Taiwan has become one of the most-visited Asian destinations. Located off the south-eastern coast of China, south-west of Japan’s Okinawa, and north of the Philippines, millions of tourists visit Taiwan because of its scenic views, vibrant culture, and of course, their mouth-watering cuisine.
The island of Taiwan is shaped roughly like a sweet potato. It is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Besides its crowded cities, Taiwan is also known for steep mountains and lush forests.
Top Cities in Taiwan
Taiwan retains its place as a major center of Chinese pop culture. In addition, this state is home to bustling cities with modern, high-tech infrastructure, and good transportation infrastructure means that getting around is easy.
Taiwan is also home to some of the well known and most advanced companies in the world, such as Acer, Asus, HTC, and Giant Bicycles.
- Taipei – the center of commerce, culture, and entertainment. It is also home to Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.
- Tainan – is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital during imperial times. It is famous for its historic buildings.
- Hsinchu – a center of hi-tech industry, and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hi-tech components. Hsinchu Science Park is the home to many hi-tech companies.
- Hualien – located near Taroko Gorge, and is considered one of the most pleasant of Taiwan’s cities.
- Jiufen – this former gold mining town located on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination.
- Kaohsiung – the second-largest city on the island. It has one of the busiest seaports (Kaohsiung Port) in the world and it has the island’s second-largest airport, Kaohsiung International Airport.
- Keelung – a center of transshipment in the north, and is located about a 30-minute drive or a 20-minute bicycle ride from downtown Taipei.
- Taichung – located in the central-western region of Taiwan, and famous among the Taiwanese for its pastries such as sun cakes and pineapple cakes.
- Puli – located at the geographical center of the island, making it a good base for exploring the central mountains and Sun Moon Lake.
Things To Do In Taiwan
Taiwan is home to a large number of impressive scenic sites, high mountain ranges, great beaches and stunning national parks, many with hot springs.
The island is also a center of Chinese pop culture with a substantial entertainment industry.
Below is the ultimate list of all of the must-visit places on your visit to Taiwan:
The island is home to many cultural attractions, with an excellent selection right in the capital. Taipei is a bustling and modern metropolis, with ancient yet lively streets, and world-famous landmarks like Taipei 101.
However, it’s also home to the National Palace Museum, Zhongshan Hall, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and the beautifully restored Bao’an Temple. Bao’an is just one of many striking temple complexes worth a visit. For more, try the Zushi Temple in Sanxia or the Mazu temple in Makung.
For those who have grown weary of the hustle and bustle of cities, Taiwan also offers some very impressive scenery and charming historical villages in its rural areas.
Alishan is a misty forest of giant cypresses and amazing sunrises at the center of the island, reached by a scenic narrow-gauge train.
Kenting National Park
Located at the extreme southern tip of the island, this park is famous for its beaches and lush vegetation.
Shei-pa National Park
A park spanning mountains and rivers located in Hsinchu County – great hiking trails
Sun Moon Lake
Nestled at 762 m (2,500 ft) in lofty mountains in Nantou County, this lake is famous for its clear sparkling blue water and picturesque mountain backdrop.
A historic logging area and one of Taiwan’s most scenic spots. Located in Yilan County.
Located near Hualien (off the east coast), Taroko Gorge is very impressive, and should not be missed. A side trip to the rugged shores at Shihtiping as a worthwhile detour.
Yangmingshan National Park
Spanning a mountain range overlooking Taipei.
Yushan (Jade Mountain)
The highest mountain (3,952 m / 12,966 ft) in Taiwan and also in the entire eastern two-thirds of East Asia.
Located in the Taoyuan County,Mt. Lala is one of the natural protection zones in Taiwan. “Lala” means “beauty” in the indigenous Atayal language. There are some 500-to-2,800-year-old “divine” trees including the No. 5 divine tree, which is reputedly even older than Confucius.
