I can’t believe it took me more then a year to write my 15 days Taiwan itinerary! But well I finally did it before going to Bali. I will post it in two parts, because it turned out to be way too long. Before you dive into my itinerary for a perfect trip to Taiwan, here are some basic information.
We had 15 days to spend in Taiwan last year in May and during that time we visited Taichung, Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Kaohsiung and Taipei. We also stopped in Chiayi and did day trips to Jiufen, Beitou, Tamsui and Shifen (more about these places: 5 amazing trips outside Taipei). Our first version of itinerary was to go all around the island, but we quickly realized, that will be very rushed and we wouldn’t have a chance to experience places as we wanted them to, so we decided not to visit the east coast of Taiwan.
There are five international airports in Taiwan, with the biggest one being Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. You can also fly to Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan or the other Taipei airport, Taipei Songshan Airport. Coming from EU we didn’t need visa for trips under 90 days. Check the requirements for your country.
We traveled around by bus and Taiwan high speed rail (THSR), which is a great way to cover long distances in a short amount of time. It might be a bit more expensive, but we both really love train rides and it was our first time on a high speed train. We booked all our THSR beforehand and just printed out our tickets at 7-Eleven. For bus you can pay cash (have an exact amount, because they don’t return change) or fill up your Easy Card, which is the transportation card used all around Taiwan, for metro, buses, etc.
Currency in Taiwan is New Taiwan Dollar (NTD or NT$). We only exchanged money once in a post office and it was so much hassle we just keep on withdrawing it from ATM’s in 7-Eleven. It had a bit of provision (I think it was 100 NTD) but it was one of the few ATM’s that we could withdraw money from. You can pay with card at some places, but usually they prefer cash, and if you plan to eat at night markets a lot, you will need cash anyway.
The high tourist season in Taiwan is in summer (July-August), but it is also time when temperatures reaches highest numbers and humidity is right up there with them, so if you can go there before or after, so spring and autumn, you will probably have better time and save some money as well. In May we had great weather, it was hot and humid, but it was bearable, we could walk outside all day long, just drink lots of water and don’t obsess over being sweaty too much. Winter months are low season, it will be colder, but probably no where near Central-Europe cold. Plan accordingly to what you want from your vacations there.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL, TAICHUNG
Our journey started at the airport in Budapest, continued with us barely catching connecting flight in Amsterdam and finally touching ground in Taipei Airport. Our first destination was Taichung so we bought bus tickets at the airport and after two hours of scenic views arrived in Taichung. It was already dark when we checked in our hotel, so we just went looking for the Zhongxiao Road Night Market and grabbed something to eat (which turned out to be quite difficult with language barrier but we managed).
We stayed at Chance Hotel, quite near train and bus station, with a balcony, A/C and huge breakfast selection in the morning.
DAY 2: TAICHUNG ART AND CULTURE
I am not really great with jet legs, so for the few first nights I only maybe slept for 4 hours, but when you are so excited to be somewhere new and so different I didn’t feel tired at all. After an amazing and full filing breakfast we went to Miyahara ice cream shop, which is located in the former ophthalmology clinic and has stunning interior, that will make you feel like you are inside Harry Potter movies. It was too early and just after breakfast so we skipped on trying the ice cream for now. You also can’t miss Liuchuan Canal Waterfront with lots of greenery and very relaxed feeling, but the best time to experience this place is in the evening, when it is illuminated with lights.
From there we went to Taichung Cultural and Creative Industries Park located in the former Japanese distillery. This was just the first cultural center located in the old industrial buildings or warehouses that we visited in Taiwan and it is such a great way to bring culture and art to the local people.
We made a little stop to fill our bellies with some pearl milk tea from the place that invented this fabulous drink, Chun Shui Tang. When I saw that they have mango version I had to go with that one and we also tried some dumplings, that were my favourite in whole Taiwan. We returned to this place the next day, because it is so nice, they had menu in English, food is really delicious and it is very affordable.
From there we continued our way to Painted Animation Lane, where you will find all your favourite cartoon characters painted on the walls along the street. I think we were really lucky because there were almost no people there, so we could take photos wherever we wanted without waiting. See more about these places in one of my previous posts: Wonders of art in Taichung.
Our next stop was the first of many temples we saw during our whole Taiwan trip, Wanhe Temple. Then we went chill in a Wen-Xin Forest Park with a view of the Fulfillment Amphitheatre, that is used for different outdoor events. After some more food, we walked to our hotel and watched how they city light up as the sun was setting. Cities in Taiwan looked spectacular at night and Taichung being the first city we visited didn’t leave us unimpressed.
DAY 3: RAINBOW VILLAGE, NATIONAL THEATER
Our last full day in Taichung turned out to be rainy one, luckily we did most of the walking a day before. We wanted to visit Rainbow Village which is a bit out of the city so we had to take a bus. We knew where the bus stop was, but weren’t sure on which side of the road, but with some gestures and having it written down where we want to go, we managed to figure it out. It is an amazing place to visit and a must if you are in Taichung.
