Despite having an immensely rich cultural and spiritual heritage, amazing food, world-class hot springs and stunning scenery, Taiwan is normally thought of more for its exports than as a place to visit. To honour the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China (ROC) on 10 October (the ROC government controls Taiwan), we complied a list of five reasons why Taiwan should be on any traveller’s bucket list.
Taiwan is a shutterbug's paradise. Running down the
country’s spine is the Central Mountain Range, a magnet for mountaineers
looking to scale east Asia's tallest peak, Yushan (Jade Mountain).
Photographers are also drawn daily as Yushan’s peak is the perfect spot from
which to catch a shot of the “sea of clouds” that sweeps over the mountains at
dawn. Taiwan's beaches are beautiful as well, offering some of east Asia's
finest surfing and windsurfing spots.
Running along a thin strip of land between the Central
Mountains and the Pacific, Taiwan's East Coast Highway is easily one of East
Asia's most beautiful spots for cycling. The Cycling in Taiwan website has
information about trips, tours and bike rentals.
draws much of its culinary heritage from China, but to label it “Chinese food”
is an oversimplification. When the first Han settlers came from China, the
recipes and cooking styles they brought along met the ingredients and culinary
traditions of Taiwan's aboriginal people, becoming something new and different.
This new cuisine was further modified, first by new immigrants from other areas
of China, and later by the Japanese who ruled the island for 50 years. Seafood,
sweet potatoes, taro root and green vegetables cooked very simply are at the
heart of many traditional Taiwanese sit-down meals, while roadside stands and
night market stalls offer variety to those who enjoy eating al-fresco.
best place for foodies to taste what Taiwan has to offer is at the local night
market. Which is best is a source of heated debate, but for our money the
Keelung Night Market (about an hour from Taipei) is tops, offering both an
excellent selection and plenty of signs in understandable (and sometimes
Being located on top of the geologically unstable “ring
of fire” has one major upside – no matter where on the island you go, you are
bound to be within shouting distance of an amazing natural hot spring. Taiwan
is home to one of the globe's only accessible seawater hot springs, the Sunrise
Spring on Green Island (a small island off the Southeast coast).
You do not even need to leave Taipei to soak: a quick
hike from Taipei's Xin Beitou metro stop, you will find hotels and resorts that
offer piped-in sulphur hot springs, said to be the all-around healthiest for
the skin. There is also an excellent public hot spring.
Two hours by train or bus from Taipei, the east-coast
town of Jiaoshi draws hot-spring lovers from around the island. (There is even
a hot-spring fed fountain outside the train station that folks soak their feet
in). Jiaoshi's Art Spa Hotel
has one of the town's best public spas, with multiple pools and Taiwan's only
Taoist and Confucian temples abound throughout Taiwan, not merely as static
tourist attractions, but as active centres of culture and worship. Must-see
temples in Taipei include Longhsan
and Guandu temples
(both of which have their own metro stations). The southern city of Tainan is a
must-visit for temple lovers, and if you are willing to take a 40-minute flight
to the windswept Penghu archipelago, you will be able to explore dozens of East
Asia's most gorgeously ostentatious – and least visited – temples.
small gate in the heart of Taipei's ultra-fashionable Ximending district
lies the small but utterly fascinating Tien-ho temple (51 Chengdu Road),
complete with statues of Matsu (goddess of the sea) and ancient Chinese
generals, a bell tower and a small dragon-shaped pond filled with huge carp.
offers no shortage of activities for the erudite, and the capital's vibrant
museum scene is yet another of its understated attractions. The most famous of
these is the National
Palace Museum in Taipei, which houses a sizable chunk of China's artistic
heritage (taken -- or rescued, depending on who you ask -- by Nationalist
troops fleeing China in 1949). So voluminous is this collection, which ranges
from paintings and scrolls to ancient porcelain and statues, that only a
fraction of it is ever on display at once.
dozens of other excellent museums catering to a wide variety of interests from
modern art (the Museum of Contemporary Art) to
religion (the Museum of World Religions) to
very, very tiny things (the Miniatures
Samuel Brown is co-author on Lonely Planet’s latest
edition of the Taiwan guide.
The article 'Five reasons to visit Taiwan' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.