There’s no destination more popular in Taiwan than the island’s capital city of Taipei. Spend several days there and you’ll find yourself busy with all that this lively metropolis has to offer. But while Taipei may be the place that most people are primarily aware of in Taiwan, it’s just one of many fantastic destinations that make this east Asian island so fun to visit.
Taiwan’s other major cities are quite spread out and take some time to visit. They really aren’t the kind of place you can simply pop over to for the day. Instead, the best day trips from Taipei highlight other aspects of Taiwan and tend to focus on destinations in the island’s north. Allow an extra day or two in Taipei and you’ll get a far better sense of Taiwan than you would have if you had only seen the city. So with that in mind, here are some of the best places to visit in Taiwan within easy reach of Taipei.
1. Jiufen & Jinguashi
As soon as talk turns to Taipei day trips, it’s only a matter of time before the town of Jiufen is mentioned. This classic day trip destination is found in the mountains east of Taipei and is steeped in Taiwanese culture and history. This former gold-mining town is packed with alleyways, but one you’ll want to head straight for is Jiufen Old Street. Lined with teahouses, street-food stalls, and souvenir shops, the alley manages to feel exceptionally old-fashioned despite how busy it is. Meander through the alleys of Jiufen to find your next stop, the ever-popular A-Mei Teahouse which many people remark looks like it came straight out of the beloved anime Spirited Away. If Jiufen seems a bit too crowded, you can head over to Jinguashi, an even smaller town with similar background and character.
Getting there: Regular buses run from Taipei to Jiufen, taking 1 hour 30 minutes. To reach Jinguashi you need to take a local bus from Jiufen which will take only 10 minutes. Another approach is to visit the area with a guided tour that will show you both towns and handle the transport for you.
A super easy train trip from Taipei, Beitou feels like its own destination even though it’s actually more like a northern suburb of the city. Beitou sits squarely between the city and Yangmingshan National Park, and is best known for its tradition as a popular hot spring getaway. It’s best to start your visit with Beitou Park and its thermal creek that flows from a nearby hot spring. Just off the park is the Beitou Hot Spring Museum found inside a former bathhouse that explores the history of the area and its bathhouse culture. Afterwards, be sure to continue uphill to the hot springs of Thermal Valley, otherwise known as Hell Valley. You can also go and soak in a hot spring somewhere like the Beitou Public Hot Spring or Longnice Hot Spring nearby.
Getting there: Getting to Beitou from Taipei couldn’t be easier, as it’s only a 20 minute ride on the metro from the city center.
3. Yangmingshan National Park
Speaking of Yangmingshan National Park, it too is a great idea for a short trip from Taipei. The most accessible national park in Taiwan, there’s plenty to enjoy about this year-round destination. Much like Beitou, Yangmingshan is home to hot springs spread throughout the park, although in far greater number. There’s a lot of volcanic activity to be found in the national park, with Xiaoyoukeng being the best place to see sulfur crystals. Nearby, Mt. Cising is where you should go if you want sweeping views down to the city of Taipei. If you’re after a more rural vibe, head for Qingtiangang with its gentle grassland and grazing cows. There’s a lot to cover with a trip to Yangmingshan.
Getting there: It takes about an hour to reach the Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Centre near the heart of the park from Taipei. For an easier time navigating the area and getting around, you’ll want to join a guided tour of the national park and its hot springs.
While many people think of Taiwan as being urban, there are plenty of things to see in Taiwan outside of Taipei that show off the island’s natural beauty, such as the town of Wulai. Like Beitou, you’ll find hot springs in Wulai, but there’s much more to this mountain town than just that. One point that immediately makes Wulai quite special is that it is home to the Atayal Tribe, an aboriginal people of Taiwan. To learn more about the Atayal people, head to the Wulai Atayal Museum, or explore their cuisine at the many food stalls. On the natural side of things, you have the town’s defining riverfront, not to mention the impressive Wulai Falls upstream. There are even more waterfalls up into the mountains as well as hiking trails for those keen to explore the surrounding area.
Getting there: There are frequent buses that connect Taipei with Wulai, the journey taking around 1 hour 20 minutes.
Another historic town of Taiwan that is well worth a visit is the town of Shifen, east of Taipei. Even standing in the Shifen Railways Station, you get a sense of the humble history of this town which began as a hub for transporting coal. From there you’ll find the local marketplace, with street food and souvenirs for sale. It’s then time to explore the Old Streets of Shifen, a series of alleyways and lanes which make up this old-fashioned town. The other big draw of Shifen, besides the annual Sky Lantern Festival, is Shifen Waterfall which is just northeast of town. With a 40 meter drop and beautiful scenery, it’s considered one of Taiwan’s best waterfalls.
