This post was updated in February 2020.
Did you know Taiwan has the largest number and density of high mountains in the world? While this island may be small in size, it has much to offer! From pretty beaches to modern skyscrapers and from colorful street art to delicious cuisine, Taiwan has it all.
This Taiwan itinerary will guide you around the highlights of this green island that used to be called ‘Ilha Formosa’ (meaning ‘beautiful island‘ in Portuguese). A fitting name as Taiwan is absolutely gorgeous!
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In this travel guide to Taiwan you will find:
- What to do in Taiwan: day by day itinerary (5, 7 and 10 days + 2, 3 and 4 weeks)
- Things to know before traveling to Taiwan
- General travel tips for Taiwan
- Where to stay in Taiwan on a budget
Itinerary for Taiwan and Taiwan travel map
In the map below you can find our Taiwan itinerary, at the end of the post you can download this map.
The ultimate Taiwan itinerary
- Day 1-3: Kaohsiung
- Day 4-6: Kenting National Park
- Day 7-9: Tainan
- Day 10-11: Taichung
- Day 12-13: Sun Moon Lake
- Day 14-19: Taipei (part I)
- Day 20-23: Hualien and the Taroko Gorge
- Day 24-29: Taipei (part II)
Important things to know when planning a trip Taiwan
Taiwan is a great destination year-round, however, Spring (March-April) and Autumn (October-November) are the most popular times to visit.
From mid-May until September, monsoon season causes a lot of rain, especially on the East Coast. We visited in May and while we did experience some rain, the weather was good on most days.
However, we did adjust our travel plans because of the (terrible) weather forecast and instead of traveling the entire length of Taiwan’s East Coast (in the pouring rain) we opted to spend more time in Taipei (where it was still sunny).
During Summer (June until August) Taiwan is hot and humid with temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius.
Winter is low season in Taiwan, though it usually doesn’t get that cold (around 10 degrees).
The official currency in Taiwan is the New Taiwan dollar (NT$). Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 34NT$ and $1 approximately 30NT$.
Yes, 100% yes! Not only because the island is beautiful but because in Taiwan I met some of the friendliest people of all my travels, and I don’t say that lightly.
– When our rented electric scooter died on a steep hill in the middle of nowhere, the owner of our hotel came to our rescue.
– One of our Airbnb hosts showed us his favorite restaurant (and insisted on paying for us no less) where we had the best beef noodle soup of our 1 month Taiwan trip.
– The owner of a fruit stall kept giving us free fruit and drinks because we came back a couple of days in a row.
I could go on but I think I made my point: Taiwanese people are super nice! If friendly residents aren’t enough reason for you, let the delicious food convince you.
Beef noodle soup, bubble milk tea, stinky tofu (which may not sound appealing but is really tasty) and Xiaolongbao (dumplings) are just a few of the amazing things you can eat in Taiwan.
What’s more, Taiwan is very diverse, you can go hiking, visit modern buzzing cities and relax at a tropical beach.
Public transport is excellent in Taiwan: it’s dependable and inexpensive. There is a large network of trains, buses and MRT lines (in Kaohsiung and Taipei).
You can also take a taxi/Uber or use the public bicycle system in Taipei, Kaohsiung or Tainan. In the table below I’ve listed all the transport information (and fares) of our 1 month Taiwan trip.
Taiwan travel tips
In general traveling around Taiwan is very easy. The country is safe, well-organized and, as I already mentioned, the people are super friendly. Nevertheless, here are some travel tips to make your Taiwan trip even easier.
Buy an iPass
You can use this pass all over Taiwan to pay for transport (MRT, bicycles, bus, train, ferry, etc.). The pass gives you a discount on the transport fares and saves you the hassle of having to pay with coins.
You can top up your credit in 7-11 and Family Mart (you can also pay with your iPass in these shops and several others).
Buy a tourist SIM-card at the airport
We bought a 30-day plan with unlimited 4G for only 1000NT (€30)! Imagine that, we could use unlimited data on all our devices (and we carry a lot of devices) for only €1 per day. We had reception everywhere, except in the tunnels on the East coast.
You can also opt for a portable WiFi device if you don’t want to change your SIM-card, the price is similar and you can reserve a device online via Klook here.
