Traveling twenty-six hours across the globe to gain a graduate degree, I believe entitles me to tour a place I’ll call home for the next two years. I love traveling, experiencing new cultures and traditions and most of all, land-marking new memories. For me this is the joy of being alive accompanied with a sense of excitement. I came to Taiwan with limited expectations and an opened mind to try and appreciate what I might meet. Little did I know that Taiwan would have been so beautiful and captivating to the eyes, the mere reason I decided to document my experience of traveling in and around Taiwan.
Even though I haven’t mastered the language and the idea of so many people living in one place (since I come from a population forty times smaller than Taiwan), I still managed to make my way around this “huge” island. Accounting for the places I have visited so far, they include: Danshui, Sun Moon Lake, Keelung, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taitung, Tainan, Taoyuan, Pingtung, Hsinchu, and Jinguashi. Each have its own unique memory, for example Taipei and Danshui are the top shopping stops for a lady, since that’s one of our best traits (ha ha ha); Keelung holds a soft spot in my heart with the dolphin show (– my favorite animal) and the cool souvenirs as a keepsake; Hsinchu being the northern benchmark for Taiwan’s Industrial Parks – very interesting to me since I’ve never seen something of its nature before; and for Kaohsiung, two words sums it all “LOVE RIVER”.
Mountains, canyons, beaches and amazing food – this delightful island has it all. Get ready to embark on your Taiwan trip and explore this spectacular East Asian destination.
As a travel blogger, I many people ask me about my favorite destination. “So, which place on Earth did you like the most? Where should we go?”. My answer is always the same: “Just visit Taiwan“.
And still people are surprised. They might have heard of Taiwan – but how could such a tiny island be anybody’s favorite place to go? Especially if you have hundreds or thousands more impressive choices?
It’s time that I show you why. This post is dedicated to my friends in Taiwan and all the people who are thinking about visiting Taiwan in the future.
So – get ready to book your ticket! It’s time to travel to Taiwan!
WHERE IS TAIWAN?
Just to be clear: you wouldn’t believe how many people have mistaken the location or the name of this little island. It often gets confused with Thailand. Believe me, this place is really nothing like Taiwan!
Taiwan is an island in the Pacific Ocean located off the southeastern coast of China. It’s north of the Philippines. Well, just check the map above!
GETTING TO TAIWAN
On your trip to Taiwan, you will most likely arrive at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan’s main international airport. It’s located 40km southwest of Taipei. My favorite tool for searching flights to Taiwan is Kiwi.com.
Let’s get this started. Here is my list of all the fantastic tourist attractions and places to visit on the delightful island of Taiwan!
01 | THE SCENERY
Taiwan is incredibly green. No matter where you are, there is always a lush tropical forest around the corner.
The capital is surrounded by mountains with Yangmingshan National Park is situated just 12 kilometers from downtown Taipei. If you are interested in half-day Yanmingshan tour combined with hotsprings, I recommend this tour.
The landscape changes dramatically across the island. Central Taiwan is dominated by impressive summits, while southern tip of Taiwan – Kenting – is famous for its sandy beaches.
How to enjoy the sights? The best is to go cycling in Taiwan.
02| COLORFUL FESTIVALS
Taiwan’s calendar is packed with fascinating celebrations and holidays.
These are my favorite:
- Taiwan Lantern festival – thousands of paper lanterns are released in Pingxi. (Jan/ Feb)
- Matsu Pilgrimage – annual massive folk fest. 300 kilometers in 9 days. (Mar)
- Dragon boat festival – boat races on local rivers across the country. (Jun)
- International balloon fiesta – colorful balloons rising in Luye Gaotai near Taitung. (July-Aug)
List of all festivals is to be found here.
03| THE ABORIGINAL CULTURE
There are 16 officially recognized tribes in Taiwan.
They lived on the island long before the Han settlers arrived from China. Nowadays, their population is only 500,000 (2% of the total population of Taiwan).
A great place to learn about the various tribes is Sun Moon Lake area where the oldest tribes come from. It is hard to get so I recommend you visit it as part of this tour showing the best of Taiwan in just 5 days.
04 | THE BEAUTY OF EAST COAST WILL LEAVE YOU SPEECHLESS
The biggest part of Taiwan’s 23 million population lives on the west coast, while the east coast remains pristine and wild. To me the east is actually the most beautiful part of Taiwan.
These are the must-see places:
Taroko National Park – Taiwan’s most stunning national park, with 16 kilometers limestone canyon cutting through it. It is little hard to move around, so I strongly recommend to visit it on this tour including transport and guides.
Mugumugi – A lagoon with crystal clear turquoise water located 30 kilometers north from Hualien city. You are actually allowed to swim in it! Yay!
