Things to do in Sun Moon Lake as a solo traveller

Last Updated on April 8, 2021 by queenie mak

Located in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is Taiwan’s largest freshwater lake and is Taiwan’s premier visitor destination. Millions of travellers visit the famous Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area (日月潭國家風景區) because the area is scenic, has a ton of outdoor activities and has a relaxing vibe. 

Before my visit to the alpine lake in Central Taiwan, I couldn’t figure out how to get around Sun Moon Lake, which area to should stay, etc. I ended up spending a week in Sun Moon Lake trying to see everything and figuring it out.

But in reality, I could’ve seen everything in 2 days! In this post, I will show you all the things to do in Sun Moon Lake as a solo traveller and include my budget 2-day itinerary for Sun Moon Lake as well.

Travelling through Taiwan? Learn how you can spend 3 weeks in Taiwan

Before you visit Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

Before you go to Sun Moon Lake, take a look at my post on learning all my best tips for travelling to Taiwan. I included a lot of information, including getting a Taiwan SIM card, transportation around the country and more. 

Here are a few quick tips for travelling to Sun Moon Lake:

  • Sun Moon Lake is also known as “honeymoon lake” and a “lovers lake.” It is common to see couples visit the lake to take wedding photos. But just because couples like to visit Sun Moon Lake, doesn’t mean it is not the right destination for solo travellers. 
  • The easiest way to get to Sun Moon Lake is by taking a direct bus from Taichung. The journey takes 1.5 hours.

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How to get to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

The easiest way to get to the alpine lake is by taking the Sun Moon Lake bus from Taichung. The bus journey takes about two hours. 

If you are coming from Taipei, there are a handful of options as well. 

And if you are visiting Alishan and want to visit Sun Moon Lake right after, it is possible to get to Sun Moon Lake via public bus as well. 

And it doesn’t matter where you are coming from, the bus will drop off all passengers at the Sun Moon Lake bus station at the Shuishe Visitor Centre (水社遊客中心)

See all the routes below:

From Taichung to Sun Moon Lake

From Taipei to Sun Moon Lake

  • Kuo Kang Bus 1833: from Taipei Bus Station to Sun Moon Lake Shuishe Visitor Centre

From Alishan to Sun Moon Lake

  • Yuanlin Bus 6739: from Alishan Bus Terminal to Sun Moon Lake Shuishe Visitor Centre
    • Time: 3 hours 30 minutes 
    • Cost: NT$336
    • Schedule: 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm 
    • Note: you can purchase a same-day ticket at the 7-11 at Alishan bus terminal. The counter opens at 8:00 am

How to get around Sun Moon Lake

While it is nice to walk certain parts around Sun Moon Lake, the most efficient way to see the lake is by renting a bicycle and taking the ferry boat ride. 

Most of the bike rentals are on the main street around the lake. Typically, a standard bicycle costs NT$150 a day. Or if you want an effortless ride, you can rent an electric bicycle for NT$600 a day

When you are Shuishe Pier, you can purchase any one of the ferry boat tickets for NT$300. The ticket includes a ferry boat ride from Shuishe Pier to Xuanguang Pier to Ita Thao Pier and back to Shuishe Pier on the same day

There is also an all-inclusive pass called Sun Moon Lake Pass, where various packages allow you to take the ropeway, boat tour, round-the-lake bus and more. The packages cost from NT$460 to NT$1,160

BUT, I found discounted prices at Yue Lake Backpackers where I can get one day of bicycle rental plus a ferry boat ride for one day for NT$200 only. And I can rent a bicycle one day and take a ferry the next day. 

For what I wanted to do and see in Sun Moon Lake, I didn’t think I was going to get the most out of the Sun Moon Lake Pass.

The deal at Yue Lake Backpackers is precisely what I needed for a two-day tour around Sun Moon Lake. I’ll show you how to maximize your two-day itinerary around Sun Moon Lake with this deal. More on that later. 

Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake

There are hotels, guesthouses, and hostels around Sun Moon Lake, where most of them are close to the Shuishe Visitor Centre and Ita Thao. If you are only staying for a few days, stay near Shuishe Visitor Centre as it is close to Shuishe Pier and various bike trails. 

As for cost, there aren’t many budget accommodations around Sun Moon Lake, but the one I found is not bad. If you want your own room, you will have to pay a bit more. 

