have to undergo 14 days hotel quarantine plus show a negative test from 3 days before getting on the plane.
Taiwan Travel Essentials
- Use Klook to find great deals and discounts on attractions, transportation, and more around the country. I highly recommend it and use it all the time! Sign up here to get NT$100 off your first booking.
- Learn about the languages of Taiwan in my in-depth guide.
- If you want to arrange a tour in Taiwan, please contact me and I can recommend the most suitable local operator. See here if you are looking to rent an apartment in Taiwan.
- Consider getting a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass. Learn how it works in my Taipei Fun Pass guide.
- If you decide the above pass isn’t worth it for you, you can simply buy an EasyCard, which covers public transportation in major cities in Taiwan.
- I recommend picking up a copy of the best Taiwan travel guidebook (see it here on Amazon Singapore)
- Pre-pay for your portable WiFi device for pickup at the Taoyuan International Airport.
- If you plan to travel by High Speed Rail, this 3-day HSR pass or 5-day HRS and regular train pass can save you money. You can also book discounted HSR tickets from Taipei online.
- If you’re short on time, you can squeeze in Taiwan’s top sights on this 5-day Taiwan tour.
- Find the best cooking classes in Taiwan here.
- Find the best Airbnbs in Taiwan (I earn a small commission if you book through this link. Sign up for Airbnb here to get up to $50 in credit!) Here’s another blogger’s guide to the best Taipei hotels.
When to Travel to Taiwan
There is no distinct high or low travel season in Taiwan; tourist numbers go up and down by the month and depend on a lot of factors. What’s more, the weather and climate varies considerably from north to south and seaside to high mountain areas. To help you decide the best time to visit, I’ve written articles covering each month of the year in Taiwan, which are summarized in my post on the best time to visit Taiwan.
Now, let’s get to the top 55 attractions in Taiwan!
Things to Do in Taipei
Taipei is such as enticing city that you could easily spend weeks there and never run out of things to do. It’s no wonder so many visitors end up getting stuck there for life, myself included! Also be sure to check out my articles on 50 unmissable things to do in Taipei City, where to stay in Taipei, 40 Taipei day trip ideas, and my recommended itinerary for 2 days/3 days/4 days/5 days.
1. Survey the capital from Taipei 101
Ride the world’s fastest elevator to the 89th floor observation deck for a 360-degree bird’s eye view of Taipei from Taipei 101, a skyscraper shaped like a stalk of bamboo. Be sure to check out the enormous 730-ton stabilizer ball in the center, which keeps the once tallest building in the world from falling in the event of an earthquake.
Save money and buy your ticket in advance online, or make sure to choose the ‘priority pass’ to skip the long lines.
The Taipei 101 Observatory is also included on the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass, which is a great way to save money while traveling in Taipei, or you can see Taipei come alive at night from Taipei 101 then dine at Taiwan’s most famous restaurant on this Taipei 101 and Din Tai Feng Night Tour.
Also don’t miss one of the events of the year in Taiwan in December, when fireworks shoot from the sides of Taipei 101 to celebrate New Year’s Eve!
2. Bathe in Beitou’s thermal waters
Visiting Taiwan in winter? Beitou is the only MRT-accessible hot spring in Taiwan. It sits at the base of Yangming Mountain in northern Taipei City. Learn how to spend an amazing day exploring the area in my guide to Beitou Hot Spring.
Beitou’s hot springs were first developed by the Japanese. Several Japanese-built structures remain, including the Xinbeitou train station, Hot Spring Museum, Beitou Museum, and Puji Temple.
Public Millennium Hot Spring in the Hot Spring Park is the cheapest choice, while Spring City Resort (entrance is much cheaper if you book online!) is less crowded and better for kids. For a classier soak, try Grand View Resort or Gaia Hotel public spring / private bathhouse.
If you love hot springs, here are my 20 favorite hot springs in Taiwan, including Beitou of course!
3. See what strange things you can uncover in Ximending
Ximen, Taipei’s funkiest neighborhood, has been cool since Japanese times. The pedestrian shopping district attracts crowds of local youths and travelers.
It is here that you can find cosplay cafés, ice cream shops with weird flavors, MTV parlous (private rooms to watch a movie), a toilet-themed restaurant, and more.
Ximen is also home to Taipei’s largest LGBT district, historic Red Theater, a weekend arts and craft market, and over a dozen movie theaters.
Get more ideas in my article on 25 weird things to do in Ximending. I’ve also got a comprehensive guide to Ximending’s restaurants, food stalls, and bars, as well as a story about my experience getting a knife massage in Ximending.
Ximending is also a popular spot to board this budget-friendly shuttle bus to Jiufen, the most popular day trip from Taipei.
4. Choose from among the city’s excellent museums
For starters, you can’t miss the National Palace Museum, arguably the most important museum in the Chinese-speaking world. The colossal structure houses some 700,000 artifacts. If you book your ticket online, it includes entrance to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi.
Next door, you’ll find the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aboriginals. You can save money by getting this combined ticket.
For art lovers, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Taipei Fine Arts Museum are musts. If you are visiting Taipei with kids, consider the Land Bank Exhibition Hall of the National Taiwan Museum, which houses a dinosaur exhibit.
