This itinerary takes us coast to coast and bottom to top grand tour of the country. Since both of us are not big city people, our choice of locations are centered mostly around scenic views of Taiwan and exploring the many local foods. Transportation is mainly by bus/train and we found it very easy to get around. Note that it’s almost essential to travel with a mandarin speaker, otherwise it makes navigating difficult since many signs are not translated into english. Read below for our full itinerary!
Day 1: Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung is located in the southern region of Taiwan. The town is in a valley so generally, it’s warmer during the summer and colder during the winter time. We take the train to Yanchengpu Station and check into our hotel. A walk out along the water takes us to Pier 2 where we spend the afternoon lazily walking around and soaking in the art scene.
In the evening we meet up with a friend who takes us to Ruifeng Night Market. We eat lots of local food – too many to account for but everything is delicious and we’re stuffed by the end of the night.
Day 2 to 4: Kaohsiung to Alishan
Alishan is in the mountains and can be 10-20 degrees cooler than the city. It’s located ~2100 meters in the highlands and the tallest point in Taiwan. If you’re planning to do the hikes around the area, be prepared to adjust to the altitude as this can have an effect on your normal breathing patterns. A 4:20 AM sunrise train takes us to the most scenic views. When you depart the train, take the road on the right and walk up a steep incline for about 500 meters. The view point from this angle is much better and you are perched above the clouds giving Alishan a mysterious and mystical effect. The sun takes awhile to fully peak over the mountain so use this time to get a 365 degree view of the mountain top and watch as the sky changes colors and hues.
If you still have the energy after the sunrise, take the train and get off at Zhaoping Station (one stop). We took the trial head leading to The Sister Pond then Elephant Trunk Tree, Three Generation Tree and then through the loop of Giant Trees. After finishing this we walked back to the hotel, ate lunch and rested.
In the afternoon we went for a slightly shorter hike to the Giant Tree of Mt. Shuishan. We loved this hike more because it’s more “off road” less traveled and forms from an old rundown railway line which used to carry lumber.
Day 4 and 5: Alishan to Sun Moon Lake
A 3.5 hour bus ride takes us from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake. Plan accordingly as there are only two buses, 1 PM and 2 PM. We arrive at Sun Moon Lake at 4:30 PM which gives us enough time to quickly board one of the last ferries and take us across the river to the other side of the water. It gives us a chance to see the lake before the sunsets. In the morning we wake up at 4:30 to watch the sunrise over the lake. It’s very picturesque and as we walk along the boardwalk we get many different angles and reflections off the lake. Because the sun rises behind the mountains, it gives us more than enough time to get just the right shot.
Day 5 and 6: Taipei
Taipei is a quick stop over to check out the office in Taipei 101, shop at some local stalls and hit up the night markets. We don’t spend long in Taipei since it’s a big city and in our minds, big cities are mentally draining with the drones of people going to and fro.
Day 6 and 7: Jiufen
It’s rain rain and more rain in Jiufen. We had planned to go on some nearby hikes but mother nature was not on our side. Instead we were forced to stay on the historical streets of Jiufen and stuff our faces with local food. Not too terrible of a situation to be in. 😛
Day 7 to 9: Hualien
A short bus ride to the main town of Jiufen and then 2 hour train ride to Hualien. We arrive in the evening and walk around the night markets and eat NTD 30-40 dim sum – for a tray of 10 pieces!!
In the morning we leave around 5:30 AM to avoid the heaps of tourist buses. We rented a motor scooter to take us into Toroko National Park. Into the marvelous marble gorge we do several hikes but two stand out to me in particular. Lyushui Trail (horse shoe bend and marble cascading overhead) and Shakadang Trail (where crystal clear blue waters meets murky grey marble waters).
Day 9 to 11: Kenting
Kenting is like Kuta, Bali and Bangkok, Thailand mashed up into one. It’s got all the options of the big night markets in Taiwan: decked out with clothing stalls, food, restaurants, boba, and carnival type games. On top of this it has a bunch of bars and clubs and some pretty dodging looking establishments. We decided to rent a electric scooter for NT 500 each (we were unable to rent a gas powered scooter since we are not Taiwanese nationals). The gas powered one is much more powerful and would have given us the freedom to go anywhere throughout the town. The electric scooter left us with enough power to make a loop from Kenting along the coast then up north toward Hengchan Old Town and historical fortress wall. Bring a wind breaker and light pants because the winds are super strong and in some parts the sands create a mini stand storm making riding/standing very uncomfortable.
Day 11: Kenting to Kaohsiung
Our flight ended up getting delayed til the next morning so we took the opportunity to go shopping in Kaohsiung to grab last minute gifts and snacks. Our last dinner in Taiwan? All you can eat Subiyaki and we stuffed our faces. 🙂