For a relatively small island, Taiwan has a surprising diverse range of attractions for the tourist’s agenda. Starting from its natural beauty, rich and dynamic cultural heritage, to the cosmopolitan city lifestyle, there is really something for everyone in Taiwan. Here are the top things to do in Taiwan and attractions to put on top of your must-do list when you visit.
Discover Taiwan’s multi-layered culture
Taiwan’s colourful colonial history from the Portuguese and Dutch rule during 17th century, to Japanese occupation and the post WWII Chinese migration, combined with thousands of years of indigenous islander’s own traditions have created a cultural blend that is uniquely Taiwanese.
Take a day trip to old school Jiufen for wooden architecture and narrow alleyways, which are home to many teahouses and snack stores; visit the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village to discover Taiwan’s tribal roots or journey back in time in Tainan, where the Dutch East India Company ruled for 38 years and whose stories are still being told today at Anping Fort.
For museum lovers, visit the National Palace Museum for the world’s largest collection of Chinese artefacts and artworks post the Cultural Revolution.
Drink tea created by the masters
Taiwan’s high mountain teas are consistently good quality, especially Oolong, which is exported around the world at premium price tags. It is therefore, an essential experience for anyone touring Taiwan to pay a visit to a plantation or a teahouse to learn the art of tea from picking to brewing, experience the Taiwanese tea etiquette and taste the blends from the hands of its makers.
Tourist plantations and their teahouses can be found in Maokong and Alishan. Don’t forget to bring some home.
Enjoy cosmopolitan city escapes
For a quality city break, two major cities – Taipei and Kaohsiung – both offer stylish accommodation options, a good choice of cafes and restaurants, vibrant entertainment venues and fantastic shopping experiences.
Taipei has always demanded attention, with Taipei 101 looming over its skyline, the abundance of museums, and the rapid development of open leisure spaces, it is a city beckoning to be visited.
Kaohsiung on the other hand, is the quieter sister on the south side of the island. While it’s Taiwan’s second largest city, it is possible to walk or cycle around it with relative ease. Lovers congregate along the Love River at dusk to watch the sunset and enjoy a snack together at Love Pier.
It is all about love in Kaohsiung; no wonder the city has gained the reputation as Taiwan’s romantic city.
Join the night owls at the night markets
The Taiwanese never seem to sleep. After a hard day at work or at school, many are often found heading to one of the many night markets to socialise, eat, shop and relax. Night markets in Taiwan are a symbol of tradition, where you can still try your luck at paper fishing, hoop throwing and other traditional games no longer seen elsewhere.
The markets often sprawl over a large field or blocks of streets and have vendors that sell sweets and ice-cream in the old fashioned way, and snacks galore to keep any appetite content. You can buy anything from shoes to mouse traps; colouring pencils to household tools, and sometimes even catch impromptu puppet plays for the Gods.
Food is often the highlight of any trip to a night market: stalls serve up a mind boggling array of munchies such as stinky tofu to fishballs, buns, fried squid…the only limits are your appetite!
Experience a diverse natural world
As much as Taiwan has been known to be an industrial and commercial nation, the diverse natural environment will surprise you. To escape from the bustling city life journey into one of Taiwan’s national parks or mountain ranges to experience the natural world the locals are so proud of.
Travel down the east coast to see the rugged landscape of where the mountains meet the sea and to trek the many trails around Taroko National Park.
See the power of nature at work at Yehliu, where the wind and the sea have gradually sculpted sandstones. Here you can see the famous Queen’s Head mushroom rock.
Join an expedition and climb Jade Mountain to watch a breathtaking sunrise and feel the kisses of flower pedals at the Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival.
Nature lovers will find a place they can call their own in Taiwan.
Relax in hot springs
The Japanese were the first to explore the volcanic elements of Taiwan and commercialise the hot springs. Hot, natural sulphuric spring rivers have created some of Taiwan’s most dramatic landscapes and provided a spa heaven for lovers of this natural resource. Hot springs resorts can be found dotted around Taiwan, with some of the best facilities located along the east coast.
Locals believe the hot springs have great health benefits and can cure anything from skin infections to cancer. No matter whether you’re a believer or not, a session in the hot springs can comfort the soul and re-energise the spirit for more adventures to come.