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9-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 – Hualien County
- We’ll be making a reasonably early start today and driving to Hualien on the east coast. We can break this four-hour drive with a stop at the hot & cold springs park in Jiaoxi in Yilan County. If your interested, we can instead detour to the Kavalan Distillery where one of the world’s newest whisky brands has been producing prize-winning editions.
- A large part of the population in the east is of indigenous Austronesian descent and each of these tribes has its own distinct cuisine. At the acclaimed aboriginal restaurant Dageeli we’ll enjoy some indigenous delicacies before heading into Hualien. After we’ve set you up in your hotel and you’ve taken a rest, we can look around this lively city of 100,000 people.
Day 4 – Taroko Gorge
- Today we’ll leave the museums and temples behind and explore Taroko Gorge, a breathtaking combination of solid rock and rushing water. This not-to-be-missed geological marvel is part of the ancestral territory of the Truku indigenous people.
- The day can be as vigorous or as lazy as you like. Depending on your enthusiasm for walking and your passion for stunning natural landscapes, we can take you along the flat but scenic Baiyang Trail, the more challenging hike up to Lianhua Pond, or to glimpse macaques on the Lushui Trail.
- If you’re the kind of person happy to enjoy the national park from a car seat, we’ll drive you to the best vantage points, and have lunch at Buluowan, a former Truku settlement where there are demonstrations of indigenous handicrafts.
Day 5 – Ruisui Hot Spring District
- After checking out, we’ll drive through the bucolic East Rift Valley, where the population is a multi-ethnic mix of Hoklo (descendants of settlers from Fujian in China who have lived in Taiwan for several generations), Hakka, ‘mainlanders’ (Chinese who arrived after 1949 and their children), and several indigenous tribes. Each tribe has its own cuisine and today we’ll be sampling aboriginal delicacies today.
- Our first stop is Ruisui, a district famous for its hot springs; if you want to soak, bring your swimsuit. Then it’s on to Guangfu, where the sugar industry once drove the local economy. A succession of bucolic hamlets and alluring view will bring us to our hotel in Taitung County.
Day 6 – Pingtung Aboriginal Village
- Today we’ll be travelling through another part of indigenous Taiwan: the villages that face the Pacific Ocean in the southeast, and the tribal homelands deep in the hills that separate east Taiwan from the flatter, more populated west.
- Highway 9 will convey us into Pingtung County, where we’ll tour the 150-year-old Hsiao Family Residence, the finest traditional mansion in the south and a superb example of Hoklo architecture. At one point, more than 100 people lived in this sprawling yet elegant complex.
- We should reach Tainan – the city that served as Taiwan’s capital for more than 200 years and remains a bastion of tradition – in time for you to take a rest in your hotel before dinner. Taiwan’s south has its own specialities and we’ll enjoy some of these. After, if you’ve the energy, 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.
Day 7 – 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. And if you fancy a nightcap, we know just the place.
Day 8 – Countryside Villages
- Today we’ll leave central Tainan and take in some sights in the surrounding countryside.
- If it’s Sunday we recommend a pre-lunch halt at the huge temple at Nankunshen, to see the spectacular (and very noisy) religious parades that converge on this important spiritual site from subsidiary shrines all over the region. Afterwards, we’ll take a look at the bucolic little town of Yanshui, where 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.
- Alternatively, we can head east to the little town of Xinhua, which has one of Taiwan’s most authentic ‘old streets’, and then onto the Holy Glory Temple. This imposing hillside place of worship is the headquarters of I-Kuan Tao, a sect that claims to have reconciled various religious traditions such as Christianity, Islam and Chinese mythology.
Day 9 – 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 to the airport at Tainan HSR Station.
- Alternatively, you can board the train at Chiayi HSR Station. 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.