The ultimate guide to the best off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Taiwan for travelers who are looking for a true adventure!
After nearly three years of being totally closed to tourists, Taiwan’s borders are wide open again. The time has finally come to visit Taiwan!
Slightly larger than Belgium, this East Asian island nation is known for its high mountains, geothermal hot springs, bustling night markets, and friendly people.
Most visitors to Taiwan gravitate to the country’s most famous attractions, putting the likes of Taipei 101, the National Palace Museum, Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, and Taroko Gorge on their Taiwan itinerary.
But if you are the kind of traveler who prefers to dig a little deeper, avoid the crowds, or go where the locals do, then this guide is for you. Below, you’ll find fifteen suggestions for off-the-beaten-path places to visit in Taiwan and some other tips for planning your trip.
Tips For Visiting Taiwan
- You’ll pay for most things in cash, but ATMs are everywhere.
- Buy a loadable EasyCard upon arrival. It works on all city buses, metros, ferries, and short-distance trains in the country, including the Airport MRT.
- The Taipei MRT is the city’s lifeline – you’ll use it to go almost everywhere. Kaohsiung and Taichung also have metros – in other places, riding a scooter or bicycle is best.
- Most people can speak at least some basic English and are eager to help.
- Masks are commonly worn, even post-COVID. You can buy them at 7-Eleven.
- Local trains (TRA) can be booked two weeks in advance, and the High-Speed Rail (HSR) can be booked 28 days in advance. Local trains often sell out, especially on holidays or weekends. The HSR has a non-reserved section that’s always available, but tickets are full price.
- Visit in winter for hot springs and cherry blossoms, spring to avoid crowds (but there’s a mini rain season), summer for anyone who loves heat (but watch out for occasional typhoons), and fall for clear skies and ideal temperatures. Avoid the Lunar New Year, when many things close and trains/hotels sell out.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Places To Visit In Taiwan
For the following offbeat attractions in Taiwan, we’ll start in the capital city, Taipei, located on the north of the island, and then spread outward.
1. Nanjichang Night Market, Taipei
Taipei is known across Asia for its night markets, and many visitors fly in just to sample the multitudes of snacks they offer.
Instead of hitting the “Big 5” night markets (Shilin, Raohe, Ningxiao, Tonghua, and Huaxi) like almost every other tourist, try the local-oriented Nanjichang Night Market.
This is a great spot to try traditional Taiwanese foods like stinky tofu, rice tube pudding, deep-fried oyster balls, and braised pork rice. Few tourists know about it, yet several stalls in the night market are so good that they have achieved Bib Gourmand status in the Taipei Michelin Guide.
2. Xingyi Road Hot Springs, Taipei
Keeping with the theme of avoiding where all the tourists go, head to Xingyi Road Hot Springs instead of the enormously popular Beitou Hot Springs, Taipei’s main hot spring resort village nearby.
Xingyi Road (行義路) is actually also located in Beitou District. But virtually no tourists make it there, as it is harder to get to, located up in the hills above Taipei, and is not accessible by MRT.
But if you go out of your way, you can enjoy a traditional hot spring experience among the locals. You can either get a private room or bathe Japanese-style in the nude (sex-segregated).
The most popular and photogenic option is Kawayu-Spa, which looks straight out of Spirited Away. To get there, take bus 508 or 535 from Shipai MRT station.
3. Weiwuying Street Art Village, Kaohsiung
It’s no secret that Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan has the country’s best street art. The city government actively encourages and sponsors it, and you can see huge murals throughout the city.
Pier 2 Art Center, one of the most popular things to do in Kaohsiung, is a go-to spot to see all kinds of street art in Kaohsiung.
But don’t miss Weiwuying Street Art Village, which is east of the city center on the orange KMRT line.
A whole village of apartments and low rises has been covered in murals, with over 100 major murals listed on the map as you approach.
4. 921 Earthquake Museum, Taichung
Taichung, the largest city in central Taiwan, is a hot spot for visitors for sights like Rainbow Village, Gaomei Wetlands, and Fengchia Night Market.
But I suggest you make your way a little south of the city center to the 921 Earthquake Museum. The museum is housed in a school that was seriously damaged by the massive earthquake on September 21, 1999, which took 2415 lives in Taiwan.
The ruins of the school’s toppled buildings have been left in place, including the famous scene of a twisted running track. You can also experience what an earthquake feels like in the Earthquake Simulation room. The museum is a humbling memorial to this tragic event in Taiwan’s history.
5. Taiwan’s Offshore Islands
It would be impossible to talk about off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Taiwan without mentioning the offshore islands – each one really deserves its own entry.
Some of them are quite popular among domestic tourists, especially in summer, while others remain truly off the beaten path. Because they require extra time and planning, comparatively few foreign tourists make it.
Cijin Island in Kaohsiung is one of the easiest to get to, as it’s just off the coast in the city’s harbor. Go to Xiaoliuqiu for snorkeling with giant sea turtles, Penghu for beaches and island hopping, Green Island for scuba diving and a saltwater hot spring, and Orchid Island to meet the country’s most isolated aboriginal tribe.
Even further away, near the coast of China, Jinmen is famous for its distilled sorghum liquor called Kaoliang, while Matsu attracts visitors for its phosphorescent blue lights in the sea.
6. Fufudingshan Coral Temple, New Taipei City
One of Taiwan’s most interesting yet off-the-beaten-track temples is Fufudingshan Coral Temple. The whole temple is totally decked out in coral and seashells, including a narrow passageway below the temple’s shrine.
The temple is located in the hills north of Taipei City and Yangmingshan National Park. You’ll need your own wheels to get there, but this unique attraction is definitely worth the trip!
