Taiwan is a country that flies under the radar for most travellers, but those who venture to this island will find a trove of culture, beautiful landscapes and excellent hiking trails. Whether you want the bustle of the city, the peace of the mountains or culture shock, Taiwan will have something for you.
Deciding on a length of an itinerary can be tricky as you could easily spend a month in Taiwan and not see it all. It may be a small country, but it packs in a lot of things to do. We’ve put together the perfect seven day Taiwan itinerary that packs in all the top things to do.
Taiwan Itinerary 7 Days
Since you’ve only got a week in Taiwan be prepared for a hectic pace, we promise it will be worth it.
Day 1: Taipei
Most trips to Taiwan will start in Taipei, the location of Taiwan’s major international airport. This huge and busy city mixes modern with historic, and possibly a bit of culture shock, you’ll find little English spoken. The Waygo app will be your best friend here.
Once you’ve got into the city and settled in, it’s time to head off and see the best sites in the city. A great place to start is Baoan Temple, just north of Taipei Main Station. It’s one of our favourite things to see in Taipei.
Baoan is a Confucian Temple with traditional colourful murals, incense sticks and shrines that are really beautiful, the second you see it you will feel like you’ve landed in the Far East. We loved seeing the contrast between the old and the new, and it gave a glimpse into Taiwanese life as the temple is still very much in use.
Getting to Baoan Temple
To get to Baoan you’ll either walk from Yuanshan MTR station or take a taxi from the busy streets and then find peace in the oasis of the temple.
Following the historic theme, the afternoon comprises of a further glimpse into ancient Taiwan. If you’ve lucked out by arriving on a Friday or Saturday, then save this next part until after 5pm (it will be a lot quieter and more enjoyable). Otherwise, it’s time to head over to the National Palace Museum, and brave the crowds for the chance to visit one of the best places in the world to see Chinese history.
The National Palace Museum is famous for having one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese artifacts with over 700,000 in total. After the Communist Revolution, the Chinese Government fled to Taiwan, taking all the imperial treasures from the Forbidden Palace and beyond to Taipei. You can easily spend many hours taking in the magnificent art, ceramics, furniture, calligraphy and books in the museum.
If you aren’t a fan of busy places the crowds will test your patience! If you go a Friday or Saturday evening (when the museum is open until 9pm), you will experience the bliss of walking around this museum with very few others. This was a highlight of our visit to Taiwan.
Getting to the National Palace Museum
You can get to the National Palace Museum by getting a bus from Shilin MTR station or a taxi from town (which should cost about 300 TWD - $10 USD)
For dinner, head over to the Ningxia Night Market to see one of the famous street food markets that are popular in Taipei. Whilst we weren’t lovers of Taiwanese food, Ningxia is a good place to have a taster of Taiwanese cuisine - the good (Braised Pork and Rice), the adventurous (Duck head) and the bad (oily food on sticks).
The food here is cheap and served pretty quickly: the perfect combination for dinner on your first night!
Getting to Ningxia Night Market
The most convenient way to get to Ningxia Night Market is to get the MTR to Zhonghsan or Shuanglian Station and walk for about 10 minutes.
Getting into Taipei
The best way to get into Taipei from the airport is by using the MTR. If you hop on an Express Train, you’ll be at Taipei Main Station within 40 minutes and avoid the traffic, A ticket costs $160 TWD (about $5 USD).
A word on Taipei Accommodation
Whilst this doesn’t have anything to do with the best things to do in Taipei we couldn’t write about Taipei without mentioning the accommodation.
First things first, it’s expensive so you may want to budget more than you normally would. Secondly it sells out fast, especially on weekends. We spent $70 US on a relatively good hotel we booked a few weeks in advance and the same amount on a pretty awful love hotel when we booked just two days earlier.
The best advice we can give is to book as early as you possibly can. And if it’s important to you, read the description carefully as to whether the rooms have windows or not. Many don’t, even in the mid-range price bracket.
