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Taiwan: Top Ten Destinations

Updated on April 19, 2011
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei.
Yushan (Jade Mountain).
Yushan (Jade Mountain).
Forte Santo Domingo, Tanshui.
Forte Santo Domingo, Tanshui.
Hsuehshan (Snow Mountain).
Hsuehshan (Snow Mountain).
Confucious Temple, Tainan.
Confucious Temple, Tainan.
Taroko Gorge.
Taroko Gorge.
Kenting National Park.
Kenting National Park.
Taipei 101, formerly the world's tallest building. Taipei.
Taipei 101, formerly the world's tallest building. Taipei.
National Palace Museum, Taipei.
National Palace Museum, Taipei.
Beitou (Peitou) hot springs.
Beitou (Peitou) hot springs.

1. Taipei. Taiwan’s energetic capital and largest city is vastly underrated. At the northern tip of the island, Taipei is the country’s transportation hub and, as such, all roads lead to and from Taipei – it is likely that foreign travelers will arrive at the city’ international airport, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. It has all the trappings and pulse of a big city along with historic aspects that will amaze any visitor. Its famed night stalls and markets offer Chinese cuisine that rivals Hong Kong’s. Until 2010 Taipei held the title of having the world’s tallest building, the stylized Taipei 101 tower at 1,667 feet. This fast-paced growth is contradicted by the city’s walled origins as a Han Chinese settlement roughly beginning in 1709. Some of the original gates are still visible, namely the south and east gates, although much modified from their original appearance. The Longshan Temple, the city’s oldest, built and rebuilt since 1738 displays classic southern Chinese architecture and is typical of older buildings seen throughout Taiwan. For the museum buff the not to miss National Palace Museum has the world’s best collection of ancient Chinese artifacts and art. It is to the Republic of China what the Smithsonian is to the United States – the national museum. The collection was carefully moved during the Chinese Civil War by the Chinese Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek. It is said to be the 11th most visited museum in the world. Hard to miss is the huge National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall on Liberty Square which stands 249 feet tall. It is the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington monuments rolled up into one – a commemoration of the island nation’s founder and president, Chiang Kai-shek. There’s so much to see in this city and the best way to get around is to avoid the congested streets. The Taipei Metro system is excellent and connects to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

2. Taroko Gorge. Taroko Gorge is to Taiwan what the Grand Canyon is to the United States. While not as gaping or protean as the Grand Canyon, Taroko Gorge is a narrow gorge with a terrific depth carved through mountains with marble walls. Waterfalls, mountains, and hot springs add to the allure of this location on Taiwan’s less accessible east coast. Still, it’s one of the nation’s premier natural attractions in a country that is not lacking in geological phenomena. Taroko Gorge is within Taroko National Park, one of seven national parks in the country. Getting there from Taipei is relatively simple. Take the train to Hualein (90 miles) and from there a bus to the park.

3. Tainan. Formerly the imperial capital, Tainan wears its past in its historic buildings and temples that make this city unique and is often considered the island’s most historic. Its history was also shared by the Dutch whose remnant 17th century fortifications still exist. Among Tainan’s temples, the ConfucianTemple, dating to 1665, is the most famous. It is a large complex that has expanded well beyond its 17th century foundations. Ming Dynasty tombs are worth a look at the Tseng Chen-Yang Mu. Other significant temples in the city are the Koxinga’s Temple, Fu Cheng-Huang Miao, Hsien Cheng-Huang Miao, and Anping Chen Cheng-Huang Miao. Tainan is on Taiwan’s west coast, about 120 miles south of Taipei. There are regularly scheduled bus, train, and plane services.

4. Yushan (Jade Mountain). Originally known as Mount Morrison, for a 19th century missionary to Taiwan, Yushan, or Jade Mountain (3952 meters, 12,966’), is the island’s, and country’s, highest mountain. While the name of Mount Morrison is in disuse, Yushan’s popularity and stature continue to grow. Without exaggeration it is a spectacular mountain that rounds an impressive list of peaks that run north south across the island that make up the Central Mountains. Many tourists and hikers gravitate to Yushan because it is the tallest and the National Park, named for the peak, harbors beautiful forests and unique flora and fauna. Hikers heading to the summit need to have a permit, which until recently was hard to obtain for foreigners. However, there are quotas in place that restrict the number of people allowed on the trails to the summit. Be prepared for changing weather: the best times to hike Yu Shan or in October and March. Any prospective hiker should be in good condition. Hiking up Yushan is strenuous.

5. Hsuehshan (Snow Mountain). Snow Mountain (3886 meters, 12,749’) also had a western name, Mount Sylvia. Like Yushan, its western name has pretty much been forgotten. Snow Mountain is Taiwan’s second tallest, losing the battle of the heights to Yushan by less than 220 feet. It is no less spectacular. Surrounded by a namesake national park, Snow Mountain is a longer climb than Yushan and you are less likely to see as many people. The same rules apply: a permit has to be issued to climb and park rangers will check to see if you have it at various checkpoints. The mountains, forests, and fauna are what you would expect from a chunk of alpine peaks that defiantly and inexplicably rise from the center of a subtropical island. Yes, it does snow here during the winter months. Be prepared. The best times to hike are in October and March and the best access point is from Wuling Farm, about 3 hours south of Taipei by bus.