Last but not least, check out my article on the Taipei Museum of World Religions, my personal favorite.
Admission to numerous museums and art galleries in Taipei are covered with the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.
5. Dine at one of Taipei’s famous night markets
Taipei’s Night Markets are the talk of Asia. In terms of visitor numbers, they are Taiwan’s most popular attraction. Many say that the best food in Taiwan is sold on the streets.
But with 30+ major night markets in Taipei, and each of them very crowded, it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s why I have written this extremely detailed guide to Taipei’s best night markets, including the most famous dishes and stalls at each of them. If you’d rather let a local show you around, try this Taipei night market food tour.
6. Go temple hopping
Temples in Taiwan are extremely beautiful and ornate centers of prayer, worship, and gathering. Typically combining themes from Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and folk religion, they are open to all, and discreet photography is always permitted. See my detailed guide to the 30 best Taipei temples here.
The Old City of Taipei, Wanhua district, houses the city’s most important and historic temples. Longshan Temple is indisputably the most popular, while Qingshui Temple, Qingshan Temple, and Tianhou Temple are also important.
Other top picks in Taipei are Bao An Temple, the Temple of Confucius, Xing Tian Temple, and Songshan Ciyou Temple. One of my personal favorites is Guandu Temple in the north of the city near Beitou, which features a tunnel through a mountain.
Temples in Greater Taipei, such as Tian Yuan Gong, are also great places to see cherry blossoms. See my guides to Taiwan in January, Taiwan in February, and Taiwan in March for all the details on where to see them and when.
7. Ride a YouBike along Taipei’s riverside parks
Renting a YouBike in Taipei is so cheap it is practically free (NT10 for 30 minutes). The signature yellow and orange bikes (produced by Taiwan’s own Giant Bicycles) are available from literally hundreds of drop-off points throughout Taipei City and New Taipei City.
You’ll need a local phone number and EasyCard (MRT card) to register at the kiosk located at any of the stations. One-time users may also use a chip credit card. Here are the full instructions.
Some of the best riding to be had in the city is along the city’s numerous riverside parks. A favorite ride of mine is to rent a bike at Yuanshan MRT station, riding past the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Lin An Tai Historical Home to reach the Dajia Riverside Park, continuing along to Raohe Night Market at the Songshan Ciyou Temple.
8. Ride a glass floor gondola over tea fields
The Maokong Gondola ascends from Taipei Zoo MRT station into the foothills surrounding Taipei, where light, fruity Baozhong oolong tea is grown. To ride in a glass floor gondola, make sure to get in the line marked “Crystal Cabins.”
You can get off at Zhinan Temple station for commanding city views from a stunning temple, or continue to the final stop, Maokong station, from where you can walk to numerous tea houses overlooking tea farms and hiking trails.
Don’t forget to try the tea-flavored soft serve ice cream!
9. Admire CKS Memorial Hall, one of Taipei’s most iconic structures
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall honors Taiwan’s former dictator and is the city’s most prominent historic landmark. The imposing, octagonal, 76-meter blue and white structure is definitely worth a visit.
In the same large square sit the classical Chinese-style National Theater and Concert Hall. Teens can often be seen practicing dance moves on the walkways around the two buildings.
The best view of the square can be had from Liberty Square Arch on the NW side of the square.
CKS Memorial Hall is included on this Taipei Double Decker Bus Tour.
10. Visit a whole neighborhood dedicated to stinky tofu
The second question many Taiwanese will ask you after “Do you like Taiwan?” is “Have you tried stinky tofu yet?” This infamous street food can be smelled from a mile away, but don’t knock it before you try it. Done well (and it is usually is), it is actually really, really good.
Shenkeng Old Street, located in a rural district southeast of the city, is devoted entirely to the delicacy, with dozens of stalls and restaurants specializing in it.
There are two many varieties of stinky tofu: a stewed version, which entails large hunks of soft tofu in a soup that is usually spicy, or a crispy, deep fried version that is served with pickled vegetables.
In Shenkeng, you can also find everything from dried and fermented tofu to tofu ice cream and sweet dessert tofu.
Things to Do in Northern Taiwan
Northern Taiwan is dominated by Yangmingshan National Park, a huge dormant volcano massif. The North Coast Highway (Provincial Highway 2) is dotted with enticing attractions ranging from beaches and cliff diving to night markets and historic villages. New Taipei City, a huge city surrounding Taipei, is also filled with day trip possibilities, while Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties offer possibilities for getting off the beaten track.
11. Take in a romantic sunset at Fisherman’s Wharf
Danshui is a district of New Taipei City with a popular riverside promenade at the end of the Taipei MRT red line. It’s a lovely spot where the Danshui river, which flows through Taipei, meets the sea.
The promenade is lined with food stalls and children’s games, while in the evening it takes on the air of a seaside night market. There are also a few historical sights in Danshui, including the Fort San Domingo in the Tamsui Historical Museum. Entrance is included in the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.
