People often don’t realize that Kaohsiung has a lot to offer to tourists. There are many amazing historical and natural sites to see, as well as amazing food, shopping, and an interesting culture. Many of the places down south aren’t represented as well in English as other sites in Taipei, which is why we want to help everyone realize what a great place it is. I lived in Kaohsiung for three years and it was like living in paradise every day (I wish I still lived there).
Below I will list out some of the best places in Kaohsiung that I have visited. I will be sure to update this blog as I visit more places (and take more photos) later.
How to get around in Kaohsiung?
As always, we recommend renting a scooter as the best way to see Taiwan. Getting around in a car is also a convenient option as there is plenty of parking pretty much everywhere in this less crowded county. However, you can also a great deal of Kaohsiung by taking the MRT, light rail, train, inter city bus, local bus, taxi, or bicycle (U-bike rental).
When to go?
Kaohsiung is great year round, but it can get a little hot in the summer, and Typhoon season and heavy rain season lasts from about May to October. If you are afraid of the heat and rain then you can visit during winter when the temperatures are mild and the climate is dryer.
Yangmingshan National Park is a mountainous area in Taipei and New Taipei, known for its volcanic activity, hiking trails, wildlife, waterfalls, hot springs, and sulfur vents. It is definitely worth a stop on your trip to Taipei.
The area known as Yangmingshan now was formed by volcanoes about 700,000 years ago, forming many mountains about 1000 meters or less in northwestern Taiwan. The park still features active volcanoes, vents, and hot springs.
The original name of the area was Caoshan (grass mountain 草山). During the Qing Dynasty, the area was used to harvest sulfur, and many of the hills were burned to help catch sulfur thieves, Qingtiangang likely being one of these areas.
Sulfur mining started in the Qing Dynasty by a British mining company who first obtained the rights to mine here in 1897. In 1927 during the Japanese era, Yangmingshan was made as the first national park in Taiwan, then known as Datunshan National Park Association.
The area around Qingtiangang to Lengshuikeng was made into a ranch for water buffalo, and grass from Japan was planted here for them to graze.
In 1950 after the ROC took Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek renamed the park after the philosopher Wang Yangming, and called the area Yangmingshan.
The KMT kept the ranch at Qingtiangang and continued to maintain it. They also built bunkers here and kept a garrison of troops.
In 1985, after resolving many land disputes, Yangmingshan National Park was officially designated as a national park in the ROC era.
Due to its easy accessibility from Taipei and many natural attractions, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Taipei City. Most visitors come on weekends, and it has parking lots and a visitor's centers throughout the park.
The visitor's centers are open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. However you can visit the park 24/7.
Free entrance into the park
(car parking 30-50 NT， scooter parking 20 NT)
When to Go:
Silver Grass Season: Mang Grass season goes from September to November. During this time you will be able to see silvery grass all over the mountain tops around the park.
Cherry Blossom Season: Cherry blossoms can be seen in the park from February to late March.
Snowfall: Once every few years it can snow here from December to February. The snow usually only lasts a day or two and melts away quickly.
Best Weather: In my opinion the best weather is in the summer when constant rain makes the air cleaner, and summer mornings are usually clear. Be sure to start hiking in the morning for the best views and sunshine, as afternoon thundershowers are common.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From Taipei, take provincial highway 2A north to the park, where you can see the main attractions such as Zhuzihu, Qixingshan, Datunshan, Qingtiangang, etc. There are many parking lots, but car parking is limited on weekends and the number of cars allowed up the mountain is also limited. There is also paid scooter parking.
On weekends this place can be packed, and cars can be backed up for up to an hour or more, so consider taking a scooter or bus.
By Bus: From Beitou MRT Station, Take Little Bus 19 (小19), or another bus to the park.
See below for a map of places mentioned in this blog:
Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital of Taiwan for over 200 years. It is also said to be the culinary capital of Taiwan, with many traditional Taiwanese snacks that originated here. Surrounded by historical sites, from the Dutch, Koxinga, and Qing Dynasty, it is a great place to enjoy Taiwan's interesting history and its delicious cuisine.
Below I will list out some of the best places in Miaoli that I have visited. I will be sure to update this blog as I visit more places later.
How to get around in Tainan?
As always, we recommend renting a scooter as the best way to see Taiwan. Getting around in a car is also a convenient option as there is plenty of parking pretty much everywhere in this less crowded county. However, you can also a great deal of Tainan by taking the train, inter city bus, local bus, or bicycle (T-bike rental).
When to go?
Tainan is great year round, but it can get a little hot in the summer, and Typhoon season and heavy rain season lasts from about May to October. If you are afraid of the heat and rain then you can visit during winter when the temperatures are mild and the climate is dryer.
You can see a map of all the places that we will visit in this blog below:
Shiding District is a secret mountain paradise in New Taipei City, in northern Taiwan (新北市石碇區). Lots of people simply pass through here without knowing much about what there is to see. In this guide I will show you some of the secret historical and nature destinations in this amazing place.