6. Tanshui (Danshui). Better known as a university town, this small city ten miles northwest of Taipei along the north coast was a foreign enclave of both the Spanish and later Dutch, who were expelled by Koxinga in 1661. The old Forte Santo Domingo and the former British consular offices are the most impressive buildings form that era. Tanshui is easy to get from Taipei as it is the end point of the Danshui line of the Taipei Rapid Transit System. The city also has some nice riverside parks and open air markets. As of December 25, 2010 the city will be renamed XinbeiCity.

7. Makung, Penghu (Pescadores Islands). Twenty-five miles off Taiwan’s west coast are a group of low-lying volcanic islands known as the Pescadores, which means fisherman in Portuguese. Surrounded by coral reefs, the Pescadores are well known for wind surfing because of the constant gales that blow across the Taiwan Strait. Snorkeling and scuba are also popular. The hub of the island group is the city of Makung (Magong), which has a number of interesting historical buildings, some of which are among the oldest in Taiwan. The best way to get there is by ferry from ports on the Taiwanese mainland. The ferries run intermittently in the winter months so it’s best to check the schedule by calling the companies.

8. Kenting National Park. Kenting National Park lies at the southern tip of the island. Beautiful beaches define this park as well as limestone coral formations which include submarine caves. The tip of Taiwan is often considered tropical in contrast to the rest of the island which is subtropical.

9. Hualien (by train). Unknown to many, Taiwan has some of the highest sea cliffs in the world as well as some of the tallest coastal mountains. The train between Taipei and Hualein, on Taiwan’s east coast, is a great way to view this spectacular if not dizzying scenery. It’s best to make reservations as the trip is popular and Hualien is also the gateway to Taroko National Park. Total travel time to Hualien from Taipei via express train is less than two hours.

10. Hsin Peitou hot springs. Taiwan is the product of violent and ongoing tectonic activity. The unfortunate side effect of this tenuous position on the edge of the continental plate is that it’s not uncommon to register earthquakes of more the 6.0 in Taiwan. If this gives you pause one fringe benefit is the numerous hot springs that can be found across the island. Strangely enough, Taiwan has no active volcanoes despite the hundreds of thermal fissures and springs across the island. Many of them are developed as resorts and any one is a great place to relax and take in the mineral rich (therapeutic) waters. Well known springs close to Taipei are Hsin Peitou (by commuter rail line), Wu Lai (20 km SE of Taipei), and Jin Shan (1 hour north of Taipei).


show route and directions
A markertainan -
Tainan City, Taiwan
get directions

Taiwan's historical hub. Old temples and buildings date to the 16th century.

B markerTaipei -
Taipei City, Taiwan
get directions

ROC's capital and cultural, transportation, and economic hub. Musuems, temples, skyscrapers, street stalls, and temples. Not to miss.

C markerhualien city -
Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
get directions

Terminus of a spectacular train ride down ROC's east coast which features sea cliffs and mountains. Tunnels and drop-offs not for the faint hearted.

D markerbeitou, taipei county -
Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112
get directions

Taiwan's most famous hot springs resort on the outskirts of Taipei.

E markermagong -
Magong City, Penghu County, Taiwan 880
get directions

Historical city in the Pescadores. Beaches are spectacular.

F markerYushan -
Yushan, Sinyi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 556
get directions

The tallest mountain in the country and the center of one of ROC's seven national parks. Spectacular scenery and great hiking.

G markerDanshui, taiwan -
MRT Danshui Station, Danshuei District, Xinbei City, Taiwan 251
get directions

University town with colonial era buildings from Dutch and British. Easy day trip from Taipei on metro.

H markerPingE Road, Taiwan -
PíngÉ Rd, Pingtung County, Taiwan
get directions

The tropical southern tip of Taiwan is home to Kenting National Park. Windsurfing, snorkeling, and jungle.

I markerTaroko Gorge, Taiwan -
T’ai-lu-ko Hsia, Sioulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 972
get directions

ROC's answer to the Grand Canyon. Taroko Groge is truly one of the world's most spectacular gorges with waterfalls cutting down sheer rock walls.

J markerheping, taiching, taiwan -
Heping District, Taichung City, Taiwan 424
get directions

Hsuehshan, or Snow Mountain, is ROC's second tallest peak. Hiking and scenery are spectacular.

K markerTaroko Gorge, Taiwan -
T’ai-lu-ko Hsia, Sioulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 972
get directions

ROC's answer to the Grand Canyon. Taroko Groge is truly one of the world's most spectacular gorges with waterfalls cutting down sheer rock walls.

L markerbeitou, taipei county -
Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112
get directions

Taiwan's most famous hot springs resort on the outskirts of Taipei.


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    • profile image

      master 4 years ago

      Taiwan is a perfect country in the world

    • jvhirniak profile image

      jvhirniak 4 years ago

      tastiger04 - wow, that must have been a great experience. Many thanks for reading and taking interest!

    • tastiger04 profile image

      tastiger04 4 years ago

      Sounds like we have similar backgrounds! I grew up in Taiwan, and I can't wait to go back :) Thanks for the awesome hub....brings back fond memories!

    • profile image

      naiza1986 7 years ago

      What a lovely place to be!


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