Day-Trip Destinations Around Taipei
Because Taipei has such a wonderful selection of hotels and restaurants, many tourists like to base themselves in the capital, and take advantage of the region’s superb transport links to explore the north coast and the mountainous interior.
Like Shanghai, Tamsui (often spelled ‘Danshui’) was once a ‘treaty port’, meaning that in the second half of the 19th century traders and residents from the British Empire, France, Russia and the United States enjoyed special rights and protections. The town lies on the northern side of a scenic estuary, and began developing after the Spanish built Fort San Domingo in the first half of the 17th century. That bastion was taken over by the Dutch before becoming an imperial Chinese barracks; the British government later rented it and used it as their consulate until 1972. The fort is just one of several relics which history buffs find fascinating.
Jiufen and Jinguashi are sited just a few kilometers apart and enjoy stirring views of the northeast coast’s bays and promontories. Both owe their existence to the minerals contained in the steep hills hereabouts. Jiufen grew rapidly during the 1920s and 1930s while gold was extracted. At Jinguashi, copper was mined as well as gold. When the mines closed down in the 1980s, most residents moved out, leaving behind a number of traditional houses along narrow, incredibly quaint streets. Jinguashi’s Gold Ecological Park is an excellent place to learn about the area’s geology and history. One of the darker episodes of the past occurred during World War II, when Allied prisoners-of-war were forced by the Japanese then occupying Taiwan to work in awful conditions in the mines.
Far from the sea, and sprawling over a greater area than Taipei City, Wulai is a mountainous aboriginal district with a mere 6,100 human residents – but substantial animal and bird populations. For tourists whose plans include lounging in riverside hot springs, birdwatching, hiking, or sampling the distinctive cuisine of Taiwan’s Austronesian minority, Wulai is the place to go.
Covering the mountains northwest of Taipei, Yangmingshan National Park has indoor and outdoor hot springs plus several well-marked yet challenging hiking routes.