2 Weeks Itinerary for Taiwan - The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Taiwan from North to South

2 Weeks Itinerary for Taiwan

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Taiwan from North to South

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Taiwan is by far one of the most functional yet affordable countries I have ever visited. With the blend of influences between the Japanese hyper-modernity, the Chinese savviness, the Southeast Asian affordability, and its own nature and mountains that rivals no one, Taiwan really is a whole package of a destination a traveler like us could ask for.

I had a chance to backpack around the island from north to south and back for 15 days, exploring all the wonderful places Taiwan has to offer from Taipei to Kenting, and within this itinerary, I will highlights all the awesome places you should not miss when you are in Taiwan. Without further ado, let's begin with an overview of 2 weeks itinerary in Taiwan:

Taiwan Itinerary Map

Taiwan 2 Weeks Itinerary Map

Taiwan Travel Video

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When to Visit Taiwan

Clouds floating above Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

The best time to visit Taiwan is from late October to April where the temperature should hover around 17°C - 24°C in the lowland and a little bit chillier in the mountains. These are the best months to visit because the weather won't be too humid and you are likely to get less rain during this time which is a blessing and hard to come by on an island like Taiwan.

Since Taiwan is an island, rainfall is quite common and expected to be unpredictable even during the recommended timeframe and so prepare an umbrella or a rain jacket when visiting Taiwan.

Taiwan is also prone to typhoons and I would highly recommend you avoid visiting from June to September as the wind can be extremely violent and may cause many tourist attractions to go on lock-downs preventing you from doing outdoor activities Taiwan is known for.

Where to Stay in Taiwan

The Living Room Star Hostel Taipei Main Station Hostel in Taiwan

Taipei - Star Hostel Taipei Main Station (Budget) - 23 USD/Night (Dorm) | Meander Taipei Hostel - Ximending (Mid-Range) - 63 USD/Night for 2 (Standard Double Room with No Window)

Hualien - Comfy Hostel (Budget) - 13 USD/Night (Dorm) | Art Zone 2 (Mid-Range) - 48 USD/Night for 2 (Deluxe Twin Room)

Kenting - Kenting Original Hostel (Budget) - 11 USD/Night (Dorm) | Kenting Peninsula Inn (Mid-Range) - 32 USD/Night for 2 (Standard Queen Room)

Chiayi - An Lan Jie Hostel (Budget) - 17.5 USD/Night (Dorm) | Chiayi King Hotel (Mid-Range) - 38 USD/Night for 2 (Standard Twin Room)

Sun Moon Lake - Yue Lake Backpackers (Budget) - 16 USD/Night (Dorm) | Timing House B&B (Mid-Range) - 79 USD/Night for 2 (Standard Double Room with no Window)

How to Get to Taiwan

The view of Taipei and Taipei 101 from the Elephant Trail in Taiwan.

Most of the flights coming to Taiwan will arrive at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei and depending on where you are, there are several airlines you can fly to Taipei.

From the US, there are several direct flights from big cities like New York and LA via United Airlines, or you can also fly direct to Taipei via EVA Airlines, its national carrier.

From within Europe, you can also fly direct via EVA Airlines or popular carriers like KLM or AirFrance to Taipei. You can also fly via Asian Airlines like Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways but you will have to transit in their respective home country.

From Asia, traveling to Taiwan gets a lot easier and cheaper with several low-cost airlines operating this route from hub cities like Bangkok and Singapore. Lion Air, as well as AirAsia, have many flights flying from Bangkok/KL to Taipei every day so you should have no problem finding one if you are planning to fly from Asia.

To find a cheap flight to Taipei, I would recommend you use Skyscanner or Momondo to look for the cheapest route and schedule so you can compare and pick the best one.

How to Get from Taipei Airport to the City Center

The front entrance of Longshan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan.

From Taoyuan International Airport, there are 2 ways you can travel to the city, by bus, and by the Metro. The easiest option is by taking bus #1819 from outside of the Airport Terminal 2 which will take you to Taipei Main Station.

By Bus

Bus #1819 runs 24 hours every 15 - 20 minutes during the day and once every hour in the early mornings (2 AM - 5 AM). The ticket can be bought at the ticket kiosk before you exit Terminal 2.