Catch a river boat (also included on the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass or swipe with EasyCard) to Fisherman’s Wharf, a large dock that is famous for having some of Taipei’s best sunsets. The prime spot is Lover’s Bridge, which connects the dock to the shore.
12. Gorge on seafood at Keelung Night Market
The night market in Keelung, northern Taiwan’s largest port, is my favorite in Taiwan. Not only does it specialize in delicious seafood (there’s something for everyone if you don’t like seafood), but also every stall has its specialty marked in English, and it is easily Taiwan’s most photogenic night market. Besides the night market, there are many other interesting things to do in Keelung.
The market’s name is Miaokou (or “Temple Entrance”) Night Market, named after the large temple at its core. You can reach Keelung in 40-60 minutes from Taipei on the regular train, or taken this popular shuttle bus day trip that includes Jiufen (#14 below).
Keelung is also the starting point for the Keelung Coastal Tourist Shuttle Bus, which is free if you have a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass. See more information on the Keelung night market in my Taipei Night Markets article.
13. Photograph oddly shaped rock formations at Yehliu
Yehliu Geopark is the most popular day trips from Taipei. It is a narrow cape jutting out into the sea, with unusual rock formations carved out by sea winds. It’s a stunning, almost lunar landscape.
The most popular formation is shaped like a queen’s head and typically has a long line of visitors waiting to take a selfies in front of it.
You can book a shuttle bus from Taipei to Yehliu and skip the lines with this online admission ticket. Yehliu is also included on this day tour to Jiufen and Shifen waterfall and the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.
14. Find out why everyone thinks Jiufen inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away
The former gold mining town turned atmospheric tourist market called Jiufen snakes its way up the mountain, commanding impressive views of the sea. It is easily the most popular of the many day trips from Taipei.
You can also book a shuttle bus from Ximen to Jiufen, get a qipao rental in Jiufen, or skip the line at Amei Teahouse, Jiufen’s most iconic building. Jiufen is also part of this Jiufen, Yehliu, and Taiwanese pastry making tour, and this Northeast Coast tour.
The same public buses that go to from Taipei or Ruifang to Jiufen also continue 10 minutes further to the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park, which offers impressive views, mining history, a golden waterfall, and a hike to the remains of Shinto shrine.
For a more exciting way to arrive, you can there on a motorbike from Taipei on this Jiufen and Pingxi motorbike trip.
15. Spend a day in the sun at one of Northern Taiwan’s best beaches
If you’re visiting Taiwan in summer, there are about half a dozen excellent beaches within 1-2 hours of the Taipei city center by bus or train. Qianshuiwan and Baishawan are a short bus ride from Danshui (#11 above) in New Taipei City, while Fulong in New Taipei City is probably the most famous beach in Northern Taiwan and Wai Ao in Yilan County is the best surfing beach.
For loads of details on each one of them, check out my complete article on the best beaches in Northern Taiwan.
16. Ride the Pingxi small train line to a cat village and beautiful waterfalls
The 9-stop Pingxi small train line provides access to some gorgeous mountain villages that make for a pleasant day trip from Taipei as well as some incredible hiking. Ruifang is the first stop, with connections to Taipei. Find out how to get there in my detailed are on traveling from Taipei to Shifen.
Houtong, or “the Cat Village”, as most people call it, is one of those only-in-Taiwan kind of places. Once a coal mining town, Houtong’s revived claim to fame is its 100+ resident cats.
It all began in 2008 when a local cat lover began taking care of resident strays. Visitors today can buy cat-themed souvenirs, snacks and drinks, and of course, pet and photograph tons of cats.
The tiny village occupies either side of Houtong train station, with a cat tail-shaped tunnel connecting the two sides. The station is also the second stop on the small Pingxi train line before it veers inland.
After Houtong, the small train line veers inland from the main coastal route at Sandiaoling Get off at this station to find my favorite easy hike in Taiwan. The trail takes in multiple tall waterfalls, the second of which you can climb into a cave behind.
Shifen, the fifth stop, is famous for Shifen waterfall, the widest in the country and sometimes called the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan.” The narrow train station is very atmospheric and popular among tourists.
The eighth stop, Pingxi, is a household name in Taiwan, since it is the site of the annual Pingxi Mass Sky Lantern Release on the Lantern Festival. You can also access the Pingxi Crags (see #17) from Pingxi Station.
17. Ascend vertical crags on three amazing hikes
Taiwan as a whole is a paradise for hikers, and there are three hikes in the Greater Taipei area that stand out if you are looking for adventure. As scary as they may look, all of them are easy enough for anyone who is relatively fit.
The first is the Pingxi Crags, a series of trails leading up a cluster of sheer vertical crags. All the ascents are fitted with ropes and ladders and it is very safe. Still, your heart will be in your throat.
The second is Huangdi Dian hike in Shiding District, which is a little tougher, as it involves a long uphill slog before the trail reaches the peak, which features a gorgeous and incredibly picturesque ridge walk.
Third, and probably the pick of the bunch, is Wuliaojian trail in Sanxia district, a incredibly varied hike that includes rope ladders, cliffs, ridges, views, and pretty much everything that can make a hike awesome and fun. Again, it’s a little challenging (mentally, more than anything, if you dare to look down), but anyone who is in decent shape can do it.
