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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 tourist attractions as well as ideas for getting off the beaten track. You won’t find a more comprehensive free guide to traveling around Taiwan online!
Deciding what to do in Taiwan can be tough with so many choices, and I easily could have made this a list of 100 places to visit in Taiwan, but then this article would have become ridiculously long.
The below suggestions are organized into 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 consult my detailed Taiwan itinerary for 1-3 weeks. If your Taiwan trip coincides with Lunar New Year, then plan carefully by following these tips in my Taiwan Lunar New Year guide.
1. Survey the capital from Taipei 101
Ride the world’s fastest elevator to the 89st 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.
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.
2. Bathe Beitou’s thermal waters at the foot of a dormant volcano
Beitou is the only MRT-accessible hot spring in Taiwan. It sits at the base of Yangming Mountain in northern Taipei City. See more details in my complete post on Beitou Hot Spring.
The area’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.
You can visit on this Beitou and Yangmingshan tour. Beitou is also the starting point of the Beitou-Zhuzihu Tourist Shuttle Bus, which is one of the best ways to explore volcanic Yangmingshan National Park. Unlimited shuttle bus rides are included with the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.
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 poop-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.
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.
In fact, in the 2018 inaugural Taipei Michelin Food Guide, no less than 10 Taipei night market food stalls made the Bib Gourmand Selection. Simply put, you have to visit a night market when in Taipei.
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.
Foodies may also be interested in my food guide to Taipei’s Little Burma.
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 in early spring.
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.
2020 Edit: In December 2020, the government made changes to the YouBike program due to insurance issues, making it impossible for visitors to rent a YouBike in Taipei. There were so many complaints that they will hopefully be reversing the decision, but it is still under discussion.
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!
Use your EasyCard to ride the Moakong Gondola, and return tickets are included if you get the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass or Taipei Transport Pass. This Taipei double decker tour plus gondola ticket is also a good deal.
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.
Shengkeng 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 Shengkeng, you can also find everything from dried and fermented tofu to tofu ice cream and sweet dessert tofu.
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.
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
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, Dawulun is near Yehliu (#13 above) in Keelung City, while Fulong in New Taipei City is probably the most famous beach in Northern Taiwan and Wai Ao 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. Releasing sky lanterns can be done any day of the year (many people actually do this from beside the train tracks at Shifen Station), but I don’t recommend doing this because it is terrible for the environment.
You can also access the Pingxi Crags (see below) from Pingxi Station.
17. Ascend cliffs and 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 on the Northeast Coast.
18. 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.
East Coast of Taiwan
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.
The Kavalan Distillery is located in pretty Yilan Country and can easily be visited as a day trip from Taipei. 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.
If craft beer is your thing, then the excellent Jim & Dad’s Brewing company is just down the road.
20. 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.
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. You can also go whale watching in Hualien.
Read more in my article on Hualien and the east coast of Taiwan.
21. 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. The easiest and fastest way to get there is this direct flight from Taipei’s Songshan Airport to Hualien. You’ll want to spend at least one night in the area, but it’s not impossible to do Taroko Gorge as a day trip from Taipei.
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.
Read my entire article on Taroko Gorge, or find out how to get to Wenshan Hot Spring, a secret hot spring in Taroko Gorge. Hualien is also home to a large number of aboriginal people. One great way to experience Taiwanese aboriginal culture is by taking an aboriginal cooking course.
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), or see my Taroko Gorge article for the best guesthouses and hostels in Hualien.
22. Go white water rafting in Hualien
One of the most exhilarating things to do in Taiwan is white water rafting on the east coast. 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. Here is a tour company offering a rafting tour in Hualien.
23. 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.
24. 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 summer. 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.
25. 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.
See my full Dulan article for more information on where to surf, eat, and stay in Dulan.
26. 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.