  • Yue Lake Backpackers (玥湖背包客讚民宿) ($) – Get a basic dorm bed in an 8-bed dormitory room at Yue Lake Backpackers. It is the cheapest accommodation I can find around Sun Moon Lake. The staff is super helpful, and they speak English. The best part about staying here is the discounted fares for bicycle rental and ferry boat tickets for the day. 
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Blue Sky Bay B&B (藍天水灣民宿) ($$) – Stay in one of the five rooms at Blue Sky Bay B&B. The rooms are spacious and clean. Plus it is just outside of Shuishe Pier. 
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Sun Moon Inn (日月潭山慕民宿) ($$$) – If you can only stay in one place in Sun Moon Lake, then choose Sun Moon Inn. The rooms are designed well, and the breakfast is out of this world! Moreover, the staff is friendly and helpful. I wrote a full review of what I think of Sun Moon Inn here.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

Things to do in Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Wondering what to do in Sun Moon Lake? Keep reading! I’ll explain what you can do in Sun Moon Lake and also include my budget 2-day itinerary for exploring Sun Moon Lake on your own at the bottom of the post. 

1. Rent a bicycle and bike around Sun Moon Lake 

The best way to see Sun Moon Lake is by riding a bike on the bicycle route. At Sun Moon Lake, the trail circles the lake where part of the path is dedicated to bikes only. 

Voted as one of the top 10 classic cycling routes in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake Cycling Route is one of the most breathtaking cycling routes where you can enjoy the blue lake on one side and lush green mountains on the other. 

Last summer I rented a bike and cycled the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Cycle Route in Onomich, Japan. I had so much fun and decided to do a full day of cycling in Sun Moon Lake. And it was only while I was in Taiwan that I found out about how the Sun Moon Lake Cycling Route and Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Cycle Route are sister cycling courses. What are the odds? 

So if you are a cyclist enthusiast, then you must pick up a bike and cycle around Sun Moon Lake. You don’t have to cycle the whole route to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Take a look at my itinerary and see which parts of Sun Moon Lake you should visit while on a bike! 

2. Get love blessings at Longfeng Temple  

Longfeng Temple (龍鳳宮月老廟) or known as the Dragon Phoenix, sits on the northwest shore of Sun Moon Lake. The temple is especially popular with young couples because they visit the temple to get blessings for love and marriage. 

Visiting the Longfeng Temple is easy as it is off the bike trail and just up a small hill. 

3. See the futuristic Xiangshan Visitor Centre 

Opened February 25, 2011, the Xiangshan Visitor Centre (向山行政暨遊客中心) brings another dimension to the Sun Moon Lake area. 

Designed by a Japanese architect, Dan Norihiko, the futuristic building is designed with wood-pattern exteriors where part of the building resembles wings stretching and embracing the world. Even though the concrete structure might seem a bit stark for the serene surroundings, the low profile of the building blends seamlessly into the surrounding area. 

On the ground level, there is a multi-media showroom, exhibition hall, and a cafe. Besides serving as a tourism spot, the futuristic building also houses administrative offices. 

Make sure you walk up to the rooftop and catch a glimpse of the lake. 

4. Visit Wenwu Temple and Year of Steps 

Located on the north side of Sun Moon Lake, Wenwu Temple (文武廟) is a large temple complex that is devoted to the God of Literature, the God of War and Confucius. On both sides of the temple, two large statues are guarding the entrance. The guardian stone lions are said to be the biggest in Taiwan. 

Wander around the large temple as the temple complex has a courtyard, two gardens and three different halls. And don’t forget to admire the view of Sun Moon Lake from Wenwu Temple. It is quite a scene! 

Before you leave Wenwu Temple, descend the steep staircases of Year of Steps (年梯步道) at the entrance of the temple. Also known as Stairway to Heaven, the 366-steps have dates carved on each stone step and wind chimes lining both sides of the stairs. You can buy a wind chime, put your name and wish on it and place it next to your birth “stone.” 

5. Explore and watch the sunset at Shuishe Pier

There is a village, several important monuments and a lakeside trail at Shuishe Pier (水社碼頭). Most visitors will walk through Shuishe Pier once while going on a ferry boat or passing through the main street in Shuishe. 

One of the best lakeside trails is Hanbi Trail (涵碧步道) which is near Shiushe Pier. It is a 1.5km trail that meanders through several historical sites including the Christian Church, Apricot platform, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Pavilion. 

At the west end of the trail, there is an open space area where Yule Pavilion is located. Many people gather here in the late afternoon and wait for the sun to set.

6. Watch the sunrise from Maolan Mountain

Besides all the activities around the lake, there are quite a few hiking trails in Sun Moon Lake and Mt Maolan Trail (貓囒山步道) is one of them. The 4.6-kilometre trail can be easily accessed from the main road just a few minutes from Shuishe Visitor Centre. 

While you are hiking up the paved trail, you can see the Taiwanese cedar trees and tea gardens where Assam black tea leaves are grown. There is a viewing platform further up the trail where you can see distant mountains.  