Lalashan is best known for its peach trees, and peach season (July – August) is the most beautiful time to visit Mt. Lala.
Taiwan’s geographical location between an oceanic trench and volcanic system makes it an ideal hot springs vacation spot. There are several hot springs destinations throughout the country, including Beitou, Wulai, and Yangmingshan.
The culture of bathing in hot springs was introduced by the Japanese during the colonial period, and remains firmly entrenched in the local culture to this day. At traditional establishments segregated by sex you may be expected to bathe nude, however many other places are unisex and require a bathing suit.
In fact, most of Taiwan is covered with mountains which offer breathtaking views, so hiking opportunities are both plentiful and very diverse. However, proper hiking is a little complicated due to a 7-days advanced booking necessity and lodging by the lottery process. — see http://np.cpami.gov.tw
Note: Many shorter hiking trails do not need an advance application or reservation. Use a mobile app (ask a local about the best current hiking/trail map app as newer apps are frequently released.)
Taiwanese culture is largely based on traditional Chinese culture, particularly that of Fujian province, because most Taiwanese are ethnic Chinese whose ancestors migrated to Taiwan from that region. However, due to recent historical events, Taiwanese culture has also somewhat diverged from that of mainland China.
One way to experience the Taiwanese hospitality is through the cuisine. The cuisine is a combination of Chinese cuisines, Japanese specialties, and local cuisines from Hakka stir-fries to Taipei beef noodles.
The country is popular for Ilha Formosa, a beautiful island with lofty sea cliffs, shimmering gorges and tropical forests that mark the start of your journey to Taiwan’s alpine peak. When in Taiwan, you will be greeted with the question “Have you eaten?” It is their way of greeting people. Culturally, you must answer in the affirmative.
Substantial Japanese influences can be seen in modern Taiwanese culture because of 50 years of Japanese rule, and this can be seen in its cuisine and in its pop culture. In addition, the Japanese introduced baseball and hot-spring bathing to Taiwan, and these remain popular pastimes for the Taiwanese to this day.
The Taiwanese have also retained many elements of traditional Chinese culture that have been lost in mainland China because Taiwan was spared from the excesses of the Cultural Revolution that devastated mainland China.
The large Longshan Temple in Lukang and the Confucian Temples of Changhua and Tainan are a must visit.
Tainan is also the place to go for Ten Drum Cultural Village and treehouses. If you’re looking for some deeper insights into Taiwan’s history and culture, there’s a wide range of museums to be explored, pretty much where-ever you go.
The folk religion is the most popular belief in Taiwan. It is a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The purer form of Buddhism is also popular, as well as Christianity.
Events and Festivals
As Taiwan is majority Han Chinese, traditional Chinese festivals are celebrated in Taiwan. Among the most notable are:
Cherry Blossom Season
Every spring, beautiful cherry blossom season is celebrated in Yangmingshan.
A three-day outdoor rock concert in Kenting, held every year. Kenting’s entire area gets swarmed by young people coming to party for 3 days, and Taiwanese TV heavily reports on the latest bikini fashions seen on the spot.
Festival commemorating the traditional birthday of Mazu, a traditional Chinese goddess who is popularly worshipped in Taiwan.
The biggest celebration is an eight-day long “inspection tour” of a Mazu statue from the Zhenlan Temple in Taichung to the Chaotian Temple in Beigang and back, though many other temples throughout Taiwan’s main island and the outlying islands also conduct their own festivities. Lunar Calendar 23rd day of the 3rd month.
Colorful but simple ceremonies are held at Buddhist monasteries that generally consist of washing a statue of the Buddha and a vegetarian feast. It is appropriate to make offerings to the monks and nuns at this time, though it is not mandatory. Lunar Calendar 8th day of 4th month.
Dragon Boat Festival
This festival honors Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), a patriotic official from the state of Chu during the Warring States period of Chinese history who committed suicide by jumping into a river when Chu was conquered by Qin.