The name Shiding comes from boats transporting goods from the area that used to use large rocks (shi 石) in the river as anchors (ding 碇). The Shiding administrative area (石碇堡) was created during the Qing Dynasty and extended from Keelung to Wenshan District.
The area around Shiding Old Street was the first area to be developed by Han Chinese in Shiding. In the early days during the Qing Dynasty, the Han Chinese settlers here mainly grew tea and leeks.
During the Qing Dynasty, Shiding was an important stop along the Danlan Old Trail (淡蘭古道 which means the road between Tamsui and Yilan), which was split into three paths, and Shiding was on the Southern Path. The Southern Path winded from Mengjia Old Street to Liuzhangli, then to Shengkeng, and onto Shiding which was a major tea producer at the time. From Shiding, the road then went to Pinglin and then Yilan. The Southern path was the quickest way to Yilan.
During the Japanese Era until the 1980s, the major industry in the area was coal mining, As the coal mining industry winded down in the 1980s and 90s in Taiwan due to lower worldwide coal prices, the economy in Shiding suffered and many people left.
The multi story buildings near Shiding Old street are a testament to the economic prosperity of the coal mining era.
Currently Shiding is sparsely populated with the main economic activity including tea farming and agriculture.
Nantou lies at the heart of Taiwan and is it's only landlocked county. It is known for its rugged natural landscapes and mountains, and includes the highest mountain in East Asia. If you come to Taiwan you should definitely pass through this place and stop by at some of the sights we will mention below.
In this blog we will visit the following places:
The Matsu Archipelago is a group of small islands off the coast of China that belong to Taiwan. Acting for a long time as military outposts for Taiwan, the islands have recently opened to tourists. Here you can find traditional stone house villages, magical "blue tear" bioluminescent phenomena, wild sika deer, military museums, a Mazu memorial park including the largest Mazu statue in the world, a variety of local food, and much more to explore.
Thousands of years ago, stone aged peoples once inhabited the Matsu Islands. These stone aged people later disappeared.
The Matsu islands were inhabited again around the Song Dynasty (990 - 1200 AD) by Chinese Fisherman, the descendants of whom still inhabit the islands today.
Because the Goddess Mazu's corpse washed ashore on this island, Nangan is also known as Matsu Island.
During the Chinese Civil War, Matsu was used as a military outpost for the retreating ROC. During the years that followed, it withheld shelling and threats of invasion from China, helping to keep Taiwan free of communist control.
In 1992 after cross straight relations had warmed up, martial law was lifted on the islands and tourists were allowed to visit.
In the year 2000, a ferry link with Fuzhou started to provide constant China Mainland visitors to the island, as part of the three links with China.
In 1994 Beigan Airport was opened, and was the only airport in Matsu for 9 years. In 2003, the Nangan Airport was opened, which significantly lowered the number of travelers to Beigan. However fast and convenient boat travel has made it so that most tourists travel to both islands.
Matsu (or officially Lienchiang County of Fujian Province 連江縣) consists of 36 islands or islets, with 5 major isalnds: Nangan, Beigan, Xiju, Dongju, and Dongyin, and minor islands including Daqiu, Xiaoqiu, Gaodeng, and Liangdao.
Nangan has a population of 4,000 people, and is the largest island in Matsu in terms of population and geographical size.
Beigan Island is the second largest island in Matsu (behind Nangan), and a population of about 2,500.
Xiju and Dongju Islands sit next to each other and have a combined population of 1,500 people.
Dongyin is the third largest island in terms of size and population, with about 1,300 people.
Daqiu is a small island near Beigan with a population of 1 human and about 300 wild sika deer. Xiaoqiu is another small uninhabited rocky islet next to Daqiu.
Gaodeng Island and Liangdao Islands are also sizable islands in the chain, but are military islands that are currently closed off to tourists.
How to get there:
The easiest way to get around the islands is take a plane/boat to Nangan and then go island hopping from there. Nangan is the main transportation hub for all the islands.
By Boat: There are daily ferries from Keelung Harbor that usually take an overnight trip to Nangan, passing through Dongyin Island. The price for a one way ride is 400-2000 NT depending on the type of accommodation you want on the boat.
Boats from Nangan leave twice a day and take 2 hours. The price for a one way ride is 350 NT.
By Boat: There are boats from Nangan Fu'Ao Harbor (南竿福奧港) to Beigan Baisha Harbor (北竿白沙港) every hour from 7 AM to 5 PM. There are no daily routes to Beigan from other islands (except Daqiu).
By Plane: There are flights to and from Taipei Songshan Airport three times a day via Uni Air.
Public Ferry from Nangan Fu'Ao Harbor (福澳港) (April to October):
350 NT round trip per person （Stops at Baisha Harbor in Nangan)
Nangan departure times: 9:50 AM, 1:30 PM, Daqiu departure times: 12:10 Noon, 3:40 PM
Trip takes about 20 minutes.