And if you are hiking early in the morning to catch the sunrise, it is best to wear proper hiking shoes for maximum comfort. 

7. Take a ferry boat ride around Sun Moon Lake 

Many yacht tours will take you around Sun Moon Lake.

But the ferry boat allows you to see the lake and can transport you from one place to another. It is the most economical way to see Sun Moon Lake by boat. 

The journey begins at Shuishe Pier, and the first stop is Xuanguang Pier. Then the ferry goes to Ita Thao Pier and back to Shuishe Pier. The first boat is at 9:00 am, and the last boat is at 5:40 pm. 

The cost of a full day lake tour is NT$300. Tickets can be purchased at any ticket booths at Shuishe Pier.

But I mentioned before; you can get a discounted ticket for the same lake tour for NT$100 at Yue Lake Backpackers. Yup! It is the exact boat tour but a third of the price! 

Besides taking biking around Sun Moon Lake, taking the ferry boat is the best way to see the scenic hotspot. 

8. Hike the Mt Qinglong Trail, aka Pilgrim’s Trail 

When you take the ferry boat from Shuishe Pier, the first stop is Xuanguang Pier (玄光碼頭).

When you arrive at the pier, visit the Xuanguang Temple (玄光寺)

Then follow the signs for Mt Qinglong Trail (青龍山步道) and hike up the paved trail. 

The 850-meter trail is also known as the “Pilgrim’s Trail” because many religious devotees take the boat to Xuanguang Pier to visit both Xuanguang Temple and Xuanzang Temple. 

The trail has references to Buddhism and has many types of flowering trees such as gardenia, coco magnolia, orange jasmine and night jasmine. And the trail has wonderful aromas as the flowers bloom at different times. 

9. Get zen at Xuanzang Temple 

At the end of Mt Qinglong Trail, it will lead you to the main road where Xuanzang Temple (玄奘寺) is located.  

Many classic Chinese novels depict the story of the pilgrimage of the Buddhist monk named Xuanzang. Xuanzang spent his life devoted to Buddhist teaching, and it took him 20 years to travel to western regions and bring back the sacred relics. 

It is said that the relics were finally moved to Xuanzang Temple when it was completed in 1965. Visitors to the temple can see an image describing the Journey to the West on the outer walls of Xuanzang Temple. 

And while you are there, take a seat at one of the benches facing the lake and take in the gorgeous view. The temple is quiet and very peaceful. It is the perfect spot to take a rest after the short hike.

10. See an unobstructed view of Sun Moon Lake at the top of Cien Pagoda 

After visiting Xuanzang Temple, get back on the main road and walk towards Cien Pagoda (慈恩塔). The 700-meter trail starts from the parking lot and it zigzags up the mountain. 

The tall tower is built in 1971 by the late President, Chiang Kai-Shek in memory of his mother. It is 46 meters tall and built on an elevation of 954 meters. Which means the tip of Cien Pagoda reaches 1,000 meters precisely. 

And you will want to climb the stairs to the top of Cien Pagoda because you can see a magnificent view of Sun Moon Lake. From the viewing balcony, you can see Xuanzang Temple, Xuanguang Temple to other small islands in the lake. And it is an excellent spot for watching sunrise and sunset. 

11. Exploring Ita Thao Village 

When you arrive at Ita Thao Pier (伊達邵碼頭), there is a visitor centre in the shape of a boat, and a pedestrian promenade leading to Ita Thao Village. 

Legend has it that the Thao people accidentally discovered Sun Moon Lake while hunting a white deer. The Thao people believed that this beautiful area would ensure the continuation of the Thao tribe.   So they settled here. 

While you are exploring Ita Thao Village, look for the main street that is full of food stalls in the Ita  Ita Thao Shopping District (伊達邵商店街). And search for Zhulu Market, Butterfly Garden and Ita Thao Lakeside Trail which will lead you to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. 

12. Take the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (日月潭纜車) connects Ita Thao Village and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (FACV) (九族文化村). 

From Ita Thao Village, walk along the Ita Thao Lakeside Trail, and it will lead you to the ropeway. 

The scenic cable car ride has red, yellow, blue and green cabins. If you are a thrill-seeker, take the green cabin with the transparent floor. 

But no matter which cabin you choose, enjoy the 10-minute scenic ride where you will see Sun Moon Lake from bird’s eye view and the lush mountainous region. 

The cost of the ropeway is NT$300. But if you purchase a ticket for the FACV for NT$850, it includes the ticket for the ropeway. 

