What to visit in Taiwan

Being a relatively small island, Taiwan is a very easy to travel country. The centre is full of lush forests and mountains whereas the coasts is where the majority of the population resides, being the west coast the most populated one. Moving around he island is very straightforward, apart from the regular ways of transportation , there is a High Speed Train (THSR) that it can take you from north to south in around 1 hour and 30 minutes with stops in almost all major cities. It couldn’t be easier!

1. Taipei

The capital and most notable city of Taiwan. Home of the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, the Taipei 101 (picture below). Apart of this majestic piece of architecture, Taipei is a vibrant city with many things to do, such as the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the National Palace Museum. Also Daan Forest Park, Taipei Botanical Garden, Longshan Temple, Confucius Temple and much more. Plus there are many night markets to experience the Taiwanese cuisine, so trust me, you will never get bored in this city.

2. Taichung

Taichung is the second largest city in Taiwan. There are a few things to see in the city, like the National Museum of Natural Science or the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, but for me, the best things to do are a bit away from the centre. Places like the Rainbow Village (a colourful village of painted houses) or watching the sunset at Gaomei Wetland are worth a visit. As a day trip, only over an hour away lays what I think is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake (picture below).

3. Chiayi

Although Chiayi itself does not have many things to see since it is quite a small city, this is the perfect place to immerse a bit more in the Taiwanese culture. But the reason why I mention this city is because it is the access point of the scenic mountain area of Alishan, Taiwan’s most-visited national park since the 1920s. Wander around this impressive park to see giant trees, watch an amazing sunrise and don’t you dare to miss the Alishan Forest Railway (picture below).

4. Tainan

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and it used to be the capital city during imperial times. Head to Anping District, the most historic area in Tainan, here you can visit the Anping Fort, Anping Tree House and of course Anping Old Town. Other sites of interest are the Chihkan Towers and the Confucius Temple. A bit away from the city you will find the Luermen Matsu Temple (picture below), a massive temple that it’s definitely worth a visit. It is also known for its delicious food labelling it as the “food capital”, so explore the numerous night markets.

5. Kaohsiung

Third largest city in Taiwan. Although it is known for having an important harbour, Kaohsiung has many reasons to visit. Trust me, I lived there for two years and I was still getting to know new things, especially its food in any of its night markets. Places worth a mention are the Lotus Pond, Cijin District for the beach, The Dome of Light in Formosa Boulevard MRT Station (picture below), Pier 2 Art District and Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. Also, if you are into shopping malls, definitely go to the Dream Mall, the largest shopping mall in Taiwan and one of the largest in Asia.

6. Kenting

The main reason for visiting Kenting is the beach. It is located right at the southern tip of the island. Apart from the beautiful beaches you can rent a scooter and explore the Kenting National Forest Recreation Area for lush vegetation and caves like the Fairy Cave or the Stalagmite Cave.

7. Hualien

Situated on the east coast, Hualien is known for being close to the spectacular Taroko Gorge. If you like nature you will feel in paradise. The name, Taroko, in Truku language (the aboriginal tribe of the area) means “magnificent and splendid”. It will take you one whole day to explore the area and you will still feel you didn’t have enough. In Hualien also visit Qixingtan Beach for one of a kind beach.

8. Taitung

This area is is perhaps Taiwan’s most unspoiled area. Explore Taitung Seashore Park and Taitung Forest Park for an amazing scenery, and if you want a “postcard” picture, head all the way up until Sanxiantai Arch Bridge (picture below). Since 2011 Taitung hosts the International Balloon Festival, so if you are around during the end of summer definitely pay a visit to this incredible sea of fancy balloons.

9. Pingxi Line

The Pingxi Branch Line is a nearly 13 km long railway that goes from Ruifang to Pingxi. Although it can be done as a day trip from Taipei it deserves a separate point since on a single day you will be visiting many different places. It’s like going back in time as these little towns still retain old lifestyles. You just need to get from Taipei to Ruifang, take the train and stop at almost every station on the way to Pingxi. The main attractions are Houtong (a cat village), Sandiaoling, Shifen, Wanggu and Lingjiao for beautiful waterfalls, and lastly, Pingxi, home of the famous Sky Lantern Festival. Also mention Jiufen (picture below), a small yet charming town near Ruifang.