Taiwan is a modern country. We spent 2 incredible weeks visiting temples, night markets, and National Parks. This gave us the opportunity to visit the highlights of this country but we couldn’t visit absolutely all. Therefore, we don’t cover some parts like the south.
Day 1-3: Discovering Taipei
Taipei is Taiwan’s capital city. The Taoyuan International Airport is the one you will probably land. From there, the most convenient is to take the High-Speed Train to the center for 150 NT$. That’s around $5.
The first days take it easy, you will probably have some jet lag.
What we recommend to not miss:
- Eat at Night Markets. The most popular is the Shilling Night Market, but also the most crowded. Use your nights wisely, you only got a few! We recommend getting lost one night to a small or unpopular night market.
- Hike the Elephant Mountain. It’s an easy hike and the best spot to observe the Taipei 101. Especially for sunset.
- Eat at Dinh Tai Fung, famous dumpling restaurant.
- Try the popular Beef Noodle at any corner.
- Join a Free Walking Tour, a tip-based tour to get you in the history and important cultural aspects of Taipei.
Our hostel was the Bouti City Capsule Inn, a new, clean and affordable accommodation. Very recommended for couples. There are dorms with double beds.
But Taipei is also a good opportunity to try a bed capsule. We test it the last night in Taipei. It was our first experience in a capsule and we loved to have so many buttons for everything!
Tip: Buy an Easy Card in any metro station and load it with some money. It has some discount when traveling with public transport, and you will need it for the rest of the country.
Day 4: Taichung
After some days in Taipei, jump into a train to Taichung. The prices change depending if you take a High-Speed Train or a normal train.
The city of Taichung is the birthplace of bubble tea. We are not huge fans of bubble tea but you should taste some and let us know what you think.
Other things to do are:
- Rainbow Village. A very cute village full of colorful paintings. The story tells that with art paintings on the house, a grandpa, saved his house and the neighbor ones from demolition after coming back from the civil war.
- The Museum of Fine Arts. If you have some more time, this museum offers a huge collection of Taiwanese art. It’s free.
- Night Market. That’s already a tradition, yes. Go for it and enjoy the cheap and good food!
Day 5-6: Riding around Sun Moon Lake
After so much city, you probably are ready for a bit of calm. Get a homestay or hotel and let the bus driver know (already in Taichung) where is your accommodation. They will drop you most likely in front of the door.
Sun Moon Lake is a lake surrounded by small villages, temples and pagodas. Rent a bike and get ready to cycle around the 29 km. Half of the way is very well prepared for bikes, the other half you will ride along with other motos, cars, buses and even trucks. So, keep safe!
Day 7: Alishan National Park
Take the early bus from Sun Moon Lake at 8 am. and you will be arriving in Alishan at around noon. Check-in in your hotel (no hostels in Alishan) and grab some food in a local restaurant. Once first necessities are covered, you will enjoy an afternoon walking around centennial and millennial giant trees. We even saw a 2000 years old one! Hikes are easy and accessible to everybody.
Next day, take the express train at 5 am. up to the mountain for the famous Alishan sunrise. To be honest, it’s not the best sunrise we have ever seen, especially because of the amount of tourists in a small spot. But it will probably set the beginning of a beautiful day.
Tip: don’t forget to reserve the train for the sunrise 1 day in advance before 4 pm. in the train station. You don’t need to spend 2 nights in Alishan, buy it the same day you arrive and see the sunrise the day you leave. Time is tight but enough for everything.
Day 8: Tainan
There is no other way than a bus to move out of Alishan. But since you woke up for the sunrise, you will be able to take even an early bus at 9 am.
Tainan is famous for its good food, tell a Taiwanese you have been in Tainan and you will see sparkling in their eyes.
We used the day to visit:
- Chin Men Theater. The last cinema in the world with hand-painted posters. Movies are the newest, and the posters and art around are awesome.
- Temples. Temples and more temples.
- Anping Old Fort. If you are into Dutch history, you will probably be interested in visiting this old colony, if not, you can skip.
- Night Market. No! This you don’t skip! Depending on the day you visit Tainan, you will find one night market or another.
Day 9-10: Lantern Town of Jiufen
Take a train with the easy card to Songshan, on the north of Taiwan. From there, a 20 min. bus ride will bring you to the enchanted village of Jiufen. An old mining town now converted to a lantern town.
We can’t recommend enough to sleep in First Stop Backpackers. It has gorgeous views and their hosts are the absolute best. They prepared a delicious breakfast and recommended how to get the most out of the 2 days there:
- Teapot Mountain
- Golden Waterfall
- Yin and Yang Sea
- Nanya Rock
Tip: When you get back to Songshan, there is a local market 100 meters on the left side of the train station. The number 12, is a vegetarian stand from an old lady that will delight you with delicious food.
Day 11-13: Taroko National Park
From Songshan, there are direct trains to Hualien, which is a city one hour from Taroko and the best option as a base camp.
In Taroko, we met other travelers, hikers and campers. There are 2 campgrounds available and free! We took the change and camped one night in there. Another option is to go back and forth to the National Park with a bus or renting a motorbike in Hualien.
Day 14: Back to Taipei
Spend the last day to get back to the airport in Taipei.
There are many other itineraries in Taiwan like going more south to Kaohsiung or Kenting National Park.