Taiwan Itinerary: the Ultimate Taiwan travel guide!
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Having completed our own amazing two week Taiwan itinerary exploring the cities, mountains and scenic areas of Taiwan we’ve put together our recommended Taiwan itinerary. From chaotic Taipei to the beauty of Taroko Gorge to the natural wonder of Alishan, Taiwan is breathtaking and one of our favourite places to visit in Asia. For those of you planning your own Taiwan itinerary, we wanted to share our Taiwan travel guide including the best things to do and what to see in Taiwan. Enjoy!
Taiwan Itinerary and Route
Most visitors touring around Taiwan either pick up a rental car and self-drive or use a mix of high-speed trains, tourist shuttles and taxis/private drivers to explore the country.
By rental car: With its excellent roads and good driving standards, Taiwan is the perfect country for a road trip. We followed a circular route starting and ending in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city and the point of arrival and departure for most Taiwan travellers.
By public transport: this Taiwan itinerary can also be completed by a mix of trains and buses. On the west coast of Taiwan, the major cities are serviced by High-Speed Rail – check prices here!
The Route: Taipei – Taichung – Alishan – Kaohsiung – Kenting – Taitung – Taroko Gorge – Taipei
Renting a car in Taiwan
Navigating Taiwan by rental car is relatively easy and we highly recommend renting a car if you are comfortable driving. The roads are high-quality, driving standards are generally good and fuel is extremely cheap (compared to the UK and Ireland anyway!). We rented our car through RentalCars.com and secured a great price on an Avis rental – check rental car prices here!
Taiwan itinerary tip: An International Driving Permit is mandatory when renting a car in Taiwan so make sure to get an IDP in your home country before departure if you are planning on driving a rental car.
We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. We reserved our car through RentalCars.com and opted to rent through Avis. Book your car now with RentalCars.com, where you will find the best rental car prices.
Taiwan itinerary tip: Taipei is extremely well serviced by public transport and its subway is easy to navigate. As such, a rental car isn’t necessary in the city. If you are starting your Taiwan itinerary in Taipei, we recommend only picking up a car after you’ve explored Taipei rather than reserving at the airport on arrival. We picked up our rental car on our last morning in Taipei and left the city immediately for Taichung.
Sim Card & Internet
As with most countries, having mobile data during a trip is invaluable for navigation and research. There are lots of options on arrival at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) – we reserved a Chunghwa Telecom 4g sim through Klook who offer a slightly discounted rate on the airport price – click here for prices!
Taiwan itinerary tip: the Chunghwa desk only opens at 8am so make sure your flight times will work if you reserve in advance.
How long to spend in Taiwan
From the chaotic Taipei to the magnificent sunrises in Alishan, the peaceful Taroko Gorge and the colourful Taichung there’s a lot to squeeze into a Taiwan itinerary. We recommend budgeting around 14 nights to explore Taiwan at a leisurely pace. This will allow you enough time to visit all the major sights and explore each destination fully. You might wish to cut some things out if you have less time.
Best time to visit Taiwan
Depending on your tolerance to high temperatures, you may want to plan your visit to coincide with the cooler months! During the summer, temperatures are consistently over 30° and typhoon season is in full force. Spring and Autumn are a great time to visit Taiwan and its mild winters also mean the winter months are a good option.
Taiwan itinerary tip: We visited Taiwan at the end of September and we managed to experience a heatwave as well as some typhoons which luckily changed direction at the last minute! The temperatures in Taipei were stifling and we had to retreat to air-conditioned buildings until late in the afternoon.
Daily Taiwan Itinerary
We’ve outlined our day to day Taiwan itinerary as a starting point for planning your own Taiwan experience.
Days 1 to 4: Taipei
Taiwan’s capital city really surprised us with the wide variety of things to see and do. After arriving at Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport we recommend spending the next three or four nights in Taipei. This will allow you to explore the main sights and to enjoy everything that this fun and chaotic city has to offer. We took the train from Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) to Taipei Main Station – click here for tickets
From toilet-themed restaurants to colourful temples, stunning nature and awesome day trips, there’s plenty to squeeze into 4 days in Taipei. Check out our round up of the best things to do in Taipei for more detailed information and photos on each of the attractions. If you are travelling with kids make sure to check out our guide to the best things to do in Taipei with kids.