Central Mountains of Taiwan
27. Take part in the “Ritual to the Short People” of the Saisiyat aboriginal tribe
Once every two years, the Saisiyat, one of Taiwan’s 16 recognized aboriginal tribes, put on a event called Pas-ta’ai or the Ritual of the Short People. Anthropologists believe that the ritual may honor a tribe of short Proto-Australoid people who came to Taiwan thousands of years ago but died out.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to participate in the festival. The main event involved a spiral of people with arms interlocked, lunged forward while singing and then stretching outward in intervals. The dancing went on all night and was fueled by copious amounts of xiao mi jiu (aboriginal millet wine).
Another major aboriginal festival in Taiwan is the Ami’s Harvest Festival in Hualien.
28. See snow in a subtropical country 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.
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.
29. 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.
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. Here are 10 other awesome day trips from Taichung.
30. 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 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.
31. 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.
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.
32. Hike through a bamboo forest
To get off the beaten track in the greater Alishan region, check out the stunning Ruitai Historic Trail between the mountainous villages of Ruitai and Taihe near Fenqihu.
The trail traverse an enormous bamboo forest. The sounds of the creaking, swaying bamboo stalks is truly mesmerizing, and you’ll likely have the entire trail to yourself.
Find out how to reach the trail in my Alishan article.
33. 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.
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.
You need to apply for a permit well in advance, and the number of daily trekkers is strictly limited.
34. 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.
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.
Find all the info in my Xitou Monster Village post.
35. 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.
West Coast of Taiwan
36. 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. See my article on 15 things to do in Miaoli!
37. 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 and in my guide to Miaoli Taiwan.
38. 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.
See more information and pictures in my complete guide to Miaoli.
39. 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.
40. 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 play your trip in my Taichung itinerary post.
If this sounds awesome to you, then see my article on the similarly colorful Gamcheon Culture Village in Korea!
41. 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.
42. 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 14th day of the Lunar New Year), the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is rocking southern Taiwan.
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.
See here for my full write-up on the Yanshui Fireworks Festival.
43. 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 (see reviews and prices) is a friendly and very local guesthouse located five minute’s walk away.
44. Hang out in Penghu’s Chinese courtyard homes 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.
45. Admire street art in Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung, the largest city and port in Southern Taiwan, has been called the “street art capital of Taiwan.” 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 some of Kaohsiung’s street art 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 Xiao (Little) Liuqiu (sometimes translated as “Little Okinawa”) is a great day trip from Kaohsiung where it is possible to go swimming with sea turtles.
46. 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.
47. 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 contains hundreds of structures and statues. Once closed the general public, visitors can now spend the night here. I loved being able to walk around the premises in the evening with no other visitors around.
In 2012, an even larger addition was made: the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, which houses a Buddha tooth relic and the largest Buddha statue in Taiwan, at 108 meters.
Nearby, you can also visit Meinong, a Hakka village famous for its decorative bamboo umbrellas. Mine is my favorite souvenir from Taiwan.
48. Watch locals burn an entire boat
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 once every three years, in the year of the Bull, Dragon, Goat and Dog. 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.
49. Attend Spring Scream, an indie music festival on the southern tip of Taiwan
Kenting National Park is Taiwan’s premier beach resort and occupies the southern tip of the country. The 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 surprisingly low-key, even though copycat festivals held on the same weekend in Kenting (always the long weekend at the beginning of April) have given Spring Scream a reputation for excessive debauchery.
Guests can hit the beach during the daytime, then rock out to underground indie acts from around Taiwan and the world.
50. Hop over to Orchid Island, home to Taiwan’s most remote aboriginal tribe
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. Here’s my complete guide to Orchid Island.
The Yami people are known for their Flying Fish Festival in spring, honoring the arrival of one of their food staples. The festival goes on for months, taking place at a different time in every village, and involves carrying elaborately carved and decorated canoes to the sea.
Orchid Island is another great spot to try scuba diving.
Get to Orchid Island by taking the train or flying to Taitung, then booking a short flight on UniAir (tickets only available two months in advance and sell out quickly) or taking the local ferry to Orchid Island. Book this convenient 3-day tour to have everything arranged for you.
I never travel without a guidebook! I recommend these (to see on Amazon Singapore, click here!)