For another thrilling experience, try cliff diving or rock climbing in Longdong (“Dragon Caves” on GoogleMaps) on the Northeast Coast.
18. Bathe in colorful water at Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan
Among the many hot spring villages in Taiwan, Jiaoxi Hot Spring in Yilan County is my personal favorite for its many colorful, scented hot spring tubs and herbal steamrooms. Besides soaking in springs, you can also hike to impressive waterfalls, eat hot spring ramen, and drink local craft beer while soaking your feet in a hot spring creek in Jiaoxi.
19. Sample award-winning whiskey at Kavalan Distillery
Did you know that Taiwan produces some of world’s best whiskeys? The World Whiskies Awards named Kavalan’s Vinho Barrique the world’s best single malt whisky in 2015 and the Solist Amontillado Sherry Single Cask Strength the World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt Whisky in 2016.
Entry and a tour of the distillery are free, or you can enjoy a more intimate tour in English with unlimited sampling and make a bottle of your own blend of whiskey to take home on this Kavalan Distillery tour. You can also visit the distillery on this organized day tour from Taipei.
The Kavalan Distillery is located in Yilan County and can easily be visited as a day trip from Taipei. You can get there by taxi from Luodong or Yilan stations, or rent a scooter at Luodong.
If craft beer is your thing, then the excellent Jim & Dad’s Brewing company is just down the road.
20. Experience aboriginal culture and hot springs in Wulai
Wulai District of New Taipei City is home to Taiwan’s northernmost aboriginal tribe, and the closest one to Taipei City. Wulai is many local expats’ favorite day trip from Taipei, for its riverside thermal hot springs, awesome hiking and river tracing, wild scenery, and delicious aboriginal treats.
Read my guide to Wulai, Taiwan for all the details.
21. Spend a day at Leofoo Village, Taiwan’s most famous theme park
While Taiwan has loads of great amusement parks, Leofoo Village in Hsinchu County remains the most famous. It began as a safari park and still has a safari section, but now also includes four huge themed areas of rides as well as a great water park. Don’t miss the screaming condor, a totally insane inverted rollercoaster.
You can save nearly 50% of your entrance fee by buying your ticket online before you go.
22. Shop for ceramics in Yingge
Yingge is the undisputed pottery capital of Taiwan. Here’s my complete guide to Yingge.
There are more than 800 businesses specializing in ceramics around Yingge Old Street. Here you can find tea sets and all manner of pottery ranging from cheap and functional to pieces of art that belong in museums.
In fact, there is a museum in town: the Yingge Ceramics Museum, and it is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.
Things to do on the East Coast of Taiwan
The rugged east coast of Taiwan is know for its wild scenery. Going south from the plains of Yilan, the coast becomes increasibly dramatic, culminating at the Qingshui Cliffs and Taroko Gorge in Hualien County. Continuing south to Taitung brings visitors to remote Taitung County, the bread (or rice) basket of Taiwan, where you can surf year-round.
You can also find more ideas for places to visit in Hualien here.
23. Test your nerves at the Qingshui Cliffs
On the rugged and wild east coast of Taiwan, the infamous Suao to Hualien highway, especially the portion known as the Qinshui Cliffs, is the most dramatic. You’ll need to take in the cliffs as a part of a Taroko Gorge tour or by renting a scooter in Hualien.
Here you can stop at the side of the highway and gaze down to the sea hundreds of meters below. The Qingshui Cliffs can easily be combined with a visit to Taroko Gorge (see below), or you can view them from the sea looking up on this Qingshui Cliff sea kayaking tour.
Find out how to plan this and other hualien activities in my suggested Hualien itinerary.
24. Marvel at dramatic Taroko Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of Taiwan”
If you only visit one place in Taiwan outside of Taipei, make it Taroko Gorge in Hualien, the country’s premier scenic wonder. Traveling up between the dramatic, vertical walls of this narrow canyon is an experience you cannot miss. Here’s my detailed guide to Taroko Gorge.
The most impressive sights in the gorge include Eternal Spring Shrine built to honor those who died building the highway, the sapphire blue waters of Shakadang Trail, and cliff-hugging Zhuilu Old Trail.
Spend the night at aboriginal Taroko Village Hotel (read reviews / see prices), the classiest hotel in Taroko Gorge: Silks Place Resort (read reviews / check prices). The easiest and fastest way to get there is this direct flight from Taipei’s Songshan Airport to Hualien.
25. Take an aboriginal cooking course
Hualien is also home to a large number of aboriginal people, including the Amis, the largest of Taiwan’s 16 recognized aboriginal tribes, and the Truku (Taroko) tribe, after which Taroko Gorge is named. One great way to experience Taiwanese aboriginal culture is by taking an aboriginal cooking course in Hualien.
In this highly recommended course, in which you can learn how to cooked local vegetables grown right in their garden, and finish them class by having a stiff local drink with the hosts. A vegetable class is also available upon request.