Where to Stay in Taipei
There are many great accommodation options in Taipei.
- CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending Branch– we stayed in the CityInn Ximending branch and highly recommend both the location and the hotel. Rooms are compact but fantastic value, service is excellent and the hotel is just a few moments walk from the MRT, a Taipei essential – check prices now!
- Taipei Garden Hotel –another great option located close to Longshan Temple and Ximending – check prices now!
- Dandy Hotel, Daan Park –clean, comfortable and located across the street from Taipei’s biggest park, Daan Forest Park – check prices now!
Day 1: Taipei 101, Maokong Gondola and Shilin Night Market
Start the day with a trip to the observation deck of Taipei 101, Taipei’s most iconic building. The 101 story building resembles a giant bamboo stick and the 91st-floor outdoor observation deck offers amazing 360-degree views of the city.
We booked our tickets for Taipei 101 via Klook and highly recommend it. You can reserve your timeslot in advance and for the best price using the Klook app. It’s super simple and avoids waiting in extra lines when Taipei 101 gets busy. Taiwan activities were mostly discounted when we booked in advance – check prices now!
From Taipei 101 make your way to the Taipei Zoo MRT Station where the scenic Maokong Gondola cable car departs. The 30minute glass-bottomed cable car stops at the colourful Zhinan Temple before continuing to the quaint mountaintop village of Maokong known for its tea plantations and tea shops.
Taiwan Itinerary tip: We purchased combo tickets for the Maokong Gondola and an evening double decker sightseeing tour from Klook in advance and it was awesome value. The gondola is closed most Monday’s so make sure to plan your trip around the gondola’s opening hours – click here to purchase the gondola and night tour combo tickets!
Finish the day with a visit to Shilin Night Market, Taipei’s largest night market with over 500 stalls. There are some incredible Bid Gourmand stalls serving dishes such as Hai You Pork Ribs and Bin Small Sausage in Large Sausage, where the sausage wrapped in sticky rice is a huge hit. There’s a lot more to Shilin than just food and you can do everything from playing arcade games to praying in the temple located in the centre of the market.
Day 2: Elephant Mountain, CKS Memorial Hall, Ximending and Raohe night market
Start the day with a short but steep sunrise hike up Elephant Mountain which rewards with some of the best views of Taipei. The trail is well maintained with plenty of rest stops and some awesome viewing platforms.
After admiring Taipei from Elephant Mountain it’s time to explore the history of Taiwan with a visit to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The CKS Memorial is an important Taiwanese landmark erected in honour of the first president of Taiwan.
A themed cafe is a Taipei staple and a trip to the Modern Toilet Restaurant in Ximending is as novelty as they come. The entire restaurant is toilet themed. Meals are served in toilets, drinks in bedpans and the seats are full sized toilets! Having filled up on poo themed dishes take a stroll around Ximending, one of Taipei’s quirkiest neighbourhoods.
If you prefer a serious foodie treat, eat at the Fuhung Noodle Restaurant. The shop is located just north of Ximending and is home to some of the best noodles we’ve ever had.
Longshan Temple is next on the agenda. Longshan is Taiwan’s most famous and well-loved temple and is located in the historic neighbourhood of Wanhua.
If you still have some energy, the Raohe Night Market is a short MRT ride away and is perfect for an early evening walk through.
Taiwan itinerary tip: our favourite dish in Raohe was the Fuzhou Shizu Black Pepper Buns. They are not to be missed!
Day 3: A Taipei park, the world’s highest Starbucks and Beitou Hot Springs
Start the morning with a visit to one of Taipei’s parks. Our favourites are Daan Forest Park, Taipei’s largest park, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, a repurposed art, design and cultural venue and 228 Peace Memorial Park, a poignant tribute to the thousands of Taiwanese who died in the February 28, 1947, massacre.