Where to stay in Taipei
Orange Hotel - Kaifong
Whilst Orange Hotels outside Taipei are much much better, the one in Kaifong is a decent choice. The rooms are nicely furnished, quiet and not quite as small as the box rooms we got elsewhere in the city!
It is in a great location and they have nice touches such as free drinking water, fruit, tea and coffee in the lobby.
Day 2: Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge is a natural wonder and one of the highlights of any trip to Taiwan. It would be a crime to miss it from your Taiwan itinerary, it’s very close to Taipei and one of the hidden gems of the Far East.
Having got the train into Xincheng, hire a motorbike from the train station and head into the National Park (it is 10 minutes away by bike). The best place to start is the awesome Swallow Grotto, a place where the gorge is at its deepest.
You can take in the views by a small footpath that runs alongside the road (and sometimes becomes the road!) and look down to the river below. It is a beautiful introduction to Taroko Gorge.
There is also a cafe that serves (pricey) coffee and food for lunch, one of the few that do in the National Park.
Getting to Swallow Grotto
Swallow Grotto is 10km from the entrance to Taroko National Park. It takes about 15 minutes by motorbike and there is parking right by the walk.
Hop back on the bike and head up to the Baiyang Trail for something really special. The path mysteriously starts in the middle of a road tunnel and continues out to a valley where you’ll see a river down below and mountains all around. It’s an easy and flat walk that everyone who is happy to walk for an hour or so can do.
After walking for 25 minutes you’ll come across this epic view.
Yep, three waterfalls intersected by a red suspension bridge. I can only imagine what this place would look like in the fall with all the autumnal colours and after heavy rainfall. It is our favourite viewpoint in Taroko National Park and one we spent a long time taking in.
Further along the path you can find the Water Curtain Cave, a place the locals describe as a cave that rains. The water flow is quite heavy so bring a rain jacket or just be prepared to get wet. A torch or phone is quite handy too as it is pretty dark inside the cave, although it only takes a few minutes to walk through.
Getting to Baiyang Trail
The Baiyang trail starts in the middle of the tunnel marked on the map below. There is parking for motorbikes and cars at the northern end of the tunnel and then walk on a footpath to the start of the track. The trail is 10km from Swallow Grotto and just north of Tianxiang (the only town in Taroko). It should take about 20 minutes on a motorbike.
To finish the day, head back towards the entrance of the park and stop at The Shrine of Eternal Springs. Even if you’re not a fan of temples, you won’t have seen anything like this.
Perched on the side of a mountain, the Eternal Spring Shrine was built across a waterfall! It makes this beautiful place even more picturesque and unlike any temple we’ve seen.
If you want a view from higher up, then you can head to the nearby Changuan Temple and take in the vista across the valley from the Bell Tower. It is a great place to head at sunset and one of the few places in Taroko Gorge that will have next to no one there at any time of day (the steepness of the climb puts a lot of people off).
Getting to Eternal Spring Shrine
The Eternal Spring Shrine is 20km away from Baiyang and should take about 30-40 minutes on the motorbike. There’s a big car park and expect crowds as it’s one of the most popular places in Taroko.
Getting from Taipei to Taroko Gorge
There are two popular towns to stay for a trip to Taroko Gorge: tiny little Xincheng or the city of Hualien. Xincheng is a lot closer to Taroko, but Hualien has a greater choice of hotels and restaurants. You can stay in the park itself too but the accommodation is extremely expensive and in our opinion not worth the money.
Both places are really easy to get to with regular High Speed Trains servicing them from Taipei. The fastest is the Puyama Express that runs three times a day (10:25, 14:25 and 20:43) and takes just under two hours to get to Xincheng. Trains to Hualien are even more frequent.
Scooters can be hired from Xincheng Train Station for 500 TWD per day ($17 USD).
