During our recent trip to Asia, we were surprised to learn how few of our friends knew about the island of Taiwan. Really and truly, it’s too bad, because there were so many places to visit in Taiwan. It is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. Truly, it is a hidden gem that’s missed by too many.
As an independent, first-world nation, the quality of living tends to be much higher than many of its surrounding neighboring countries. It’s also cut in half by the Tropic of Cancer. That means that you get tropical beaches and giant sea turtles to swim with in the south and ancient jungles that look like they should contain dinosaurs in the north.
This place should be on your bucket list and here are the places that we loved the most while we were there.
Top 20 Places to Visit in Taiwan
1 – Jiufen: The Real Spirited Away
Spirited Away is one of the most beloved animated films of all time. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, and, in 2016, 177 film critics from around the world voted it as the fourth best film of the 21st century. Simply put, it’s beautiful.
What many people don’t know is that the film’s incredible landscape, buildings, and scenery were not entirely imaginary. The famous bathhouse and city in the movie were based on the mountain town of Jiufen in Taiwan. It’s easy to see why this place was chosen as the setting for a story of magic.
Night markets, loaded with amazing food and things to see, light up the night scene. Wonder fills every alley and corner of this town. This is not a place to miss on your bucket list.
2 – Taroko National Park & Qingshui Cliff
Toroko gorge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Taiwan, and Taroko National Park is certainly the most beautiful part of the gorge itself. This nature reserve is an abundant source of marble and jade. Moreover, the rock now seen in Toroko originated 200 million years ago as sediment on the bottom of the ocean. It’s ancient and awe-inspiring.
In addition to the beautiful views and mountain hikes, the park features endless river trails, caves, and waterfalls to roam and explore. There’s no limit to how many times you could visit this place. There’s a lifetime of secrets to explore. Without doubt, its one of the most incredible places to visit in Taiwan.
3 – Waterfalls
Waterfalls are everywhere on this beautiful island. There are dozens upon dozens to choose from, no matter where you are. You could spend weeks doing nothing but going to incredible waterfalls and still not see them all. From the Dream Valley Waterfall in Nantou to the Lover’s Lake Waterfall in Pingtung, the Golden Falls Waterfall in Taipei, or the Valley of the Gods Waterfall in Miaoli, just to name a few, they will take you back in time to another world.
I would go into a description of each, but someone else has already done a fantastic job of this for all of us. Please, check out the blog Follow Xiao Fei for a breakdown of the waterfalls that are waiting for you. His photos and details are beyond compare.
4 – Night Markets
Food, games, clothes, toys, accessories, electronics… you name it! There’s an incredible variety of things to see and do in these markets. Hundreds of stalls wait side-by-side to offer local treats and flavors for cheap. The average meal costs about 2 or 3 US dollars and tastes great. Every major city has at least a few. They are a lot of fun to check out and visit. Night markets are some of the most fun places to visit in Taiwan, and shouldn’t be missed.
5 – Festivals [Lantern Festival & Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival]
Taiwan has some pretty incredible festivals throughout the year. We read about the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival (also called Feng Pow) a few years back and put it on our bucket list. A tradition that started back in 1885, each year the city lights up with fireworks. This is done to cleanse you of any dangerous spirits or ghosts that have attached themselves to you. The result? One of the most insane nights ever with celebrations scattered around in the chaos.
It also happens on the eve of the Chinese Lantern Festival, which for so many reasons is just breathtaking. Paper lanterns are marked with your hopes and dreams and released in the sky together with thousands of other people. It’s a wonderfully unique experience that creates irreplaceable memories.
6 – Hot Springs
Natural hot springs cover Taiwan from top to bottom. As a result, these are very popular all year around. However, this is the place for you if you’re looking for places to visit in Taiwan during the winter off-season, where the coldest it ever gets is around 10°c /50°f. There’s nothing quite like it.
7 – Green Island
In general, Taiwan isn’t invaded by mass tourism. Being here feels like a local adventure without the natural beauty of each place untainted. This is even truer for the surrounding islands.
There are 6 really popular islands to see in Taiwan. The locals told us that Green Island and Orchid Island were the most beautiful to start with. Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and Turtle Island each have their virtues to speak of, but for the sake of the average traveler, we’ll be focusing on the two that we visited.
If you love diving and scenic landscapes this is the best Taiwan has to offer. Green Island is a small volcanic island inhabited by goats, deer, massive coconut crabs, and an array of marine wildlife, such as stunning big mushroom coral. This pearl of an island also hosts one of the only 3 salt water hot springs in the world.