26. Do adventure sports in Hualien
Wild, stunning Hualien County is filled with opportunities for adventure sports. One of the most exhilarating things to do in Taiwan is white water rafting in Hualien. The most popular route is on the Xiuguluan river, the only river in eastern Taiwan that cuts through the coastal mountain range. The 3 to 4 hour route includes over 20 rapids.
27. Take a road trip through the East Rift Valley
While cycling or riding a scooter all the way around Taiwan is a local rite of passage, most would agree that the most pleasant and scenic portion in the east coast, especially the East Rift Valley in Hualien and Taitung Counties.
The East Rift Valley is a wide plain separating the Central and Coastal mountain ranges, and is famous for its quaint rural scenery, rice paddies, fruit orchards, hot springs, aboriginal culture, and cycling opportunities.
28. Be blown away by the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival
One of the best places in the East Rift Valley, and one of my favorite places to visit in Taiwan, is Luye, which is famous for the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival held every July in Taiwan and August in Taiwan. At this time, dozens of hot air balloons, many shaped like cute animals or characters, get blown up on the gorgeous Luye Highland. See here to book a hot air balloon ride during the festival or at any other time of the year.
Even if you’re visiting outside of summer, the area around Luye is a gorgeous and laid back region for cycling, walking, or visiting tea farms. You can also visit Luye on a day tour from Taitung, and there are reasonably priced domestic flights from Taipei to Taitung.
See my complete article on Luye and the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival for more information.
29. Check out the surf in Taitung
Taiwan’s may not be famous as a surfing destination, but it should be. The beach in Dulan, an enclave of artists, backpackers, surfers, and aboriginals on a gorgeous stretch of the coast in Taitung, offers some of the best surf in Taiwan year-round.
30. Soak in a saltwater hot spring on tropical Green Island
Green Island, located 33 kilometers off the coast of Taitung, has a distinct tropical/holiday feel, and is one of the best places in Taiwan to go snorkeling and scuba diving (see this Discover Diving or Advanced Open Water course).
Green Island is also home to Zhaori Hot Spring, one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world. Sitting in the rock pools of this hot spring at night, listening to the ocean waves crashing beside us is one of my top experiences in Taiwan.
Get your Green Island ferry tickets here.
Things to Do in the Central Mountains of Taiwan
Taiwan has the largest concentration of high mountains in the world, with 286 peaks above 3000 meters. This includes Yushan in the Central Mountain Range, the tallest mountain in Northeast Asia. Head to the central mountains to see snow in a subtropical country, find out where the best oolong tea in the world comes from, or see sunrises over seas of clouds.
31. See snow in at Hehuanshan or Snow Mountain
Taiwan is a subtropical country (bordering on tropical in the south, as the Tropic of Cancer runs right through the country), but it is possible to see snow on mountaintops in the Central Mountain Range in winter.
Hehuan Mountain is the most popular place to do so, and every time there is a report of snow (usually around January or February), Taiwanese rush up the mountain to see it and clog Highway 14, Taiwan’s highest automobile pass at 3275 meters. You can also take a 2-day guided hike on Hehuanshan or this private tour from Taichung.
For hikers, Snow Mountain (Xueshan) is a great opportunity to see snow. When I did the hike in February several years ago, we didn’t just spot snow; we had snow dumped on us and trudged through waist deep snow to reach the peak.
32. Stay on a high altitude farm
Cingjing Farm is one of the most unique attractions in Taiwan; where else in Asia can you stay in a European-style farm on the top of a high mountain range? The area around Cingjing was originally cattle land of the Seediq people. Later in 1961, it was converted to farmland for demobilized soldiers of the Republic of China army. An overnight stay at Cingjing comes with epic views and lots of farm animal spotting.
You can visit Cingjing Farm on this private tour from Taichung.
33. Cycle or Scooter around Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is the gem of the Central Mountain Range, and the road around it has been called one of the best cycling routes on earth. The lake is famous for its gorgeous panoramas, aboriginal culture, beautiful temples overlooking the lake, and the annual mass swim. May in Taiwan, June in Taiwan, and September in Taiwan are, in my opinion, the best times to visit.
Many visitors also come to ride the Sun Moon Lake Cable car to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park, which includes an amusement park that is a great place to view cherry blossoms in spring. Based on my research, this is the best day tour available of Sun Moon Lake, departing from Taichung.
34. Spend the night on a tea farm in Shizhuo
Taiwan’s most famous tea, Alishan High Mountain Oolong tea , is mainly grown around the villages of Shizhuo (Shizhao) and Fenqihu, near the end point of the Chiayi to Alishan small gauge railway.
It is possible to spend the night at one of several guesthouses located on incredibly scenic Alishan tea farms. The area also features a network of hiking trails among the tea farms and has gorgeous sunsets.
We stayed at Cuiti guesthouse (read reviews / see prices), while another beautiful option that we visited is Longyun Leisure Farm (read reviews / see prices). For more information, see my my guide to Taiwanese teas.
Another unique tea experience in Taiwan is to stay at Global Tea Hut, a tea and meditation center in Miaoli City.
35. Witness the sunrise over a sea of clouds phenomenon at Alishan
Alishan National Scenic Area is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions, but for good reason. The area is famed for its high mountain tea, cherry blossoms, misty old growth forests, and sunrises over seas of clouds.