Weather in Taroko Gorge
The weather in Taroko Gorge can change dramatically and it receives the brunt of any wind or weather systems that form over the Pacific and crash into the Eastern Coast. However, we found that the weather at the entrance of the gorge was always a lot worse than at Tianxiang. There were times when it was really cloudy and raining around Swallow Grotto but clear and sunny at Tianxiang.
Look at the weather before you go, but always check Tianxiang as there’s plenty to do around there.
Unfortunately due to the weather you will often find one or two trails are closed but there are enough here that you won’t leave disappointed.
Avoid the weekends
Sadly Taroko Gorge is somewhere you will want to avoid at weekends. There is an insane number of tour groups, only choose the weekend if you have no other choice.
Where to stay in Taroko Gorge
Stick-on B&B - Xincheng
Located in Xincheng at the edge of the National Park, Stick-on marries up location and comfort. The rooms here are pristine, modern, comfortable and of a decent size: the perfect place to sink in and relax after a day exploring. They will also drop you off at the train station which saves on getting an overpriced taxi. The owners are very friendly.
The only drawback is that there’s a little road noise at night as it is very close to Highway 9, we also found it pretty expensive but still preferred this option to travelling a longer distance from Hualien each day.
Day 3: Taroko Gorge
AM (very early)
Sorry, but you’ll need to start early for day three! The Shakadang Trail is incredibly popular and you will start seeing tour buses turning up as early as 8am. The main reason for this is because the Shakadang Trail runs along side an azure blue river - the likes of which we’ve only ever seen in New Zealand.
This crystal clear, bright blue river cuts through the mountains to make one of the most picturesque valleys in Taroko. The trail is just under 9km in total, but the majority of tour groups only go until the 1.5km mark before turning back. However as the track is flat there will still be quite a few people who continue on. It really is worth going early and getting this place to yourself.
The trail is also home to a few macaques (monkeys) that jump through the trees, so keep an eye out.
Getting to the Shakadang Trail
The Shakadang Trail is a five minute ride from the entrance to the National Park. There’s plenty of parking opposite the start of the trail.
If you have any stamina left in your legs, then head to the under-rated Lushui Trail. This short walk (2.15 km as a loop) is located in a really beautiful part of Taroko Gorge and offers up panoramic views across the nearby valley with next to no other people there.
The start of the walk is quite steep, but otherwise it is a pretty flat track that is carved into the side of the mountain. You can make it into a loop, but you will need to be prepared to walk along the road for 600m or so to get back to where you started.
Getting to the Lushui Trail
The Lushui Trail is 14km from the Shakadang Trail and should take about 20 minutes on a motorbike. You can park up at Heliu Campground nearby.
After all that exertion, head out the park to see the wild east coast of Taiwan. The best place to take this in is the Qingshui Cliffs. You may have had a glimpse of it from the train, but the best place to get a good look is from the Chongde Rest Area. This rest stop is just after one of the tunnels and has multiple levels to take in the coast line: the huge limestone cliffs, the grey beach and the wild waves that pummel the coast.
Sadly the path that leads all the way down to the beach is in disrepair. However, it is still a pretty amazing view from up high.
Getting to Qingshui Cliffs
Qingshui Cliffs is a 15 minute ride from Xincheng town along the main road. Just keep an eye out for a layby on the right immediately after one of the tunnels.
Day 4: Jiufen
Jiufen is a magical place that is famous for its old street - a narrow laneway that is lit by picturesque lanterns and is an assault on the senses. There’s noise, smells and so many people in a small space that it can come as a bit of a shock! Claustrophobe’s should avoid this one except in the early morning or late evening! For everyone else it’s a must on your Taiwan itinerary.
The majority of travellers head to Jiufen on a very short day trip, hopping on the train, checking out the old street and heading back to Taipei soon after. This not only guarantees you’ll be seeing the Old Street at the busiest time, but you’ll also miss some great things to do as well.