Be prepared to use Google Translate a lot
While the people in Taiwan are very friendly and always willing to help, I was surprised to learn that many Taiwanese don’t speak English. At all. They will still try to help you though and Google Translate makes it a lot easier.
Our Taiwan trip: facts and figures
- I traveled with my husband; our trip started in Kaohsiung and ended in Taipei. Our Taiwan trip itinerary was 29 days in total.
- We traveled around Taiwan by public transport (train, bus and MRT). In Kenting National Park and Hualien we rented a scooter. In Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, and Taipei we used the public bicycle rental systems, bus and MRT to get around.
- During our trip around Taiwan, we spent approximately 2065 NT / €63 / $69 per day as a couple. If you want to know more about the costs of our Taiwan trip, check my budget breakdown.
- I have written detailed guides for most places we visited in Taiwan, in these guides you can find detailed information about our day-to-day activities, transportation, and detailed information about our accommodation. You can find the links to those posts in the itinerary below.
Where to find great budget accommodation in Taiwan
In the table below you can find the hostels/hotels/Airbnb’s we stayed at in Taiwan (only the ones I recommend!). I’ve also written a separate post about our accommodation in Taiwan with more details about these places.
|Hengchun||Kenting Light Blue Bed and Breakfast||€22/$26||Agoda|
|Hualien||Honey B Trip B&B||€25/$30||Agoda||Booking|
|Sun Moon Lake||Itathao Hotel||€39/$46||Agoda||Booking|
|Taichung||Taichung Loft Hostel||€22/$26||Agoda|
|Tainan||Tie Dao Hotel||€17/$20||Agoda||Booking|
Accommodation discount: if you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
How to spend a month in Taiwan
Ideally, if you have a month in Taiwan like we did, you’d make a full circle around the island. You can either start and end your trip in Taipei or in Kaohsiung, as these are the largest hubs for international flights.
As I mentioned above, unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish our Taiwan loop because monsoon season started and the East Coast was soaking wet.
Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun during the additional time we spend in Taipei and I don’t regret making this decision. Below you can find our day by day one month Taiwan trip.
If you have less time available to explore Taiwan, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Further on in the post, I also suggest shorter options (5, 7 and 10 days, plus 2 and 3 weeks) for your Taiwan travel itinerary.
Day 1 – 3: Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung isn’t a well-known city, at least I had never heard of it before traveling to Taiwan. Of course, that could also just me being ignorant… Anyway, Kaohsiung is the third-largest city in Taiwan and this is where we started our trip.
Kaohsiung is an important harbor city but also has many interesting sights. My recommended activities for Kaohsiung are:
- Cycle the bicycle trail along the Love River. Worthwhile stops are the Kaohsiung 228 Peace Memorial Park, Zhongdou Wetlands Park, Botanical Garden, and the Lotus Pond.
- Cycle around the Lotus Pond. Another great bicycle trail goes around the Lotus Pond, on the south side of the lake you can find the colorful Tiger and Dragon Pagodas.
- Visit Qijin Island. This small island is only a 5-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Here you can explore the Cijin Coast Park, admire the view from the Cihou Lighthouse and visit the Maritime Museum.
Click here to read about more things to do in Kaohsiung.
Day 4 – 6: Kenting National Park
From busy Kaohsiung, we traveled to green Kenting National Park, in the South of Taiwan.
Fun fact: did you know there are 9 National Parks in Taiwan?
Kenting National Park is beautiful, the beaches are pristine and the empty roads through lush green jungle make it the perfect place for a scooter road trip. Interesting places to visit in Kenting are:
- Maobitou Park: a great spot to admire the beautiful ocean views and impressive rock formations.
- Hengchun night market: try out lots of typical Taiwanese dishes and snacks and wash it down with a boba (bubble tea).
- Kenting town: take an hour or so to explore the town, but leave plenty of time to relax on pretty Kenting beach, with white sand and stunning blue water.
Click here to read about more things to do in Kenting.
Day 7 – 9: Tainan
Our next destination was Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and one with a Dutch history which made it extra interesting for us (being from the Netherlands and all).
Back in 1624, the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or United East India Company in English) built Fort Zeelandia in Tainan and used the city as their ruling and trading base.