Simply follow the "Bus to City" sign until you find a line of ticket kiosks where you can then buy the ticket. The ticket should cost you around 125 NTD and the journey from the airport to Taipei Main Station should take around an hour.

You can find an updated bus time table for bus #1819 from their official website here: Bus #1819 Timetable.

By MRT

You can also take the MRT (Taipei's metro system) to the city via MRT's purple line straight to Taipei Main Station but it is often longer and a little less convenient especially if you have a lot of luggage.

The journey should take about 1.5 hours and it should cost you around 160 NTD. The last Express train and commuter train bound for Taipei Main Station is at 22:58 and 23:27 respectively.

I highly recommend you buy an EasyCard at the airport and use it travel take the metro/bus instead of buying individual tickets as it will be more convenient for you in the long run. Read more about Easy Card under the "Traveling Around Taipei with EasyCard" section below.

How to Get Around Taiwan

An old forest train at Alishan, Taiwan

Taiwan is probably one of the easiest countries to travel around. With the widely accepted IC card called EasyCard, you can get on a bus or a train with one simple gesture and that's it. To understand how you can travel around Taiwan, first you need to understand what EasyCard (or other IC card) is and how it will benefit your travel.

Getting Around Taiwan with EasyCard

Me holding an EasyCard in Taipei, Taiwan.

One of the best things about Taiwan is how easy it is to travel around the country thanks to the adoption of IC (Integrated Circuit) card which makes getting around Taipei as well as around the country, such a breeze. Here's how it works:

EasyCard is a universal IC money card that can be used to pay everything from buses to trains to groceries all over Taiwan. It makes traveling in Taiwan a whole lot easier for us who don't know Mandarin. I was able to travel the entire island on buses/trains/metro by just using the EasyCard.

The interior of buses in Taiwan

To travel around Taiwan with EasyCard, all you have to do is simply tap on the card reader machine when you get on and tap once again when you get off, and that is it. You have already paid for your transportation!

Metro Ticket machines at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan.

You can buy the EasyCard from the airport, any of the MRT stations in Taipei, or from any of the 7-11 or Family Mart convenient stores around the country.

The card should cost around 100 NTD and you can then top-up the card with more money from the ticket machines in all the MRT Metro Stations in Taipei or at 7-11 and Family Mart.

The amount of value deducted from the card will depend on the distance you have traveled so be sure to have enough money on your EasyCard before the trip. Otherwise, you might have to buy the ticket directly from the bus driver instead.

Getting Around by Train

The interior of a train in Taiwan.

Taiwan has 2 train system the TRA which operates regular and express trains and THSR which operates high-speed trains. Generally, TRA is slower but cheaper and THSR is faster but more expensive. Depending on your needs, you can choose whichever one of these trains that fits with your schedule.

Both trains work in a similar fashion. With EasyCard, all you have to do is go to a train station, swipe the card over the card reader to get access to the platform, take the train, and swipe again at your destination to exit the platform. It's that easy!

Keep in mind though that you won't be able to book seats with this method so you will have to risk it or stand. I would recommend using EasyCard on shorter trips like going to Jiufen from Taipei, etc.

For longer trips, I would recommend you book a train ticket through their mobile applications. Keep in mind that the THSR and TRA often have their own train station and so be sure you are arriving at the right one.

A Train stoping at the platform in Shifen, Taiwan.

For TRA, you can download the app from Apple Store/Google Play and you can buy a ticket with a credit card. The app can be switched to English but some notifications are often in Chinese so you would either have to translate them one by one or ignore them, which oftentimes work.

Once you bought a ticket from the app, you will also have to collect it through the app within 2 days (including the booking date) before it gets canceled automatically. If you book on the day you are traveling, you have to collect it 30 minutes before the departure time.

One phone can collect one ticket and so if you bought 2, make sure that the other party has the app and collect the ticket individually so you can use your phone to enter the platform.

Once you collect your ticket, all you have to do is open the ticket with the QR code and let the machine scan the QR code to enter the platform, similar to how EasyCard works. You have to do the same on your way out as well.

For more information on schedules and booking, be sure to visit The Official TRA Booking Website.