After arriving at Jiufen, head towards the Gold Museum (you can catch a bus or a taxi from the centre of Jiufen). From here, walk to the furthest end of the museum to find the start of the trail to Teapot Mountain (detailed instructions in this post). This walk isn’t too long (just under 5km return), but will take you to the peak of a mountain with a pile of rocks at the top shaped like a teapot (hence the name!).
The walk is characterised by the stunning views of the coast and the surrounding mountains. It isn’t too long and although it is uphill, it isn’t too hard either. It is a really fun walk to do and the brave can scale the teapot shaped rocks at the top, using the ropes to get to the very highest point.
We went on a miserable wet and cloudy day and were still blown away by the views.
Getting to the Teapot Mountain Trail
There are regular buses going to the Gold Museum. from the town centre, but you can also take a taxi (beware they were ludicrously over priced, trying to charge a staggering TWD $200 for the five minute journey). Once there, walk towards the Jinguashi Shrine, but don’t take the walking trail to it, instead, keep walking towards the bridge.
There’s a sharp turn with stairs heading up hill. This is the start of the Teapot Mountain Trail.
After the Teapot Mountain trail, head back into Jiufen. You can choose to visit the Jiufen Teahouse - one of the most iconic in all Taiwan. As soon as you step in you’ll see the teapots boiling on the coals and many choices of tea. It isn’t cheap, in fact it is extremely expensive, but you can sit down and enjoy locally grown tea for several hours, taking in the views from the verandah or the atmosphere of the historic teahouse.
Getting to Jiufen Teahouse is easy as it is right in the middle of the famous Jiufen Old Street. Even if you don’t want to spend the money on the tea it is still very much worth popping in for a look around and one of the tea tasters.
We recommend heading to Jiufen Old Street after 6pm. The crowds begin to thin out and the lanterns come on in the dark, making it more atmospheric than the day time. Jiufen Old Street is famous for its food with hundreds of choices from street food to sit down meals. You can also buy souvenirs or simply watch the bustle of this famous place.
It gets a lot quieter after 7pm, but by this time a lot of the shops have closed as they cater primarily for the day trippers.
Getting to Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street is in the middle of Jiufen and signposted from the main road. The only way to see the Old Street is on foot.
Getting from Taipei to Jiufen
The easiest way to get to Jiufen is to take the TRA train from Taipei Main Station to Riufang. There are regular trains, but some are a lot quicker than others. If you can, get the express train as this takes about 20 minutes as opposed to the local train’s 50.
From Riufang you can either get a bus to Jiufen or a taxi. The taxis have fixed fares for the Main Street (200 TWD - $10 USD) or the hotels (250 TWD - $12 USD).
Where to stay in Jiufen
Something Easy Inn
We actually stayed in Top Home 9 but we wouldn’t recommend it. Something Easy Inn is currently getting the most amazing reviews and it’s where we’d choose for a return visit. It has gorgeous views and is moments away from the old street.
Day 5: Fenrui Trail, Fenchihu
We think this is one of Taiwan’s best kept secrets. If you love walking then head to Fenchihu for a hike that left us speechless. This small mountain town is the start of the Fenrui Trail - our favourite hike in Taiwan and one of our favourites in all of Asia.
The Fenrui Trail
Start early as this hike is 14km return (unless you get transport one way which is extremely difficult to organise) and is pretty steep for a lot of the hike! It took us over five hours and as we didn’t leave early enough and were walking in the dark by the end.
However, the effort was well worth it for this incredible trail. Starting just by the road in Fenchihu, the Fenrui Trail heads into the woods and it’s not long before you reach the amazing bamboo forests. This isn’t just a little bit of bamboo here and there, these are patches where the only plants around you are thousands of shoots of bamboo that are nearly 10 metres tall.
We’d only seen this kind of landscape in photos of Kyoto and it doesn’t look anywhere near as wild as Taiwan.
