Taiwan is a small island and although Taipei is pretty much in the deep north of it… it feels like it’s in the middle of it all. I can’t think of many other capitals with such a variety of day trips. We saw weird rock formations, a stunning green coast, lush carpets of algae, hiked with some of the most amazing views and even chilled out in a hot spring village.
If that wouldn’t be enough with high speed trains on the island you could actually go as far as Kaohsiung for a day trip. That means you can get a pretty good idea of the island without moving around so much. Something we really appreciated during our month in Taipei. So here are some of our favorite spots… and few we wouldn’t visit again.
- Hike of a lifetime - Pingxi Mountains
Definitely our favorite day trip from Taipei. Those are actually three small hikes up three amazing mountains that stand just next to each other. I have never done a hike so short with views like that in my life! Especially recommendable at sunrise. A whole blog post about that here.
- The greenness of the northern coast
A surprisingly short bus away (1 hr when google indicated 3hrs) took us to beautiful, serene beaches. We started with Laomei beach in the Shimen district that is famous for lush, green algae (seasonal, we were there in May, location indicated on the map). Then we strolled along the coast heading south passing empty beaches, a charming lighthouse and a cheesy wedding picture location. But what truly made our day was the seafood market along the way. It was the most bizarre one we have ever seen in our entire life and we saw the ones with huge tunas in Tokyo. This one had just such a variety of creatures (many of them couldn’t be called fish), that it left us stunned. The sales men were ready to cook anything we would like to buy whether it was a sea urchin or pufferfish. As usual we had our lunch packed and we honestly prefer to see those buddies underwater rather than on a plate so we politely walked away.
- A stroll along the beach in Tamsui
A small seaside town perfect for a sunset or a little stroll along the gift shops. It didn’t take our breath away but considering how close it is to Taipei and how cute the street art is in there, it would be a shame not to pay a visit.
- Shifen and the waterfalls’ hike
The waterfall in Shifen is the widest on Taiwan. Unfortunately so is the infrastructure next to it. But that’s where a beautiful hike starts that took us to three other waterfalls hidden magically in dense vegetation. One of them turned out to be a great stop for a cool dip. It’s possible to combine this hike with Pingxi mountains, more about it here.
- The ultimate relax in Beitou
Japan tempted us with baths for a very long time. Unfortunately prices or strict rules always stopped us from trying. When we finally came so close to a hot spring paradise, we knew we had no more excuses. Beitou is a perfect spot for every budget. There are plenty of open –air, super cheap bathhouses but also hotels that offer a private bathing experience. Those surprisingly can be affordable. We went to The Golden Hot Spring Hotel and paid 1480 TWD (41.34 Euro) for 1.5 hour in our private bath. It included soaps, shampoos, shower, wooden bath as well as a normal one.
Except for the bathing experience Beitou has a beautiful library, the Hot Spring Museum which used to be a bathhouse and numerous parks… or actually it’s all green there.
- Fearless walking in the Fanziaoqiuchangyan Park
The northern part of Taiwan is famous for moon-like rock formations. Most of them are actually a little too famous… But this spot pleasantly hidden from the mass Chinese excursions. And it’s a 2 in 1 kind of journey. Twisted rock formations and an amazing arch where fearless people can parade around, and more fearful ones can take pictures of them. Pretty clear on which side I stayed 🙂
- Spooky walk into the world of Spirited Away - Jiufen
Theoretically Jiufen shouldn’t be anything worth seeing. It’s super small, not much more than just one street with lampions and overhanging vines. But honestly there was something so charming in there, something that I wouldn’t even try to explain. The lack of people in the morning makes it pretty spooky … like if it was a set for a Spirited Away sequel. I can’t even imagine coming there in the middle of the night. If you guys do that, let us know!
- The tea paradise around The Thousand Island Lake
By every spot visited we have one big regret of a place we didn’t see. Because even if the time is not so limited, you can’t see everything. The tea plantations around the Thousand Island Lake are just that. They looked absolutely spectacular on every picture that we saw… even on bad shots untouched by any of the magic computer programs. But we simply found out about it a bit too late… Nevertheless it will be our first stop when we come back! For sure!
More disappointing places…
- Walking around in Yangmingshan Park
The fame of this place has grown into a sort of a legend. I understand why someone liked it so much, but I just can’t seem to find it to meet all the expectations. For us it was more of a park which was nothing compared to all the other hiking spots we saw on Taiwan. The only difference were fumes coming out from the sulfur hot spots but I wouldn’t say they were spectacular enough to make a whole trip to Yangmingshan Park. Not to mention that the wait for the bus to take you anywhere in the park is a torture. It goes very rarely.
- The Wulai Waterfall
Wulai was supposed to be a pearl for exploring indigenous culture, enjoying hot springs and nature. What we found were cheesy local shops, even cheesier hot springs and a waterfall that was not worth the bus ride. It was a pretty disappointing day.
- In the world of ceramics
Taiwan is really strong with street art and ceramic is almost as good as in Japan. So when we heard about New Taipei City Ceramic Museum and nearby park with ceramic sculptures and 1200 colorful windmills, we knew we had to see it. We were sure it would be beautiful… Well the windmills were nowhere to be find… not even one. And the park with the ceramic sculptures was just sad. It turned out to be the shortest out of our day trips that we wouldn’t recommend to anyone. And that is coming from a pottery lover.