In some ways, the city of Taipei is a lot like Singapore. There’s loads in the way of food and shopping, but you’ll probably need a break from the city after your third night out. With so many things to do outside of Taiwan’s capital city, it’s a breeze to hop on a bus, train, or chartered ride for your next adventure.
Unwind in the Beitou Hot Springs
The neighbourhood of Beitou sits on the northern edge of the city, a 3o-minute train ride from Taipei’s centre. Boasting sulfurous hot springs and steaming valleys, and home to the aboriginal Ketagalan people, you can quite literally soak in the culture here. Check out the various museums around, hike up to the Thermal Valley, or, if you feel inclined, rub shoulders with the locals and try the Millennium Hot Springs Public Bath House. Need a little more privacy? Hotels here specialise in luxury baths and spa packages, with water fresh from the springs. Read our full guide to Beitou here.
Getting here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi Line towards Tamsui Station from Taipei Main Station to MRT Shipai Station.
Take a Sunset Stroll by the Wharf at Danshui
The northern district of Danshui is a sea-side town that’s a little quieter than Taipei, and a little more urban than Beitou. Old Street is the town’s token market area, where you can find locally-made handicrafts, souvenirs, and of course – local street food. Here, that manifests in the form of stuffed fishballs, a-gei (a type of fried beancurd), and fish fritters. At dusk, the Fisherman’s Wharf employs the lovely sunset as a backdrop to the Lover’s Bridge, where lovebirds can get their fill of pictures. Nearby, Yangmingshan National Park provides ample room to stretch your legs and go for a hike.
Getting here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi Line to the northern terminus station Tamsui from Taipei Main Station.
Explore Natural Stone Sculptures at Yeliu Geopark
The cape on the north coast of Taiwan is home to Yeliu Geopark, an other-wordly landscape of mind-boggling rock formations that include the famous Queen’s Head (which looks like the head of a queen) and Dragon’s Head (which looks like the head of a dragon) – it seems what the locals lack in creativity, nature compensates tenfold. Home to birds such as ospreys and little egrets, the park is also a great place for bird-watching. The nearby village of Yeliu is understated, save for the elaborate, 19th-century Baoan Temple.
Getting here: Take a KuoKuang bus from Taipei West Bus Station – Terminal A.
Be Spirited Away to the Misty Mountains of Jiufen
If the title reference to one of Studio Ghibli’s most famous movies is enough to get your attention, skipping Jiufen would be a cardinal sin of the highest order. The mountain town in northeastern Taipei is known for the main Old Street – you’ll know it’s there when you see its iconic red lanterns (or just the swarm of tourists that cross it daily. But it only takes a few steps away to enter the quiet residential world of winding alleys that hide curious little craft shops and hole-in-the-wall food joints. Jiufen’s weather changes quickly, so bring a raincoat, and don’t forget to watch the clouds meet the land from the various teahouses that speckle the mountainside.
Getting here: Take a train from Taipei Main Station to Riufang Station, then take Keelung Bus 788 to the terminal stop of Jiufen.
Spoil Yourself with Street Food in Yilan
The arrival of the Hsueshan “Snow Mountain” Tunnel in 2006 opened up the heritage district of Yilan to the general public, and what used to take two hours to travel from central Taipei now takes only 30 minutes. Near the luxury hotel Silks Place Yilan (where you can get the much sought after roasted cherry duck), there is a mecca of foodstalls, including 40-year-old Bei-men Pork Pottage. Limited quantities of homemade garlic-flavoured thick pork broth serve snaking queues of hungry tourists and locals around the tiny restaurant. The country’s largest night market isn’t far off from Yilan City either, eight minutes away from the nearest train station at Luodong, and is home to some famous scallion pancakes.
Getting here: Take the rail from Taipei Railway Station to Yilan Railway Station.
Feel Dwarfed by the Taroko Gorge
The sheer size of the Taroko National Park probably warrants more than a day visit, but with a car and some careful planning, it’s possible to visit the beautiful waterfalls, shrines, and bridges that litter Taiwan’s most famous gorge. Get up close to the azure blue waters of the Liwu River as you walk along the Shakadang Trail, catch the breeze through the valley on Cimu Bridge, or search for the hidden gem that is Liqin Waterfall. You’ll do a fair bit of walking, so pack light, and bring a pair of sandals if you plan to tread through ankle-deep water at the Baiyang Waterfalls.
Getting there: Though the closest train station is Xincheng Trail Station in Hualien, the best way to enter Taroko is though a rented car.
Experience Aboriginal Culture at Wulai
Wulai is the closest tribal village to Taipei, home to members of the aboriginal Atayal Tribe with Austronesian roots. If you’re a history buff, the Wular Atayal Museum is free for all to explore. And because great cultures always come with great food, now’s your chance to savour the unique flavour of Wulai sausages and salt and pepper fish – among other delicacies. Nature abounds along Pubu Road – the Nanshi River runs beside it, leading up to Wulai’s 80 metre-tall namesake waterfall. You can also access Wulai Falls via the Wulai Scenic Train, which will save you a day’s worth of walking.
Getting here: Take the Taipei metro to Xindian Station, then take bus 849 to its terminal stop.
Top Image Courtesy of Eugene_o