Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by queenie mak
As the capital city of Taiwan, Taipei has over 2.7 million people living in this densely populated city. While there are many things to do in the city, the vicinity of Taipei has so much charm and so much to do!
Using Taipei as a home base, you can visit many parts of the country as day trips. Whether you are travelling by subway, MRT, or bus system, you go almost anywhere. There are English signs everywhere, and people are always willing to help if you ask for direction. As a solo female traveller, efficient transportation and the ease of navigation is a total plus!
Related Post – How to spend 3 weeks in Taiwan
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Jiufen was a gold mining town where it was initially built by the Japanese. Before significant transportation was developed in this area, the nine families living in this village always requested the imported goods to be divided into nine portions. Hence, “nine portions” (“jiu” means nine and “fen” means portion) became the name of this village.
Today, this quaint little town is visited by tourists from all over the world. Follow Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), and you will find food unique to the area, historical teahouses and magnificent views of the ocean.
When you are in Jiufen, try one of the traditional teahouses. At Jiufen Teahouse (水心月茶坊), they show you the process for a traditional tea ceremony, and you can purchase your loose leaf tea and participate in the tea making process as well. I especially love how each of their tables has a built-in coal burning stove for boiling water. And if you are hungry, try A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll, and Lai Ah Po You Yuan (賴阿婆芋圓) which is a local dessert with taro, sweet potato, green tea floured tapioca balls in either a hot or cold dessert soup.
Hikes & waterfall
A lot of people include a hike during their visit to Jiufen. The trail for Teapot Mountain (無耳茶壺山登山) is marked clearly and has steady steps all the way to the top. You will see pagodas along the path where you can rest and take in the view. And at the very top, where the “teapot” sits on top of the mountain (hence, the name of the mountain), is a rocky climb where you have to climb the rocks physically. Follow the rope, and you will get to the top, but please be careful. Even though the mountain is only 600 meters in altitude, it is high enough to see Jiufen, Keelung Mountain (基隆山) and Yinyang Sea (陰陽海). The entire hike takes about 2 hours round trip.
From Teapot Mountain, you can continue to Banpingshan Trail (半屏山步道) or descend and make your way to the Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布). The cascading waterfall has a golden colour as a result of rainfall in this mining area, which brings the shimmer and glam that you don’t find in any other waterfall in Taiwan. It is just 20 minutes away from Jiufen via the local bus, driving or walking.
How to get there
Take MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing (忠孝復興), which is on the Bannan Line (blue) and Wenhu Line (brown). Take exit 2, walk out and turn right. Find the bus stop for bus 1062. The bus ride takes about an hour and will drop you off at Jiufen or you can take it all the way to the last stop to Chuen Ji Hall (勸濟堂) where you start your hike for Teapot Mountain. Remember to use your rechargeable IC card like the i-pass for MRT and bus. See my detailed instructions on my post on travelling to Jiufen from Taipei.
Shifen is a railroad town with lots of character and beautiful waterfalls. As soon as you arrive at Shifen Station, you will see all the food vendors, souvenir shops and lantern shops lining both sides of Shifen Old Street (十分老街). The railroad follows this touristy street where tourists gather on both sides of the tracks and take photos of the train as it pulls into and leaves the station.
You will immediately see Jingan Suspension Bridge (靜安吊橋) which is near the station. Then walk 20 minutes away from the station, you will find your way to Yanjingdong Falls (眼鏡洞瀑布) and Guan Pu Suspension Bridge (觀瀑吊橋). Keep following the signs and Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布) is right in front of you. The majestic waterfall is a 40 meter high and has many viewpoints where you can take many Instagrammable photos.
One of my best memories for Taiwan is releasing a sky lantern in Shifen. It was once was a signalling system of people living and working in the railroad industry back in the day and it has become a major attraction today. You simply purchase a lantern made of rice paper and bamboo, write your wishes on (all sides) of the lantern with a calligraphy pen, make a wish and set it free. Legend has it that when you release the lantern, it is a way to pass your wishes to the gods above.
You can participate in this activity at any time of the year. On the 15th day of the lunar new year, Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival draws visitors from all over where hundreds of lanterns are released into the sky creating a magical scene.
How to get there
Take the local train to Ruifang station (瑞芳車站). Transfer to another train bound for Pingxi (平溪), and get off at Shifen Station (十分車站).
There is also a shuttle bus option from Jiufen to Shifen if you want to combine both places the same day.
