What to do in Taiwan?
Looking for what to do in Taiwan for your next trip?
This is where it happens!
To visit Taiwan is to discover an island with magnificent landscapes, between sea, mountains and tropical forest, and cities that perfectly combine modernity and tradition.
From the capital, Taipei, to Taroko National Park, passing through the tea plantations of Alishan or Sun Moon Lake, there is no shortage of unmissable places of interest in Taiwan!
To help you organize your stay, I have therefore prepared my complete guide to the 23 things to do and see absolutely in Taiwan.
So where to go and what to visit in Taiwan?
Visit Taiwan: the must-sees
I start this Taiwan tourist guide with its capital: Taipei.
Located in the north of the island, there is a good chance that this is the point of arrival of your tour in Taiwan. To recover from the jet lag and slowly begin to acclimatize to Asia, I recommend that you spend at least 2 or 3 days there.
Not to mention that you won’t be bored because there are really plenty of places to see!
Places of interest to visit in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan:
- Tower 101, which for a long time remained the tallest tower in the world before being dethroned by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. From the top of the 89th and 91st floor, you can contemplate the panoramic view of the city.
- Elephant Mountain: a hill allowing to enjoy several points of view on the city and the tower 101.
- The National Palace Museum and its collection of Chinese works of art: jade, bronze, ceramics, paintings and calligraphy.
- The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial erected in honor of the first President of the Republic of China
- Longshan Temple, one of the most important in Taiwan
- The Ximending district, a very lively area with lots of shops and restaurants, a bit in the style of Japan
- Maokong Gondola: a gondola ride of about thirty minutes above the jungle and which allows you to contemplate a beautiful view of Taipei. On arrival at the top of the mountain, you can walk through the tea plantations. There are also several restaurants.
- Night markets to taste street food: the best known are the Shilin Night Market and the Raohe Night Market.
To have all the details to organize your stay in Taipei, I recommend that you read my other article by clicking here: What to do and see in Taipei?
2. Parc national de Yangmingshan
During your stay in Taiwan, I recommend that you discover Yangmingshan National Park.
It is located about 30 km north of Taipei and is a very good idea for a day trip. It is easily accessible by public transport or with an organized tour if you have not rented a car.
The park is known as the largest volcanic area in Taiwan and has many hiking trails. One of the most popular is the Qixingshan trail to climb to the top of Mount Qixing, the highest in the park (1120 m above sea level).
In Yangmingshan, you can also experience:
- Qingtiangang Grassland, a large volcanic plateau formed as a result of an eruption
- Yangming Park, a landscaped garden full of flowers and fruit trees
- The village of Zhuzihu with its rice terraces and its fields of Calla, a typical flower resembling a lily
- Beitou hot springs to relax after walking.
3. Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu Geopark is one of Taiwan’s must-see tourist spots.
It is about an hour’s drive east of Taipei.
Yehliu is a geological site known for its huge rocks sculpted by erosion and with special shapes.
We discover rocks resembling mushrooms (“mushroom rocks”), candles or a fairy shoe (“Fairy’s shoe”) but the most famous remains that representing the head of Queen Nefertiti (“Queen’s head”) .
It has become the emblem of Yehliu and you will even have to queue to photograph it.
Don’t hesitate to leave the tourist area a bit and take the walk to the end of the islet. You will come to a platform perched above the cliffs above the raging ocean.
The Yehliu Park being really very busy, I recommend that you buy your entrance ticket in advance.
Departing from Taipei, organized excursions allow you to discover Yehliu with a guide. Pick-up is directly in front of your hotel and the tour includes admission to the park.
Book your trip to Yehliu from Taipei here:
Book my excursion to Yehliu now!
The quaint (and touristy) little village of Jiufen is on many travellers’ list of places to visit in Taiwan.
It is only 1 hour by car from downtown Taipei.
To discover Juifen, it’s very simple, you just have to walk along Jiufen Old Street and in the small surrounding streets. Topped by red lanterns, they are lined with small shops and food/drink stands.
Do not hesitate to go to the very end of the village to enjoy a beautiful panorama of Taiwan and the sea.