You need a bit of luck to witness the phenomenon. Here’s how to find the best sunrise viewing points at Alishan. In the article, you’ll also find information on escaping the tourist crowds at Alishan, including a mesmerizing hike through a bamboo forest.
Alishan is included on this 3-day tour to Lugang, Sun Moon Lake, and Alishan or on this 1 or 2 day trip from Kaohsiung, Tainan or Chiayi. If you take this 2-day Alishan tour, you can stay at Alishan’s best hotel for a reasonable price.
Another exciting aspect of visiting Alishan is riding the small gauge railway from Chiayi, but beware that part of the railway is out of operation since it was damaged by a typhoon. Find out more my article on how to get to Alishan.
36. Climb Yushan, Northeast Asia’s highest peak
At 3952 meters, Yushan (Jade Mountain) is taller than Mt. Fuji by just under 200 meters, but lacks the crowds. Climbing Yushan is relatively easy for anyone who is reasonably fit, including older children. See here for a detailed guide to hiking Yushan.
Yushan National Park is the remotest in Taiwan, and is home to an abundance of flora and fauna.
The ascent is usually done in two days, with most people hiking the final 1.2km from Paiyun lodge to the peak for sunrise before descending. I saw an incredible sunrise over a sea of clouds when I did the hike in my first year in Taiwan.
37. Explore quirky Xitou Monster Village
In the remote mountains of Nantou county, there’s an unusual attraction: a Japanese monster-themed village. The story behind it goes back to the Japanese occupation, honoring a friendship between a Japanese and Taiwanese man. Learn about this and more in my Xitou Monster Village post.
You can visit Xitou Monster Village on this Monster Village Day Tour from Taichung, which also includes a stop at a Mochi Museum and bamboo forest. It is also possible to combine a trip to Monster Village with Lotus Forest and Sun Link Sea (Shanlinxi), a remote area of spooky forests, misty trails, and waterfalls.
38. Bathe in a mud hot spring at Guanziling
Another hot spring experience that makes it onto my list of best things to do in Taiwan is the mud hot springs at Guanziling in Tainan Country. Bathing in the muddy water or rubbing the mud on your skin is said to work wonders.
The best resort in town to try it is King’s Garden Villa (read reviews). Nearby, you can also see an unusual natural phenomenon at Fire and Water Spring.
It’s tough to get here by public transportation, but there’s a day tour from Kaohsiung.
Things to Do on the West Coast of Taiwan
While Taiwan’s east coast is wild, the west coast is mostly developed, with never-ending cities and industrial areas blending together. Still, there are a few green escapes to be had, and the area is rich in cultural attractions tied to the region’s Hakka and aboriginal cultures, modern arts, and some of the country’s oldest histrical sights. Off the coast, the remote Penghu archipelago is halfway between Taiwan and China.
39. Experience Hakka culture in Hsinchu and Miaoli
The Hakka are a Han Chinese people who originated in central China. A number of Hakka migrated from southern China to Taiwan, and today they comprise 15% of the population of Taiwan. The Hakka mostly live in hilly or rural areas and are known for working hard but also taking time to relax. Their food tends to be hearty and filling.
In Hsinchu, a good place to get a taste of Hakka culture is the Neiwan Old Street, where you can find local specialties such as mochi, ginger lily-flavored glutinous rice, and lei cha, or Hakka pounded tea. Beipu is another popular Hakka town with an interesting Old Street.
In Miaoli, the Hakka Round House is built in the style of a traditional Hakka walled village, while the Hakka Courtyard is a beautifully preserved Hakka sanheyuan (three-sided southern Chinese courtyard home). Last but not least, the Hakka village of Nanzhuang is famous for its sweet osmanthus-flavored foods such as shaved ice. Find more details in my artile on 15 things to do in Miaoli.
40. Hike to cave temples on Lion’s Head Mountain
A 10-minute drive from Nanzhuang (see #36), Lion’s Head Mountain is one of the most underrated attractions in Taiwan. A network of easy hiking trails link a large number of temples, some of which are built into cliff walls or in caves.
The mountain is crowded with local hikers or weekends and practically empty on weekdays. Few foreign tourists ever make the trip. If you want to spend the night as we did, you can stay in the simple temple accommodation at Quanhua Temple, one of the most beautiful on the mountain. See more information in my complete article on Lion’s Head Mountain and Nanzhuang.
41. Go strawberry picking in Dahu
During strawberry season (January and February), the small town of Dahu becomes a tourist magnet for locals who come to pick strawberries in the numerous fields that line both sides on the highway in and around the town.
The strawberries grown in Dahu are huge, very sweet, and are an extremely popular item across Taiwan when in season.
There’s more to the Dahu strawberry experience than just picking them. The Dahu Wineland Resort is a giant complex dedicated entirely to strawberries. Here you can try a huge range of strawberry-flavored foods, such as beer, noodles, popcorn, sausages, shaved ice, popsicles, tea eggs, and more. The strawberry wine made on site is especially delicious.