The trail keeps giving with beautiful hilltop views of the surrounding mountains once you reach the top. The views are even better at sunset where you may get lucky with the sea of clouds forming, it truly felt like a dream.
Fenchihu may not be on the main tourist trail, but it is a worthwhile diversion for this walk alone. You’re almost guaranteed to be the only people here and you’ll see a part of Taiwan that very few people visit.
Getting to the Fenrui Track
The Fenrui Track starts in a car park on the side of a road just north of Fenchihu Train Station (the spot is marked on the map below, the spot marked as the Fenrui Trail on Google Maps is actually a gap on the side of a highway).
The track goes to Ruelli and finishes away from any kind of civilisation. Unless you have organised transport, you won’t find a taxi or bus to take you back. Some people organise a taxi to take them from Fenchihu to Ruelli and do the walk in reverse to make sure it is a one way hike.
Getting from Jiufen to Fenchihu
Prepare yourself as this is a bit of a journey. You’ll need to get from one side of the island to the other, but thankfully the high speed rail will make this easier.
From Jiufen, get the train from Riufang to Taipei (20 minutes). Once at Taipei Main Station, transfer for the High Speed Rail to Chaiyi (there’s multiple trains every hour and should take 1.5 hours). Once at Chaiyi you can get a bus (but you’ll need to be at Chaiyi before midday - 1200). Alternatively, you can organise a Tripool taxi to take you - it’s like Uber for long distances and pretty good value. We chose this option and it made life a lot easier.
Where to stay in Fenchihu
We stayed at Yeashow and it was ok, we were extremely grateful that we had our room upgraded when we arrived as we saw the one we had booked and it was tiny! The upgraded rooms upstairs all had windows with village and tree views and were large. Go for this option unless you are on a really tight budget.
The room was clean and had the usual basic wet room style bathroom, hot water is only available in the evenings, I think it was from around 5pm - 11pm. Again pricey for what you get but in our experience that was all of Taiwan!!
Day 6: Alishan
To finish up your trip to Taiwan, head to Alishan - our favourite place in the whole country. Here you’ll be heading up to the mountains where the temperatures drop, the humidity lessens and most of the time you’ll be above the clouds.
This beautiful place has an alpine feel with unbelievably beautiful forests, epic mountain views, old fashioned forest trains and some good hiking trails (of course 😂).
It is a place that is pleasant simply to stroll around as it is really green and full of flowers and trees and feels a million miles away from the busy cities. Alishan is also a place that is just as good when the weather isn’t perfect as the clouds roll in and create misty landscapes that are incredibly atmospheric.
There are a couple of options depending on how much of a keen walker you are. If you would like a gentle stroll then go for the Shuishan Giant Tree trail. This flat track follows a disused railway line through the middle of a delightful forest until you reach a 2700 year old tree. On our visit the mist rolled in and out of the forest and it was a truly beautiful sight.
Getting to Shuihan Giant Tree Walk
The Shuishan Giant Tree Walk starts just outside of Zhaopin Train Station. Just walk out of the station and head back along the road to where the rails cross the road. You’ll be able to see the start on the map below.
If you are a keen hiker then go for the Tashan trail. This is an extremely steep walk for the most part but if you are lucky will give you a clear view to the Jade Mountain, Yushan Peak.
The forest itself is pretty and you may come across the resident macaques but really you are going for the views. Sadly we got to the top as thick cloud rolled in so we can’t show you what it looks like, but we’ve seen pictures and it will be worth the walk if you have better luck.
Here are more details on both tracks to help you decide.
Getting to the Tashan Trail
The Tashan Trail starts just behind the Sister Ponds. You can find the start of the trail on the map below.
After lunch, head to the most popular sight in Alishan - the Sister Ponds. You can get a mini bus from the visitors centre at Alishan Village to the Shouzhen Temple. From here you can walk for 10 minutes to get to the Sister Ponds.
So long as there isn’t a huge tour group it should be a really peaceful place. The ponds are set within a dense forest with a couple of walking tracks around them.
