One Perfect Week in Taiwan
The perfect one-week trip to Taiwan is best spent in Taipei, with several side trips. There are mountains, beaches, tea farms, hot springs, and waterfalls all close to the capital city, and a few hours away is the spectacular Taroko Gorge. In Taipei, visitors will find traditional markets and temples minutes away from chic shopping, fine dining, and amazing museums. This is the best area to squeeze the most out of a week in Taiwan.
253, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Shimen District, 下員坑路33之6號
Located in the Guanyinshuan National Scenic Area in New Taipei, Taiwan‘s Yehlio Geopark showcases an otherworldly landscape that is not to be missed. It is the only place in the world where you can see the geological features present in this park, like mushroom rocks, sea-eroded troughs, and honeycombed formations that make you feel like you’re walking through a Salvador Dali painting. Make sure to also explore the nearby markets, which offer free samples of local foods.
No. 221, Sec 2, Zhi Shan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
When Chiang Kai-shek fled mainland China for Taiwan, he took with him many of the treasures that at one time were featured in Beijing’s Palace Museum. Among the items are relics and antiques reflecting 8,000 years of Chinese history. Today the collection includes nearly 700,000 pieces, an impressive collection that merits a full-day visit. Among the many treasures that once belonged to the Emperors of China are a delicately carved jade cabbage, intricate ivory work, and artifacts that chronicle the evolution of the Chinese language and culture over millennia. The gift shop is just as impressive, and is the perfect place to buy easy-to-carry souvenirs and gifts.
No. 18, Zhongbu Cross-island highway, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 972
These beautiful hot springs are located several kilometres into the gorge. To get there you must drive or cycle to the parking lot and then walk down a long wooden staircase built into the cliffside. At the bottom you’ll find a quaint Japanese-style changing room. From there you cross the river on a suspension bridge and then walk down to an open marble basin filled with flowing hot water. The view from the bottom of the gorge is spectacular, the water is blisteringly hot, and the river is near enough to jump in to cool off. And the best part: it’s free.
No. 10, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
The W Taipei showcases the city’s geography and cutting-edge technology. The lobby’s light installation reacts to human motion, and guest rooms feature dramatic skyline views. The W is also home to some of Taipei’s hottest nightspots, including the Bar at Yen on the top floor. From $314. 886/(0) 2-7703-8888. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.
Soaring more than 1,600 feet into the air, Taipei 101 is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world and probably Taipei’s most iconic site. For a small fee, visitors can spend time on the observation deck—a large space that offers a 360-degree view of Taipei. From here, you can get a better understanding of the city and how it is organized. For that reason Taipei 101 is the best place to start your sightseeing adventures. There are also a number of great restaurants in Taipei 101 along with shops and entertainment options; you can plan at least half a day of experiences at this one site.
Section 1, Jianguo South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Every weekend thousands descend on this normally boring stretch of Taipei for one of the most impressive markets in town: the Jianguo Flower Market. Vendors from around the city and region display amazing examples of flowers and plants, many of which may be new to you. While you can’t take one of the beautiful floral displays home, next door to the flower market is the Jade Market, where you can pick up beautiful souvenirs at reasonable prices for you and your loved ones.
No. 211, Guangzhou Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10853
Longshan is not Taipei’s largest temple, but its unique beauty and proximity to the MRT have made it a very popular one. It’s an awesome place to stop by at sunset when the after-work crowd comes to worship. The temple fills with people from all walks of life praying and telling fortunes using traditional bua buei blocks. The slanting light from the setting sun highlights the smoke rising from incense urns, giving it a supernatural feel.
The Huaxi Night Market ((華西街觀光夜市), also known as ‘Snake Alley’ is famous for selling various snake-based goods such as medicine, soup, and wine. It’s best known, however, for the shots of snake blood that one can take. Pictured, from left to right, are snake blood (mixed with liquor), snake bile, and snake venom ‘antidote’. Of course, there are plenty of other traditional Taiwanese dishes available for the less adventurous. If you’d like to see somebody actually drink the snake blood shot, you need not visit Taipei. Just check out the video that Kevin Wu (who provided the photo) posted on his blog.
Alley 342, Lane 150, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
The base of Elephant Mountain is just a short walk from the base of Taipei 101 and offers one of the most accessible and stunning views of the city—except, perhaps, from the top of the tower itself. The hike up the mountain is steep, but can be done in about 15 minutes by a reasonably fit person. The less-than-perfectly fit need not worry though: there are plenty of lookouts and benches along the way.