42. Take part in the world’s largest pilgrimage to a goddess
Religious parades and processions seem to be taking place every other week wherever you are in Taiwan, but the biggest of them all is the 10-day Matsu Pilgrimage. The 300-kilometer pilgrimage to the Goddess of the Sea culminates on Matsu’s birthday, the 23rd day of the third lunar month (usually in April), and is one of the world’s great pilgrimages.
Raucous celebrations begin and end at Zhenlan Temple in Dajia, a coastal town in Taichung. Some 20,000 pilgrims then walk across 21 townships in three counties carrying Matsu in a sedan. Pilgrims are fed and housed by locals along the route, and foreign visitors are welcome to join in the festivities.
Lugang (Lukang) in Changhua County, while not on the pilgrimage route, also houses one of Taiwan’s most important Matsu temples and is a great place to visit for those interested in traditional Taiwanese religion and culture.
43. Become an Instagram star at Rainbow Village
If you’re seeking a colorful, psychedelic background for your Instagram selfies, look no further than Rainbow Village in Taichung city. The walls of this traditional courtyard home were painted by the 94-year-old resident, a former Chinese solider in the KMT army.
Known as “Rainbow Grandpa,” he can often be seen there maintaining the paintings on the walls of his home, which is entirely open to visitors. See here for my full article on Rainbow Village. Rainbow Village is also on my list of best things to do in Taichung, and you can find out how to plan your trip in my Taichung itinerary post.
You can visit Rainbow Village on this highly recommended Gaomei Wetland and Rainbow Village tour.
44. See an unbelievable sunset at Gaomei Wetlands
On the coast of Taichung lies the beautiful Gaomei Wetlands, a 300-hectare area of preserved wetlands with huge wind turbines. Walk the wooden paths and see what kind of creatures you can find on the shore. Make sure to stick around to for what are said to be some of the best sunsets in Taiwan. Gaomei Wetlands is one of the most popular day trips from Taichung.
45. Delve into Taiwan’s colonial history in Tainan
Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the country’s capital before it was moved to Taipei in 1894. The city is replete with historical sights, from Dutch Forts and centuries-old temples to Japanese-era Hayashi Department Store and 321 Art Alley Settlement, a military housing coming turned artist’s village. Rent a qipao to make your photos extra special 🙂
As if that weren’t enough, Tainan is also widely considered the culinary capital of Taiwan, with some of the best street eats to find in Taiwan.
You can visit Tainan’s colonial sights on this one-day tour or by hopping on the Tainan double-decker sightseeing bus. You can also save money by getting a Tainan Historic Sites Pass (Tainan pick up) or Taipei airport pickup.
46. Take part in the world’s most dangerous festival
On the same day that people in northern Taiwan are flocking to Pingxi to set off sky lanterns (the 15th day of the Lunar New Year), the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is rocking southern Taiwan. See here for my full write-up on the Yanshui Fireworks Festival and more information for planning your trip to Taiwan at this time of year in my guide to visiting Taiwan during Chinese New Year.
Participants crowd into the streets to get shot by barrages of bottle rockets fired from layered towers, some of which are round, resembling beehives, and shoot in all directions at once.
Even though full safety gear is a must, injuries are common. Personally, I’m glad I did it once, but I don’t think I’m brave enough for a second time.
47. Climb a salt mountain and photograph salt fields
Salt used to be one of Taiwan’s most important exports, with a 7200-hectare region of salt production lying in the north of Tainan City. Thriving since 1665, the industry went into sharp decline and came to an end in 2002, unable to compete with cheap imports.
Some interesting relics of Tainan’s salt industry remain, notably the 20-meter Cigu Salt Mountain and nearby Taiwan Salt Museum. Besides learning more than ever wanted to know about salt, you can taste salted foods such as salty ice cream, popsicles, dou hua (soft dessert tofu), and coffee (don’t worry, they aren’t too salty).
Meanwhile, photographers flock to the Jingzijiao Wapan Salt Fields, where photogenic cones of salt dot the horizon on a traditional salt production field. The fields are especially stunning at sunset, and if you want to stay the night like we did, Yan Xiang (“Salt Homeland”) Guesthouse is a friendly and very local guesthouse located five minute’s walk away.
You can visit all three salt-related attractions on this Taiwan salt history tour or by chartering a private vehicle from Tainan. Find out everything you need to know about visiting both attractions in my detailed guide to Cigu Salt Mountain and the Tainan Salt Fields.
48. Hang out in Penghu’s houses made of coral
The windswept archipelago of Penghu (Pescadores Islands) lies about halfway between the Taiwan mainland and China in the Taiwan Strait and boasts a high concentration of temples, as well as some of the most beautiful and remote beaches in Taiwan.
Due to a lack of building materials in Penghu, which is dry and desert-like in places, locals incorporated materials from the sea such as corallite into their constructions, and you can spot seashells in the walls and fences on many homes.
A great place to see this is Erkan Old Residences on Hsiyu Island, where residents of such homes have set up cafés and shops in their homes.
Things to Do in Southern Taiwan
The far south of Taiwan is noticeably more tropical than the north. Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s largest port, seems to be becoming a cooler city every year, while Kenting National Park in the far south is the perfect beach getaway. To truly get off the beaten track, head to one of the offshore islands, some of which are a stone’s throw from China.
