If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan and only have ten days to explore, you’ll want to make the most of your time. Its nickname is Formosa, which means “beautiful island,” and beautiful it is. The designation originally came from the Portugues who occupied this small, but strategic island in the Pacific for a time.
Taiwan is a country filled with natural beauty, unique culture, and the best food, making it a perfect destination for travelers! From the bustling capital city of Taipei in the north to the tranquil forests of Alishan in the center, to the laid-back attitude of Kenting in the south, Taiwan has something for every type of traveler and has a wealth of photographic opportunities!
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One of the must-visit cities on any trip to Taiwan is Taipei. As the country’s capital, it’s a vibrant metropolis of activities, culture, history, and modernity everyone can enjoy. There’s so much to do in Taipei alone and it’s so convenient living there. If there was a city outside of New York City I would want to live in, it’s Taipei!
Over the years, I’ve observed the evolution of how Taipei’s become more friendly toward English speakers in particular. Signs everywhere now include English translations which makes it easy to navigate. As someone who is bi-racial and looks more Western, I used to get stares all the time when I was in Taiwan as a kid. Each year that I go back now as an adult the stares have faded away since tourists have been flocking to this incredible country in East Asia.
The equivalent of going to an observatory in NYC, a must-see attraction is the Taipei 101 building, aka “101,” which was once the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010. Visitors can take the elevator to the observation deck on the 89th floor for breathtaking views of the city.
For some of the most breathtaking views of Taipei that include 101 in the scene, take the MRT red line to the last stop, Xiangshan Station. From there, exit the station and look for signs that say “Xiangshan Hiking Trail.” Yes, you will need to actually do some hiking! The trail is paved and is made up of stairs at an incline. Some physical fitness is required, but there is a railing and viewing platforms to take rests at.
This is one of the photographer’s meccas in the city and it does get crowded, especially at sunset. If you want to get a spot definitely go early!
If you’ve ever watched Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, a day trip to Jiufen is a requirement! This village is what inspired Hayao Miyazaki to create his masterpiece movie. There are many villages that look like Jiufen but aren’t as touristy. However, they’re harder to get to unless you go with a local Taiwanese tour guide or driver.
If you’re looking to experience authentic Taiwanese snacks and street vendors, a visit to one of Taipei’s many night markets is a must! There’s the Shilin Night Market, one of the largest and most popular markets, and also Raohe Night Market in Songshan District. I absolutely love the street food in Taiwan, and probably gain 10 pounds every time I go. It’s unparalleled and so delicious! There are a ton of other famous night markets around the island as well like in Tainan and Kaohsiung in the south.
Ximending is known as the “Harajuku of Taipei” and is one of the main shopping districts in the city, especially for younger people. It’s fun and glitzy and also a perfect place to people watch since there’s a crosswalk that’s also similar to Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing.
For a more relaxed experience, visitors can take a dip in the Beitou Hot Springs, which are known for their therapeutic properties. The hot springs are located in a beautiful mountain setting and offer a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Another popular attraction is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a monument dedicated to Taiwan’s former president. The hall is surrounded by beautiful gardens and is a great place to take a stroll and learn about Taiwan’s history. Depending on who you talk to in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek was not a good leader in Taiwan so I always found it odd that there’s a massive memorial hall dedicated to him. That being said, it’s still a large campus with cool stuff to see inside.
Finally, no visit to Taipei is complete without visiting one of its many temples. The Longshan Temple is a particularly beautiful example, with intricate carvings and colorful paintings that are sure to impress.
Part of your 10-day Taiwan itinerary should be dedicated to visiting other parts of the island. Nestled in the literal heart of Taiwan is Alishan National Forest, a nature lover’s paradise. There are so many hiking trails through lush forests, and its famous foggy sunrises make this a magical place.
One of the most popular activities going to Alishan is taking a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway. This historic alpine train takes visitors on a journey through the forest, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The ride is famous for its unique Z-shaped switchbacks and for going through over 50 tunnels and 77 wooden bridges. Be warned: the ride is quite bumpy, but quite the experience!
Another must-do activity in Alishan is hiking. The forest is home to a network of well-maintained trails, offering something for every level of hiker. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, there’s a trail for you. One of the most popular trails is the “Sunsets at the Top” trail, which takes hikers to the summit of Alishan for a truly unforgettable sunset experience.
For those interested in indigenous culture, the Alishan Forest Recreation Area is home to several aborigines tribes. FYI Taiwanese still call indigenous “aborigines.” In the West like the US, that word is deemed derogatory, but we Americans always forget that we’re not the center of the Universe, and English is not everyone’s first language. Visitors can learn about the region’s history and culture by visiting a Tsou cultural village at the base of the mountain, where they can learn about the Tsou people’s customs, walk the Tanaiku suspension bridge, and eat traditional Tsou barbeque food.
Often overshadowed by Taiwan’s larger cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, Hsinchu offers visitors a unique blend of culture, history, and nature. Fun fact: Hsinchu is my second home. Since I was a kid I would spend every summer here and be with my family. As a local, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering the many things to do in Hsinchu and I’m excited to share my top picks with you.
A must-see for any first-time visitor to Hsinchu. It’s dedicated to the city’s patron deity and is a beautiful example of traditional Chinese architecture. Integrated with one of Hsinchu’s oldest markets, there are so many alleys and vendors to check out. It’s also a great place to learn about Hsinchu’s history and culture.
Home to the coveted semiconductor industry, like TSMC’s headquarters, Hsinchu is known as the “Silicon Valley of Taiwan.” Hsinchu Science Park is a great place to learn about the latest advancements in technology and see some of the world’s biggest tech companies in action.
This charming old street is part of Beipu Historic Area, a village made up of the Hakka ethnic minority. My family is part Hakka and we’ve been visiting here for years, never realizing it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site! You can take a leisurely stroll through the area and admire the preserved traditional houses and temples, and sample Hakka culture.
Taiwan is a subtropical island and has a diverse variety of ecosystems. Wetlands are one of the most important environments for biodiversity, and the Taiwanese government has made strides more recently to protect these areas.
With only 10 days to explore Taiwan, you’ll need to prioritize your activities. Even though Taiwan is about the size of New Jersey, there’s so much to see and do! No matter your plans, you’ll be sure to fall in love with Taiwan and all it has to offer.
Whenever I travel internationally, I ALWAYS get supplemental travel insurance to the coverage I have from my travel credit cards. The main reason is for medical purposes because if something happens while overseas, you don’t want to be SOL or stuck with some crazy bill. It’s not expensive and gives peace of mind to know medical expenses are covered should any negative situation happen. I typically shop around insurance companies to compare prices, and went with Safety Wing’s Nomad Insurance.
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