From there we took the bus to Thungai University, where we wanted to see their Luce Memorial Chapel. We were so lucky to board a bus with the only bilingual driver in Taichung and had a little chat with him. He wasn’t sure why we wanted to go there, and was also quite worried on how we feel in the city now that its raining. It was so cute. The chapel was closed, but we did walked around the campus for a while and really loved the energy of the place.
On our way back we stopped at National Taichung Theater, which is so amazing. If you are into architecture, then this place will certainly be on your list. It has stunning facade and the interior is so wonderful, with lots of curves and very few sharp edges.
Our lunch spot was once again at Chun Shui Tang and I just can’t recommend this place enough. I would definitely go here again for the food and their pearl tea. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, to admire the impressive sculptures outside and first of our souvenir shopping. We got ourselves two ice tea powders to take home and enjoy a bit of Taiwan when we need it (still have some and dread the moment when we use it all).
We spend the rest of the day just walking around, checking out shops and markets, and finished the day at Miyahara for some of their famous ice cream. Find out which flavours we chose in Food in Taichung.
DAY 4: SUN MOON LAKE
Here I really wished we had a full day to spend, because this area is so vast and beautiful it kind of hurt to be rushed through it. We rented bikes and decided to cycle around the lake, which gave us tons of gorgeous views of the lake, the lushest greens I have ever seen, and me crying because cycling up hill is not my cup of tea, and there will be hills and if you are not very fit it will be difficult (you can always rent e-bike to avoid that, but there was one part of the path where we had to carry our bikes up the stairs, and e-bikes are heavier). It was still worth all my tears and sweat and pain to enjoy this amazing landscape and incredible nature. Check Wonderful Sun Moon Lake for more info and photos.
DAY 5: ALISHAN
The next morning we took a bus to Alishan and drove through such an incredible scenery, slowly rising to the mountains and temperatures dropping as we did. Our first stop was 7-Eleven where we helped ourselves with some instant noodles, because 7-Eleven is really amazing place in Taiwan and you can easily get a quick lunch there.
As we entered into Alishan National Forest Recreational Area we dropped our things at Wankou Hotel, that had the fluffiest pillows and blankets and went to Alishan Forest Station to get our tickets for morning train to see sunrise. We also took a train, which was in the past used for logging and now it takes tourists into the forests with the giant trees hundreds or some even thousands years old. The dense fog and occasional rain added a hint of mystery as we walked among these tall trees. We took the last train back to the town and went to get some hot pot to warm up, and ended up ordering two really big ones, when one would be more than enough for us.
We then slipped under the fluffy and warm blanket for a few hours, before we had to wake in the middle of the night to catch a train to take us to the sunrise spot.
DAY 6: ALISHAN SUNRISE, CHIAYI
Seeing the sunrise over the Alishan mountains was one of the highlight of this whole trip. It is just so mesmerizing watching the sun slowly rising behind the mountains… It might be difficult to get out from the warm bed, but it will be so worth it. We were a bit worried we wouldn’t have a sunrise, because the day before it was so foggy and cloudy, but this morning it cleared and it was so beautiful. You can read about it in Sunrise in Alishan.
Before breakfast we went back to our warm bed and chilled there for a while, and then took a bus to Chiayi, where we waited for our first ride on THSR to Kaohsiung.
Chiayi turned out to be really cute town, with tons of hair salons. We found a lovely lunch place and had the most western lunch during our time in Taiwan. Here you can read more about our Quick stop in Chiayi.
DAY 7: CIJIN ISLAND
Our first day in Kaohisung we spend on Cijin Island, went up to Former British Embassy at Takow and enjoyed the view of the Kaohsiung city, port and Cijin Island below and finished the day at Liuhe Night Market, which was just few minutes walk away from our Airbnb.
What you cannot miss on Cijin Island?
- walk down the Qi Jin Old Street and get some seafood and aiyu jelly
- go to the beach
- walk through the Cijin Star Tunnel
- visit all the Instagram locations on the island
- spot the newlywed couple taking photos at these locations
- have some more seafood
- you can rent bikes
- hike up the hill to reach the fort and lighthouse, if it is not too hot
- get a ferry back and enjoy the view
Check out how we spend Sunday on Cijin Island.
Since night markets will already start once you reach the city center go get some more food there as well.
Also check Perfect Trip to Taiwan: 15 Day Itinerary, part 2 for the second half of our trip, that was mostly in Kaohsiung and Taipei, with some day trips out of the city.
Have you been to Taiwan? Which places did you visit? Have we missed something so very important during this part of our trip? Are there some other things that you would like to know about, so I can write about them in the next post?
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