Explore the enchanting island of Taiwan on this spectacular two-week holiday. Starting in the modern city of Taipei, you’ll discover the best of this relaxed city, from art museums to colourful temples, before heading south to the green interior of the mountains.
Next, you can cycle around the shimmering waters of Sun Moon Lake, take the red train up through the Alishan forest for sunrise and reach the southern coast on Kenting National Park’s beautiful beaches. Finish your Taiwan holiday in the eastern mountains, where the magnificent natural beauty of Taroko Gorge is a wonderful parting image of this quiet but unique island.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival in Taiwan, you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel, where you will check in for four nights. In refreshing contrast to many other Asian cities, Taipei is a peaceful, tree-lined city, surrounded by lush green mountains. It is also an undeniably cool city packed with intriguing boutique shops and minimalist cafes. Everywhere you turn, you'll find a hint of Japanese style, but with a more simple and natural vibe.
You’ll meet your guide at the hotel and start your day with a visit to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This memorial hall is home to several classical Chinese buildings, including the stately memorial itself as well as the National Concert Hall and National Theater. The vast square between the two buildings is a popular gathering place during festive occasions and might remind you of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, after which it is modelled. After this, you’ll visit the National Palace Museum, home to some of the most impressive Chinese art on the planet, including calligraphy, jade sculptures and silks.
In the afternoon, you’ll be driven out to Yangmingshan National Park, a mountainous area to the north of Taipei with lush maple trees and volcanic hills, which offers stunning views over the city. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hot spring bath, a relaxing and refreshing experience which can also help to relieve muscle pains and other ailments.
Returning to the city, you’ll visit the Taipei 101 tower, the tallest building in Taiwan, before finishing the day at Shilin Night Market. This foodie haven is a maze of alleyways filled with a variety of local and traditional merchandise, as well as some of the city’s best street food – make sure you try the Taiwanese pepper buns with beef, delicious!
Begin your day with a visit to the Confucius Temple. Both the building and walkways around the main temple are beautiful examples of traditional Chinese architecture and provide a sharp contrast to Buddhist and Taoist temples. There are no statues, lanterns or other colourful decorations, no tables for food offerings, and no incense burners – it is a very serene place to visit.
Next, you’ll head to Longshan Temple, one of the oldest and most famous in Taipei. As well as the beautiful temple, where chanting worshippers gather throughout the day, it is also surrounded by small twisty streets, with traditional businesses and shops selling fresh oranges, big chunks of wasabi and hanging bouquets of aloe vera.
After a temple-heavy morning, you’ll now take a hike to the top of Elephant Mountain, for a great view of Taipei city. The best time to hike the mountain is during the late afternoon when you can catch the sunset as well as both the day and night-time views of the city. The hike takes a total of around 15-20 minutes to the top and includes lots of stairs! Don’t worry, the view from the summit is worth it.
As evening draws in, you’ll head over to visit Raohe Night Market, one of the oldest night markets in Taipei. It is the epitome of a traditional Taiwanese night market, with winding lanes packed with stalls serving steaming bao buns and crispy pork, alongside local artisan designers and carnival games with prizes.
This morning, you’ll head out of the city and spend the morning in Jiufen Old Village. The villages of Jiufen were once centres of gold mining in Taiwan, but now they are a reminder of this history. Closely-packed houses cling to steep mountainsides, with enchanting scenery all around and offering a fascinating glimpse into the livelihoods of the past. You may also recognise it as the inspiration for the traditional town in ‘Spirited Away’, the Oscar-winning film. It is a maze of modern cafes and carved wooden shopfronts, with red lanterns swaying in the breeze and a clash of different smells filling the air, from sweet, creamy desserts to spicy fish soup.
If you want to explore the beautiful green hills around Jiufen, we can add in a hiking trip from here. The Nanzilin Trail is around 1km and takes around an hour to complete, all the while trekking through the lush, low-altitude mountain range. You can enjoy panoramic views from the mountain top – if you want to add in this walk, just ask!
Next, you’ll visit Shifen, a collection of lanes and alleys in and around the Shifen railway station area. The 40-metre-tall Shifen Waterfall can be found about 30 minutes away by walking northeast from the train platform area on either side of the tracks, a magic walk through the countryside. Because of its bedrock slopes in the opposite direction of the water flow, Shifen Waterfall is a cascade-type waterfall similar to North America's Niagara Falls, albeit a lot smaller! At the end of the day, you will create a Chinese lantern, where you can write a wish, before releasing it into the sky. Presenting the sky lantern is traditionally believed to bring the people’s prayers to the heavens above.
Today you’ll be driven south to Taichung, a city with a vibrant centre and great restaurants. Taichung sits in a municipality that includes aboriginal and Hakka settlements deep in the hills, thinly-populated coastal areas and possibly Taiwan’s most important religious site: the 280-year-old Dajia Jenn Lann Temple. You’ll visit this impressive site first. With over 200 years of history and pilgrims flocking here throughout the year, the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple is a magnificent example of Chinese architecture and a colourful welcome to the city of Taichung.