Besides the Dutch Fort, there are many beautiful temples in Tainan. In fact, there are more Buddhist and Taoist temples in Tainan than in any other Taiwanese city! The top spots in Tainan you should visit are:
- Koxinga’s Shrine: an impressive shrine dating from 1663. Also take a stroll around the stylish garden in front of the complex.
- Fort Zeelandia: this fort was built by the Dutch in the early 17th century and used as a trading outpost. It’s an interesting place to learn about (part of) the tumultuous history of Taiwan.
- National Museum of Taiwan History: another excellent place to learn about Taiwanese history and it’s many invaders throughout the decades (the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Chinese and the Japanese).
Click here to read about more things to do in Tainan.
Day 10 – 11: Taichung
Unfortunately, it was raining during the majority of our time in Taichung. We made the most of it though and went to the movies, ate wood-fire oven pizza and hung out in cute cafes.
However, if the weather is a bit nicer, you can easily spend three days here as there are many things to do in this interesting city! Highlights in (and around) Taichung are:
- Rainbow Village: a short distance from Taichung city center you can find what is perhaps the most colorful village in the world. Painted by Huang Yong-Fu in a desperate attempt to preserve his home that was about to be torn down by the government, this artsy village has now become one of Taiwan’s most famous attractions!
- Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House: the birthplace of Taiwan’s famous boba, aka bubble tea. Here you can take a bubble tea making class and learn how to create these delicious and highly addictive concoctions yourself.
- Taichung Second Market: an authentic wet market with 100 years of history. Here you can eat local dishes created from secret family recipes handed down for generations!
Click here to read about more things to do in Taichung.
Day 12 – 13: Sun Moon Lake
The Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan and a very popular place to visit. It sure is a gorgeous place, unfortunately, the rain that found us in Taichung followed us to the Sun Moon Lake.
We had planned to do lots of outdoor activities, like cycling around the lake and hiking up Mt. Shuishe.
Instead, we spent most of our time in the Starbucks in Shuishe Village, running outside whenever the rain stopped for a brief moment to take pictures of the still beautiful looking lake.
Nevertheless, there are tons of things to do at Sun Moon Lake when the weather is nice:
- Follow (part of) the Yuetan Bike Path: a 29 kilometers bike route that goes around Sun Moon Lake. You can also opt for a shorter section of approximately 12 kilometers.
- Ride the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway: from the Ropeway, you can enjoy stunning views over the lake and forested mountains.
- Visit the Wenwu Temple and Ci En Pagoda: these beautiful constructions are highly worth a visit, both can be reached with the Round-The-Lake-Bus.
Check this guide to the Sun Moon Lake by a former resident of Taiwan who visited the Lake many times.
Day 14 – 19: Taipei (part I)
I loved Taipei! I’m not usually one for big cities for a long period of time, but I really enjoyed our time in Taipei. We spent 12 days there in total and still didn’t run out of things to do.
What I loved most about Taipei is how easy it was to get away from the busy part of town and find some peace and quiet. There is so much nature just a subway ride away from the center! For example, we hiked a mountain trail in the Maokong area and didn’t come across anyone else.
I’ve written an extensive post about Taipei, but to sum up, some of the highlights are:
- Elephant Mountain trail: a short and steep hike to the top of Elephant ‘Mountain’ (a 183-meter high hill) offering beautiful views over Taipei and the iconic Taipei 101.
- Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall: a huge and impressive building. Time your visit to coincide with the changing of the guards (every hour on the hour from 10 am to 4 pm). Also visit the nearby Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness, National Concert Hall and the National Theater.
- Make a day trip to Maokong: a pretty little village on the outskirts of Taipei that can be reached by Gondola (buy your ticket online here) or bus. There are great hiking opportunities around the village, which is known for the cultivation of high-quality tea.
Click here to read about more things to do in Taipei.
Day 20 – 23: Hualien and the Taroko Gorge
The East coast was my favorite part of Taiwan and I have only seen a small section! There are steep cliffs, a stunning blue ocean, marble mountains, and green jungle.
It’s much less populated than the rest of Taiwan, only 4% of the Taiwanese live on the East Coast. We spent 3 days in Hualien and used this relaxed city as a base to explore the famous Taroko Gorge and the area south of Hualien.
Some of the best things to do around Hualien are:
- Qinshui Cliffs: the combination of the steep cliffs and the vivid blue color of the ocean is a spectacular sight.