Public Ferry from Beigan Qiaozi Harbor (橋仔港) (May to October):
300 NT round trip per person
Beigan departure times: 8:30 AM, 2:30 PM, Daqiu departure times: 10:30 AM, 4:30 PM
Trip takes about 10 minutes.
Chartered ferries: Around 300 NT per round trip.
By Boat: There are daily ferries from Keelung Harbor that usually take an overnight trip to Nangan, passing through Dongyin Island.
There are boats from Beigan Baisha Harbor (北竿白沙港) to Nangan Fu'Ao Harbor (南竿福奧港) every hour from 7 AM to 5 PM.
By Plane: There are flights to and from Taipei Songshan Airport three times a day via Uni Air.
Dongju and Xiju Islands:
By Boat: Ferries from Nangan leave every 3 hours, with three trips per day. The trip takes about an hour. Price is 200 NT one way.
Price (to Nangan):
500-2000 NT per person (one way from Keelung)
160 NT per person (one way from Beigan)
About 2000 NT (one way from Taipei)
How to get around the islands:
Matsu has large, hilly islands and it would be very hard to get around on foot or bicycle. We recommend one of the following
By Scooter: We recommend riding a scooter as your #1 choice. It's fast, convenient, and there isn't much traffic on the island. A scooter will cost about 500 NT per day to rent.
When braking on hills, use both brakes, otherwise you could lose traction on one tire and skid. Don't stop or park on a slope. Also, some hills that are too steep are closed off for scooters.
By Car/Taxi: You can rent a car or hire a taxi for 200O NT per day.
By Bus: There are buses that goes around the islands, but wait times can be 30 minutes or more.
When to go:
We recommend going between April and June when the "blue tear" phosphorescent microbes in the water will be the most visible at night. Also, winters can be cold and windy and summers very hot, and there could also be typhoons in the summer and fall.
Please see below:
Kinmen (aka Jinmen or Quemoy) is a group of islands off the coast of Xiamen, China, belonging to Taiwan. For years it was the front lines and closest territory to China during the Chinese Civil War, which has not officially ended. Now that the war with China has come to a close due to the establishment of the "status quo," Kinmen has been open to tourism, especially from that of China. Kinmen has the highest concentration of museums and historical buildings in almost anywhere in Taiwan, as well as local cuisine, beaches, and scenery, making it an ideal vacation destination for both Taiwanese, Chinese, and other foreign tourists.
Kinmen first began to be settled by Chinese people in the Tang Dynasty (around 700 AD). It got it;s name Jinmen "Golden Gate" from the Hongwu Emporer who set up military operations on the main Island during the Ming Dynasty in 1387. The name Quemoy comes from the Hokkien pronunciation of the name.
After the fall of the Ming Dynasty (1644), Ming Loyalists continued to occupy Kinmen under the Prince of Lu and Kongxia, but Kinmen was eventually captured by the Qing in 1663.
The Islands were never ceded to Japan.
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Kinmen (along with the rest of China) was governed by the Republic of China (ROC). When the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War, they retreated to Taiwan under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, but still maintaining some outlying islands off of the west coast of China. The ROC army dug into Kinmen and fortified almost every inch of the island, holding off PRC invasion. Perhaps the most pivotal battle in holding off the communists was the battle of Guningtou in which 9,000 PRC troops were defeated and captured in an attempt to take back the island of Kinmen. The battle effectively stopped the PRC from advancing toward invasion of Taiwan, because in 1950 the Korean War started, demanding much of their manpower, buying time until the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in 1955, offering protection by the United States. against PRC invasion of Taiwan. Because of this, the battle laid the groundwork for the status quo between China and Taiwan as we know it today.
Kinmen was kept as a military reserve until it was made into a civilian government in the 1990s. Travel was reopened with China in 2001, which really opened the door for the tourism sector on the islands mainly driven by Chinese tourists. Many businessmen also moved to the island to gain easy entry into China from Taiwan. In 2015 the Taiwanese government made it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Kinmen by allowing them to apply for via on arrival.
Currently the island's main industry is tourism, but there is also large Sorghum Wine production industry, as well as agriculture and fishing.
Kinmen is a stronghold for the KMT party, mainly because the residents resent the fact that many in the pro-independence DPP would consider returning Kinmen to China in an independence treaty.
When to go:
Autumn is said to be the best time to visit, when there are still warm temperature and not too much rainfall. Spring also has great temperatures, but seasonal rains may dampen your travels. Summer can get really hot, which might be totally fine with you. The winter is cold and windy; don't go in winter.
How to get there:
By Plane: The only way to get to from Taiwan to Kinmen is via a airplane. Planes leave daily from Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, Penghu, and Kaohsiung.
By Boat: You can reach Kinmen from Xiamen at Wutong port (五通碼頭) or Quanzhou at Shijing Port (石井碼頭), connecting at Shuitou Port (水頭碼頭).
Map: Please see below:
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.