You will also find there the most famous tea house (and the one that is on all the postcards because it is so photogenic): the Ah Mei Tea House.
Finally, a vein of gold having been discovered around 1890 near Jiufen, you can visit the Gold Museum there. Housed in the old gold mine buildings, you can discover the entire extraction process and the daily life of the miners.
Also not to be missed, on the road that descends to the sea, after the village, is the Golden Waterfall, a waterfall whose rock has a golden color due to the tiny fragments of gold deposited there.
From Taipei, you can visit the North East coast and Jiufen with an organized excursion:
Book my Jiufen tour now!
For those wondering what to visit in Taiwan around Taipei, you can also go to Shifen, a 40-minute drive away.
Like Jiufen, Shifen is a former mining village, but coal was mined here.
You can walk along the Shifen Old Street which runs along the railway line. You will find quite a few souvenir shops and especially stalls selling paper lanterns.
It’s a bit like the ritual of all the tourists who visit the place, you can’t leave without having sent a lantern in the sky with your wish written on it.
After visiting the village, I also recommend that you go to the Shifen Waterfall (20 minutes on foot). Shaped like a horseshoe (somewhat reminiscent of Niagara Falls in Toronto ), these waterfalls are the widest in Taiwan.
To go to Shifen from Taipei, I advise you to take the Pingxi Line. This train line was built under Japanese occupation in 1921 to transport coal and still operates today.
The train (a little old school!) passes through the mountains and the forest for nearly 13 km and the journey allows you to quietly enjoy the beautiful landscapes.
The day ticket allows you to stop in the different villages including Shifen.
6. Taroko Gorge National Park
Taroko National Park is clearly a must-see on a trip to Taiwan. The marble canyon carved out by the Liwu River is one of the island’s best-known natural landscapes.
The 19 km long gorges are crossed by several hiking trails (more or less long) which allow you to discover very beautiful places.
Among the most popular, I recommend:
- The Shakadang Trail with a length of 4.1 km just for the outward journey, it takes about 5 hours of walking to do it in full.
- The Swallow Grotto to discover the narrowest part of the gorges
- The Baiyang Trail lasting 1h30 round trip and which allows you to reach a waterfall flowing into a tunnel.
There are a total of fifteen walks to visit the Taroko Gorge, but some trails may be closed during your visit.
The best thing is to stop at the visitor center to get the description of the hikes and find out which ones are accessible.
A little after entering the park, be sure to stop at the parking lot at the start of the Changchun Shrine Trail.
You can admire the emblem of the gorge, a pretty temple, the Eternal Spring Shine, with a waterfall flowing below. One of Taroko’s most famous photo spots!
7. Les falaises de Qingshui
I continue this guide to Taiwan with another very popular place as a photo spot: the Qingshui Cliffs – Qingshui Cliffs in English.
Located on the east coast, just before the entrance to Taroko Gorge National Park, these are the highest seaside cliffs on the island. With a length of 21 km, they dominate the waves at more than 800 meters high.
When you stop at the reserved parking area to take your photo, you can only be impressed by this panorama! The view of the Pacific with the color contrast between the green of the cliffs and the blue of the ocean is really worth a little break.
8. Pont de Sanxiantai
If you continue your Taiwan road trip along the East Coast, you can also stop at Sanxiantai Bridge.
Built in 1987, the Sanxiantai Dragon Bridge is located in Taitung County, at the level of the road passing by the seaside. It was nicknamed so because it consists of 8 arches, reminiscent of the back of a dragon Chinese.
The bridge allows you to cross to a small island where there are 3 huge rocks: the Three Immortals.
3 of them are said to have stopped at Sanxiantai one day, which is why the island bears their name. You can take a beautiful walk in the wilderness.
Taitung is one of the largest cities on the East Coast.
There isn’t a whole lot to do there, but many travelers stop there overnight to cut the road between Taroko Gorge and Kenting National Park .
From Taitung, you can also reach Green Island and Lanyu Island (the following points in the article).
What to see in Taitung, Taiwan:
- The National Museum of Prehistory on the history of the evolution of man and the aboriginal cultures of the island. The museum is huge and very well done.
