If you are looking to visit Asia, look no further than a trip to Taiwan. You might be scratching your head right now thinking, Really, Taiwan? It’s a country many people skip over when looking for an Asian travel destination, which is a real shame. Whether you’re looking for lots of adventure, cool culture or amazing food, Taiwan has it. We’re here to put it on the top of your list and kick start your planning. You’re welcome in advance.
Where even is Taiwan?
Let’s start with the basics, Taiwan is an island off the southern coast of mainland China. The major international airport is in the large city of Taoyuan. The cheapest flights from the US usually require a connection, but there are some nonstop flights from both the east and west coast. At about 14-16 hours for nonstop flights, Taiwan’s much more accessible than other parts of Asia.
Best time to visit Taiwan
If you are used to a Northeast or Midwestern winter then there really isn’t ever a bad time to go to Taiwan. Weather in the winter in Taiwan is mild, averaging in the 50’s and 60’s. That being said, our recommendation for the best time to go to Taiwan is in May. It’s an easy time to work around school schedules, tourist season is not yet at it’s peak and the weather is warm but mild. No school to think about? April – June or September – November are also good times to visit.
Where to stay in Taiwan
You will likely start off in the action-packed capital city, Taipei. The cost of accommodation in Taiwan is a little bit more expensive than in other areas of Asia. However, you can still find high quality hostels at a good price. You can stay in hostels for around $25 a night. Plus, the hostel has a friendly backpacker community offering activities and tours, making it perfect for both solo travelers and groups of friends.
Best Food in Taiwan
There are 3 words you must learn on your trip to Taiwan: Din Tai Fung. If you haven’t been captivated by their xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at other restaurants around the world, then there is no better place to experience them than Taiwan. Taipei is home to the original Din Tai Fung restaurant and you can even watch them make the dumplings on the first floor. Just promise us you’ll go there as soon as you land.
Ok, now that the Din Tai Fung rant is over, we can tell you that Taiwan is home to a lot of other great food, from local restaurants to street food stands. Nervous about eating the street food? Don’t be! It’s where you’ll find some of the best foods. Taiwanese street food has earned some major awards, including a place in the Michelin Guide in BIB Gourmand (a guide to Michelin-star-level food at affordable prices). Just look for stalls that have long lines of locals—that’s how you’ll know it’s safe to eat and delicious! Look for iconic dishes like beef noodle soup, scallion pancakes, hot pot and pineapple cake.
Ximen is the place to get funky. Day or night, this area in Taipei is filled with life. It is a great area to walk around without any plans or an agenda because you really never know what you will find. You could end up in a unique bar, stumble across some cool graffiti or get an ancient knife massage.
Taroko Gorge is a must-visit if you want to see some of Taiwan’s beautiful natural scenery. There’s rivers, waterfalls, scenic drives and plenty of hiking trails. While some trails require a permit, you can also find some activities that do not. The easiest way to explore Taroko Gorge is with a tour group that will organize everything and show you the off-the-beaten-path places. You can also take a train from Taipei on your own. Either way, just go—the canyons and rock formations of this place will take your breath away.
Forget bar crawls, go on a temple run. Or, you know, just visit the Taiwanese temples at a regular pace. There is such a wide range of beauty and history in temples so it’s worth adding a few to your visit. But if that’s not your vibe and you just want to cross one off your list, the most famous is Longshan Temple. The temple has remained standing through many disasters and has a really rich and interesting history.
Guess how many floors this skyscraper has? If you can’t tell by the name, it has 101. It was built to withstand heavy typhoon winds and earthquakes. While the Taipei Tower is beautiful as part of the skyline, the best views come from the observation deck overlooking the rest of the city. Go at sunset for the best views (and pics!). It’s a must-do for any trip to Taiwan.
If you are in Taipei and want to see the city from a different perspective, hike the Xiangshan Trail. Don’t let the word hike scare you, you don’t need to be a nature enthusiast to hike this trail. The start of the Xiangshan Trail, aka Elephant Mountain, is a short walk from the Xiangshan metro station (the same stop for Taipei 101). Plus, the trail has man-made steps all the way to the top, making it an easy “hike” up the hill. The top of the hill is also a great place to see the nighttime skyline view of Taipei!