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. It was only after my trip I realized I can see all the best attractions in 2 days!
So if you are also wondering what to do in Sun Moon Lake and want to explore the area on your own, follow my 2-day Sun Moon Lake itinerary and see the alpine lake efficiently while doing it on a budget.
Travelling through Taiwan? Learn how you can spend 3 weeks in Taiwan
Before you visit Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
Before you visit Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, take a look at my post on 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.
- Purchase a rechargeable smartcard called EasyCard or iPass. Either card is good for taking public transport to and from Sun Moon. You can get a rechargeable card at any major train station or convenience store in Taiwan.
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How to get to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan
The easiest way to get to Sun Moon 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.
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
- Sun Moon Lake Shuttle Bus Route: from Taichung Railway Station to Sun Moon Lake Shuishe Visitor Centre
- Time: 1 hour 30 minutes +
- Cost: NT$195 one way (pay by cash or EasyCard or iPass)
- Check Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus schedule for 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
- Time: 4 hours
- Cost: NT$470
- Check Kuo Kuang bus schedule for 台北轉運 (Taipei) to 日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake)
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.
1. Bike rentals at Sun Moon Lake
Most of the bike rentals are on the main street near Shuishe Visitor Centre. 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.
2. Ferry Boats at Sun Moon Lake
When you are at 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. This is the standard boat ride where you can visit all three piers starting at Shuishe Pier.
3. Sun Moon Lake all-inclusive pass
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.
It depends how much time you have touring around the alpine lake. If you are following my 2-day Sun Moon Lake itinerary, you actually don’t need an all-inclusive pass. I find that it is rather expensive and have a cheaper option. See the next section.
4. Bike and Ferry Boat package at Yue Lake Backpackers
Yue Lake Backpackers has a discounted deal where you can get one day of bicycle rental plus a ferry boat ride for one day for NT$200 only. You can rent a bicycle one day and take a ferry the next day.
For what I wanted to do and see in Sun Moon Lake, I didn’t think I was going to get the most out of the Sun Moon Lake all-inclusive pass.
The deal at Yue Lake Backpackers is precisely what I needed for a two-day tour around Sun Moon Lake. I’ll show you exactly how you can spend two days around Sun Moon Lake and maximize this package deal.
Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan
There are a handful of hotels, guesthouses, and hostels around Sun Moon Lake, and most of them are close to the Shuishe Visitor Centre and Ita Thao. If you are following my Sun Moon Lake itinerary, stay near Shuishe Visitor Centre as it is close to Shuishe Pier and various bike trails.
As for cost, there aren’t many budget accommodations around Sun Moon Lake, but the ones I found are not bad. If you want your own room, you will have to pay a bit more.
- Yue Lake Backpackers (玥湖背包客讚民宿) ($) – 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
What to eat at Sun Moon Lake
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. 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.
What to do in Sun Moon Lake: itinerary to see the lake in 2 days
Wondering what to do in Sun Moon Lake? Keep reading! I’ll explain all the best things to do in Sun Moon Lake with my budget 2-day itinerary.
All you have to do is follow the coloured numbers on the interactive map and click on the individual pin for more information.
Sun Moon Lake Itinerary Day 1: Bike around Sun Moon Lake (red pins)
Day 1 of the Sun Moon Lake itinerary includes bike rides, temples and hikes. Follow the red pins on the map and see exactly what you will do on the first day around the lake.
1. Rent a bicycle from a bike rental store or Yue Lake Backpackers
One of the best things to do in Sun Moon Lake is 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.
Which means the first thing you have to do is to rent a bicycle. As mentioned earlier, there are several bike rental shops near Shuishe Visitor Centre.
Or if you are a guest at Yue Lake Backpackers, buy a bike and ferry combination ticket. You save a lot of money from purchasing the combo ticket.
After you get your bike, start cycling west on the bike path.
2. Get love blessings at Longfeng Temple
The first stop on the bike route is Longfeng Temple (龍鳳宮月老廟) or known as the Dragon Phoenix. The temple sits on the northwest shore of Sun Moon Lake and 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
Continue cycling southwest on the bike path until you reach Xiangshan Visitor Centre (向山行政暨遊客中心).
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 & 5. Visit Wenwu Temple and Year of Steps
Continue on your journey by cycling back on the same bikeway, passing Shuishe Pier and continue onto Wenwu Temple (文武廟).
Located on the north side of Sun Moon Lake, Wenwu Temple 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. Hike up Maolan Mountain
Next, cycle back and make your way up Maolan Mountain. Bike up as far as you can then hike the rest of the way.
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.
Maolan Moutain is an excellent spot for watching the sunrise. But going during the day is just as nice.
6 & 7. Explore and watch the sunset at Shuishe Pier
Then cycle back to Shuishe Pier (水社碼頭) and explore all the highlights around the pier.
Find Hanbi Trail (涵碧步道), a lakeside trail at Shuishe 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. Hopefully, you can catch a gorgeous sunset too.
And that’s the end of day 1 of your Sun Moon Lake tour. Return the bike the same day or keep it until the next morning.
Sun Moon Lake Itinerary Day 2: Ferry boats & Ropeway (purple pins)
Day 2 of the Sun Moon Lake itinerary 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.
1. Take a ferry boat from Shuishe Pier to Xuanguang Pier
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!
2. Hike the Mount 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) where you can see Buddhist relics from Xuanzang Temple, the next destination on the itinerary.
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 of the year.
3. 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, look for Xuanzang Hall and Xuanzang Memorial Museum. And 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.
4. See an unobstructed view of Sun Moon Lake at the top of Cien Pagoda
After visiting Xuanzang Temple, get back on the Zhongzheng Road (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.
5. Walk back to Xuanguang Pier and take the ferry boat to next stop, Ita Thao Pier
Walk back down to Xuanguang Pier and wait for the next ferry boat to Ita Thao Pier. They come quite often so the wait shouldn’t be too long.
6. Explore 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), especially the famous fried cabbage buns. If you don’t know where it is, just look for the long queue.
And search for Zhulu Market, Butterfly Garden and Ita Thao Lakeside Trail which will lead you to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.
7. 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.
8. Return to Shuishe Pier via the ferry
Take the ropeway back down and walk back to Ita Thao Pier and wait for the next ferry boat back to Shuishe Pier.
And this marks the end of the second day of your Sun Moon Lake itinerary.
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):
- Explore Shuishe Pier and area via Hanbi Trail
- Catch the sunset at Yule Pavilion
- Same as above
- 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
Sun Moon Lake itinerary: will you include this itinerary the next time you are in Taiwan?
There are many things to do in Sun Moon Lake, but it is possible to visit the alpine lake on your own and see everything in two days, even if you are a solo traveller.
Initially, 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!
Let me know in the comments below if you like my Sun Moon Lake itinerary or have any suggestions.