Photo by A Cruising Couple
If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan city that effortlessly combines tradition and culture with modern conveniences and international influences, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Taipei, Taiwan. Here it’s easy to wander through chaotic night markets or observe fascinating rituals in centuries-old temples—and then hop into Taipei 101, once the world’s tallest building, or while away an afternoon in a hip coffee shop with ultra-fast wi-fi.
While there’s plenty to see, do and love in Taipei, what’s even better are the countless options for fantastic day trips. And with Taiwan’s modern High-Speed Rail (HSR), it’s often quick, easy and comfortable to get from one destination to the next.
For such a small island, Taiwan is overflowing with must-see gems. Start with these must-visit day trips, but be sure to leave some extra time in your travel itinerary for more impromptu adventures!
One of our all-time favorite destinations in Taiwan, Long Dong (or Dragon Cave) is located on the spectacular northeast coast of Taiwan. The destination is named after the rugged shape of the coastline, which is said to resemble the body of a dragon. Here, you’ll find fantastic sandstone crags that tower some 70-meters above crystal-clear waves and sun-baked rocks. The tall cliffs provide the perfect conditions for rock climbing while taking in spectacular views of the Pacific Coastline.
While it’s easy to arrive in town via bus, to get to the remote base of the cliffs for climbing, you’ll need to follow a short footpath. There are climbing routes for everyone of all levels and skill sets, but if you prefer to stay off the ropes, you can also enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking around the area. Apart from the natural beauty, there’s not a ton to do in Long Dong, so try to time your visit on a sunny day.
Taiwan is a hiker’s dream destination; you’ll never have to travel far to find some hiking or walking experience. But of all the treks we did in Taiwan, Teapot Mountain topped our list for the most unique. As the name suggests, the mountain is said to resemble a teapot. From the top of the climb, you’ll enjoy unparalleled views of Taiwan’s extensive coastline. The hike itself is entertaining, with rock scrambles, steep ascents, and high silver grass.
To access Teapot Mountain, head to Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park. The epicenter of the old mining industry under the Japanese Colonial Era, Jinguashi is worth exploring if you’ve got some extra time. Alternatively, follow the signpost for Teapot Mountain and Mt. Banping. (Avid hikers can keep going and also climb the other mountain.)
Another old gold mining town, Jiufen is a romantic city seemingly built into a giant hill. The spot is a favorite weekend day trip with local Taiwanese, so try to time your visit during the week to avoid the crowds and fully enjoy the charm of the winding old streets, small antique shops and mouthwatering street food.
Jiufen Old Street is where you’ll find most of the action, and makes the best place to start your exploration. Once you need a break from walking, duck into a traditional tea house. The two most popular are the Jiufen Tea House and the Ah Mei Tea House. Our preference is The Jiufen Tea House, which is decorated with traditional Chinese décor and has an art gallery with a large selection of ceramic teapots.
At first glance, Keelung doesn’t look all that appealing. It’s often overcast, giving it the nickname ‘the Rainy City.’ It’s also a relatively large city, which means it doesn’t offer the same natural respite from city life as the other options on this list. However, Keelung is a must-visit for foodies who want to experience Taiwan’s largest (and, according to locals, the best) night markets: Miaokou Night Market.
Keelung is also a bit quirky in that you’ll find a replica of the Statue of Liberty; a Keelung sign tucked back into the hill in imitation of the iconic Hollywood sign; and other famous reproductions from around the world. It’s worth toting around your camera for the fun photo ops.
Finally, no visit to Taipei is complete without stopping by Yangmingshan National Park. Just a stone’s throw from downtown Taipei, the park features numerous hiking and walking trails. If you don’t have much time, try the loop to Qixing Mountain. If you’ve got the time and energy, keep going to Xiaoyoukeng, a post-volcanic geological area.
If you happen to visit Taiwan in the Spring, check out the dates for the annual Calla Lily Festival, held at Yangmingshan. Field after field is blooming with calla lilies; that combined with the surrounding mountains and misty are is as romantic as can be.