- Taroko Gorge: one of the most popular places to visit in Taiwan and rightly so, it’s a beautiful place. There are hiking trails, waterfalls, rope bridges, and amazing views wherever you look.
- East Coast National Scenic Area: we rented a scooter and went for an adventurous drive along the coast and mountainous area south of Hualien.
Click here to read about more things to do in Hualien.
Day 24-29: Taipei (part II)
Because of the approaching typhoon season, it was already very rainy on the East Coast. Therefore we did not continue south to Taitung (cycling Taiwan’s east coast is a very popular option) but went back to Taipei instead.
In Taipei, we had mostly sunny days for the remainder of our trip and there was a lot more to do in and around Taipei so this was the best option for us. But I sure would love to see more of the East coast of Taiwan!
Alternative Taiwan itineraries (5, 7 and 10 days + 2 and 3 weeks)
Taiwan itinerary 5 days
If you just have 5 days to travel in Taiwan, don’t worry! While you cannot see everything the island has to offer, you can get a taste and feel of the country.
This is how I would spend a Taiwan 5 day itinerary:
- Day 1-2: Taipei
- Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, Maokong or Yehliu Geopark)
- Day 4: travel to Sun Moon Lake
- Day 5: Sun Moon Lake and return to Taipei
Taiwan itinerary 7 days
For a 7 day Taiwan itinerary, I’d suggest the following:
- Day 1-2: Taipei
- Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai, Maokong or Thousand Island Lake and the Pinglin tea fields)
- Day 4: travel to Sun Moon Lake
- Day 5: Sun Moon Lake and travel to Taichung
- Day 6: Taichung
- Day 7: Taichung and return to Taipei
With this Taiwan 1 week itinerary, you will get to explore the buzzing capital as well as Taiwan’s second-largest city, Taichung, and one of Taiwan’s absolute highlights: the beautiful Sun Moon Lake.
Taiwan itinerary 10 days
This 10 day Taiwan itinerary not only includes the two largest cities of Taiwan (Taipei and Taichung), but also the two most beautiful natural sights: Taroko Gorge on the East Coast and Sun Moon Lake in the middle of the Island.
- Day 1-2: Taipei
- Day 3: make a day trip from Taipei (such as Beitou, Tamsui, Wulai or Maokong)
- Day 4: travel to Hualien
- Day 5: visit Taroko Gorge
- Day 6: travel to Sun Moon Lake
- Day 7: Sun Moon Lake
- Day 8-9: Taichung
- Day 10: Return to Taipei
For day 4-10 of this Taiwan 10 day itinerary, it’s easiest to rent a car as this will allow you to explore Taroko Gorge independently.
It’s also the easiest way to travel from the East Coast to the West coast (with public transport the best way to travel from Hualien to the Sun Moon Lake is via Taipei).
Taiwan 2 week itinerary
If you have 2 weeks in Taiwan, I’d recommend traveling either from North to South or vice versa. Your 2 week Taiwan itinerary could look like this:
- Day 1-3: Taipei
- Day 4-5: Sun Moon Lake
- Day 6-7: Taichung
- Day 8-9: Tainan
- Day 10-11: Kenting National Park
- Day 12-14: Kaohsiung
This 2 week Taiwan itinerary is especially suitable for people looking to travel in one direction instead of a loop.
Taiwan 3 week itinerary
If you don’t mind a fast-paced itinerary, you could make a complete loop around Taiwain in three weeks. For this 3 week Taiwan itinerary, I’d suggest the following route:
- Day 1-3: Taipei
- Day 4-5: Sun Moon Lake
- Day 6-8: Taichung
- Day 9-10: Tainan
- Day 11-13: Kaohsiung
- Day 14-15: Kenting National Park
- Day 16-17: Taitung
- Day 18-20: Hualien and Taroko Gorge
- Day 21: Return to Taipei
You will be traveling a lot with this 3-week itinerary for Taiwan and I’d recommend avoiding monsoon season (which is especially bad on the East Coast).
However, you will get to experience very different sides of Taiwan as you’ll explore several interesting cities, spend time at the most beautiful lake in Taiwan and visit two National Parks (Taroko and Kenting).
Planning a trip to Taiwan: in conclusion
I had a great time in Taiwan and hope this post will help you plan your trip to this wonderful little island.
You can download the map and table with the transport information below. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me a message!