Outdoor Activities

Hiking is outstanding and scenic cycling routes are endless. As for water sports, there’s scuba diving, river tracing, surfing and one gusty archipelago for world-class windsurfing.

Wulai Just a short ride from Taipei, this expanse of subtropical forest and wild rivers is one of the north’s top spots for hiking, cycling and river tracing.

Yushan National Park Hiking trails cross 1050 sq km of high mountains and deep valleys.

Highway 11 This coastal highway backed by steep, green mountains is Taiwan’s premier biking destination.

Penghu One of the windiest places in the world in autumn, Penghu offers Asia’s finest windsurfing.

Lanyu Unspoiled reefs, an abundance of fish life and a unique island culture make this a mecca for scuba and snorkelling fans.

Houfeng Bicycle Path A breezy ride through history that passes an old train station, courtyard houses, a Japanese-era train tunnel and suspension bridge, even a horse farm.

Hot Springs

Taiwan has over 100 hot springs ranging from common sulphur springs to rare seawater springs on an offshore volcanic isle. There’s even a cold spring or two for the summer heat. Facilities are equally diverse: some feature Japanese and Western designs, many have been left as nature intended.

Taian A favourite destination for Japanese police on R & R in the 1920s; new stylish modern spas overlook rugged wilderness.

Beitou In the wooded mountains surrounding Taipei, these springs are reachable by a quick MRT ride.

Guguan Think outdoor pools with a mist-shrouded mountain backdrop.

Green Island Indulge yourself in an exceptional seawater hot spring by the ocean.

Lisong This wild spring, deep in a remote river valley, sprays down on you from a multi­coloured cliff face.

Dongpu Bask in 50°C luxury in a Tsou village just over the northern tip of Yushan National Park.

Beaches

Taiwan’s beaches vary from short crescents with tropical blue waters to long stretches of black sand to some exceptionally fine coral-sand beaches on the outer islands. What’s more, most are free and not overrun with resorts.

Shanshui Swim, surf, snorkel or just hang out at this superb beach next to a pretty village.

Baishawan Clear blue tropical waters, coconut palms and a white-crescent beach make this the south’s top beach.

Nanao This wide-crescent bay has a black-sand beach and looks down a stunning coastline of high, steep cliffs.

Chipei Sand Tail The finest white-sand beach in Taiwan, with an ever-changing shape.

Taimali There's no swimming, but camping and bonfires are encouraged.

Wai'ao A long black-sand beach with the north's most happening surf scene.

Temples

With 15,000 and counting, there is a temple for every god and occasion. Storehouses of history, display rooms for decorative arts and, of course, vibrant houses of worship, temples are a quintessential part of Taiwan’s living folk culture.

Bao'an Temple This Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site is a top example of southern temple art and architecture.

Tzushr Temple The temple’s post-WWII reconstruction was overseen by an art professor – and it shows.

Wind God Temple An historically important temple among the very few dedicated to nature worship in Taiwan.

Longshan Temple This graceful walled temple is a treasure house of woodcarving and design.

Tainan Confucius Temple Taiwan’s first Confucius temple and a model of graceful design and dignified atmosphere.

City God Temple Your moral character will be scrutinised at the home of Taiwan's most famous temple plaque: 'You're here at last'.

Chung Tai Chan Temple The rocket ship-meets-mosque exterior belies an interior filled with tradition-inspired decorative arts.

Traditional Festivals

Rising living standards and economic prosperity haven’t killed folk culture in Taiwan: it just means there is more money than ever to fund extravagant and sometimes outlandish festivals.

Matsu Pilgrimage Taiwan’s largest religious festival is a nine-day, 350km walk around the island for Matsu believers – which is almost everyone.

Burning of the Wang Yeh Boats A sublime week-long religious festival that concludes with the torching of a ‘plague ship’ on a beach.

Lantern Festival High-tech lantern shows in every city, the most riveting being Pingxi’s sky lantern release and Taitung's Bombing Master Handan.

Yenshui Fireworks Festival Like Spain’s Running of the Bulls, only they let fireworks loose here and you’re not supposed to run from them.

Keelung Ghost Festival A mesmerising month-long Taoist and Buddhist spectacle bookended by the symbolic opening and closing of the Gates of Hell.