7. Wanli UFO Village, New Taipei City
Wanli UFO Village (萬里飛碟屋) is one of the quirkier attractions in Taiwan to make this list. Overlooking Wanli Beach in Northern Taiwan, the village really does look like a collection of flying saucers turned into vacation homes.
These “Fururo Houses” were part of an architectural movement in the 1960s led by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen. The cluster of them at Wanli has been abandoned for decades, but they make for cool pictures, and you can even sneak into a few of them.
8. Sandioling Waterfall Trail, New Taipei City
Of the numerous hiking trails in and around Taipei City, Sandioling stands out as one of my personal favorites and is never too busy.
The trail begins at Sandiaoling train station, which itself feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. From there, follow the train tracks inland on the Pingxi Small Train line, then veer up into the hills.
The trail leads to three impressive waterfalls. At the second one, you can even climb into a large cave behind it, looking out at the falls. The trail up to that point is easy enough, even for young kids, but gets a little tougher afterward. You can also combine nearby Houtong Cat Village with your trip.
9. Artemis Garden, Yilan
Yilan is a coastal county in the northeast of Taiwan and a popular weekend holiday spot for Taipei families. But far fewer tourists make it there. The county is known for fields of rice and green onions, hot springs, and family-oriented attractions.
One off-the-beaten-track spot we enjoyed was a large and visually stunning greenhouse called Artemis Garden. The greenhouse has elevated walking platforms for looking down on all the vegetation, and you can even buy some cool plants to take away, including carnivorous ones.
Nearby, you can also tour Kavalan Whiskey Factory, grab a craft beer made with local ingredients at Jim and Dad’s, or try some of the country’s most famous green onion cakes at Sanxing Village. You will see few to no foreign tourists in any of these places.
10. Lion’s Head Mountain, Hsinchu/Miaoli
When it comes to hiking, Lion’s Head Mountain is a favorite among locals in the area. But few foreign visitors ever make it to this gem, mostly because it’s a little hard to get there. There are infrequent buses, but going there by scooter is best.
Lion’s Head is more of a hill than a mountain. But what sets it apart are the dozens of Buddhist and Taoist temples dotting its slopes, several of which are even built into caves. The main hiking trail goes from the Hsinchu side up and over to the Miaoli side, where you can even spend the night in one of the temples.
11. Xitou Monster Village, Nantou
Another quirky attraction to make this list is the Xitou Monster Village up in the mountains of Nantou County in central Taiwan.
There’s more to it than just monsters. The attraction was built to commemorate the friendship between a Japanese and Taiwanese man during the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan.
Today, the small mountain resort village features Japanese monster statues, scary treats like eyeball cookies and stinging nettle bread, and a monster-themed hotel. You can get there by taking an infrequent bus from Sun Moon Lake, Nantou’s most famous attraction.
12. Ruitai Historic Bamboo Trail, Chiayi
When countless tourists rush up to Alishan National Scenic Area, the most popular mountain resort in the country, they pass by some incredible bamboo forests without even knowing it.
The Ruitai Historic Trail is a totally off-the-beaten-track hike that passes through one of these bamboo forests. It begins at the tiny village of Ruili and ends at Taihe village, near Fenqihu, where one of the Alishan Forest Railway lines stops.
Also, in the area, consider spending the night on a tea farm in Shizhuo village, which is where Taiwan’s most famous tea, Alishan High Mountain tea, is grown. In my opinion, these are two of Taiwan’s most underrated spots. Just a heads up that little to no English is spoken.
13. Yuli Village, Hualien
On the stunning and sparsely populated east coast of Taiwan, Hualien County stretches from the famed Taroko Gorge in the north to where it meets Taitung County in southern Taiwan.
Along the way, the train line passes several quaint villages in the gorgeous East Rift Valley. One of these is Yuli, which is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the area. Hop on a bicycle or scooter and explore the rice paddies, waterfalls, and hot springs around the village.
You can also access the Walami trail, which goes all the way up to Yushan (Taiwan’s tallest mountain), from just outside the village.
14. Luye village, Taitung
Continuing south from Yuli village, another lovely village worth spending a night or two in is Luye in Taitung county. Luye hardly feels like a village but rather a grid of farms surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery – it’s impossible not to feel relaxed here.
If you’re visiting in summer, don’t miss the International Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival, which is held on the Luye Plateau above the town.
Also, consider visiting the nearby village of Chishang, which locals flock to for riding bicycles among the rice paddies at Brown Boulevard.
15. Guanziling Mud Hot Spring, Tainan
Of the numerous hot springs in Taiwan, Guanziling is unique because you can literally bathe in hot, muddy water.
At the small hot spring village near the border between Tainan and Chiayi counties, a handful of hotels have spas where you can soak in muddy water or rub the mud on your body – it’s said to be very good for the skin. King’s Garden Villa is the pick of the bunch.
Hopefully, this guide has put you on track to get off the main track while visiting Taiwan. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg, so let us know in the comments below what your favorite offbeat places to visit in Taiwan are!
About The Author Of “15 Off-the-Beaten-Track Places to Visit in Taiwan”
Nick Kembel has lived in Taiwan for over a decade, and his two kids were born there. He has written about Taiwan for National Geographic Traveller, CNNGo, and more. Besides nickkembel.com, where he covers Taiwan extensively, he also runs FunWorldFacts and the “Taiwan Travel Planning” group on Facebook.
I love traveling off the beaten path, and these places in Taiwan, shared by Nick, look amazing and are definitely worth visiting!
Thanks for stopping by!
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