- Night markets: there are at least 3 in Taitung. I went to Taitung Night Market next to Sheraton Hotel. There are food and fruit stalls but no souvenirs. There are also some fairground games.
- Taitung Forest Park: a beautiful park for walking in the forest and by the lakes. The best way to discover it is to rent a bike.
- The Xiaoyeliou site and its strange rock formations
- Zhiben hot springs
- Liyu Mountain Park whose summit allows you to contemplate the view of all of Taitung.
10. L’île Verte / Green Island
Visiting Taiwan is of course going around the main island, but did you know that you can also discover other splendid small islands?
In the Taitung region for example, I recommend that you spend a day on Green Island.
To get there, take the ferry from Fugang Port, a 15-minute drive north of Taitung. The trip takes about 50 minutes to Green Island.
When you arrive, I advise you to rent a bike or a scooter to go around the island.
There are several viewpoints, walking trails and a hot spring, the Zhaori Hot Spring, which is one of the few seawater hot springs in the world.
Green Island is also renowned for its exceptional seabed where you can observe lots of colorful fish and turtles.
The ferry to Green Island being the same as the one to Orchid Island (see next point), it is quickly full.
I recommend that you book your trip in advance (at least 48 hours before) to make sure you have space.
If you want to take advantage of your vacation in Taiwan to spend a few days at Green Island in relaxation mode, you will find all the accommodation available on the island by clicking here.
11. Orchid Island
I mentioned it a little above, by taking the ferry from Fugang port, you can also go to Orchid Island. The trip takes about 2 hours by boat.
Lanyu Island is a small volcanic island offering very beautiful landscapes. Like Green Island, it is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan for snorkeling and diving.
The island is also the ancestral territory of the Aboriginal Tao tribe. They still live on the island and have preserved their culture.
You will be able to admire their canoes, made entirely by hand, and their houses built underground to protect themselves from the many typhoons.
Rent a scooter to go around the island.
I advise you to plan to spend 1 or 2 nights there to compensate for the trip and have time to enjoy. The list of all available hotels in Orchid Island is right here!
12. Kenting National Park
Kenting National Park is the best place to go in Taiwan to enjoy the beaches.
Located in the very south of the island, it is much warmer there than anywhere else and you can swim there all year round. It is a very popular vacation spot for Taiwanese.
In Kenting, I do not recommend you to miss:
- Kenting Forest Recreation Area: the forest area with several trails for walking
- The small town of Hengchung with lots of small shops and restaurants
- Jialeshuei: an area with several rocks in the shape of a frog, a pig or representing the map of Taiwan. The visit is done by shuttle and ends with a waterfall. Entrance to the site at 80 TWD/pers + 50 TWD for parking.
- Gangkou and its suspension bridge which offers a beautiful view of the bay (20 TWD to take it). You can also rent kayaks or go surfing on the beach next door.
- Fongchueisha: a very nice side view from both sides. A different area from the rest of the east coast: more open and less “jungle”.
- Longpan: another beautiful point of view
- The short 1/4 hour walk to reach the southernmost point of Taiwan
- Eluanbi Park and its lighthouse. The walk is mostly in the jungle with several viewpoints on the sea. You can also discover caves. Entrance to Eluanbi Park: 60 TWD.
- Baisha Beach or White Sand Bay: a large sandy beach where you can rent jet skis or go bananas. For me, the prettiest in Kenting.
- South Bay: a long sandy beach + water activities. It is the most popular and the most touristic. This is where you will find the majority of hotels and restaurants.
Located in the southeast of the island, Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s third largest city.
What to do in Kaohsiung:
- Take a tour of Lotus Lake on foot or by bike
- Do not miss to pass by the pagoda of the tiger and the dragon. By entering through the dragon’s head and exiting through the tiger’s head, you are supposed to attract luck!
- Stop at the Formosa Boulevard subway station and look up to admire the dome of light made up of 4,500 glass panels
- Pier2 Art Center: old warehouses converted into a cultural center with several exhibitions, workshops and street art
- The 85 Sky Tower and its viewing platform located on the 74th floor
- Take a walk on the island of Cijin and why not enjoy the beach
- A walk or boat trip on the Love River
- Luc Hop Night Market on Liuhe Street.
