The island was once called Formosa, which means “beautiful”, and that couldn’t be more accurate.
There is something for everyone here. Mountains and beaches or night markets and temples, Taiwan offers a blend of classic East Asian staples with its own twist and many unique sights you won’t find anywhere else.
Small enough to travel by train in a day but big enough to fill weeks with sightseeing and activities, this mosaic of landscape and cityscape is a truly welcoming country. The kindness of the Taiwanese people might have Canadians beat and on a larger scale, it is one of the most progressive countries in Asia.
Taiwan’s long and unique history can be observed in memorial sites, temples from a variety of religious influences, and diverse museums. In the capital Taipei, the National Palace Museum, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and the 2-28 Peace Park are among the must-sees that are both beautiful and suffused in political history.
The giant capital city also offers some world-famous street food. Night markets like Gongguan, Raohe St, or Shilin offer an overwhelming number of dishes and snacks to try. Whether you want to try the essential fried chicken and bubble tea, the specialized and diverse Gua Bao sandwiches, or the hate-it-or-love-it stinky tofu, night markets in Taipei and in the rest of the country should be visited on an empty stomach and with friends to share with.
While Taipei and its surrounding area could easily be explored for weeks, the rest of the island should not be neglected. One of the main attractions on the mountainous east coast is Taroko National Park, which features hikes that range from light walks to challenging steep climbs, the crystal clear river in Taroko Gorge, and the impressive Qingshui Cliffs.
Further south is the city of Taitung, which is the stepping off point to get to Green Island (Ludao) a small and coral ringed destination that is said to have some the best spots for snorkelling and scuba diving in the world.
In contrast to the mountains of the east, the west coast is a relatively flat urban sprawl. In Kaohsiung, Lotus Pond and the Dragon-Tiger Pavilion are a popular attraction, and the city is bursting with trendy bars and fantastic restaurants. Just a day trip away is Kenting National Park at the southernmost tip of the island where surfing dominates the small towns and beaches.
The other major cities of the western side of the island are Tainan and Taichung which are both packed with things to do. Picturesque Sun Moon Lake, teahouses, fine art museums, plenty of festivals, and temples galore make these cities worth visiting.
When visiting Taiwan, you can find your way around on your own with the easy-to-navigate transportation system or book a guided island tour. And did I mention that you can find free wifi almost everywhere? There is really no reason why Taiwan shouldn’t be added to your future travel plans.
For in-depth travel information on Taiwan: https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/taiwan/