I recently had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan with my husband and friends for a few days. Dozens of hours of research went into this trip and this is a copy of our final itinerary.
Day 1 (mid-afternoon arrival):
We arrived mid-afternoon and had arranged for an airport pick up through Klook to our hotel to meet up with our friends. This was my first experience using Klook but I was very pleased and will use them again for other Asia trips.
We had a late lunch from a street vendor and proceeded to our first stop, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Chiang Kai-shek is a controversial figure who was the Chinese leader until 1949 and then exiled to Taiwan where he lead until his death in 1975. The memorial hall is in a beautiful building and has an hourly changing of the guard.
We then walked to nearby Zhongshan Hall which frankly you can skip or just do a short walk by. It has an interesting history which includes the coronation of Emperor Hirohito and was the sight of Chiang Kai-shek speeches, but unless you have tea in their beautiful dining room (which we did), you can skip this spot.
Shilin Night Market is overwhelming and huge. If you only hit one night market, this is the one to see and eat at! Locals and tourists alike eat here and you can find a little bit of everything. Coming from Japan where fruit is very expensive, I filled up on fresh pineapple and plums!
We stayed at the V-one Hotel. It was well priced, near a subway and the staff was very friendly!
Day 2: Taroko Gorge
We caught the first train from Taipei to Taroko Gorge and then hired a driver to pick us up at the train station and take us through the gorge. This was a wonderful day and well worth it. But figuring out the train was difficult. I will devote a post to this in a few weeks.
I am convinced a driver is the way to go. It was affordable and allowed us to be on our own schedule. You will lose a lot of time waiting on the shuttle bus and the roads are a little hairy to consider driving yourself.
We stayed at Taroko Liiko Hotel which I loved. It is just outside the park, near several great options for dinner, has an amazing breakfast buffet, a beautiful garden / patio area, and a fantastic staff. It is the kind of hotel you feel comfortable playing cards in the lobby or hanging out with a glass of wine.
Day 3: Morning in Taroko and return to Taipei
We hired another driver to take us Qingshui Cliffs and Qixingtan Beach. Both were beautiful and worth seeing. However, if crunched for time, you can do Qingshui cliffs the same day as Taroko Gorge and skip Qixingtan beach. Or if you have more time, consider getting up early to kayak around the cliffs or driving along the ocean and the East Riff valley.
We returned to Taipei in time to visit the observation deck at Taipei 101 for views of the city and the sunset. I had really wanted to visit the Starbucks at Taipei 101 but we were unable to secure a reservation. Visiting the observation tower was great and I don’t feel like I missed out. Taipei 101 has an amazing food court that should not be missed with two Michelin Star options (which I think is pretty cool for food court prices and accessibility).
Day 4: Taipei
We planned to spend the morning at Maokong just outside Taipei. We ended up spending a good portion of the day here and frankly could have spent longer. There was much we didn’t get to see. However, we did have a superb lunch at the Yao Yue Tea Restaurant.
Later that evening we went to the Red House which while a cute place to go shopping is nothing particularly unique followed by dinner at Taipei 101 (again).
Day 5: NE Taiwan
Our final day in Taiwan, we used Klook to take a van to northeast Taiwan to visit the Shifen waterfalls, see the lanterns in Shifen, visit the old coal town of Jiufen and the Keelung night market. This was a fantastic day and I’d recommend all stops. We felt we didn’t have enough time in Jiufen and too much time at the night market but other than that it was the perfect day. We had another amazing meal in Jiufen at The Old Time Delights of Taiwan and my friend is still talking about the duck sausage!
What we didn’t see: I am disappointed I didn’t get to the 2-28 museum and I would have liked to see Sun Moon Lake.