Things to see and do in Taiwan
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Attractions in Taiwan
Admire the artefacts at the National Palace Museum
A few hours in Taipei's National Palace Museum should be essential for anyone with even a remote interest in the region's cultural heritage. It showcases the world's largest and most exquisite collection of Chinese artefacts, the majority of which came over with Chiang Kai-Shek's supporters, much to the continued chagrin of Beijing. Truly unmissable.
Bring out the binoculars for a spot of birdwatching
Taiwan is home to about 460 different species of birds, including rare endemic species such as the brilliantly vibrant Formosan blue magpie, the orange punk-haired flamecrest and the Mikado and Swinhoe's Pheasants. Other wildlife includes the famous fanged Formosan rock-monkey, and about 400 species of butterflies.
Dive the corals of Ludao (Green Island)
Dive or snorkel in the waters around Ludao (Green Island), off the southeast coast: there are splendid forests of corals to admire, and, what's more, visibility is good all-year-round. The island is accessible by boat from Taitung and is famous for the political prisoners that were exiled here in the 20th century.
Drive the outstanding northeast coastal road
Take a memorable drive along the northeast coastal road, which gives spectacular panoramas of the foothills of the Central Mountain Range and the blue expanse of the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean. The route passes through a large number of small villages, many of them little changed since the advent of high technology.
Feast on the delectable sites at Taroko Gorge
Take time to marvel at the scale of Taroko Gorge, Taiwan's most iconic natural attraction and a worthy inclusion on any itinerary. The ravine's towering cliffs are shot through with extensive marble deposits, contributing to the overall beauty of one of the Far East's most striking sights.
Hike Taiwain's jewel, Yushan (Jade Mountain)
Many of Taiwan's national parks offer top-notch hiking, but dramatic Yushan is the pick of the bunch. This is largely thanks to Mount Yushan (Jade Mountain) itself; at 3,952m (12,966ft) it is the highest peak in North East Asia. It's an important symbol of Taiwan's identity and a favourite target for mountain climbers.
Join in the Chinese New Year celebrations
Join in the celebrations for one of many festivals taking place in the capital, and gain an insight into the island's culture. The Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival are both colourful affairs but it is the lanterns and fireworks of the Chinese New Year that really bring the streets to life.
Marvel at the massive, Chung Tai Chan Monastery
The world's tallest Buddhist temple, this epic feat of architecture took more than 10 years to construct and was designed by C.Y. Lee, the man behind Taipei 101. It's best accessed from the town of Puli in central Taiwan, and is notable among other things for its impressive blend of modernist techniques and old-world traditions.
Raft down the East Rift Valley
Discover the East Rift Valley, Taiwan's largest fault line. Known locally as "the land of milk and honey", the rich sediment makes it a geologist's paradise. With stunning scenery featuring clear streams, lakes and verdant valleys, the area is popular for adventurers. Raft down the Xiuguluan River for unforgettable views.
Relax in a Taian hot spring
Taiwan's volcanic past has left abundant reserves of geothermal energy all over the island, and there are well over 100 hot mineral springs scattered around the country. They're hugely popular with both locals and tourists, and offer an indulgent way of soothing tired muscles. Arguably the best are in Taian in the north of the island.
Relax with a recreational visit to Kenting National Park
Chill out for a day or two in Kenting National Park, a much-visited forest recreation area boasting glorious beaches, coral lakes and a bird sanctuary, as well as facilities for watersports and golf, all set amidst tropical coastal forest. The park occupies the extreme southern tip of Taiwan.
Ride the wind at the Penghu archipelago
Admire the astonishing basalt rock formations of the Penghu archipelago, a group of islands in the middle of the Taiwan Straits. The columns were formed when lava erupting from deep into the earth cooled and contracted, and were then carved by wave and wind erosion. The breeze almost makes Penghu a popular windsurfing destination.
Soar above Luye Plateau
Taiwan's precipitous terrain and steady winds offer perfect opportunities for hang-gliding and paragliding. Green Bay on the North Shore and the Luye Plateau in Taitung County in the southeast offer inspiring scenery for gliders to soar over. Tandem glides are ideal for all skill levels.
Spot a pickled python at Snake Alley (Taipei)
Gawp at live snakes, pickled pythons and other oddities at Taipei's Huahsi Night Market. Known locally as Snake Alley, this is more than just a gimmick for tourists – the various products, including snake testicles and turtle penises, are believed to promote virility and are available to buy.
Take in the vistas atop Taipei 101
Admire the view from the top of Taipei 101, which until 2010 was the world's tallest building. You can take a lift (the fastest of its kind in the world) up to The Observatory on the top floor for the ultimate city vista. It's more than twice the size of the next tallest building in Taipei.
Tour the temples of Tainan
Visit Tainan, the oldest city on the island and the former capital. It's known as the "City of 100 Temples", but there are in fact 220, including some of the best examples of Confucian temple architecture in Taiwan. Expect ancient monuments, lip-smacking food and a packed calendar of celebrations including the Yenshui Firework Festival.
Uncover the Yami tribe of Lanyu (Orchid Island)
Learn about the aboriginal Yami, one of the world's last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes, on their island, Lanyu (Orchid Island). Off the southeast coast, the volcanic island is also home to some of the finest coral reef in the region and offers a peaceful taste of the tropics, even in peak season.
Visit the imposing Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Climb one of the two staircases to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, an imposing tomb and shrine to Taipei's most famous leader. A national landmark, the monument also houses Taipei's main venues for the performing arts, the National Theatre and National Opera House, in its large grounds.
Walk behind the ramparts at Kinmen
An archipelago of islands located just 2km (1.2 miles) off the coast of mainland China (but still under Taiwanese rule), Kinmen represents one of the most fascinating – and little-known – options of a trip to Taiwan. As a pivotal strategic base during the unrest of the 20th century, it remains heavily fortified.
Wander through the traditional town of Lugang (Lukang)
A character-rich old port town in central Taiwan, Lugang is home to a wealth of traditional buildings and great places to pick up authentic local crafts. The historic centre is an enjoyable spot through which to wander but make sure not to miss three of the country's most atmospheric temples, Longshan, Matsu and Glass Matsu.