8 – Orchid Island
About 800 years ago, many of the aboriginals in Taiwan settled onto Orchid Island, also known as Lanyu. Today, it hosts one of the 16 aboriginal tribes, as well as 11 unrecognized tribes, called the Tao. We were amazed at the warmth and hospitality with which we were treated. The people here were so nice. Just… really, really nice.
The island itself is gorgeous to see and it’s a unique experience that’s completely different from the rest of the country. Come for a taste of something that’s not aimed at tourists. It’s a different view of the culture and mystery of this place. This makes it one of the most interesting places to visit in Taiwan.
9 – Sun Moon Lake
Taiwan’s largest lake is in the center of Taiwan and the people take great pride in it. The natural beauty of the area makes it one of the most popular places to visit in Taiwan. There is no shortage of yachts and speedboats covering the water. While swimming is not usually allowed, it is during Mid-Autumn Festival when there’s a big race. There was something about the mountains and the water that made this place really special to visit.
10 – Jade Mountain (Yushan)
Hiking and mountain climbing are some of the most popular activities to do in Taiwan. There are hundreds of mountains on the island. In fact, there are 286 mountain summits over 3,000 meters tall available to climb. The locals recommended two for us to see, in particular. We decided to do both.
Jade Mountain is the grand daddy of all mountains in Taiwan. Standing at 3952m high, the top of this mountain is a winter wonderland during the (not so cold) winter months. Entry-permits are required to attempt the climb, but, they are not required if you’re just looking for a hike at the base. The mountain itself is relatively undeveloped. It’s a great place for experienced hikers who want to challenge themselves. We recommend this as one of the must see places to visit in Taiwan.
11- Ali Mountain (Alishan)
Walking high up on Ali Mountain and looking down through the clouds is the closest feeling to a land before time that you can get. I imagined myself in another world before people and felt completely alone in the most wonderful way imaginable. It was inspiring and should be on your list of places to visit in Taiwan.
Standing at 2,400 meters above sea-level, it’s a decent hike to the top, with many different paths to choose from. Moreover, it hosts one of the three colonial-era train rides that you can take through forests still around in the world today. Without a doubt, the experience was unforgettable.
12 – Yangmingshan National Park – Taipei
Yangmingshan National Park is famous for beautiful cherry blossoms, waterfalls, mountains, and tropical rainforests. Moreover, it is also the site of Taiwan’s tallest dormant volcano, the Seven Star Mountain. This volcano stands at 1,120 meters. It began erupting around 700,000 years ago. There was initially one crater at the peak, but this has formed into seven smaller craters due to post-eruption erosion.
This national park has made international headlines as the backdrop for Martin Scorsese’s film, ‘Silence”. The mountains naturally formed hot springs and steaming fumaroles just add to the mystic of the place. The raw and savage beauty of the national park’s scenery was exactly what the legendary filmmaker wanted. If you enjoy nature and hiking, this is certainly one of the most interesting places to visit in Taiwan.
13 – Kenting National Park – Kenting
Kenting is Taiwan’s oldest and southern most national park. Famed for its tropical weather, white-sand beaches, and mountains, Kenting is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Taiwan. The beaches and main strip, like the rest of Taiwan, give you the real local experience.
The weather also ranges from warm to hot all year round. It’s the hottest part of the island. There’s diving, snorkeling, lots of restaurants, night markets, outdoor makeshift cocktail bars, beach bars, games on the streets, and more. If you come in the summer, the streets and beaches fill up for festivals, featuring a ton of live bands and DJs. There’s something for everyone.
14 – National Palace Museum
This museum holds 8000 years worth of incredible Chinese history and contains over 700,000 individual artworks and artifacts. Ancient Chinese emperors collected the majority of the pieces and they are absolutely priceless to see. Expect to see Chinese calligraphy, paintings, bronzes, jades, porcelain and many other artifacts.
As well as containing this breathtaking collection, the grounds are also home to the beautiful Zhishan Garden (filled with ponds, waterworks, and wooden pavilions). Also, you can visit the residence (and now memorial shrine) of renowned Chinese painter Chang Dai-chien.
15 – Taipei 101 – Taipei
Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, the 101 building is currently the tallest green (ec0-friendly) building in the world! It was the tallest building in the world until 2009. The building is also home to some of the world’s fastest elevators. The elevators travel at over 60km/h and transport visitors from the 5th floor to the 89th in just 37 seconds. Get ready to feel your ears pop due to the change in air pressure when you take this elevator.