As for the cultural village itself, it does have an “aboriginal village,” but the park is mostly an amusement park with European castle and garden replicas. If you enjoy roller coasters and other thrilling rides at the amusement parks, then you might want to check out FACV. 

13. Eat Taiwanese food at Old Papa Black Tea  

To be honest, besides the food stalls at Ita Thao Village, I didn’t find a lot of exciting Sun Moon Lake restaurant options for solo travellers at Sun Moon Lake. Most restaurants are catered to families and groups of travellers. 

But it is possible to experience Taiwanese food culture in small remote towns like Sun Moon Lake. At Old Papa Black Tea, they serve a delicious lurou fan (braised pork with rice) and other typical Taiwanese dishes. And they also have bubble tea! 

When I wasn’t eating at Old Papa Black Tea, I bought Taiwanese food at 7-Eleven. There are a ton of options and it is quite cheap. And it is a good place to pick up snacks for long bike rides. 

I know it sounds weird to eat at convenience stores but the 7-11 in Taiwan has really fantastic food options. It is so good that I wrote a whole post about the top 10 food you must try at 7-Eleven in Taiwan

Travelling solo to Sun Moon Lake is possible and is a lot of fun. But if you want to join a tour, check out some of these options:

My complete solo 2-day Sun Moon Lake itinerary

As mentioned already, it is possible to see everything in Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area in 2 days! And you can see and do everything on a budget! 

Take a look at the interactive map for my 2-day Sun Moon Lake itinerary. All the Sun Moon Lake attractions are pinned on the map and you can get more information by clicking the individual pin. 

Day 1: Rent a bicycle and cycle around Sun Moon Lake (red pins)

The first day at Sun Moon Lake will include bike rides, temples and hikes. 

  • Rent a bicycle from a bike shop near Shuishe Visitor Centre or directly from Yue Lake Backpackers
  • Cycle west on the bike path
  • Visit Longfeng Temple
  • Continue on the bikeway to Xiangshan Visitor Centre
  • Cycle back on the same bikeway, passing Shuishe Pier 
  • Continue on the bike path until you reach Wenwu Temple 
  • Bike over to Mt Maolan Trail and hike as far as you can 
  • Get your bike and bike to Shuishe Pier and explore the area via Hanbi Trail 
  • If timing is right, you may even see the sunset at Yule Pavilion 
  • Return the bike or keep it until the next morning 

Day 2: Ferry boat & ropeway (purple pins)

The second day at Sun Moon Lake is all about ferry boats and ropeway. Get up early and get a day pass for the ferry boats. The first boat leaves at 9:00 am at Shuishe Pier. And the last boat returns back to Shuishe Pier at 5:40 pm. 

  • Buy a day pass for the ferry boat at  Shuishe Pier
  • Take the ferry boat to Xuanguang Pier
  • Visit Xuanguang Temple 
  • Hike up Mt Qinglong Trail
  • Visit Xuanzang Temple 
  • Walk along Zhongzheng Road (main road) towards Cien Pagoda
  • Climb up Cien Pagoda to see a panoramic view of Sun Moon Lake 
  • Walk back to Xuanguang Pier and take the ferry boat to next stop, Ita Thao Pier
  • Wander around Ita Thao Village and to get some good eats on the main street of Ita Thao Shopping District
  • From Ita Thao Village, walk along the Ita Thao Lakeside Trail and it will lead you to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
  • Purchase a ticket for the ropeway and Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village 
  • Take the ropeway back down and walk back to Ita Thao Pier and wait for the next ferry boat back to Shuishe Pier
  • Stay another night at Sun Moon Lake or continue onto your journey 

Travelling from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake 

Since the bus from Alishan arrives in the late afternoon, you can still enjoy the 2-day itinerary, except you split up the itinerary on Day 1 into two separate days (into Day 1 and Day 3): 

Day 1: 

  • Explore Shuishe Pier and area via Hanbi Trail 
  • Catch the sunset at Yule Pavilion 

Day 2:

  • Same as above

Day 3:

  • Rent a bicycle from a bike shop near Shuishe Visitor Centre or directly from Yue Lake Backpackers
  • Cycle on the bikeway to Longfeng Temple
  • Continue on the bikeway to Xiangshan Visitor Centre
  • Cycle back on the same bikeway, passing Shuishe Pier 
  • Continue on the bike path until you reach Wenwu Temple 
  • Bike over to Mt Maolan Trail and hike as far as you can 

Are you ready to visit Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan?

It is possible to visit Sun Moon Lake on your own and see everything in two days, even if you are a solo traveller. I wasn’t sure if it was possible but I can say without a doubt that Sun Moon Lake is an excellent destination even if you are travelling alone. And if you follow my itinerary and tips, you can save a whole lot of money too! 

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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