Welcome to Taipei! Your adventure begins in the densely-populated, beautifully located capital of Taiwan. You can arrive at any time today, as there are no activities planned until a welcome meeting at 6 pm. With the formalities out of the way, head out for an optional dinner with your fellow group members this evening. If you arrive with time to spare in Taipei before the meeting, perhaps visit the hot springs at Yangmingshan National Park.
Explore Taipei this morning by foot and via the city’s excellent metro system. Begin with a visit to Sweet Potato Mama, a social enterprise managed by the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation and your introduction to the wild popularity of the root-vegetable-cum-street-snack in Taiwan. Join the local women who have started their own street food businesses, learn how to prepare the spuds and sell them to hungry locals. Next, stroll through Dihua Street to get a sense of Taipei’s merchant past as well as see how young entrepreneurs are revitalising the area. Continue to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, an impressive dedication to the former president of the Republic of China. Enjoy free time for the rest of the day and night. Perhaps check out the Shilin Night Market.
Leave Taipei behind today and take the train to Hualien (approximately 2–3 hours), best known for its beautiful natural surrounds like the rift valley plain and a rocky seashore overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Visit the Danong Dafu Forest Park, 11 hectares of reforested ground with spectacular views and plenty of birdlife. The diligent reforestation efforts have led to the reappearance of a number of species. In the evening, explore the night markets of Hualien. Some local specialties are coffin bread (fluffy French toast with fillings), ‘exploding’ chicken rolls, spring onion pancakes and oyster omelettes. Hualien has the largest indigenous population in Taiwan, so you can also find specialties favoured by some of Taiwan’s original inhabitants like bamboo rice, wild bore, birds nest fern and flying fish. You certainly won’t go hungry here!
Visit the Qingshui Cliff, a long stretch of coast that drops almost vertically into the sea. Continue to Taroko National Park, named after the epic Taroko Gorge, which you’ll stop to see before heading further into the park. Set out along the Shakadang Trail, which follows an aqua stream to a Truku village (approximately 4 hours return). Entry to the village isn’t permitted, but there is sometimes a small market outside selling indigenous foods and handicrafts. If you’ve got energy leftover after your return. There may be time to explore one of the park’s other trails. Your leader can give you advice on the one that’s right for you. Return to Hualien for some free time in the evening. Maybe grab a foot reflexology massage after the hard walk today.
Travel to Yilan. On arrival, visit a spring onion farm to see how one of Taiwan’s favourite ingredients is grown. Don some gum boots and get grubby in the fields to pick some produce and then learn how to cook them into the beloved Taiwanese snack pancakes. Continue to the King Car Distillery, the island’s only whisky producer, for a tour and tasting of their award-winning Kavalan single malts. The final stop today is the local hot springs, so make sure you have your swimsuit handy, so you don’t miss out on a soak. Your evening is free to explore to relax at your hotel in Yilan.
Turtle Island – Jiufen – Taipei
Head out on the water this morning on a cruise around Gueishan (Turtle) Island (approximately 3 hours). From March to September it’s possible to spot pods dolphins and even the odd whale during the boat tour. Back on land, drive to the former gold mining centre of Jiufen, said to be the inspiration for the town in the film Spirited Away. Explore the Old Town at your leisure, perhaps strolling around the beautiful old buildings lining the hillsides, relaxing with a cup of tea at a 100-year-old teahouse or visit the quirky Kite Museum. Some specialty snacks you should seek out while you’re in town are fish balls, molasses cakes and taro balls. Return to Taipei tonight.
Sun Moon Lake
Leave Taipei behind today and travel approximately 3 hours by private bus to Sun Moon Lake, perhaps the most iconic destination in Taiwan. The only natural lake in Taiwan is so named for the shapes it’s outline forms. Take a walk through the forested foothills of the mountains around the lake along the Ci’en Pagoda Trail (around 1 hour). The end of the trail offers views over the lake, as well as the chance to climb to the top of the eponymous, 46-metre-high pagoda that marks the end of the trail. Later, choose whether to partake in an optional cyclin excursion along some of the scenic paths that trace the lake shores (approximately 1–2 hours). Tonight, relax in your guesthouse in Puli.
Puli – Sun Moon Lake
After breakfast this morning, embark on a kayaking trip on the serene waters of Sun Moon Lake. Back on land, continue to the Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Puli. Though it was built just 20 years ago, the unique combination of Chinese and Western architectural styles makes it an impressive sight. Take a guided tour with one of the resident nuns. Continue by private vehicle to the Hugosum Tea Farm for insight into the production of Taiwan’s beloved black tea. You will also have the opportunity to roll your own leaves, which will then be dried and packaged on site for you to take a taste of Taiwan home with you. Spend another night in the Puli guesthouse tonight.
Wanggong – Taichung
Today, head to the flat and fertile land of Changhua County, sometimes known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Taiwan. Visit Longshan Temple and explore the beautiful gardens on site. Continue to the fishing village of Wanggong, where you will have the chance to go oyster picking and discover water birds, fiddler crabs and mudskippers. There will also be the chance to sample local seafood like clams, crabs and oysters. In the afternoon, travel to Taichung. Your accommodation this evening is close to the Fenchia Night Market, a great place to head or dinner or a snack this evening.
Before returning to Taipei, stop at the Rainbow Village and learn about the beautiful story behind the incredible murals that cover every inch of the town. If you are lucky, you may just catch the artist Huang Yung-Fu (96-years-old and counting!) sitting outside his house and enjoying some sunshine. Return to Taipei from Taichung, arriving around midday. After checking into the hotel, spend the afternoon at the National Palace Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Chinese art. Your evening is free. Perhaps meet up back with your leader and group for an optional dinner, or maybe visit the Taipei 101 Observation Deck for a magnificent view over the city at night.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning. There are no activities planned for the day, and you’re free to leave the hotel at any time after check out.
Taipei - Dihua Street walk
Taipei - Sweet Potato Mama Urban Adventure
Taipei - Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Hualien - Night Market
Hualien - Danong Dafu Forest Park
Hualien - Qingshui Cliff
Taroko Gorge - scenic hike
Yilan - Spring onion farm & cooking demostration
Yilan - Whisky distillery
Jiufen - Old Town walk
Turtle Island - Boat tour
Sun Moon Lake - Bike Ride
Sun Moon Lake - Ci'en Pagoda Trail walk
Puli - Hugosum Tea Farm
Puli - Chung Tai Chan Monastery
Sun Moon Lake - Kayaking
Lukang - Longshan Temple
Wanggong - Oyster picking
Taipei - National Palace Museum
Taichung - Rainbow Village