With a pulsating modern capital, temple towns, hot-springs villages and adventures in both shopping malls and wooded mountains, Taiwan cuts a figure as one of Asia's most diverse destinations.
The Beautiful Isle
Famed for centuries as Ihla Formosa, the Beautiful Isle, this is a land with more sides than the 11-headed Guanyin. Sandy beaches, marble-walled gorges and tropical forests are just the start of your journey, which could take you as far as Yushan, Taiwan's 3952m alpine roof.
The activities possible in this landscape are equally diverse. Criss-cross Yushan National Park on colonial-era hiking trails. River trace up to the Golden Canyon. Windsurf the fastest conditions in Asia, or cycle Hwy 11 with the blue Pacific on one side and green volcanic arcs on the other. Along the way you'll find plenty of locals to keep you company. And not just the sporting people. Taiwan is the Kingdom of Butterflies, and home to a host of other endemic flying, crawling and swimming things. When you step away from the urban jungle into the real thing be prepared to say 'I've never seen that before' very often.
Have You Eaten?
These words are a greeting here, like 'Hello', and your answer will always be 'Yes', because there's just too much nibbling to be done. Taiwan offers travellers the gamut of Chinese cuisines – Sichuanese, Cantonese, Beijing-style, Fujianese, hot pot and heavenly vegetarian. But that's just the beginning. Taipei's got the best Japanese outside Tokyo and night markets around the island offer endless feasts of local snacks. Try stewed spare ribs, oyster omelettes, beef noodles, coffin cake, shrimp rolls and slack-season noodles.
In the countryside, sample hearty staples of the Hakka people, such as fried ginger intestine, or try some leaner, lighter aboriginal fare including wild chicken, mountain vegetables and rice steamed in bamboo shells. If you need a drink there's local beer, potent firewater like Kaoliang, and some of the finest oolong teas in the world.
It doesn't matter if you're a Southeast Asian out to compare Taipei's street food with your own, or a Western traveller looking to expand your taste buds with stinky tofu, you'll find Taiwan consistently delivers on variety, flavour and pure culinary adventure.
The Tao of Today
Who's coming to Taiwan to check out the religious life? Overseas Chinese for one, looking to connect with roots that have been lost elsewhere. Taiwan is heir to the entire Chinese tradition of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and that amorphous collection of ancestors, gods, goddesses, local heroes and plague demons worshipped under the moniker of folk faith. All thrive here as nowhere else, and over the centuries the Taiwanese have mixed and matched their way to a unique religious culture that's sometimes as ritual heavy as Catholicism, as opened-minded as Methodism, or as wild as Santeria.
Taiwanese temples (all 15,000 of them) combine art house, worship hall, community centre and festival venue under one roof. Watch a ritual plague boat burn to the ground at Donglong Temple. March with the Empress of Heaven from Chenlan Temple across half of Taiwan. Bathe the Buddha on his birthday or bwah bwey (cast moon blocks) at any folk temple to answer your deepest questions.
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Taroko Gorge Full-Day Tour from Taipei
See one of the seven wonders of Asia, the Taroko Gorge. Take a short plane trip to Hualien from Taipei to see this great wonder, a must-do while in Taipei. You'll be picked up from your Taipei city hotel at 6:00am to travel by plane to Hualien, a 25-minute flight. This full-day guided tour will take you to the Taroko Gorge.
5-Day Best of Taiwan Tour from Taipei: Sun Moon Lake, Taroko Gorge, Kaohsiung and Taitung
This 5-day Taiwan tour will take you around the whole island, opening your eyes to the country’s diverse, astounding beauty and culture. Visit Sun Moon Lake and admire the remote beaches and rocky coastal scenery of places like Tarako National Park.
An explosive experience at the Yanshui Fireworks Festival
It’s just past midnight. In a few moments all hell breaks loose. Twenty feet ahead of me and a few hundred fellow festival-goers stands a crate two stories high and a city block wide.