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9-Day Natural Wonders Tour Itinerary
Day 1 – Taipei City Tour
- Fly into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei. By the time you’ve transferred to your hotel in the capital, we’ll have finalised a plan for the rest of the day that matches your interests and energy levels. Depending on time available and weather, this may include a look at Taipei Botanical Garden, or one of the popular short hikes on Elephant Mountain.
- Visiting the fabulous National Palace Museum is an option, especially if you’re arriving on a Friday or Saturdays when it stays open to 9pm (closing time is 6.30pm on other days). Alternatively, you may want nothing more strenuous than a soak in a hot spring, a visit to Taipei 101 and its observatory for sunset views over the city, or a stroll around Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (a landmark dedicated to Taiwan and Nationalist China’s former leader).
Day 2 – Taipei to Taroko National Park
- We recommend making a reasonably early start and eating a hearty breakfast because we have a four-hour drive ahead of us. The journey can be broken with a stop at the hot & cold springs park in Jiaoxi in Yilan County, or a walk on the windswept Pacific-facing beach at Dongao. A good option for lunch en route is the acclaimed aboriginal restaurant Dageeli.
- Arriving in Taroko National Park around 2pm will give us time to visit the Eternal Spring Shrine and the Yanzikou Trail (Swallow Grotto) before checking into our preferred hotel at 4pm. The property has excellent food and spa services, outdoor and indoor pools, and is a short walk from Xiangde Temple.
Day 3 – Taroko National Park
- Today can be as energetic as you like. Depending on your enthusiasm for walking and your passion for stunning natural landscapes, we can take you along the flat but very pretty Baiyang Trail, the more challenging hike up to Lianhua Pond, or to the Lushui Trail to glimpse macaques.
- 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 aboriginal settlement where there are demonstrations of indigenous handicrafts.
Day 4 – Sun Moon Lake
- After breakfast, we’ll head into the higher reaches of Taroko National Park, stopping if you like for hot ginger tea at Bilu Sacred Tree, a 50m high, 3,200-year-old Lunta fir. We’ll make regular stops, including one at the road’s highest point (3,275m above sea level), so you can photograph the gorgeous scenery and stretch your legs. Lunch can be a feast of roast chicken and mountain vegetables – or a simple picnic nearly two miles above sea level.
- We expect to get you to the lakeshore around 4pm, in time for a delightful cruise on a private boat to enjoy views of the water and the surrounding mountains.
Day 5 – Sun Moon Lake to Alishan
- Almost everyone agrees that just after daybreak, as the sun climbs up over the nearby peaks, is a splendid moment to appreciate the beauty of Sun Moon Lake. After breakfast we can either show you lakeside attractions we’ll visit are Cien Pagoda (built on the orders of Chiang Kai-shek to honour his late mother) or bring you to Antique Assam Tea Farm. This restored Japanese-era tea plantation is as educational as it is scenic; tastings can be arranged.
- In the afternoon, we’ll return to the high mountains. Depending on what time we tear ourselves away from Sun Moon Lake, and whether we’re taking the lowland or the highland route towards Alishan (the latter is sometimes closed to traffic), we may be able to stop en route in the tea-growing district of Lugu. There, we’ll immerse ourselves in one of Taiwan’s most beautiful bamboo forests, and perhaps sample some of the fine oolong teas that have won a global reputation.
- Then begins our aboriginal adventure. Up in the mountains and next to a river, we’ll stay in the tiny indigenous village of Laiji. We have good friends there and will arrange for a traditional dinner: wild-boar meat, yams and foraged vegetables cooked over an open fire.
Day 6 – Laiji Mountain Village
- If you’re up early you can ramble around a mountain village and see indigenous folk go about their daily lives. When we’re ready to make a move, we’ll proceed to an even more elevated destination: Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
- En route, we’ll stop and explore the forests around Fenqihu (a tiny town that grew up to service the logging railway), and take a look at Dinghu, a tea-growing village 1,600m above sea level. Inside the forest recreation area (elevation approximately 2,200m) there are more than enough trails to keep you busy until dinner time.
Day 7 – Tainan Ancient City
- If you want to follow tourist convention and rise before dawn so you can board the logging train to the sunrise-viewing spot we’d be delighted to accompany you. After breakfast you’ll have time to further explore the forest recreation area on foot, before we begin our descent to Tainan.
- Tainan served as Taiwan’s capital for more than 200 years and remains a bastion of tradition. In addition to a number of ancient landmarks, the city is famous for its ‘little eats’. We’ll explain all the options from fine dining to scrumptious street snacks as we go. After dinner, a craft beer on atmospheric Shennong Street or a coffee in the garden of Chihkan Tower (one of two forts built by the Dutch in the 17th century) are delightful ways to end the evening.
Day 8 – Taijiang National Park
- Via Anping and Fort Zeelandia (the other Dutch fort) we’ll enter Taijiang National Park, a realm of wetlands, coastal ecosystems and a great many waterbirds. A boat ride through the “green tunnel” is an option, as is an excursion to Cigu Salt Mountain. The landscape thereabouts is very flat by Taiwan’s rugged standards, and from the top of the mountain (it’s really made of salt and you can climb it) you can see impressively far. At the same time, you’ll learn a bit about the ancient, but now defunct, practice of making salt from seawater.
- If you prefer uplands to the coast, we can instead head out to a mountainous part of Pingtung County. 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.
Day 9 – Wrap up
- Whatever time you fly out, we’ll help you make the very most of your final day in Taiwan. Because Tainan HSR Station (where you’ll board the bullet train to the airport) is southeast of the city centre, we can show you a surprising sight on the way: Moonworld, a region of badlands utterly different to lush landscapes so common in Taiwan.