If you want to explore this place, my article: Mukumugi: Taiwan’s best kept secret will help you to find it.
Qingshui Cliffs– spectacular cliffs rising dramatically from the Pacific Ocean up to over 800 meters above sea level.
East Rift Valley – A pretty area flanked by mountains. Lots of unique plants can be found there. The land is totally flat – perfect for cycling!
My blogger friend Nick wrote a detailed post about travelling to the East Coast: Yilan, Hualien and Taroko.
05 | THE MYSTERIOUS OUTLYING ISLANDS
Taiwan consists of more than just one island! Are you surprised?
The little know outlying islands are peaceful and not yet damaged by mass tourism. Green Island (Ludao) features unique saltwater hosting, Orchid Island (Lanyu) amazes its visitors with it’s volcanic landscape and mystic atmosphere.
If you are into history, you should visit the oldest villages of the islands, head to Kinmen and Matsu, lying in the Taiwan Strait. If you are more into sunbathing and first class windsurfing, head to the west coast’s Penghu archipelago.
06 | THE HIKING PARADISE
Hiking in Taiwan is one of the best in East Asia. The mountains cover two thirds of the country’s terrain.
Hardcore hikers usually want to tackle one of the two highest Taiwan mountains – Jade mountain (Yushan 3,952 m) or Snow mountain (Xueshan 3,886 m).
The best alternative for beginners is Hehuanshan (3,422) within Taroko National Park. It’s easily accessible and the view is stunning!
Overnight camping up there was one of my best experiences in Taiwan.
07 | TAIWANESE FOOD
You will love this combination – Taiwanese food is incredibly tasty and really affordable! There are countless night markets across the island. Each one is different which makes it exiting. In Taipei, Shilin night market is the largest. Wanna know my favorite? It’s Raohe Street Night Market.
Taiwan dishes you should try:
Mango shaved ice: a pile of mango ice shavings that will make you experience a food orgasm. My favorite desert!
Stinky tofu: fermented snack that assaults the nose but pleases the palate. The smellier, the better. Ouch!
Beef Noodle:noodle soup made of stewed or red braised beef, beef broth, vegetables and Chinese noodles.
Braised pork rice: order “Lurou fan” and you get a bowl or rice with braised pork slices on the top. Humble but very traditional.
Flaky scallion pancakes:Chewy, flaky, and savory scallion pancakes are one of my favorite snacks in Taiwan. So addictive!
08 | COSMOPOLITAN TAIPEI
Taipei offers a thrilling mixture of European and Chinese culture as well as the old and new.
Taipei offers a lot of sights, these are the highlights:
- Elephant mountain
- Taipei 101
- National Palace Museum
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
- Longshan Temple
If you prefer to visit the city with local guide, you can book this tour. Alternatively, there is an private tour as well.
you Do you need a place to stay in Taipei? Read my other blog post Best hostels in Taipei. I lived in hostels for 2 months testing them all for you.
09 | THE PEOPLE
I have been to over 30 countries and never met people friendlier than the Taiwanese. They always offer to help and love talking to foreigners.
You will notice that they are extremely shy. Their English is often perfect but you need to give them time and encourage them.
If you stay a bit longer around the island, chances are, you will make really good friends over there.
10 | THE HOTSPRING ADDICTION
People in Taiwan love hot springs. Some people visit them every day!
There are public hot springs in Beitou, about an hour from Taipei city center. And you should definitely try the wild hotsprings, too! Excellent choice is BaYan Wild Springs, in Yangmingshan National Park (this is also where I took the photo above). This tour takes you there and I know you will love it.
Soaking in the hot springs is a must-do experience. Make sure you are not leaving without it!
…So, are you ready for the trip now? See you in Taiwan!
HAVE YOU BEEN TO TAIWAN?
I wonder how was your experience like – honestly, so far I haven’t encountered a person who didn’t like this tiny island!
Thanks a lot for reading – and please share the article with your friends. Let’s spread the news about Taiwan’s beauty!
Photo credit and special thanks
Big thanks goes to photographers who cooperated with me on this post. I used their photos since they had better picture of the same place.
Title cover picture: stunning panorama by Guillaume Bouvier. His purpose in photography is to capture the unique beauty of what surrounds him, and hopefully bring a pinch of welfare to people by doing so. Guillaume discovered Taiwan 6 years ago and fell in love with the place and the people. His approach is very personal and only driven by the inspiration of the moment. Find his website here, and follow him on Instagram @Yohmi.
Picture of Qingshui Cliffs: by Jeff Chao, guide from Taiwan Vista Tour.
Picture of Taiwanese food is from Chia Cheng Su, food photographer who runs Facebook The Beauty of Taiwan.
Picture of Taipei panorama: by Martin Kaalund Pedersen from Denmark.
The post was edited by Joanna Beata.