Once you’ve taken in the tranquility, head along the boardwalks to the Giant Trees. We loved this section as the forest is magical and suddenly the mist rolled in and created such an atmospheric area to explore.
From here, head to the Ciyun Temple for sunset. This tiny temple looks out over the valley and faces the horizon where the sun will set.
We didn’t have perfect conditions, but we still had a remarkable sunset as the thin veil of clouds make it look like the sky was on fire. If you’re lucky, you may see the sea of clouds from this point.
After sunset, you can walk back to Alishan Village and back to your hotel (it should take about 20 minutes and is well lit by street lights along the footpaths).
Getting to Alishan
There are two buses a day that go from Fenchihu to Alishan (9.35am and 12.05). Otherwise the most convenient way is to organise a Tripool. This took only 40 minutes and cost 850 TWD ($29 USD), but meant we could leave at the time we wanted.
Where to stay in Alishan
Alishan Shermuh Hotel
This is where we stayed and it was an ok budget option.
It is right in town and the room was clean with hot water. The bed however is the worst we’ve slept on since a wooden plank on a boat in Bangladesh. If you can cope with that it’s a decent budget choice in a phenomenally expensive area.
Alishan - Alishan House
Sadly, Alishan is an expensive place that doesn’t offer great value. By far the best choice in town is Alishan House, but at nearly $200 USD for a place that isn’t a five star hotel was hard for us to stomach on a backpackers budget!
If we were on holiday we would have just stumped up the cash. The location is in the middle of the Scenic Area, the rooms are spacious and nicely furnished and it is the pick of the bunch.
Day 7: Alishan -> Taipei
We’ve left something pretty special until last, but sadly it involves the earliest start yet! Fingers crossed it will be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.
The wake up call is nasty but it should be well rewarded. One of the highlights of any trip to Alishan is seeing the sunrise at Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout. This viewpoint is set at the edge of the Alishan Scenic Area and overlooks a magnificent valley. On a clear morning, this is one of the best views you can have in the whole country. Even if it isn’t completely clear, it is a great place to try and see the famous sea of clouds.
You’ll need to head to the train station about an hour before sunrise (they tell you the time the day before, ensure you’ve bought tickets before 4pm on the day before). From here you’ll take the 25 minute train journey to Zhushan.
The majority of people head straight to the platform outside the train station, but those in the know walk up the hill for 10 minutes. At the top you’ll reach a huge platform with 360 degree panoramic views and a lot less people. We stayed here for hours taking in the early morning light and epic view. It was truly stunning and one the most picturesque places in Taiwan.
Afterwards you can either take the train back or walk the 45 minutes to Alishan. It is a pleasant walk through the forest, so we chose to walk!
Sadly it’s time to head back to the big smoke, but we have one last showstopper for you! After sunrise, check out your hotel and take the bus back to Chaiyi High Speed Rail Station from the entrance to the Alishan Scenic Area (it’s five minutes away from Alishan village). Hop on a High Speed Train to Taipei.
You will have had a long journey from Alishan but we can’t think of a better place to finish a trip to Taiwan than to take in the view from Elephant Mountain in Taipei. This is a short steep trail which takes you up to a fantastic viewpoint for stunning views of Taipei 101 and the city.
It is incredibly popular (so don’t expect to have much space), but there’s nowhere better to be at sunset than here. You can either take it in from the Instagram favourite rocks, or the two platforms that have been set up with even more expansive views. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Know before you go
Taiwan offers free visas on arrival for Americans, Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders, meaning you won’t have to organise this in advance. This will enable you to stay for up to 90 days so long as you passport is valid for at least 6 months.
Taiwan is a great place to hire a car and explore, with very good roads. It can make getting around a lot easier, especially if you plan on going to places like Alishan. Check out the prices below.
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Are you planning a trip to Taiwan? Where is on your must-do list? Let us know in the comments below!