Don’t let its size fool you—Taiwan is an island nation with myriads of activities for any traveler. Whether you love natural scenery with breathtaking views or lively, cultural cities with great food, Taiwan has something for you.
Start your journey by flying into the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the largest international airport in Taiwan. At Taoyuan, plenty of ground transportation can take you into many of Taiwan’s major cities, like Taipei and Taichung. The best way to travel through Taiwan is by train. Both the high-speed rail and the regular train pass through all the big cities. For those going off the beaten path, the regular train also rolls through smaller towns and villages.
Taipei is Taiwan’s largest and most tourist-friendly city. It is served by the MRT (subway) and an extensive bus system, so there’s no reason not to use public transportation to travel around. It’s stuffed full of night markets for tasty late-night snacks, a great Taiwanese tradition. Try the Snake Alley night market, one of the oldest streets in Taiwan that serves plenty of regional snacks. If you’re looking for nightlife, Xi Men Ding has bars open till the wee hours of the morning, and Dun Huang has luxurious nightclubs to dance the night away. Young professionals and college students flock to these places. Most speak conversational English, so feel free to mingle with the locals! For a great cultural experience, head to the National Palace Museum to see treasures from historical China, from prehistoric bronze vessels to Ming porcelain.
Taichung is not as pedestrian-friendly. The easiest way to traverse the city is to rent a scooter and motor around. If you have a foreign license, you can drive in Taiwan for 30 days with no problem. Head to the Folklore Park, a neighborhood of preserved historical buildings dedicated to fostering the traditional Taiwanese way of life. The National Museum of Natural Science has a famous exhibit that preserved the devastating effects of the 9-21 earthquake. At night, head to the FengJianightmarket, which famously invented the Taiwanese fried chicken—bite-sized deep-fried morsels with added basil.
Kaohsiung is the second-largest city in Taiwan and is beautifully modern. Like Taipei, it has both an MRT and a bus system, making it easy for tourists to get around. Kaohsiung is right next to the sea, so head to the beaches to frolic in warm water. There’s plenty of fresh seafood restaurants on the docks—you point at the live seafood displayed outside, and they cook it for you right then and there! At night, take a beautiful boat ride down the Love River in the middle of downtown. It’s surprisingly quiet and romantic.
Other cities that provide a varied cultural experience are Hualien(for a look at aboriginal Taiwanese culture), Hsinchu(for a look at Hakka culture), and Tainan (the oldest city in Taiwan renowned for its snack food and traditional Taiwanese eats).
While the coastline of Taiwan is dominated by cities, inland Taiwan is mostly unsettled and is characterized by lush forests, mountains, and lakes. Sun Moon Lake is located right in the center of Taiwan, surrounded by mountains and forests. Its name derives from how it looks. The right side looks like a sun while the west side looks like a moon.
Be sure to leave Mainland Taiwan for a bit to see the surrounding islands. It’s a series of small islands famous for great beaches and special regional cuisine, like cactus flower ice cream. They are popular destinations and just a short ferry ride from southern Taiwan.
Taiwan has whatever you are looking for in a travel destination—great food, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and a rich cultural history.