For THSR, it is pretty much the same as TRA with the app. You must first download the THSR app on Apple Store/Google Play and from there, you can buy tickets with your credit card, click "Collect & Distribute" to collect your tickets and then you can use the ticket with the QR code on your phone to get access to the platform.

For more information on schedules and booking, be sure to visit The Official THSR Booking Website or you can book it through 12GO.com.

You can pretty reach almost everywhere in this itinerary by train but sometimes, you are better off taking a direct bus instead.

Getting Around by Bus

The interior of buses to Yamgmingshan in Taipei, Taiwan

Buses are a great way to get around Taiwan especially going from a city to a nature spot like Alishan and Taroko Gorge where train access is limited. Buses are also a great way to get around cities like Taipei, Hualien, and Chiayi especially when it comes to a place the MRT doesn't go.

With EasyCard, all you have to do is get on the right bus, tap the card reader when you enter and once again when you get off, and the money will be deducted from the card. That's it. If you do not have an EasyCard, you will have to prepare the exact amount in cash as bus drivers often don't have changes.

To find the right bus to take, you can use Google Maps and punch in the destination you want to visit and the app will suggest which bus number you should take. This works 90% of the time with 10% showing the right bus but not all the options available which could be due to seasonal schedule changes from bus operators.

For more information on schedules and booking for buses, check out: Book Buses in Taiwan.

How Much Money Do I Need For Taiwan

For 2 weeks itinerary as illustrated within this guide, we can calculate the minimum amount of money you can expect to spend in Taiwan. Here is a rough calculation for a 2 weeks trip in Taiwan:

Accommodation: With a total of 14 nights, you will be paying around 230 USD (6,927 NTD)

Food: A good meal in Taiwan costs about 100 NTD or around 300 NTD per day so you will pay around 3,041 NTD for 14 days of food in total.

Transportation: You will pay quite a bit for transportation around Taiwan as we are moving around quite a lot considering you only have 2 weeks so in total you should pay about 1,902 NTD for transportation.

Activities: Many places in Taiwan are free of charge so you won't be spending as much on activities. You will likely spend around 270 NTD for activities for this itinerary.

Total Budget for 2 Weeks in Taiwan: 12,140 NTD (403.07 USD)

Is it Safe in Taiwan?

Taiwan is prone to typhoons and as I wrote earlier, please avoid visiting Taiwan during the typhoon season (June - September). That is when you are likely to encounter rain and thunderstorms which increases the risk of natural disaster and you would not want to be exploring places like Taroko Gorge when that happens.

Other than that, Taiwan is probably one of the safest countries I've been to so far. You will unlikely encounter any scammers, catcallers, or pickpockets in any of the cities you are visiting in Taiwan. That said, it is best that you exercise precautions like keeping your belongings with you just as you would when visiting any other big cities.

Internet in Taiwan

Taiwan has one of the fastest public WIFI out there. Most of the hostels and restaurants I visited in Taiwan have fast reliable WIFI and you could go by without having a local sim card but if you wish to navigate the city by bus, I recommend getting a local sim card at the airport on your arrival.

Data Plan for Local Sim Card provided by Chungwa Telecom at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan.

I recommend Chungwa Telecom, one of the leading telecommunication carriers in Taiwan that offers several 4G unlimited unthrottled data package with a price range from 300 NTD - 1,000 NTD.

Chungwa Telecom Kiosk at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan.

You can find their kiosk among other carriers at the arrival hall at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. Simply approach them and they will show you the list of packages available that you can pick from. They will ask for your passport, pop the sim card in for you, and within 2 minutes, you will have unlimited 4G data for your Taiwan trip.

I had 15 days in Taiwan and so I bought their 15 days unlimited data sim card for 700 NTD (they also accept credit cards) and I was able to get 4G connection everywhere I went in the country and so if you are looking for a reliable way to stay connected throughout your stay in Taiwan, be sure to get a local sim card at the airport.

For more information about Taiwan's local sim card: Taiwan Prepaid Data Sim Card.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Taiwan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

Get a Quote from World Nomads

2 Weeks Itinerary For Taiwan

Taipei (5 Nights)

Liberty Square and National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall at sunset in Taipei, Taiwan.