The amazing tower is built to withstand typhoon winds and earthquake tremors. The building also houses a huge 660-tonne steel pendulum which sways to offset movements in the building from strong winds. The strongest winds recorded have swayed the pendulum by as much as 100 centimeters.
It towers above every other building in the city and can be seen on the skyline from across Taipei. The building has 101 floors above ground and 5 basement levels. When construction finished in 2004, it became the first building in the world to stand at over half a kilometer tall. The 101 building is one of the absolute must see places to visit in Taiwan.
16 – Yehliu National Geopark – Yehliu
The Yehliu National Geopark, located in the north of the country, is another one of the best places to visit in Taiwan. It is home to a number of incredible unique geoformations, including the famous ‘Queen’s Head’, ‘Sea Candles’, ‘Fairy Shoe’ and many more formations. There’s a beautiful coastline, various caves, and stunning ‘mushroom rock’ formations scattered around the Geopark. It is unlike anything else we have seen in the world. It really felt like walking on the moon of an alien planet.
You can also visit Yehliu Ocean World, located next to the Geopark. This is a small oceanarium, which features ocean exhibits, as well as dolphin and sea lion performances. 100% worth the visit!
17 – Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum – Kaohsiung
18 – Huashan 1914 Creative Park – Taipei
Originally opening in 1916 as a privately owned winery, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park now functions as a multi-purpose park and creative space. It is a space for artists to develop their creations, and for non-profit organizations to hold events there. Performance groups, woodworkers, writers, painters, movie producers and directors regularly showcase their creations here.
One of the wackier features of the park is its Upside Down House. Created in February 2016, this is a full upside down house (including fully decorated upside down interior rooms). There are plenty of weird and wonderful photo opportunities in here. Truly, the Upside Down House makes for a very fun family day out. The people here looked really happy. Its certainly one of the most fun things to do in Taipei.
19 – Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall – Taipei
Born in 1866, Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese physician, calligrapher, writer, philosopher and revolutionary. He is considered to be the father of the Republic of China. The literal translation of the building’s Chinese name is the “National ‘Father of the Nation’ Memorial Hall”. The building itself is huge, measuring almost 30,000 square meters (well over 7 acres). Construction of the main building completed in 1972.
Every hour, the building holds a formal ‘changing of the guards’ ceremony. The building is a popular tourist attraction. It houses a performance hall, exhibition center, library (with over 300,000 books), a multimedia center and various lecture halls. The building falls within Chung-shan Park, which includes decorative walls, gardens, and a performance/exhibition area surrounding Lake Cui.
20. Lungshan Temple of Manka – Taipei
Lungshan Temple of Manka is an incredible Buddhist temple and certainly one of the best places to visit in Taiwan. Originally built in 1738, it has a long and rich history. Moreover, it also includes halls and altars dedicated to Chinese and Island deities, such as Guan Yu and Mazu.
Fires and earthquakes have destroyed the temple several times over. But, the residents of Taipei have consistently rebuilt and renovated the temple. Most recently, it was struck by an American air raid during World War II. The temple itself was rebuilt just a few months later, but many precious artifacts and artworks were lost in the bombing. This temple is a perfect example of classical Taiwanese architecture and is well worth a visit.
21 – Tuntex Sky Tower – Kaohsiung
This tower is an absolute beauty! Nicknamed ‘The 85 Building’, the Tuntext Sky Tower contains 85 stories and measures almost 350 meters high. Built in 1997, it is the tallest skyscraper in southern Taiwan.
The strange design of the building sees two two separate towers which join into one central tower on the 40th floor. The building features a department store, indoor amusement park, a hotel, a sky bar and an observatory with a great view. It’s certainly worth a visit if you pass through Kaohsiung when visiting Taiwan.
22 – Xiao Liuqiu
This tiny little island is less than an hour drive from Kaohsiung. You drive your scooter right onto the boat that takes you there for around $10USD. Once you’re there, you find glorious beaches, giant sea turtles you can snorkel or dive with, and camping sites abound. The main street on the island is filled with amazing fresh food to try and locals escaping the big city for the weekend. In the end, it turned out to be one of the nicest memories there. Don’t miss it.
For a handy guide to traveling in Taiwan, we strongly recommend the Lonely Planet Taiwan Travel Guide. It’s the #1 Best Selling Guide to Taiwan.
Have you ever been to Taiwan before? Is there somewhere else on this beautiful island that you think should be on our list? Contact us HERE and let us know!
Also, check out our Stress-Free Travel Guide if you are planning a holiday abroad.