For tour ideas outside of Taipei, check out some of these tours:
Taiwan is in a seismically active zone, sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire (the boundary between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate). This means there are a lot of geothermal activities where natural water emerges from deep within the ground, bringing a variety of minerals to the surface. The healing and therapeutic properties of the hot springs can be experienced all over Taiwan, and one of the best places is in Beitou District.
The Thermal Valley (地熱谷) is a free outdoor area where you can see the thermal bath in its natural glory. The sulphuric steam hovers over the water, creating a mystical (and foggy) scene. However, this is not a place for you to physically experience the thermal bath as the temperature is too high.
To actually experience a hot spring, you can visit Millennium Hot Spring (北投公園露天溫泉). Just make sure you bring a proper bathing suit or they might not let you in. There are other hot springs in the area that you can visit for a few hours and for very little cost and some public ones are free as well. But if you want to stay overnight and experience a private hot spring at the luxury of your own hotel room, search for hotels in Beitou in Agoda and find one that you would like. Many hotels in Beitou have both public and private hot spring facilities.
Learn more about Beitou hot spring culture when you visit the Beitou Hot Spring Museum (北投溫泉博物館). It was once a public bathhouse before World War II but has been restored in 1997 and declared as a Municipal Monument.
How to get there
Take MRT Tamsui-Xinyi Line (red line) to Beitou Station (北投站), then transfer to Xinbeitou Line to Xinbeitou Station (新北投). From Xinbeitou Station, follow the signs along the street to all the attractions.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, then make your way to Tamsui (Danshui) at the end of the subway line.
Tamsui is a laid-back waterfront city that has the small-town charm. While you are meandering through the old streets of Tamsui, visit Danshui Market (淡水市場), Fuyou Temple (淡水福佑宮) and Tamsui Longshan Temple (淡水龍山寺). And browse the stores on Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街) and trying some of their local snacks, such as fish crackers, fish ball soup, and pineapple cake (of course!). The old street is one of the best places to pick up great souvenirs from Taiwan.
After you sampled all the flavours of Tamsui, continue (either by walking or cycling) to the Riverbank make your way to Fisherman’s Wharf (淡水漁人碼頭). The journey to Fisherman’s Wharf is rather long for walking but scenic. Remember to bring your rechargeable IC card like the i-pass so you can take the local bus at the Wharf back to the Tamsui MRT Station. But before you head back, visit some of the food stalls, cafes and the Lover’s Bridge (情人橋).
And if you still have time (and energy), visit Fort San Domingo (淡水紅毛城) and the Former British Consulate Residence (前清英國領事官邸) for the rich historical background.
How to get there
Take MRT Tamsui-Xinyi Line (red line) to Tamsui Station (淡水站) which is the last stop on the red line.
Fulong Beach (福隆海水浴場)
Fulong (福隆) is a popular beach resort town 50km east of the capital city. Locals living in Taipei love visiting Fulong Beach for its 3km golden sand beach and many water activities like swimming, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking.
Moreover, Fulong Beach hosts the annual Fulong Sand Sculpture Festival and the Hohaiyan Rock Festival.
If you want to spend half the day on the beach and half a day hiking, Caoling Historic Trail is just south of Fulong Station. See sweeping mountain views and a mountain full of silvergrass when you hike the 8.5km trail from Fulong Station to Dali Station (or in the reverse direction).
How to get there
From Taipei Station to Fulong Station (福隆車站), the train journey takes 1 hour 36 minutes.
Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道)
Caoling Historic Trail is one of several ancient trails in northeastern Taiwan. The 8.5km trail crosses over from Yilan County to New Taipei City where you can see sweeping mountain views and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. And along the way, see thousands of silvergrass shimmers as it move to the rhythm of the north wind.
A perfect day trip on Caoling Historic Trail starts from Dali Station to Fulong Station. Along the way, there is an opportunity to hike part of Taoyuan Valley (桃源谷) where you will see grazing buffalos and Mt Wankengtou (灣坑頭山).
How to get there
From Taipei Station to Dali Station (大里火車站), the train journey takes 1 hour 38 minutes. From Dali Station, follow the signs for Caoling Historic Trail. Then end your journey at Fulong Station and return home to Taipei. For more information, check my detailed post about spending the day hiking Caoling Historic Trail and finishing the day at Fulong Beach.
Want a fun way to get around small towns? Learn how you can rent a scooter outside of Taipei