Taipei, an extremely modern city, and yet affordable and accessible to all types of travelers, is where our journey begins. Taipei is one of those cities that maintain its tradition as well as adopting a fun and colorful culture all in parallel. Our journey begins with exploring all the cool attractions in the city, beginning with the Longshan Temple.

The crowded courtyard of Longshan temple in Taipei, Taiwan.

Longshan Temple is a Chinese temple built in the 18th Century by the Fujian immigrants from mainland China that came to the island and erected a temple on the spot. It is one of the most popular temples in Taiwan and has come to represent the pride of the Taiwanese people.

Liberty Arch and the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

Spend a few hours there admiring the beauty of the temple before continuing on to explore other parts of Taipei such as Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall where you will find a spacious courtyard, beautiful vegetation all around, and some stunning architectures like the Memorial Hall itself and the Liberty Square Arch.

Liberty Square at night in Taipei, Taiwan.

The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is also a great place to watch the sunset over the city as the elevated platform of the memorial hall will allow you to see the spanning view of Liberty Square.

The flag coming down ceremony at National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

Also, be sure to drop by there around 6 PM to witness the Flag Coming Down Ceremony as the guards marched down the hall and to the flag pole at the center of the Liberty Square and perform the Flag Coming Down Ceremony.

The busy road near Ximending Street at night in Taipei, Taiwan.

After the sunset, hop on an MRT and visit Ximending Street, one of the most popular shopping districts in Taipei. The entire neighborhood is filled with stores, street food stalls, and all kinds of entertainment you could imagine.

Taipei Rainbow Crosswalk in Ximending at night in Taipei, Taiwan.

I would recommend you visit Ximending at night as it becomes much more active than during the day with the streets full of performers and (illegal?) street food stalls for you to enjoy.

The exterior of the Red House in Ximending in Taipei, Taiwan.

While you are there, also be sure to drop by The Red House, a beautiful western-style but Japanese-built department store turned creative marketplace that is promoting the local's artistry and other cultural industries.

Taipei 101 from the streets in Taipie at night in Taiwan

For your second day, you can go out of the central area a bit and visit Taipei 101, a futuristic skyscraper with 101 floors standing at 509.2 m high, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.

Taipei 101 on a low cloud day in Taipei, Taiwan.

You can pay to get up to the top for 600 NTD to check out its impressive tuned mass damper, a whopping 660 metric tons steel pendulum that sways to offset movements in the building caused by strong winds.

Taipei skyline and Taipei 101 view from the Elephant Trail at night in Taipei, Taiwan.

If you are not keen on paying 600 NTD to get the view of the city, the best alternative is to go a little further east and hike the famous Elephant Trail, for a stunning view of Taipei 101 and the nightly cityscape of Taipei, free of charge!

The Crowded Ningxia Night Market full of street food trucks in Taipei, Taiwan.

If you are looking for a night market, I highly recommend you visit Ningxia Night Market around 6 PM. The night market will be extremely crowded during this time, and the street food stalls are in full-swing which makes it even more fun to walk around and eat your way through it.

Top 12 Street Food To Try In Taiwan

A short nature trail in Yangmingshan near Taipei, Taiwan.

For your third day, you can hop on a bus and go and explore the wild nature of Yangmingshan National Park which is home to Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area, a post-volcanic geological landscape area a with a few scenic trails you can do, Qixingshan (Seven Star Mountain) Trail, a 5.7 km long hiking trail that will take you to the top of Qixingshan Main Peak, and Erziping, a recreational area full of forest and mountains, and many others.

Shifen Waterfall on a rainy day in Shifen, Taiwan.

On your fourth day, we are going to go out of Taipei a bit and explore the beautiful town of Shifen follow by a walk along the Spirited Away inspired old streets of Jiufen.

Shifen Waterfall up close in Shifen, Taiwan.

What is there in Shifen, you asked? Well, Shifen Waterfall, of course, which is considered to be one of the most scenic waterfalls in Taiwan. Its beautiful sheet of water flowing down a 40m height rockface creating a fog that helps mystify the forest around it.

People releasing floating lanterns in Shifen, Taiwan.

Shifen is also known for its floating lanterns that were used during the civil war by protectors of the city to signal people who ran away into the forest that it is now safe to return.

