Top Things To See In Taiwan
Taiwan is a relatively large island, stretching some 250 miles from top to bottom. It’s unfortunate that most of the island’s visitors never venture past the glamour of Taipei. When you venture out of the capital you will experience some of the beauty that the country has to offer. Taiwan has a diverse range of attractions that range from stunning mountain scapes to the ever-popular night markets. There is really something for everyone! Be sure to check out this list of the top tourist attractions in Taiwan before you plan your next trip.
Top Tourist Attractions In Taiwan
Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
From its beaches, the surrounding mountains, to the famed the Golden Waterfall, Jiufen has it all! I made the mistake of overlooking Jiufen for far too long. There is a lot to do in Jiufen and the surrounding Ruifang District and I got to experience it during my trip earlier this year. Of all the things to see and do, the highlight was definitely Jiufen Old Street.
You will need to hike up and down a great number of stairs during your exploration of the area, so a sturdy pair of shoes are recommended. The unique shops lining the streets provide plenty of eye-candy, so don’t worry about getting bored. Be sure to check out the scrumptious local food sold in shops along the street. Ah Gan Taro Balls (阿柑姨芋圓) is one of my favorite shops in the area. They sell a delicious taro desert and have a seating area that provides sweeping views of the surrounding area. Jiufen Old Street is also a great place to find souvenirs for friends and family back home!
Getting There: Jiufen Old Street
Taipei to Jiufen:
- The easiest way to get travel from Taipei to Jiufen is to take the bus. You can catch bus 1062 from the Zhongxiao Fuxing intersection and head directly to Jiufen Old Street. The trip will take 60 – 70 minutes depending on the traffic and weather conditions. The current cost for the journey is 98 NTD, roughly $3.
- Alternatively, you could take a train from Taipei to Ruifang station and then catch public bus 788 to Jiufen. The time and cost are essentially the same, so I’d stick to the direct bus unless you plan to do some sightseeing around Ruifang.
Alishan Scenic Area (阿里山)
If you are looking for an extra-special experience try heading to Ali Mountain. Alishan is one of the most famous mountains in Taiwan, with countless hikers making the trip each year. If you want a true Taiwanese experience you will need to wake up in the early hours of the morning to catch the sunrise from the peak. It is a truly breathtaking experience!
Getting There: Alishan Scenic Area
To get to Alishan we will first need to get to Chiayi. From Taipei, you can take the faster, but more expensive High-Speed Rail (HSR). Or opt for the slower, but cheaper regular train.
Getting to Alishan has become slightly more difficult. The railway in this area was damaged by a recent typhoon and has not been fully repaired. Due to the damage, we will need to make adjustments.
Please check the Taiwan Railway Website which has a great FAQ for first-time visitors.
Taipei To Chiayi:
- High-Speed Rail – 1h 25m
- Express Train – 2h 30m
Chiayi to Alishan:
- Chiayi Station — Fenqihu Station by Rail
- Fenqihu Station — Alishan Station by Bus
- Chiayi Station — Alishan Station by Bus
I would normally recommend the most direct route. However, many visitors enjoy taking the train due to the good views and railway history experienced on this route.
Anping Fort (安平古堡)
Anping Fort is likely to be the highlight of your trip to Tainan. This fort, originally called Fort Zeelandia, was built by the Dutch in the early part of the 1600’s. A great deal of the fort was destroyed during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, but it has since been restored. The buildings at Anping offer a historical look at how things would have looked roughly 400-years ago. There is a great deal of history presented throughout the complex. Visitors will have the chance to read and learn about the history of Tainan and the role the city played in shaping Taiwan.
One of my favorite travel photos is of an old pagoda located in the Anping Fort complex. It has been my Instagram profile photo for quite some time now, and I love its striking architecture!
Getting There: Anping Fort
Address No.82, Guosheng Rd., Anping District, Tainan City
- Take the HSR from Taipei to Tainan Station.
- The ride is just under two hours and HSR ticket information can be found online. You will be happy to discover that the High Speed Rail has an English-friendly website!
From Tainan HSR Station to Anping Fort:
- If you’re in a hurry a taxi can quickly cover the distance for around $12-15
- Taking the bus is an option if you want to save money. Bus 2 can take you to Anping Fort in around 40 minutes but will take 40 minutes + additional time waiting for it to arrive.
Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)
Sun Moon Lake is one of the most picturesque destinations in Taiwan. It is located in Nantou County, in the direct center of Taiwan. Nantou County is a quiet part of Taiwan that offers visitors serene mountain views and is great for those looking to relax. Sun Moon Lake is one of the must-visit destinations in Taiwan. Waking up in a lakefront hotel is one of the best experiences on the island, and must be experienced at least once!
Please note the times on the map. ~3h by car / ~4.5h by bus.
Taipei to Sun Moon Lake:
- Bus 1833 costs 470nt as of 2017. This bus departs from the Taipei Bus Station and takes 4.5 hours to arrive. It will take you directly to Sun Moon Lake with no transfers required. It is operated by Kuo-Kuang Motor Transport (website in Chinese) so just look for their signs when you arrive at Taipei Station.
- Another option would be to take the High-Speed Rail to Taichung Station. From Taichung, you will need to transfer to a bus to Sun Moon Lake.
Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園)
Pintung is a large county located in the southernmost part of Taiwan. It is a popular destination for those looking those looking to escape the big city in search of good weather and natural beauty. Pingtung has a number of attractions ranging from mountains suited for hiking and camping to beach resorts offering surfing and scuba diving excursions.
Kenting is the top destination in Pingtung for beachgoers due to its pristine sandy beaches, and mild, sunny climate. Kenting also serves as Taiwan’s unofficial spring break destination. My last visit to Kenting was in the Autumn, and the water was perfect for swimming and surfing. The combination of pleasant weather and affordable accommodation make it an excellent choice for backpackers looking to explore Taiwan.
- Take the High-Speed Rail to Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung.
- From Kaohsiung take bus 9188 or 9189 to Kenting.
I think there are a number of architecturally significant places to visit, rather than the Taipei 101 alone. Taipei is considered by many to be rather bland when it comes to architectural design. At first glance, the blocky rows of gray and brown buildings may signal that this is true. However, there are a few gems that help to break the monotony of Taipei’s cityscape. While there are many unique buildings to discover, my favorite buildings in Taipei are listed below.
- Taipei 101 – Once the tallest building in the world. In addition to its height, the 101 is notable for a number of other reasons.
- recognition as the worlds tallest green building
- its post-modern design
- a structural design which allows the 101 to withstand powerful typhoons
- an observation deck (Indoor 88th + 89th floor / Outdoor 91st floor) Tickets cost 500 NTD
- the worlds highest Starbucks. Located on the 35th floor. Reservations need to be made so call ahead! Starbucks Taipei 101 Reservations (+886) 2 8101 0701
- XingTian Temple (行天宮)
- A massive temple located in the heart of Taipei.
- Longshan Temple (龍山寺)
- This 300-year-old temple gives off an older and more traditional feel. The night market is also great!
- National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院 )
- This is great if you’re a fan of history! The number of artifacts to be found at the national palace museum is absolutely astounding! As the name might suggest, the museum was constructed to resemble a traditional Chinese palace.
Getting There: Taipei 101
Take the MRT Red Line to the Taipei 101 / WTC Station. Exit 5 will place you directly under this towering monument.
Getting There: XingTian Temple
Take the MRT Orange Line to XingTian Temple Station. Take either exit 4 or 2. Walk north to the intersection and you will see the temple on the right-hand side of the street.
Getting There: Longshan Temple
Take the MRT Blue Line to LongShan Station. Head to exit 1 and then walk north to the temple. You can’t miss it!
Getting There: National Palace Museum
Take the MRT Red line north to Shilin Station. From here you take a number of buses to the National Palace Museum.
Bus 255 / 204 / 815 can all go from Shilin Station to the National Palace Museum in under 15 minutes.
Nightmarkets can be found all over Taiwan – regardless of whether you visit a big or small city. While each night market will provide a similar experience, there are two that stand out.
- Shilin Night Market (Taipei) 士林夜市
- Huayuan Night Market (Tainan) 花園夜市
These night markets are located on opposite ends of the island, Taipei in the north and Tainan in the south. They are the biggest, and arguably most impressive, in Taiwan. First-time visitors should not miss this chance to experience the vibrant flavor and exotic tastes that can be found in Taiwan.
Do note that Huayuan Night Market is only open on selected days of the week. You can experience the great sights and flavors on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Be sure to plan your trip accordingly!
Night Markets in Taipei are open 7-days a week.
Getting There: Shilin Night Market
Thankfully getting to the Shilin Night Market is quite simple. First, you will head north on the Red Line of Taipei’s MRT. Make sure that you are headed in the direction of Dansui. The ride is a bit long, so grab a seat if one is available. You will need to get off at Jiantan Station – rather than Shilin Station. Taking Jiantan Station exit 2 will put you across the street from Taipei’s most bustling night market.
Getting There: Flower Night Market (Huayuan Night Market)
How you choose to get to Flower Night Market will vary greatly based on where you are staying in Tainan. Public transportation is good, with an extensive network of busses. However, busses are not as frequent as in Taipei. I would recommend checking google maps when you head to the night market. If a direct bus is available, take it! Hailing a taxi is relatively affordable if you are not located near a bus line.
Taroko Gorge National Park (太魯閣國家公園)
No list of top tourist attractions in Taiwan would be complete without mention of Taiwan’s natural wonder. Taroko Gorge stretches a spectacular 19km and is located along the west coast, just north of Hualian. It is a wonderful spot for hiking, trekking, and river rafting, as well as other outdoor activities. There are a number of tour agencies offering trips and activities in the area. Of course, you could always admire the natural beauty on your own if you’re not up for that. Most people will enjoy staying in Hualien and exploring the city. Try to find a hotel in the XinCheng station area if you want to be closer to Taroko.
If, and when the island gains international acceptance, Taroko will be undoubtedly Taiwan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting There: Taroko Gorge National Park
Taroko makes a great day-trip (or longer) from Hualien. Getting there is fairly straight-forward.
Take the train north from Hualien to Xincheng Taroko Station.
From the station, you will have a short walk to the nearby bus station. Take bus 1141 or 302 – both will take you to Taroko National Park.