A little special passage for one of my favorite visits to Kaohsiung: Bywood and Sugar Factory.
You can visit an abandoned sugar factory. Everything has remained as it is since the factory closed: there are all the machines, the control room and several explanatory panels on the transformation and refinery process (in Chinese unfortunately).
But you can make up for it by also visiting the building / museum on the history of the place which has panels in English. Everything is free!
14. Fo Guang Shan Monastery
I suggest you continue this list of the main places of interest in Taiwan with the monastery of Fo Guang Shan.
It is a 40-minute drive northeast of Kaohsiung.
The complex is huge and includes several areas to visit (access is free everywhere):
1) The Boudha Museum.
First enter a large hall with shops and restaurants then go through the alley of the 8 pagodas to reach the entrance of the museum. You cannot miss it, it is dominated by a gigantic bronze statue of seated Buddha, the largest in the world.
The museum is dedicated to the life of Boudha and his disciples. It’s very detailed, modern and well done with neat staging. The top floor gives access to the terrace at the foot of the Boudha.
2) The Sutra Repository which can be reached in 5 minutes on foot from the museum.
It is a nice set of buildings with a main hall and another Buddha statue. From the terrace of the small garden located on the side, there is a beautiful view of the Fo Guang Big Budha.
3) Fo Guang Shan Monastery: accessible by a 5-minute walk from the Repository.
In particular, you can discover the main temple and its 3 large statues; the Golden Buddha Building whose facade is adorned with numerous golden Buddhas; and the Great Buddha Land. Another Buddha statue but this time standing and surrounded by dozens of other smaller ones.
The most valuable piece exhibited in the museum is a relic of a tooth of Buddha.
I have noticed that most visitors just go to the museum area and that’s it. Take more time and visit the whole complex, it’s definitely worth it!
15. I think
Tainan is the former capital of Taiwan. It is located on the west coast, about 1 hour drive from Kaohsuing.
Here is what I recommend you see in Tainan:
- The CHIMEI Museum: an impressive museum both in its architectural style and in its grandeur and the quality of its exhibits. You can visit 5 spaces dedicated to arms and armor in the world, natural history, musical instruments, paintings and sculptures. Admission at 200 TWD – Closed on Wednesdays.
- Anping Fort or Fort Zeelandia : built in the 17th century by the Dutch who conquered Tainan to defend themselves and monitor access to the city by sea. Entry at 50 TWD.
- Anping Tree House: visit rather unusual than this abandoned house now covered by the roots and branches of banyan trees. Entrance at 50 TWD.
- Anping Old Street: a street with several shops and food stalls. Plan to eat quite early because from 6:30 p.m. everything closed!
- Sunset Platform to watch the sun go down. Gives access to a very long sandy beach.
- Fort Proventia built by the Dutch then abandoned before being converted into a temple. A curious mixture of architecture!
- The National Museum of Taiwan History to learn more about the history of the island, especially the period of Japanese occupation. Closed on Mondays.
Right in the center of the island, Alishan is a must- see destination in Taiwan.
This mountainous region is world famous for producing one of the best teas on the whole island and is therefore home to many plantations. On the other hand, I prefer to warn you that you may be a little surprised by the price if you want to bring some back.
But if everyone comes to Alishan, it is mainly to discover the national park: Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. The area includes several walks to stroll through the forest and admire its giant thousand-year-old trees.
If you visit Alishan after the East Coast and the South, you will see that the scenery is totally different.
Alishan is also renowned for its memorable sunrise. Every day, dozens of people get up in the middle of the night and take the small train from Alishan to reach the Zhushan viewpoint and watch the show.
If you want to go, it is better to get up really early to be sure to have a place. But nothing guarantees that that day, the sky will be clear!
Some practical information for visiting Alishan Park:
- Entrance to the park at 300 TWD per person
- In the park, it is possible to travel by little train to go from one point to another (paying). But they won’t take you everywhere because most of the park’s attractions can be reached on foot.
- There are steps and stairs everywhere. The visit is totally unsuitable for a stroller or wheelchair.
- Bring good shoes.
- Best time to see cherry blossoms: March-April.
If you come by car, park in the free car parks outside the area. Those inside (once past the checkpoint) are chargeable.
