Taiwan blends the fast-paced energy of Asia’s biggest urban hubs with the peace and tranquility of its most remote countryside landscapes. More impressively, it does all of this while being a small, compact island that can be crossed by car in under six hours.
Indeed, Taiwan condenses a whole lot of culture, entertainment, and nature into a convenient, safe, and easily-traveled package. You can be hiking through jaw-dropping mountains and gorges one day and shopping at a bustling night market the next. You can also relax in traditional hot springs, experience the thrill of a fireworks festival, and see the view from one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.
A tour of the country will make it easier for you to navigate between city and countryside, allowing you to make the most of everything Taiwan has to offer. Additionally, you will get access to precious local knowledge, from the best street food stall to the most stunning hiking trails.
Taipei is a modern Asian metropolis, featuring great shopping and several mouthwatering food markets. The city’s attractions include one of the world’s best collections of traditional Chinese art in the National Palace Museum, and Taipei 101, the former tallest skyscraper in the world.
Don't miss out on a night tour to see the best of the Taipei's night markets and city lights. During the day, explore the city's temples and museums, or take a short trip to a nearby natural wonder such as Sun Moon Lake.
The High Mountains in the middle of the country offer countless hiking and trekking opportunities along with some of Asia’s most beautiful mountain views. Local tour guides can help you navigate the mountains, which remain mostly untouched by tourism-led development, making them a perfect place for a quiet getaway.
Taroko Gorge on the east coast is perhaps the island’s biggest nature destination, with picture-perfect landscapes all throughout the canyon. Tours here will take you to the best highlights, such as the Eternal Spring Shrine and Swallow Grotto.
Taiwan celebrates Chinese New Year in style, with huge celebrations taking place around the island throughout the festival season. The most famous of these are the Lantern Festivals, which mark the end of the New Year in spectacular fashion.
Each city and region have their own traditions for the Lantern Festival, but these often take place on different days, so you can easily book a tour that allows you to see various Lantern celebrations. Taipei and Kaohsiung hold the biggest parties, while the village of Pingxi is known for its tradition of launching thousands of lanterns into the sky. In Tainan, the Lantern Festival is celebrated with towers of firecrackers called beehives, with the idea being to get as close as possible to the explosions.
Planning Your Trip
Taiwan is a relatively small island, which is convenient for planning and travel, especially as part of a tour. Tours range from simple three day excursions that include just Taipei and the surrounding areas to longer explorations that include both city and countryside.
Best Time to Visit Taiwan
The best time to visit Taiwan is either in the fall or spring. In September and October, high summer temperatures linger, but with cooler and more pleasant evenings. However, typhoon season lasts until October, so you might still come across some bad weather. The spring is generally cooler and still quite wet, but March through May is peak season for domestic Chinese tourists, which could mean bigger crowds.
Summer weather in Taiwan is hot, humid, and sticky, which can make it an uncomfortable experience for some. Typhoon season covers the whole summer, meaning regular rainfall and potential disruptions to traffic and access to rural areas.
Visiting in the winter could be a good idea, as the weather stays mild in the cities. However, hiking and trekking in the mountains could get very cold, with snow being common on the High Mountains.
What to Look for in a Tour to Taiwan
Taiwan’s compact size makes it easy to pack plenty of activities into a short tour. If you really want to explore the country’s beautiful natural resources, look for a tour that includes multi-day hikes and treks rather than one that drives you out to the mountains for a day trip.
If you are pressed for time, you will have to decide which activities and attractions you are most keen on: some people want to spend several days in the markets, museums, and shops of Taipei while others prioritize hiking the High Mountains or seeing Taroko Gorge.
You could also look for tours designed around key cultural festivals, like the Lantern Festival. Doing a tour around the Chinese New Year can be an incredible experience, but do bear in mind that this is likely to be significantly more expensive than any other time of the year.
Taiwan is a very cycle-friendly country and the east coast in particular is a very popular cycling tour route. Several tour operators offer dedicated cycle tours of the country, which can be a great way to discover Taiwan.
Typical Tour Cost
A 3-5 day tour of Taiwan departing from Taipei costs on average $400-$600. These tours tend to offer a combination of city visits with trips to nearby countryside attractions such as Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge. These tours are excellent if you are short on time and are generally well-priced.
In order to see more of the country, you may want to opt for a longer tour (10-15 days), which cost upwards of $1,000. On the higher end of the cost scale, you’ll find tours with five-star accommodation on all nights for around $4,000-$5,000.
Private tours are plentiful and popular. These tend to be more expensive ($2,000-$2,500) but offer a more bespoke approach, without the inconveniences of traveling with a group.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If visiting during the summer, pack for hot and humid weather. Shorts are fine for both women and men, but you should bring some nicer outfits for nights out in the city. A compact umbrella or light rain jacket is a necessity, as it rains often in the north during the wet season. Though temperatures in spring and fall are still quite warm, you will need an additional layer for cool evenings.
If you are going to be hiking, make sure to bring sturdy, comfortable walking shoes. The best clothes will be light and breathable but with good coverage to protect you from sunburn and mosquitoes. Remember to pack a swimsuit for trips to the beach or to hot springs, along with some appropriate cover-up options.
There are rental options available if you don’t want to bring your own hiking gear. However, you should first check with your tour operator whether any specific gear will be required for your chosen trip.
Other Tips for Travel in Taiwan
Like many Asian countries, Taiwan has a culture of “saving face." This means remaining calm and collected at all times, and not showing any overt signs of emotion. If you find yourself in a frustrating situation with a local, stay polite. When traveling on a tour, you have the benefit of a local guide who can mediate uncomfortable situations in a culturally appropriate way.
Health & Safety
The water in Taipei is generally safe to drink, and most hotels offer filtered hot and cold water. There is no particular danger of contamination when eating from street food stalls, but have a look at the prep conditions if you are unsure.
Dengue fever has been an issue in the country in the past, particularly the south. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Make sure you use DEET-containing insect repellent on any exposed skin, particularly at night and in rural areas. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B are recommended for travel in Taiwan.
Taiwan has an excellent level of medical care, particularly in Taipei, and most doctors will speak some level of English.
Taiwan is a very safe country. Both violent crime and petty crime are rare, although pickpocketing and purse snatching can happen in crowded areas. Stay aware of your possessions and surroundings and apply the same common sense as you would anywhere else.
Natural disasters are a significantly bigger risk. Earthquakes happen relatively often -- although most of them are small and harmless -- and typhoons are common from July to October. Take some time to familiarize yourself with any evacuation procedures in place at your accommodation, and obey any instructions to stay indoors during a typhoon.