Flying Fish Festival A virile coming-of-age ceremony celebrated in Lanyu during spring, with costumed young men engaging in a fishing contest.

Night Markets

Taiwan’s reputation as a culinary hotspot is spreading; even street-food-obsessed Singaporeans and Malaysians are beating a path here to sample the nightly goodies.

Tainan It seems half the city and every temple square is a night market with uniquely local fare.

Wenhua Road Think braised goose, sticky rice, and all the goodness that make Chiayi one of Taiwan's most delicious cities.

Raohe Street The cognoscenti’s night market, Raohe is Taipei’s oldest, and unrivalled in snacking opportunities.

Miaokou Nightly offerings from the bounty of the sea at Taiwan's most famous snacking destination.

Liuhe Every night 100 stalls line the market road, offering everything from squid-on-a-stick to chicken wraps.

Fengjia Make a pilgrimage to this frenetic market, the birthplace of many quirky yet popular snacks in Taiwan.

Unique Wildlife

Taiwan has a rate of endemism far higher than the world average, which means there are lots of critters and plants you won’t find anywhere else. Birds and butterflies are easiest to spot, but with conservation efforts, even larger mammals such as deer are making a comeback.

Birds Taiwan’s range of habitats supports over 600 species – 24 endemic species and 59 endemic subspecies.

Butterflies Taiwan isn’t known as the ‘Kingdom of Butterflies’ for nothing – it's home to over 400 species (56 endemic).

Fish Check out the Formosan salmon: it never leaves the rivers of its birth.

Mammals Seventeen endemic species, including the Formosan rock monkey and the giant flying squirrel.

Mountain Retreats

With over two-thirds of Taiwan being mountainous, there’s a lot of space to get away from the crowds and the heat in summer. Small villages dot the foothills of mountain ranges, forest reserves and national parks. A few even offer hot-spring facilities.

Taipingshan This mist-shrouded­ reserve features a small village with views over the Snow Mountains and hot springs nearby.

Nanzhuang In the stunning foothills of the Snow Mountains, the villages here are a mix of Hakka, Taiwanese and indigenous.

Dasyueshan In the heart of Taiwan’s pine-and-hemlock belt, this high-mountain reserve is a prime birding venue.

Mingchih On the remote North Cross-Island Hwy, Mingchih lies near wild hot springs and two forests of ancient cedars.

Alishan National Scenic Area Lures travellers with its indigenous culture, rare alpine railway, ancient cedars and phenomenal sea of clouds.

Tea

Taiwan has ideal conditions for growing tea and, not surprisingly, it has the goods to satisfy the novice looking for a flavourful brew as well as the connoisseur willing to pay thousands of dollars for a few ounces of dry leaves – if they are of high-enough quality.

High mountain oolongs Grown above 1000m in moist but sunny conditions, these teas have a creamy texture and a lovely bouquet.

Bao Chung A national favourite with a slightly floral fragrance; a good tea to start your explorations.

Oriental Beauty Unique to Taiwan, this sweet reddish-coloured tea has a fruity aroma and lacks all astringency.

Lei cha A field-worker’s drink; rich and hearty with added puffed rice and pounded nuts.

Antique Assam Tea Farm Sun Moon Lake black-tea growers spent a decade reviving their industry. Drink straight without sugar or milk.

Food

Wang's Fish Soup You'll find unique local eats all over Taiwan, but don't miss Tainan for its milkfish, beef soup and eel noodles, and Chiayi for its fowl and sticky rice with braised pork.

Ban Jiushi Modern Taiwanese cuisine combines a passion for local produce with modern culinary techniques; enjoy it in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung.

RAW Restaurants have sprouted in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung serving haute Taiwan-inspired European cuisine, some of it by chefs who are among Asia's very best.

Shops in Guomao Community You'll find mainland Chinese-style dumplings, noodles and spices in Taichung, Kaohsiung's Zuoying area, even Cingjing (for Yunnan), besides the northern cities.

Yuelu Fine Taiwanese food can be enjoyed in poetic settings in cities like Taipei and Hualien.

Jowu Explore excellent 'private kitchens', whose names are whispered among foodies.