For a small country, Taiwan has an INSANE amount of National Parks, National Scenic Areas, Lakes, Hot Springs and Night Markets to offer. The Taiwan Tourism Board REALLY love the word scenic and it gets rather overwhelming. You’ll know why later.
My 11-day Taiwan adventure encompasses cities, mountains, beaches, lake and night life. I got to see a little bit of everything, and was happy to return with a good understanding of Taiwan’s culture, quirks, history, and ecology.
Copy my Taiwan adventure itinerary here:
Day 1: (NORTH) Arrive in Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, take a bus to Taipei city
Day 2: A full day getting lost in Taipei
Day 3: (EAST) Take a half day train ride from Taipei to Hualien
Day 4: Rent a motorbike for a full day of being amazed in Taroko Gorge National Park
Day 5: (SOUTH) Head to Kenting for some beach time
Day 6: There’s lots to see in the coast of Kenting, it could take full day
Day 7: (WEST) From Kenting, move on to Kaoshiung, and then Tainan. When in Tainan, don’t forget to check out Anping
Day 8: Off to Sun Moon Lake
Day 9: Enjoy a boat ride around Sun Moon Lake to visit the different piers, then take a bus back to Taipei
Day 10: (NORTH) Take a train to Ruifang followed by the tourist shuttle for a full day exploring Jiufen, and the mountains of Jing Gua Shi
Day 11: Last minute shopping (I bought a ukulele on impulse) and back to reality!
This itinerary starts from the North and makes a loop around Taiwan. If you have more time, this map gives lots of opportunity to add in more destinations. You can use it as a guide as there are lots of space to play around and switch about the places you’re interested in!
11 days were enough for me to learn a lot about Taiwan. Here are some practical information and tips that will come in handy:
1. Weather. According to Travel China Guide, “there is no severe cold in winter and no brutal summer heat. Taiwan always welcomes you with its pleasant seasons“. This is a lie. How many locals have told me that they die in the summer heat! Taiwan has four weathers, but what you really need to worry about is typhoon season. Typhoon can hit starting from June, and usually peak around August to October. But with global warming and all, the typhoons are having a PMS with their timings. With that said, bring a raincoat.
2. Maps and Tourist Information Centres. Taiwan is one country that is very well equipped for tourists. Tourists Information Centres can be found in every town, and their staffs are often very useful and will be able to give you all the information you need. You can get town maps at these Tourist Information Centres, and they are often more detailed, updated, and useful compared to your guidebooks. In fact, after the second day, we abandoned the guidebook in the hotel. By the end of the trip, we had enough of crinkled maps to make our own guidebook. You can get these maps in both English, Mandarin and sometimes Japanese.
3. Moving About. Don’t worry about navigating yourself in Taiwan as street signs and directions are in both Mandarin AND English. As are most train announcements.
4. Public Transportation. Public transportation in Taiwan is super-duper efficient, crazy ass punctual, frequent, fast and very accessible. It makes moving around town and moving around states easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. They have the MRT, the Railway Train (with both fast and slow routes) and the High Speed Railway. Make sure you get to the right station!
Don’t worry about tickets as you can always buy them in abundance at the station on arrival. However, if you’re the paranoid kind, you can book your seats early online or even at 7-Eleven outlets (they are everywhere). I guess if you’re short on time, you can always take the High Speed Railway. It cuts interstate travelling time by half, but the prices are doubled the regular railway tickets! We loved taking the railway not only because it’s affordable, clean, and fast, there’s food to buy on the train in case you get the munchies, PLUS THE SCENERY IS SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL.
5. Language. While moving about Taiwan is easy, you might have a tougher time if you don’t speak the local language. Everyone speaks a melodious tone of Mandarin here, extra brownie points if you can speak Hokkien. A lot of the older generation don’t understand English, while most of the younger people are too afraid or shy to respond in English. Street signs and directions you can read, but local restaurants and shops are full on ching-chong-chang. This makes understanding what you’re eating, asking for directions, taxi rides and even buying your train/bus tickets a little bit more complicated… but that’s one of the joys of travelling, right?
6. WARNING: Ohh and here’s a little caution about Taiwan’s obsession with the word “Scenic Viewpoint”. Open a map, any map, and you will see it filled with locations that are highlighted as “Scenic Viewpoints”. Believe you me that it can be overwhelming when you only have a day and a half in town, but there are like a hundred must see viewpoints emphasised in bold red. So little time, so many special must see places, HOW? Honestly, don’t worry about crossing off every “Scenic Viewpoints” because a fair amount of them are nothing special. We even found some of them to be sad a excuse to make tourists’ money. So please don’t be surprised if you feel a little cheated by the over-enthusiastic Taiwanese Tourism Board. Instead of rushing about to see everything, you should take your time to really breath in and enjoy your route. Focus on the main ones that everyone is shouting about, ask the Tourist Information Centre about which one is really worth your time.
I was about to tell you more about the quirks and eccentricities of Taiwan and the people there, but I’ll leave the fun of discovering up to you! :)
Is the information in this post useful to you? Drop me a comment and let me know :)
Photos courtesy of Matthias Verschueren