People taking selfies on the train tracks of Shifen, Taiwan.

Nowadays, most people will write their wishes down on to the lantern, snap the iconic photo with the lantern on a train track, and set the floating lantern free, in hope that the wish will come true. It is a fun activity to do with friends in Shifen.

A train bound for Ruifang from Taipei Main Station in Taiwan.

To get from Taipei to Shifen, you will have to get a train to Ruifang and once you arrive, transit to a Pingxi line and the train should stop at Shifen.

A-MEI Tea House that inspired Spirited Away at night in Jiufen, Taiwan

After half a day in Shifen, hop on a train back to Ruifang and take the bus #960 or #788 from Ruifang Industrial Vocational High School bus stop to Jiufen.

The crowded streets of Jiufen Old Town in Taiwan.

Jiufen is a decommissioned gold mine town located on a mountain by the seaside north of Taipei. The town is now known for its night markets full of delicious food to try, the maze small lanes and alleyways full of history, and the beautiful A-MEI Tea House that inspired some scenes in the movie Spirited Away.

The view of Jiufen from Jiufen Old Town Street in Taiwan.

Jiufen Old Town is best visited during the late afternoon around 4 - 5 PM as the streets are still relatively empty and the restaurants and tea houses are opening. At about 6 PM, it can get so crowded you might not be able to move for 15 minutes at certain crowded intersections.

The view of the Northern Coast of Taiwan from Jiufen on a rainy day in Taiwan.

After spending 4 days exploring Taipei, it is time to move on to our next destination, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, Taroko Gorge and Hualien City where we will be basing ourselves from.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Taipei

Getting from Taipei to Hualien

There are several ways you can travel from Taipei to Hualien, but the easiest, most convenient way is to take the express train (TRA) from Taipei Main Station to Hualien Railway Station.

The journey from Taipei to Hualien should take about 2 hours and it will cost you around 440 NTD per person. The reason I recommend you to take the fast train is that the price between the slow and express train from Taipei to Hualien is only 100 NTD less and take almost twice the time so taking HSR is preferable on this route.

For the train schedule from Taipei to Hualien or if you want to book online, be sure to check out: The Official TRA Ticket Information and Timetable.

Hualien & Taroko Gorge (2 Nights)

The beautiful Swallow Grotto Trail in Taroko, Taiwan.

After 4 days in a city like Taipei, it is time for you to see the real nature of Taiwan and there is no better place to see that than at Taroko Gorge.

The pristine blue colored Liwu river running through Taroko Gorge in Taiwan.

Taroko Gorge, the stunning 18 km long canyon with the pristine blue Liwu river running through it is Taiwan's most known and celebrated tourist attractions in the country and for a good reason.

The complete bus schedule from Hualien to Taroko National Park in Taiwan.

In order to visit Taroko Gorge, you will first have to make your way to Hualien, the gateway city to Taroko National Park and from there, take a bus from Hualien Station into the national park in the early morning and spend the entire day exploring Taroko Gorge.

A person with a torchlight walking through the Water Curtain Cave in Taroko National Park, Taiwan.

The Taroko Gorge is filled with extreme nature, impossible architectural wizardry, and beautiful scenic hiking trails to the brim, all waiting for you to explore. There are also several scenic hiking trails you can partake as well such as the Baiyang Trail that takes you to the Baiyang Waterfall and the beautiful Water Curtain Cave.

The architecture of the Tunnel of Nine Turns in Taroko, Taiwan.

There is also the Tunnel of Nine Turns, the architectural wizardry that holds these treacherous roads together without having limestone mountains collapse upon them. There are a beautiful 30 minutes scenic trail that hugs along the tunnel by the gorge which I highly recommend.

Me walking along the narrow road of Swallow Grotto Trail in Taroko, Taiwan.

Another impressive scenic walking trail I would recommend you do is the Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail), a 1,372 meters long walking trail that will take you through a narrow section of the Liwu River Gorge allowing you to see some of the features of the gorge up close.

The Changchun Shrine (Eternal Spring Shrine) in Taroko, Taiwan.

Places like the Changchun Shrine (Eternal Spring Shrine), Zhuilu Old Trail (requires a permit), and Lushui-Wenshan Trail are also worth visiting if you have an extra day in the park. Be sure to check if the trails are open before you embark on the journey. Sometimes, the trails may be close due to hazardous conditions.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide For Taroko Gorge

Getting from Hualien to Kenting

From Hualien, you can take the regular train from Hualien Station to Fangliao Station (one of the stops of Kenting Express Bus) where you can then catch the Kenting Express Bus to Kenting National Park.

The Kenting Express bus stop in Fangliao, Taiwan.

After you arrive at Fangliao Station, you will have to walk out to the main road and wait for the Kenting Bus at the Fangliao Station Bus Stop and you should be on your way in 30 minutes. From Fangliao to Kenting, the journey should take about 1 hour depending on the traffic.

The exterior of the yellow/white Kenting Express Bus in Taiwan.

The Kenting Express operates from 8:30 - 19:10 every day connecting Zuoying HSR Station to Kenting. It usually comes every 30 minutes, cost about 350 NTD, and it takes about 2.5 hours to arrive. The bus can drop you off right in the center of Kenting at Kenting Police Bus Stop and you should be able to walk to your accommodation.

Kenting (2 Nights)

The coastline of Kenting, Taiwan.

Kenting is a great place to take your mind of what you come to expect from Taiwan. The town is located all the way to the southern tip of Taiwan being surrounded by pristine beaches, beautiful coastlines, and a warmer climate. With such a drastic difference from Taipei and Hualien, you may start to wonder if you are actually in Taiwan.

The view of the coastline at Longpan Park, Kenting, Taiwan.

First and foremost, on your first day in Kenting, rent an e-scooter, go out, and explore coastline east of Kenting. Places like Longpan Park and Fengchuisha are a great place to begin your day, with a stroll along the coastline. Keep in mind though that southern coastline of Taiwan sees extreme wind all-year-round so be sure not to stand off a cliff.

Me walking towards the Southern Most Point of Taiwan monument in Kenting, Taiwan.

You can also visit the Taiwan Southernmost Point Monument and take a photo to commemorate the fact that you have finally traveled from the north all the way to the South of Taiwan.

The view from a viewpoint in Eluanbi Park in Kenting Taiwan.

Another place I would recommend you stop by is Eluanbi Park. Within the park, there are several walking trails you can take. Some go through an open-air museum showing what the life of the indigenous people was like, some take you to stunning viewpoints, all of them worth visiting so be sure to spend some time in the park.

The black limestone reef coastline at Maobitou Park in Kenting, Taiwan.

Now that we have explored east of Kenting, it's time to go to the west. With your e-scooter, travel along the main road pass Kenting Town and visit Maobitou Park, for an epic view of the beautiful black limestone coastline, and lay down in the sun at White Sand Bay for the rest of the day.

The empty white sand beach of White Sand Bay (Baisha Beach) in Kenting, Taiwan.

Be sure to come back in time for you to return the scooter and enjoy all the awesome food at Kenting Night Market along the main road before ending your day in Kenting.

9 Best Things To Do In Kenting

Getting from Kenting to Chiayi

From Kenting, you can take the morning (8 AM is the first one) Kenting Express Bus back Zuoying HSR Station (Xin Zuoying Station) and then you can take the one-hour train to Chiayi. It should cost about 145 - 220 NTD depending on the duration.

Chiayi & Alishan (2 Nights)

Chiayi Fountain Circle in Taiwan.

After arriving in Chiayi, you can spend that evening exploring the city checking out the Song Of The Forest, Hinoki Japanese Village, and Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park before heading over to Wenhua Road Night Market for a feast before ending the day so that you can start early the next day and go to Alishan.

A train track along the Tashan Trail in Alishan, Taiwan.

Alishan National Parks is a 415 square kilometers nature reserve full of mystical-looking forest and a ton of things waiting for you to explore. From taking the Old Alishan Forest Rails to hiking up mountains to witness the sea of clouds, here is a complete backpacking guide on things to do in Alishan National Park as well as cool things to do in Chiayi.

me standing in front of Xianglin Tree in Alishan, Taiwan.

There are a ton of beautiful trees and several walking and hiking trails that will take you to see some of the largest and oldest Cypresses you will ever see in Alishan.

The sunray hitting the Giant Trees Broadwalk in Alishan, Taiwan.

The Giant Trees Broadwalk is a walking path that will take you through zig-zag trails going around the Alishan forest, allowing you to enjoy the view while strolling safely on a wooden platform.

The No.28 Giant Tree in Alishan, Taiwan.

The trail will pass the No.28 Giant Tree, the Taiwanese Cypress that stands at 43.5m with the trunk at 13.1m circumference wide. It is estimated that the tree is over 2000 years old.

The exterior of Shouzhen Temple in Alishan, Taiwan.

There are also 2 temples I recommended you visit, the Japanese-built Cihyun Temple with a great view of the sea of clouds and Shouzhen Temple, the largest temple in Alishan and the highest in terms of elevation in Taiwan.

The interior of Shouzhen Temple in Alishan, Taiwan.

They both show the mastery of craftsmanship of the people that built these temples up during the Japanese period. There are also several food stalls around Shouzhen Temple making it a great place to stop for lunch before continuing.

The perfectly symmetrical photo of a pavilion in the middle of the Elder Sister Pond reflecting in the lake in Alishan, Taiwan.

Another place I would recommend you to check out is Sister Ponds one of the most photogenic places in Alishan with the saddest story ever!

The wooden bridge to the pavilion in the middle of the Elder Sister Pond in Alishan, Taiwan.

Apparently, the story goes that the 2 sisters fell in love with the same man and not wanting to betray the sisterhood, both decided to jump into each pond and ended their lives, hence one pond is called the Elder Sister Pond and the other, the Younger Sister Pond.

Me sitting on a fence at the sunrise platform on Mt. Ogasawara in Alishan, Taiwan.

Tashan Peak from the Tashan Observatory platform in Alishan, Taiwan.

If you like hiking, I would also recommend you to go hike the Zhushan Sunrise Hiking Trail for a grand view of Jade Mountain (Yushan), the highest mountain in Taiwan and hike to Tashan Peak to witness the sea of clouds.

Me sitting on a fence at the Tashan Peak Observatory above the sea of clouds in Alishan, Taiwan.

The Tashan Mountain Trail is especially my favorite. It is a hiking trail that will take you along the railroads before going up mountains to the top of Tashan Peak where you will be able to witness the Sea of Clouds as well as enjoy Alishan in solitude.

Me walking back to Alishan entrance along the train track in Taiwan.

The hike should take about 2.5 hours roundtrip with a flat trail for 2 km and then it shoots steep up to the peak for about 1.7 km. You should be a bit in shape if you wish you hike up to Tashan. It's not hard, it's just steep in the last part.

The sea of clouds from Tashan Peak in Alishan, Taiwan.

Once at the top, you should be able to see Tashan peak from the viewing platform and if you are lucky as I did, you might be able to see the sea of clouds in Alishan that everyone has been raving about.

The train track along the Tashan hiking trail in Alishan, Taiwan.

Before hiking Tashan, be sure that you can get back in time for the last bus at 17:05 so you can get back to Chiayi. I would say, if by 3:30 PM and you have not reached the summit, it is best to consider going back otherwise, you might miss the last bus and you may have to shell a whopping 1600 NTD for a taxi to take you back.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Alishan

Getting from Chiayi to Sun Moon Lake

From Chiayi to Sun Moon Lake, you can take the normal train (TRA) from Chiayi Station to Taichung Station. The train from Chiayi to Taichung takes about one hour and costs 240 TND.

A bus schedule from Taichung to  Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

After you arrive in Taichung, you can again catch the Nantou Bus #6670 from Taichung Station Bus Stop and you should be at Sun Moon Lake in 1.5 hours.

To book the train from Chiayi to Taichung, be sure to check out: The Official TRA Booking and Timetable.

Sun Moon Lake (2 Nights)

Me on a bike around Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

Sun Moon Lake, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Taiwan, has the vista of rolling hills and mountains with the beautiful calm lake before it while containing pockets of rich indigenous culture all waiting for you to explore.

A small pier along Hanbi Trail at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

On the day of your arrival, after settling into your accommodation, I would recommend you go for a little walk along Hanbi trail, a small trail off Shuishe Pier that hugs along the lakeside and ends at Yule Pavilion, for a beautiful sunset before resting for the rest of the day.

The colorful sunrise from Meihe Park at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

If you don't mind waking up early, I highly recommend you wake up early and watch the sunrise at Shuishe Pier and walk by Meihe Park the next day.

Me biking along the bike path at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

After the sunrise, go and find a bike shop, which shouldn't be difficult as there are tons of them on the main road in Shuishe and rent a bike to explore the surroundings.

The bike path above the water at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

Take the bike path that goes along the lakeside down through some of the most stunning viewpoints at Sun Moon Lake like Longfeng Temple, Xiangshan Scenic Outlook, all the way to the Northwest Observation Platform.

Me looking at Sun Moon Lake from Xiangshan Scenic Outlook in Taiwan.

I gotta admit, this is probably one of the most delightful bike paths I have ever experienced. The scenery along the bike path was amazing and with a bike, you can stop and take a picture anytime you like.

Ci'en Pagoda as seen from the northwest observation platform at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

After spending half a day exploring Sun Moon Lake with a bike, it is time to go further and check out all the cool temples in the mountains. I would recommend you taking the round-the-lake bus instead as the road gets quite hilly.

The view from Wenwu Temple at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

Take the #6669 bus from Sun Moon Lake Bus Stop and get off at Wenwu Temple Bus Stop and you will be right in front of our next destination, the massive Wenwu Temple.

The Marble Pillar behind Wenwu Temple at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

Wenwu Temple is a grand Chinese-style temple located atop a hill with a stunning vista of Sun Moon Lake and all its mountains. The temple consisted of 3 halls dedicated to 3 different gods. There is also a large marble pillar built atop the park above Wenwu Temple which you should not miss.

The crowded street of Ita Thao Shopping District at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

After Wenwu Temple, hop on another bus and get to Ita Thao on the other side of the lake and devour all its street food at Ita Thao Shopping District.

All the available flavors of Mochi sticks at Ita Thao at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

After eating at Ita Thao, hop on another bus to Xuanzang Temple and hike up to Ci'en Pagoda for the most incredible view of Sun Moon Lake.

Ci'en Temple at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan.

Ci'en Pagoda is a 48 meters tall Chinese-style pagoda located atop a mountain where one can climb to the top and enjoy a panoramic view of the lake.

The view of Sun Moon Lake from Ci'en Temple in Taiwan.

The Pagoda closes at 16:30 so be sure you calculate your arrival time as well as the time it takes for you to hike 400 steps, which should take about 10 - 20 minutes depending on your fitness so that you will arrive before it closes.

Me riding a bike along Shuishe Dam at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

After Ci'en Pagoda, take the bus back to Shuishe, get your bike and ride to Shuishe Dam for a beautiful sunset before ending your incredible adventure at Sun Moon Lake.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Sun Moon Lake

Getting from Sun Moon Lake to Taipei

A direct bus schedule from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake and vice versa

From Sun Moon Lake, you can take Bus #1833 from the bus stop in front of Tourist Information. It leaves 6 - 8 times a day from 7:30 to 16:20 every day. The journey should cost around 420 NTD per person and you should arrive at Taipei Main Station in 4 hours.

Taipei (1 Night)

The best view of Taipei 101 from Lane 253 Songren Street in Taipei, Taiwan.

Congratulation, you have traveled around Taiwan for 2 weeks. You deserve a good rest in Taipei but if you still haven't had enough awesome photos from Taipei, I know the best place to capture the iconic Taipei 101.

The Taipei 101 skyscraper at night in Taipei, Taiwan.

One of the best photo spots in Taipei is at the Lane 253, Songren Road in Xinyi District near the Takemura Izakaya restaurant. This is the street where you can capture the iconic Taipei 101 in between two buildings creating the symmetrical art that you see above.

And there you have it, a 2 weeks backpacking itinerary for Taiwan. Are you planning to visit Taiwan soon? If you are and you have some questions regarding this itinerary, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.

Further Reading for Taiwan

Looking for more information for your trip to Taiwan? Here is a collection of articles about Taiwan that you might find useful:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

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Categories: destinationsasiaeast asiataiwan


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