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7-Day Culture Tour Itinerary
Day 1 – Taipei City and Dihua Street
- Fly into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei. By the time you’ve transferred to your hotel in the capital, we’ll have finalized a plan for the rest of the day that matches your interests and energy levels.
- Depending on time available, this may include a thorough look at Wanhua, one of the oldest and most interesting parts of Taipei, and home to its best known hall of worship, Longshan Temple, or a wander through the traditional neighbourhood of Dihua Street. The latter, famous for its baroque-revival architecture, is not far from the gorgeous Baoan Temple.
- Alternatively, it may be nothing more strenuous than a stroll around Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a landmark dedicated to the Nationalist Chinese leader who was Taiwan’s president 1949-1975.
Day 2 – National Palace Museum
- We’ll spend as much of the day inside the magnificent National Palace Museum as you want, lunching at the museum’s Silks Palace restaurant.
- The remainder of the day will be given over to touring sights in the northern part of the city. It’s a short hop from the museum to the Martyrs Shrine, where the hourly changing of the guard is a display of breathtaking precision. Then it’s off to Xinbeitou, where the 1895-1945 Japanese colonization of Taiwan left an especially heavy imprint in terms of architecture and hot-springs culture. If you’d like to take a dip in one of the area’s many springs, let us know and we’ll make the arrangements.
- If the hills near this part of the capital are calling to you, we can drive up to Grass Mountain Chateau in Yangmingshan National Park. A former residence of Chiang Kai-shek, it was built in 1920. Even after a complete renovation less than a decade ago, it continues to look thoroughly Japanese, right down to the sliding doors.
- If you’re in Taipei on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, taking in a show at Taipei EYE is an option. To finish up the evening, we can bring you to that most Taiwanese of places: A local night market, where tasty snack foods are sold by outdoors vendors.
Day 3 – Hsinchu and Miaoli
- Today we’ll be driving southwest for about an hour and a half, into the Hakka heartlands of Hsinchu and Miaoli. This is where Taiwan’s famous oriental beauty tea is grown, and we’ll be looking at the scenic township of Emei. At Fuxing Tea Demonstration Centre we’ll try local teas, and take a look at the pre-World War II tea-processing equipment preserved inside.
- One unique aspect of Taiwanese Hakka culture is the worship of yimin, the spirits of militiamen who died defending Hakka communities during the 18th and 19th centuries. We’ll visit the region’s main yimin temple before heading to Beipu, a former frontier town that has preserved much of its 19th-century character.
- Dinner will feature the culinary traditions of the Hakka people, who account for around one seventh of the island’s population. In the past, many of their dishes were thought to be oily and salty; in line with modern preferences for healthy fare, innovative Hakka chefs have updated the cuisine, while retaining its characteristic pork and pickle flavours.
Day 4 – Sanyi Village and Tainan
- Today we’ll take things slowly at first, taking in nearby attractions like the woodcarving centre of Sanyi and the temple at Dajia that each spring is at the epicenter of the world’s largest annual religious gathering outside India.
- A highlight in this part of Taiwan is Lukang. For much of the 18th century, Lukang was Taiwan’s second-largest town and one of the island’s key trading centres. But when the harbour silted up and the Japanese decided to build roads and railways elsewhere, it began to tumble down the rankings. Sidelined by the modern industrial economy, Lukang retains a great deal of its physical past, including two of Taiwan’s most impressive temples, narrow alleys and characterful merchants’ abodes.
- After you’ve settled in to your hotel, we can take you for a walking tour to such attractions as Shennong Street and Chihkan Tower, both of which are delightful in the evening. Tainan is famous for its ‘little eats’ and we’ll explain all the options from fine dining to scrumptious street foods as we go. If you’re in the mood for a nightcap, we know just the place.
Day 5 – Tainan Ancient City
- A good part of the day will be spent in Anping, the seaside community where Tainan – and Han Chinese culture in Taiwan – began. The main attraction here is Fort Zeelandia, the stronghold built by the Dutch East India Company in the the early 1630s. It’s perhaps the best place to learn about the Netherlands’ brief but historically critical occupation of the Tainan area. Nearby stands Anping Tree House, a 19th-century warehouse invaded by huge banyan trees. This beguiling place has even been dubbed ‘Tainan’s Angkor Wat’.
- Next up is a tour of central Tainan, where the density of relics and historical curiosities is stupendous. The Confucius Temple is an austerely beautiful academy-cum-house of worship. It and several other places of interest are open until late in the evening, and especially atmospheric after dark, so it doesn’t matter if we move very slowly because you want to try as many of the street snacks Tainan is famous for as possible.
Day 6 – Pingtung Aboriginal Village
- Today we’ll head out for the day from Tainan to the mountainous part of Pingtung County to immerse ourselves in Austronesian aboriginal culture. For many hundreds of years, the districts of Sandimen and Wutai have been the stomping ground of the Paiwan and Rukai tribes.
- The former is home to several indigenous artists and artisans who work with leather, wood and glass beads. The scenery is fabulous and the slate-covered buildings (among them two remarkable churches) are highly photogenic. If time allows, we’ll also visit the beautifully preserved Hakka community of Wugoushui.
Day 7 – Wrap Up
- Whatever time your flight out, we’ll help you make the very most of your final day in Taiwan. The rural south has a host of attractions which we can take you to before putting you on a bullet train at Tainan HSR Station.
- Alternatively, you can board the train at Chiayi HSR Station after taking a look at the bucolic little town of Yanshui (the Roman Catholic church is like nothing you’ve ever seen, and the private home known as the Octagon will have you reaching for your camera). For a final serving of culture before going north, we can tour the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum, which has superb permanent displays on tea culture, Asian textiles and Buddhist Art.