If you are spending several days in Alishan, I also advise you to:
- Do the small trails towards Shizhuo (about 40 minutes before Alishan): the Tea Trail, the Cloud Trail or the Sakura Trail to see the cherry blossoms (March-April).
- Discover the surroundings of Ruili: the Yuantan Natural Eco Park and its waterfalls; the Green Tunnel and its bamboo; the Youth Ridge Trail to go to the Swallow Cliff waterfall, the best known in the area.
- Hike the Zhugeng River Trail to reach Longgong Waterfall. One of the most beautiful walks I did during my stay in Taiwan!
17. Le parc national de Yushan
Yushan National Park is the largest in Taiwan. It is located just after Alishan.
Yushan, which can be translated as “Jade Mountain” is the highest peak on the island. It culminates at 3952 meters above sea level.
To climb it, you will absolutely need a special permit. The request must be made at least 2 months in advance and it is not certain that you can obtain it because the number of hikers is limited per day.
You will find all the information on the official website.
The trek is done in 2 parts : the first day, 8.5 km hike to Payun Lodge; the next day, up in the middle of the night to walk the last 2 km to the summit and watch the sunrise.
Count about 2 hours of walking for this second part because the difference in altitude is very important and despite the access restrictions, there are many people.
If you failed to get your permit for Mount Yushan, you can still go to the national park.
There are several other day hikes that do not require a permit.
18. Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations.
Located in the heart of the island, it is the largest lake in Taiwan. You can do the whole tour in 1 day by car, scooter or bicycle. There is a whole part of the lake equipped with cycle paths.
What to see and do in Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan:
- The Xiangshan Visitor Center: first stop to get the map of the lake. Take the opportunity to take a walk to the observation platform overlooking the lake (450 m walk from the center on the right).
- The WenWu temple: for me the most beautiful around the lake
- Take the gondola to the top of the hill to enjoy the view during the ride. The gondola also provides access to the Aborigines Park (see below).
- Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village: a park divided into 2 parts – one is dedicated to the different tribes of the island where you can see traditional houses and dance demonstrations; the other is an amusement park with several rides.
- Take a boat trip on the lake
- Xuanzang Temple: the temple itself is basic but there is a very nice view of the lake at this level.
- Ci’en Pagoda: a pagoda located at the top of a hill (10 minutes on foot uphill) and whose summit also offers a panoramic view.
- Xuanguang Temple: to do for its view on the island of Lalu.
- Longfeng Temple: a rather pretty little temple
- The 2 main villages of Shuishe and Ita Thao where accommodation and restaurants are concentrated.
No need to bring your swimsuit for your stay at Sun Moon Lake, it is forbidden to bathe everywhere.
19. The Archipel of Penghu / Fishermen
To continue to do some tourism in Taiwan, I now take you to discover the Penghu archipelago.
Comprising 90 islands, the archipelago (also known as the Pescadores Islands ) is known for its sublime beaches and typical fishing villages, so peaceful, far from the hustle and bustle of Taiwan’s largest cities.
If you are a fan of lazing on the beach or want to snorkel in very beautiful places, the archipelago is the ideal destination.
In addition to the main island, the other 2 islands not to be missed in Penghu are those of Cimei and Wangan. They are easily accessible by boat for a day trip.
To reach Penghu and the main town of Makong, you can fly from Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan or Kaohsiung. There are also ferries from Kaohsiung and Chiayi.
Along with Taipei, Kaohsiung and Tainan, Taichung is one of the must-visit cities in Taiwan.
Here is a short list of things to do in and around Taichung:
- Rainbow Village: a set of small houses painted with colorful designs. It’s very small but very touristy and popular as a photo spot. Free.
- Feng Shia Night Market: a really lively night market with several streets with clothes and accessories shops and especially a lot of street food stalls.
- The National Theater to see for its architecture
- The temple of Confucius
- Painted Animation Lane: a street whose walls are covered with drawings representing the most popular characters from Chinese or Japanese cartoons
- The National Museum of Natural Sciences for dinosaur lovers
- Taichung Park for a leisurely stroll along the water’s edge
- The Wufeng Lin Family Mansions: one of the best preserved traditional houses on the island. Built in 1858, it is still inhabited by the Lin family.