To prevent the fishes from eating his body, villagers threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fishes and rowed dragon boats with drums being beaten on them to scare away the fishes. Since then, dragon boat racing has been carried out on this day and rice dumplings are also eaten.
The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month and is marked by races of colorful dragon boats at various locations throughout the island.
Chinese New Year
This is the most important festival for the Taiwanese and many shops and restaurants close on the first three days so it is not an ideal time to visit. However, the days leading up to the festival and the fourth to fifteenth days are ideal for soaking up the atmosphere and listening to Chinese New Year songs.
Ching Ming Festival
Also known as the “Tomb Sweeping Day”, this is when many Taiwanese pay respects at their ancestors’ graves.
Hungry Ghost Festival
Hungry Ghost festival runs throughout the seventh month (Ghost month) of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world.
In order to appease the ghosts and prevent misfortune, many Taiwanese will offer food and burn joss paper for them. In addition, traditional Chinese performances such as Chinese opera and puppet shows are held to appease these wandering spirits.
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival. Legend has it that on this day, a woman known as Chang E swallowed some divine pills to prevent her power-hungry husband from becoming immortal. Afraid of being killed by her husband, she fled to the moon and it is believed that the moon shines brightest on this day.
This is when many lanterns will be put up for decoration in various parks and shops, which is quite a beautiful sight. Mooncakes are also eaten on this day so it would be an ideal time to try some.
Puppet shows originated in Fujian province on mainland China and were brought to Taiwan by the first Han Chinese immigrants. Nevertheless, they have since been somewhat modernized and taken on some uniquely Taiwanese characteristics.
Another traditional Taiwanese type of performance is Taiwanese Ke-Tse opera.
Gambling in Taiwan
While gambling is illegal in Taiwan, mahjong remains popular among the locals. The Taiwanese version of the game differs significantly from the better known Cantonese and Japanese versions, most notably because a hand consists of 16 tiles instead of the 13 used in other versions.
However, it remains mostly a family and friends affair and there are no publicly-advertised mahjong parlors. If you are staying with the locals, you can perhaps learn and have fun while playing the game.
Best Time to Visit Taiwan
Lowland Taiwan has a marine tropical climate during the summer, with sweltering, humid weather (above 30 °C, 86 °F) from Jun-Sep. In the winter the weather is influenced by the nearby continent, and in the northern areas, the temperature can go as low as 8 °C at night.
The best time of year to visit is from Oct-Dec, although even then occasional typhoons can spoil the fun. Spring is also nice, although it rains more than during autumn. During the typhoon season, the east coast bears the brunt of the damage as it is facing the Pacific Ocean.
In the mountainous regions, you will encounter more temperate conditions. Rapid weather change can endanger unprepared visitors, so advice on proper preparation should be obtained before visiting those areas. In fact, it snows every year on Taiwan’s highest mountains and occasionally even on mountains like Alishan.
The official language of the country is Mandarin Chinese. However, many people still speak the native Taiwanese tongue.
The official currency is New Taiwan Dollar. The approximate exchange rate is NT$32 for US$1. Currency exchange is available at bureaus de change. However, the exchange rate at ATMs is usually more attractive. Keep the receipt, in order to reconvert the local currency before departure. Also, the easiest currencies to exchange would be US Dollars, Pounds Sterling, Hong Kong Dollars, and Yen.
ATMs are available in big cities, towns and airports. Most of them accept international cards. You can also use all major credit cards in hotels, large shops, and restaurants. Traveler’s cheques are acceptable as well. However, to avoid additional charges, take them in US Dollars only.
Taxis are widely available and inexpensive. They all have meters. However, if you want to rent a car, you can do it in one of the major towns. The minimum age to rent a car is usually from 20 to 25, depending on the company. Also, the tourist board advises visitors to hire cars with drivers.
As for electricity, Taiwan uses type AB sockets. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 110V.
September 6, 2018 8:44 pm