Getting there: Getting from Taipei to Shifen is easy enough to do, taking around 2 hours when visiting by metro and bus, and a bit longer if you choose to get there by train.
6. Taroko National Park
Undoubtedly one of the best places to visit from Taipei is Taroko National Park. Situated in the Qilai and Nanhu Mountain ranges, this national park centers around the stunning Taroko Gorge which carves through the mountainside’s marble rock. Before entering the gorge visitors often stop at the Qingshui Cliff to see the beautiful coastal scenery there. Once inside the national park, head for the picturesque Eternal Spring Shrine which has a waterfall flowing through it. Taroko National Park boasts quite a few hiking trails like the Lushui and Baiyang trails which showcase the park’s beauty. Other scenic spots worth stopping at include the Xiangde Temple which has a panoramic terrace, as well as the suspension bridge by the shrine at Yuewangting.
Getting there: To reach Taroko National Park from Taipei, first take the 2 hour train journey to Xincheng. From there you can take one of the regular buses that head to the visitor center and into the national park. However, to really make sure you don’t miss a thing during your visit, it’s best to visit with a guided tour.
7. Yehliu Geopark
For yet another fascinating display of Taiwan’s varied landscapes, make your way to Yehliu Geopark. The cape of Yehliu on the island’s north coast is considered to be one of the more unforgettable day tours from Taipei. While there isn’t an awful lot to see in the village of Yehliu, besides the curious Baoan Temple, Yehliu Geopark is a different story. This unusually shaped promontory is home to an incredible collection of strange, but natural, rock formations. The park’s most famous landmark is known as the Queen’s Head, because of its shape, but there are also many mushroom-shaped rocks there that create quite a special view. It’s also worth taking a walk out along the rocky cape to see the wonderful views near the Yehliu Lighthouse.
Getting there: To get from Taipei to Yehliu, take one of the frequent buses that make the 1 hour 10 minute trip out to the coast. You also have the option of taking a guided tour that will show you more of the north coast.
8. Thousand Island Lake
Continuing our trend of different Taiwense landscapes we come to Thousand Island Lake, one of the best side trips from Taipei. Despite its name, Thousand Island Lake isn’t actually home to thousands of islands and is a result of the man-made Feitsui Dam along the Beishi River. Nevertheless, it’s a place of beautiful scenery. At various points along the shores of Qiandao Hu, as it’s known in Taiwanese, there are viewing platforms that provide superb views of this tranquil place. Not only can you see former hilltops breaking free of the man-made lake, you’ll also notice terraces of tea plantations decorating the nearby countryside.
Getting there: Thanks to its remote nature and long, snaking shape, reaching Thousand Island Lake by public transport isn’t really manageable. Instead, your best option is to visit as part of a guided tour.
If nature and waterfalls is what you need from your day away from Taipei, then Sandiaoling village is where you want to go. Out to the east of the capital, visiting Sandiaoling puts you among Taiwan’s lush and green countryside. The main goal of a visit to Sandiaoling is to find its three waterfalls which lie deep in the dense forest. To reach the three cascades you’ll follow a hiking trail that will take you to Hegu Falls, Motian Falls, and Pipa Dong Falls respectively. Each waterfall has its own hook that makes it special, from the impressive height of the Hegu Falls, to the cave you can walk into behind the Motian Falls, to the fact that you can really close to Pipa Dong Falls and even dip your feet in the pool at the bottom. It’s actually possible to take the trails here all the way out to Shifen Waterfall and down to its train station, combining two destinations in one.
Getting there: To get from Taipei to Sandiaoling, simply take a 1 hour 10 minute train trip, with hourly connections available.
Taiwan has a long and involved relationship with tea, which is something you can learn more about on a trip to the town of Pinglin. At the eastern end of Thousand Island Lake, Pinglin is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about Taiwanese tea. The town’s claim to fame is Pouchong or Baozhong tea, a type of Oolong that originates from Pinglin. This and much more information on tea culture in Taiwan can be found in the exhibits at the Pinglin Tea Museum. Of course you can also try the local tea at one of Pinglin’s many tea houses or out at a nearby tea plantation. Besides its tea, Pinglin has quite a pretty riverfront area, best viewed from its suspension bridge.
Getting there: Difficult to reach via public transport, travelers can either choose to pay a taxi to drive them 30 minutes to reach Pinglin, or take a guided tour.
That just about does it for ideas of day trips from Taipei. It should be clear that if you want to escape the island’s metropolis for a bit, you have plenty of choices to do so.