- 921 Earthquake Museum: a museum on the terrible earthquake which struck this region of Taiwan in 1999. It is built around a school which partly collapsed and whose buildings have been preserved.
About a 50-minute drive from downtown Taichung, you can also visit Chung Tai Complex. There are 2 things to see:
- Chung Tai Chan Monastery which is just gigantic! You can enter for free on the ground floor where there are 4 monumental statues 12 meters high and 3 other statues of Buddha. The rest of the monastery is only accessible with a guide.
- The Chung Tai World Museum located 1 km further. The building is very beautiful and offers a very nice view of the monastery from its terrace. The interior houses dozens of Buddha statues and sculptures. Entrance at 200 TWD. Closed on Mondays.
21. Taiwan Hot Springs
If you are wondering what to do in Taiwan after discovering the main cities and natural sites, I advise you to go and relax in one of the many hot springs on the island.
There are more than a hundred of them spread all over the island so you will surely manage to give yourself a little time to make one during your itinerary in Taiwan.
The most famous places to go swimming in Taiwan are those of:
- Beitou, 35 minutes north of Taipei and directly accessible by metro so super convenient!
- Yilan – 1 hour southeast of Taipei
- Wulai – 40 minutes south of Taipei
- Jinshan (Governor General Hot Spring) – North of Yehliu Geopark
- Zhaori Hot Spring sur Green Island
- Guguan – east of Taichung
- Guanziling in the Tainan region
- Fuyuan – 1h20 from Taroko, on the east coast
- Puli (Hakoune Onsen) – North of Sun Moon Lake.
If you are modest, I advise you to find out beforehand about the hot spring where you want to dive because some do not accept swimsuits. You will have to bathe in the simplest device in the middle of everyone!
22. Taiwan’s Night Markets
Visiting Taiwan without at least going to a night market once is impossible!
You would also show very bad will because there is at least one (and often several) in each Taiwanese city. Here you will find dozens of food stalls to experience Taiwanese cuisine.
The most touristy night markets, around Taipei or Taichung, also offer clothes, souvenirs and other trinkets to bring back (you may then find yourself with a Totoro figurine that sits on a piece of furniture in the living room when you return from vacation!) .
The night markets are frequented by both tourists and locals because the prices are cheap and everyone can eat what they want.
23. Taste Taiwanese cuisine
During your trip to Taiwan, you will have the opportunity to taste many typical dishes, both in the night markets and in the restaurants.
Here is a small overview of the culinary specialties of the island:
- Bubble tea: the emblematic drink, created in Taiwan in 1980. It is a mixture of tea, milk, sugar to which tapioca pearls are added. There are dozens of different bubble tea choices.
- Beef noodle soup: a beef broth with noodles and pieces of braised meat + vegetables.
- Xia Long Bao: steamed dumplings stuffed with broth and meat. One of the most famous restaurants for its Xialongbao is Din Tai Fung in Taipei. If you go there I also advise you to take the eggplants as a starter and to taste the Wongton prawns and pork which are delicious!
- Gua Bao: a steamed bread topped with pork meat
- Taiwanese omelets surrounded by a pancake
- Oyster omelette served with a sweet sauce
- The stinky tofu or stinky tofu which unfortunately bears its name very well. I can assure you that the smell is just disgusting (here’s to sum up my girlfriend’s face when she smelled it the first time ). Only one stall selling stinky tofu and the smell spreads all over the street. I admit that I haven’t tasted it, but the Taiwanese seem to love it.
- The pineapple cake for dessert.
- Mango Snow Ice which consists of fresh mangoes cut into pieces on which we place a scoop of mango ice cream + very finely grated ice. The original is mango but there are also strawberry or other versions.
- Mochis: balls of sticky rice, water and sugar flavored with strawberry, chocolate or even tea or sesame.
Visit Taiwan: tourist map
To help you visualize the island a little better, I made you a tourist map of Taiwan listing the places to visit that I talk about in this top 23 things to do in Taiwan. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button with a small arrow.
And you, what are the places of interest that tempt you for your trip to Taiwan?