Visit the world’s highest Starbucks which is located on the 35th floor at Taipei 101 and offers spectacular views of Taipei. A visit to Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a reservation and the coffee shop has a minimum spend for visitors.
Taiwan itinerary tip: The Starbucks at Taipei 101 requires a telephone reservation. Ask you hotel desk to make the reservation as you will likely need to speak Mandarin.
Spend the afternoon at the Beitou Hot Springs which are just 30 minutes outside Taipei and accessible via the MRT. There is a wide range of options for bathing in the hot springs: there are less expensive public hot springs as well as private baths and upscale hotels and resorts. As well as bathing, the scenic Beitou Hot Spring Park is beautiful to explore together with the Hot Spring Museum and Library which are located within the park.
Day 4: Jiufen, Shifen and Yehliu Geopark
Taipei is surrounded by amazing natural beauty and a day trip outside the city is an essential addition to any Taipei itinerary. Shifen, Jiufen and the Yehliu Geopark are a great combination to discover a taste of Northern Taiwan.
The Yehliu Geopark contains a fascinating collection of unique geological formations in an otherworldly landscape created by sea erosion. It’s a beautiful coastal walk and a very popular stop outside Taipei.
The old street in the charming town of Jiufen is a tourist magnet with visitors indulging in local specialties such as glutinous rice cakes, peanut ice cream and fish balls in between souvenir shopping. The A-Mei Tea House is one of the most prominent landmarks in Jiufen and offers both great tea and great views!
Shifen is famous for both its old street and its scenic waterfall. The old streets of Shifen, located around the railway track, are where visitors congregate to release colourful lanterns bearing their wishes in life.
Taiwan itinerary tip: we visited Jiufen, Shiefen and Yeuhliu Geo Park using our rental car. If you prefer to use a tour, Klook offers a great shuttle bus options which ferries passengers between the key sights of Jiufen, Shifen and the Yehliu Geo Park on the North East coast of Taiwan – click here to reserve shuttle bus tickets!
Days 5 to 7: Taichung and Sun Moon Lake
After a few days of exploring Taipei, it’s time to head south to Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city. Taichung is busy and colourful and was a surprise hit in our Taiwan itinerary! There are lots of things to do Taichung and it is also the gateway for the immensely popular Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions.
Where to Stay in Taichung
Taichung is a surprisingly large city and choosing where to stay can be tricky. We recommend:
- CityInn Hotel Plus – Taichung Station Branch – we loved the CityInn brand in Taiwan. Located in east Taichung beside Taichung’s main train station, the CityInn Hotel Plus is a great option. Rooms are clean and modern and the extra facilities like free common areas with coffee/refreshments and on-site laundry are invaluable – click here to book now!
- La Vida Hotel – Regularly rated as one of the best hotels in Taichung, La Vida Hotel is a great option for those who want easy access to the Feng Chia Night Market. With European designed rooms the hotel is super comfortable and great for a stay in Taichung – click here to book now!
- The Hung’s Mansion – where we chose to stay in Taichung and it’s a great option if you are driving like we were. With free parking, large comfortable rooms and great food, Hungs Mansion is also a short walk to the incredible Feng Chia Night Market – click here to book now!
How to get to Taichung: It took us around 2 hours to drive between Taipei and Taichung. It takes one hour to travel by High-Speed Rail between Taipei and Taichung – click here to buy rail tickets!
Taichung deserves at least one full day to explore and, if we were to return, we’d allow two days! Start the morning at Rainbow Village, Taiwan’s most colourful neighbourhood before heading north of the city to the beautiful Zhongshe Flower Market. As well as a sea of flowers, props such as pianos, swings, and tractors make for great fun and great photo opportunities.
Taiwan itinerary tip: tour buses arrive at Rainbow Village shortly after its 8am opening so we recommend arriving as close to 8am as possible. Zhongshe Flower Market tends to get busy in the afternoon when families congregate for barbeques.