After exploring the temple, you’ll head over to the Gaomei Wetlands, situated on the south of the Dajia River, which is an excellent spot for watching migrating birds before heading to Rainbow Village. When his almost deserted village started being pulled down house by house, Mr Huang, a local veteran, started to paint his beloved village, which soon became famous for the colourful designs and paintings covering the walls and floors. He painted animals, dolls, aeroplanes, manga characters, etc. – all with vibrant colours, filling the walls and the alleys.
Again, you’ll end your day at the Feng Chia Night Market, where the snacks available will make you drool.
Today you will set off into the heart of Taiwan, to a sparkling lake surrounded by lush green mountains. Sun Moon Lake, a favourite of Taiwanese honeymooners for more than 50 years, has calm turquoise waters with winding boardwalks around the edge that jut out over the water as they twist around the lake. The weather is cooler here, so it is pleasantly breezy compared to the humidity of the north. Spend the day exploring the lake – you could hire a bike to cycle around it or visit the colourful Ci En Pagoda which has a great view over the water from the top.
Leaving Sun Moon Lake behind, you’ll move south to Alishan, a forest region famous for its spellbinding sunrise over the clouds around Mount Jade. When you arrive, you’ll take a leisurely half-day stroll along forested paths to discover Alishan. Hiking through the shady trees, you’ll come across the enchanting green waters of Sisters Pond and the twisted trunks of the Three-Generation Trees. It’s a beautiful place to visit during cherry blossom season, when pink and white blooms fill the trees and, although busy, it can be a lovely alternative to the sakura in Japan.
This morning you’ll head up the mountain in Alishan, boarding the little red train when it’s still dark to reach the top for sunrise. As the sun peeps out over the hills and the rolling clouds reveal their beautiful views, you’ll understand why Alishan is the pride of Taiwan. Make sure you wrap up warm, it can get chilly up there in the early mornings.
Next, you’ll be driven to Tainan, an alluring town full of character and tradition. As the former capital of Taiwan, Tainan is full of Buddhist and Taoist places of worship. Locals say that ‘Tainan has a small shrine every three steps, and a major temple every five steps’. Spend the morning exploring with your guide, discovering the hundreds of lanes and alleyways where the history of this city seems to live and breathe, from 19th Century merchant houses to Japanese style architecture built during the occupation. See the Anping Treehouse, where roots of an ancient banyan tree have entirely taken over an old warehouse.
In the late afternoon, you’ll move on to Kaohsiung, a large city with yet another brilliant night market. Liuhe Night Market specialises in seafood, so bring an appetite and dig into the freshest fish and crab – your guide can help you choose while you sit back and relax for dinner while watching the bustling nightlife unfold.
Start your morning in Kaohsiung with a visit to the Dome of Light, the world’s largest public art installation, made from individual pieces of coloured glass. Take in the kaleidoscopic whirl of colours before heading to the Pier 2 Art centre, once an abandoned warehouse but now reborn as a place where visitors and locals can come together to enjoy fine art.
After a creative morning, you’ll be driven to Kenting, where wide beaches and rolling surf await. Stopping in at Hengchun Old Town, the gateway to the national park, you’ll then enter a world of the unspoiled hinterland, protected coastal ecosystems and world-class birding. The weather here is almost always sunny, so you can enjoy this beachy area in the warm sunshine. In the evening, you can head to another night market or relax before your day of exploration tomorrow.
Today you will discover Kenting National Park, used in Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s film, ‘Life of Pi’. It is the island’s only tropical national park, meaning that you can enjoy swimming, surfing, snorkelling and hiking all year round, as well as getting a view of rural Taiwanese life in the surrounding agricultural land. We’d recommend a visit to Longpan Park, where a lack of light pollution means that after a spectacular sunset over the sea, you can watch the stars come out, twinkling in the inky black sky.
Having reached the southern coast of Taiwan, you will today make your way back up north, on the eastern side of the mountain range that snakes its way up the middle of the island. Stop at Xiaoyeliu, where fascinating rock formations with names like honeycomb rock and tofu rock can be found, before reaching Sanxiantai. This tiny island used to be only accessible at low tide until the government built the unusual footbridge across the water, designed in the shape of waves or, some say, a sea dragon. In the evening, you’ll arrive in Hualien, after a journey of around 6 hours from Kenting.
You’ll finish your two-weeks Taiwan holiday with a visit to Taroko Gorge, one of the wonders of Asia. Famous for its impressive mountains and marble canyons, Taroko National Park is defined by the Liwu River that twists and churns its blue waters through the jagged canyons. Taroko Gorge is a breathtaking, narrow ravine created by a river which has cut deep into the mountains of solid marble. A road carved into sheer walls of rock snakes its way past forested peaks and cliffs towering thousands of feet above it, while hundreds of feet below, a river roars past gigantic marble boulders.
Leaving Taroko behind, you’ll make your way back to Taipei, along the Ching-Shui Cliffs, where the highway snakes along the coast, with a 1,000 metre drop down to the bright blue ocean beside you. On arrival in Taipei, you’ll check into your hotel for your final night in Taiwan.
After breakfast, you will be driven to the airport in time for your flight back to the UK.
Taiwan is mostly warm all year round, although there’s a chance of tropical rain, which keeps the island so lush and green. There are around four typhoons a year that tend to hit between July and September, so one of the best times to visit is between October and May.
If you'd like to get a feel for this trip, read our blog post What to do in Taiwan in 7 days – written by one of our consultants who has been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.