Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular Taiwan attractions and the state’s largest lake. I spent a few days in Taichung and knew I couldn’t miss out on visiting this iconic spot. So I rented a taxi with some new friends from my hostel and spent a day exploring this beautiful place.
Eddy Tsai / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
The misty allure of Cingjing Farm
Cingjing Farm is located 1,750m above sea level up in the hills of the Hehuanshan mountain range in Nantou County, about 1.5-2 hours drive away from downtown Taichung. It is well-loved by visitors as a quick escape from the city.
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Tourists crowd CingJing Farm looking to enjoy the cool mountain air and pleasant Taiwan weather conditions at this ‘foggy Eden’, thanks to the low hanging clouds all around. We followed the crowds over to the aptly named Green Green Grassland (Qing Qing Cao Yuan) in the northern section of the farm where the daily sheep shearing show was underway. The fluffy puffballs were soon transformed into skinny bare sheep.
We admired the green grassland and surrounding mountain views as we spent the rest of our time strolling around the park. Visitors often choose to stay overnight here so they can truly kick back and enjoy their leisure time in the mountains.
Cruising Sun Moon Lake
Next stop: Sun Moon Lake. The lake’s unusual name is supposedly due to the fact that one side of the lake is shaped like the sun and the other like the moon. How postcard-worthy the surrounding view of cloud-topped mountain peaks is all you can tell when you are by the water. On a fine day, the trail around the lake also becomes the backdrop for some of the most popular things to do in Taiwan, as many take to the scenic cycling routes.
Our taxi took us to Shuishe Pier on the northern side of the lake, where we purchased a boat pass and hopped on one of the many ferry tours. We took the boat across the lake to Ita Thao in the south.
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Lalu, a sacred island where boats are not allowed to dock, sits in the centre of Sun Moon Lake. I experienced a rather drizzly day at the lake. While everyone always hopes for blue skies and sunshine, I thought there was something quite romantic about the way the mist made the view appear like a traditional Chinese painting.
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Local delicacies by the lake
Ita Thao is named for the Thao tribe, an aboriginal group that used to live around the lake. You can still sample the traditional Thao delicacies like bamboo rice, sausages, white eel mochi as well as Aruzay – grass carp caught from the lake itself. It is also popularly known as President Fish as it was a favourite of late President Chiang Kai Shek. Another must eat here is the famous tea egg near the Xuangguang temple.
We decided to ride the Sun Moon Lake Cable Car. It took us over tree canopies and green hills to the entrance of the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park. It is a theme park showcasing the Ita Thao and other Taiwanese aboriginal culture. The culture park even has thrilling rollercoasters, including Taiwan’s first suspended rollercoaster. Exploring the park would probably take up another full day, so we chose to just enjoy the peaceful gondola ride. After that, we headed back down to the lake again.
Before we left Sun Moon Lake, we made a short stop at Wenwu Temple. Before the road around the lake was built, getting to the temple involved an arduous climb upstairs. The climb was known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Many visitors often stop by to make offerings and blessings. That’s what we did before calling it a day and heading back to Taichung in the evening.
Photo by jeniffertn via Pixabay
Where to stay at Sun Moon Lake
While Sun Moon Lake is a popular day trip option, many people choose to stay overnight to enjoy the tranquillity of the area. Shuishe in the northwestern corner of the lake is where the bus terminal is and the most popular option. For a cosy guesthouse experience that offers great value, check out Doris Home.
Another popular town to stay in around Sun Moon Lake is Ita Thao. It is located in the southeast end of the lake near the cable car station. The Crystal Resort Sun Moon Lake offers great views and excellent service.