Taiwan’s list of attractions is long for a first-time visitor. To make your trip planning process easier, we have selected four experiences that must make the ‘must-do’ list and provided our best tips to get the best out of each activity.
Watch a sunrise in Alishan
In Alishan, a sunrise is a full experience in itself. It all begins when you wake up to take the historic Alishan Forest Railway train. As it makes its way up Taiwan’s highest mountain, the sun begins to shed the first flecks of light through the forest. After getting off the train, you will be able to watch the sun emerge, lighting up the lush green trees and tea fields below, and breathe in the fresh air.
Our tip: the best photos are captured from the Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout. This viewing platform is a bit further from the first platform visitors will see after arriving on the train. Keep walking and you will feel like you are on top of the world! Then the magic begins: the hazy blue sky quickly turns to gold and the sun peeks out from behind the mountain. There is nowhere better in Taiwan to feel like you are a part of the majesty of nature.
The sunrise in Alishan
Climb Elephant Mountain
The climb to the top of Elephant Mountain is worth every step. The panoramic view showcases the entire metropolis, but no single building is more impressive from this height than Taipei 101. Standing over 500 metres tall, this magnificent structure is by far the tallest building in the entire city. Its pagoda-like style mixes perfectly with postmodern architecture aesthetic, making it a truly unique and imposing building.
Our tip: most visitors will stop and take a photo at Elephant Rock, but during Teigan Nash’s visit to Taipei, she finished her trek further up the mountain and found a viewing point much less crowded for a perfect aerial shot of Taipei 101.
Teigan’s view from the top of Elephant Mountain
Visit the island of Liuqiu
A 30-minute ferry takes you from the mainland to the laid-back offshore island of Liuqiu. The first thing that you will notice is the water: it seems surreal, as it is a dreamy mixture of turquoise and aquamarine. Just off the shore, snorkellers will see an abundance of tropical sea life because of the marine park’s protected reefs. But the standout landmark of this island is Vase Rock, which gets its name from its vase-like shape. What is so alluring about this natural structure is just that: it’s made by nature! No other surrounding rock or reef is as large or carved into such an interesting shape by the waves. The way it juts out of the blue waters with a patch of grass on the top, it is a striking juxtaposition of colours.
Our tip: hire an electric scooter so you can drive around the entire island. This is the most efficient way to see it all and find the perfect bit of beach where you can relax. As Teigan said, “it is actually really easy. It’s just like riding a bike!”
Vase Rock on Liuqiu
Eat at the night markets
Lastly, the final not to be missed highlight of Taiwan is their night market. These culinary centres are practically a way of life for the Taiwanese. They are where night life begins and ends, where socialising happens, and where visitors can get an authentic taste of Taiwan’s extraordinary cuisine. The most exciting part is watching the action of the chefs cooking in front of you. Visitors will find these markets all around Taipei and Kaohsiung, but our favourites are Raohe St. Night Market in Taipei and Liuhe Night Market in Kaohsiung.
Our tip: You might be tempted by the colourful fruits and vegetables, but save those for another time. At the night market, grab some street food that is prepared right before your eyes which cannot be recreated for yourself back home. In Kaohsiung, the seafood is as fresh as it gets in Taiwan, so be sure to try out the grilled squid or crab soup.
Liuhe Night Market, Kaohsiung