49. Admire the arts & culture Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung, the largest city and port in Southern Taiwan, was included on Lonely Planet’s list of best cities to visit in the world in 2018, for its awesome arts districts, lovely waterfront, and improving urban transportation networks. It has also been called the “street art capital of Taiwan” as the city government not only permits but encourages street art in particular zones.
Some of the best spots to check out local works include Jiuru Street Art Factory, which is an old train station, and the art zone at Pier 2 Art Center. The city also regularly hosts street art festivals. Here’s an article with photos and details on how to find some of the best street art in Kaohsiung.
You can see explore Kaohsiung’s artistic and cultural attractions on this Kaohsiung Sea and Mountain tour.
Kaohsiung is also famous for its amusement parks, including E-Da Theme park (get a massive discount by purchasing your ticket online) and Taroko Park, which includes Go-Kart racing.
Cijin (Qijin) Island is an interesting island to explore in the Kaohsiung harbor, while you should also check out the hilltop British Consulate at Takow.
50. Spot wild macaques at Monkey Mountain
Two mountains sandwiched between central Kaohsiung City and the sea, Chai Shan and Shou Shan, are home to a large number of wild macaques. One only has to take a few steps out of the city to spot them.
The macaques are quite accustomed to human gawkers, but beware that they are prone to stealing items from people. The best time to see the macaques is in the early morning or late afternoon.
You can spot macaques as you climb Shoushan on this guided hike.
51. Spend the night at Fo Guang Shan monastery
Fo Guang Shan is one of the four major Buddhist organizations of Taiwan, and its enormous headquarters is located 30 minute’s drive east of the Kaohsiung city center. It is the largest monastery complex in Taiwan, covering over 130 hectares of land.
The original monastery complex is enormous and features tens of thousands of Buddha statues. Visitors can even spend the night in the Pilgrim’s accommodation. Read all about my experience staying overnight in the temple in my guide to Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Buddha Museum.
In 2011, an even larger addition was made: the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, which houses a Buddha tooth relic and has the largest Buddha statue in Taiwan, at 108 meters.
You can also visit Foguangshan on this half-day tour from Kaohsiung.
52. Snorkel with Sea Turtles and explore the coast on Xiaoliuqiu
Xiaoliuqiu, also known as Little Liuqiu, Little Okinawa, and Lambai Island, is a small island within easy reach of central Kaohsiung, perfect for a day or overnigth trip. Hope on a bicycle or scooter to explore the island, which features impressive rocky coastlines. One of the most popular activities on the island is snorkelling with sea turtles.
53. See millions of migrating butterflies at Maolin
Every year from December to March, millions of butterflies descend on Maolin National Scenic Area in Kaoshiung and Pingtung counties, lending the park the name “Purple Butterfly Valley.” The park has worked to conserve the butterfly’s environment, and visitors can take photos by following the necessary precautions to not distrub the butterflies.
54. Watch locals burn an entire boat for the gods
In a ceremony called the Burning of the Wang Yeh boats, people torch an entire large boat throughout the night. The festival dates back over 1000 years to China and is conducted for the Wang Yeh deities, who are thought to prevent diseases.
The festival happens in autumn (usually October in Taiwan and November in Taiwan) once every three years, in the year of the Bull, Dragon, Goat and Dog, with the next festival taking place in autumn of 2021. They actually burn boats in several coastal areas, but the largest and most famous by far is the boat burning at Donggang in Pingtung County.
55. Visit Kenting, Taiwan’s first national park, on the southern tip of Taiwan
Kenting National Park is Taiwan’s premier beach resort and occupies the southern tip of the country. It is rich with beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and, on the long weekend in April in Taiwan, some of the best beach parties and events in Taiwan.
The Spring Scream Rock Museum festival has been held every year since 1995 and takes places at the scenic Erluanbu Lighthouse at the southernmost point of Taiwan. The festival is kind of dying out and has been overtaken by other much more popular music events on the same weekend in other parts of Kenting National Park. No matter which event you attend, Aprl long weekend in Kenting is still one of the liveliest places to be in Taiwan.
56. Visit remote Orchid, Kinmen, or Matsu Islands
Orchid Island is a volcanic island located off the southwest coast of Taiwan. It is home to the Yami (or Tao) people, one of the smallest tribes of Taiwan and also the furthest removed from Mainland Taiwanese culture. They are known for the Flying Fish Festival in spring and beautiful handmade canoes. Here’s my complete guide to Orchid Island.
Kinmen consists of two main islands just off the coast of Xiamen, China, so close that you can easily see China from the islands. The main sights are related to military history, as this is a battlefront between Taiwan and China, but you can also spot rare migratory birds in Kinmen National Park.
The Matsu Islands, named after the goddess of the sea, are also extremely close to China. There you can explore fascinating tunnels, forts, and the habitat of birds including the Chinese crested tern, previously though to be extinct.
Well, that sums up my list of the best things to do in Taiwan! I know I couldn’t include everything, but if you feel I’ve made an major omission, please let me know in the comments below!
I never travel without a guidebook! I recommend these: