Our first trip to Taiwan came about because of an amazing seat sale I noticed in my inbox. Calgary to Taipei return for less than $500 CDN! I mean, what choice did I really have? 🙂 Taiwan is under the radar of many travelers and we knew very little about it before our visit.
Why Visit Taiwan?
Despite having a rich culture, amazing food, and stunning scenery, Taiwan isn’t widely known by many travelers to Asia. After our first vacation in Taiwan, it’s now at the top of our list. Taipei is a world-class city, and beyond the capital you’ll find eight national parks with lush mountains, valleys, coastlines and fascinating geology to explore.
Taiwan is a small island state off the southeast coast of China, with Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. It is approximately 245 miles (395 km) long and 90 miles (145 km) wide. It also includes many small islands, some of which are also claimed by China, Japan or the Philippines. The population of Taiwan is about 24 million and Taipei, the largest city and capital (population 2.65 million), is located on the northwest tip of the island. Taiwan’s climate is mainly subtropical, except for the southern part of the island, which is tropical.
Most of the population and farmlands are found on the western side of the island. The mountains and rugged coastline on the eastern side make it more natural and less populated. An ideal visit to Taiwan can include the best of both worlds, with all the culture and sights of Taipei, and the stunning scenery, hiking and friendly small towns of Taiwan’s east coast.
Here are five great reasons to plan your next holiday in Taiwan:
1. That Famous Taiwanese Cuisine
Taiwan is justifiably one of the best food destinations in the world. There are many must-try Taiwanese foods, including Taiwanese hotpot, beef noodle soup, bubble tea, and the infamous “stinky tofu”, as well as many other Chinese, Japanese and international options. Lining up for delicious soup dumplings (xiao long bao) at Din Tai Fung is worth the wait. Sampling delicious street food at a Taipei night market is an experience not to be missed. You can find amazing food at small family Taiwanese restaurants, and food in general is very affordable.
2. Beautiful and Diverse Taipei
Taipei is Taiwan’s beautiful capital and largest city, and it truly offers something for everybody. It’s a city of contrasts, with history and culture, alongside modern architecture and transportation. Its skyline is dominated by Taipei 101, a bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck, which was the world’s tallest building until 2010. The city is surrounded by green hills and mountains, and there are many parks and bike paths within the city. You can explore the shops and cafes in cool neighbourhoods such as the historic Dihua Street and buy some oolong tea; visit one of Taipei’s world-class museums; take the Maokong Gondola high above the city into lush and peaceful mountains; enjoy the food and exciting atmosphere at one of Taipei’s night markets; relax at the Beitou hot springs, or venture out to the mountain town of Jiufen, about 90 minutes by train from Taipei.
3. Eastern Taiwan – Mountains, Coastline, and the East Rift Valley
Taiwan has gorgeous scenery, especially on the mountainous and rugged east coast. Highlights of an east coast road trip could include hiking in Taroko Gorge National Park near Hualien, cycling in the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, Kenting National Park in the south, visiting one of the many hot springs or exploring unique geological formations on the coast.
4. Taiwanese History and Culture
Taiwan’s history began with its indigenous peoples, then Chinese immigration and occupation, Japanese occupation and other Asian and western cultural influences. Today this results in a culture that is distinctly Taiwanese, and there are an abundance of historical sites, temples, and museums to explore. In Taipei the National Palace Museum is a must for its permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks. There are many regional festivals if you are lucky enough to be in a place at the right time. Taiwan also has a thriving modern culture (the Ximending district is the hub for nightlife, shopping and street performances), and most Chinese TV dramas and pop music artists popular throughout Asia originate from Taiwan.
5. Taiwan has the World’s Friendliest People
Even with all the amazing scenery, food and culture Taiwan has to offer, it’s the Taiwanese people that made our trip even more special. We traveled the circumference of the whole country, and the people we met everywhere were helpful, patient, and treated each other with respect.
One night we forgot where we parked our car* 🙁 (see tip below). After eating some tasty hotpot at a restaurant in Yuli, we walked out to find it had become dark, and we were disoriented. We searched for over an hour and then it started to rain. We were feeling miserable and worried whether we could find our car at all that night. Thankfully a young couple noticed our distress, and immediately offered to help by driving us around to look for it. With their help we soon found it, and this is only one example of the kindness and hospitality of the Taiwanese people we met.
According to Expat Insider, Taiwan was rated 1st out of 64 countries in the Expat Insider 2019 World Survey, and the friendliest country in Asia (4th overall). In our own experience, the hospitality and pleasant nature of the Taiwanese people made us feel relaxed and safe on our trip, and has made Taiwan one of our favourite places on the planet.
*Tip for not losing your car: When you park in an unfamiliar place, take a quick photo or two of your car showing its licence plate, and a nearby landmark or road sign. We almost always do this, but this time we didn’t and ended up wandering around for an hour in the dark looking for it. Lesson learned!
Planning a trip? Wondering where to Stay in Taiwan?
Read more about some of our favourite places to stay in Taiwan. These hotels and B&Bs in Taipei and throughout Taiwan feature both budget and affordable luxury options. We focus on hotels and B&Bs that offer good value, along with that special something to make your stay memorable.