Filipinos love to travel, and luckily being in this part of the world means that there’s no shortage of incredible destinations to go to. One of the hottest destinations right now for the Philippine tourist is Taiwan, just a two and a half hour flight to the north. According to Taiwan Today, the visa-free program for passport holders from the Philippines has been extended until July 31, 2019, which means that Filipinos can hop on a flight for a weekend to check out the amazing sights— as long as you head back home within 14 days.
If you’re intrigued by what our nearest neighbor has to offer, check out our mega list of things to do in Taiwan that we’ve compiled below!
- Go to the observation deck of Taipei 101
One of the most iconic sights in Taipei is Taipei 101, the second-tallest building in the world. The building is 101 stories high and almost half a kilometer tall, and was designed to symbolize the combination of modern technology with Asian tradition. Besides an incredible view, it also boasts a multi-level shopping mall, food court, restaurants, and an international grocery store. You can take a trip to the observation deck on the 89th floor for NT$ 600, where you can take in all the sights of Taipei.
- Visit the highest Starbucks in the world
After checking out the view from the 89th floor observatory, you can grab a cup of coffee at the highest Starbucks in the world, also known as the Secret Starbucks. Located on the 35th floor, it actually isn’t the only Starbucks in the building— there’s one on the first floor— but it certainly is the more interesting one. Since it’s not normally accessible to walk-in tourists, you’ll have to call ahead to make reservations with the staff. You can stay in the Secret Starbucks for a maximum of 1.5 hours as long as you have the minimum order of a drink and a pastry, and you’re treated to a view of the city without having to pay for another ticket to the observatory deck.
- Go to the Gold Ecological Park
If you’ve ever wanted to see what an actual gold rush town looks like, you’re in luck. The Gold Ecological Park can be found in the mountain town Jinguashi in Ruifang District, New Taipei City. Although the actual gold mining and panning industry in the town has more or less become a relic of the past, the buildings and cultural history have been well-maintained. You can take a look at the museum for more insight into the life of a miner, or check out the beautifully-designed gold items on display. The park costs about NT$ 80 per head, and is open from 9:30am to 5:00pm (Mon-Fri) and 6:00pm (Sat-Sun).
- Visit the Golden Waterfall
A little distance from the Gold Ecological Park is the Golden Waterfall, which is definitely a must-see if you’re in the area. While the water does run gold, it’s not actually caused by gold flecks. The color is due to the abundance of metal elements and minerals in the riverbed, but either way the contrast of the water against the deep green of the surrounding foliage is a sight to behold. However, the toxicity of the water is pretty high, so this is one of those sights that’s look-but-don’t-touch.
- Be awed by the Yin Yang Sea
The water from the Golden Waterfall eventually needs to end up somewhere, and if you have some time in your day then you should definitely squeeze in a look at the Yin Yang Sea. Located along the northern coastal road some minutes away from the Gold Ecological Park, this spot is so called because of the contrast of the yellow runoff from the mountains meeting with the deep blue of the sea, bringing to mind the Chinese principle of yin and yang. The view is beautiful, but unfortunately not safe for swimming.
- Visit the tea houses on Mao Kong Shan
One of the most scenic spots in Taipei also happens to be the best place to sit down and enjoy a piping hot cup of tea. Maokong is a village at the top of Maokong mountain, and used to be the biggest tea-growing area of Taipei. It has spectacular views of the whole of Taipei, and you can actually go hiking around the area if you’re so inclined. While you’re here, you can try visiting Yao Yue teahouse, which is open 24 hours and an excellent place to relax, enjoy the surrounding nature, and drink some of the best tea Taiwan has to offer.
- Check out the sunset from a gondola on Mao Kong Shan
Maokong is best accessed through the Maokong Gondola, a cable car that runs up the length of the mountain. The gondolas have crystal cabins, which gives you a much better view of Taipei and the surrounding mountainside. The line starts from the MRT Taipei Zoo station, and costs NT$ 120 one-way for adults, and NT$ 50 for children aged 6-12 and senior citizens over 65 years old. You can take in the gorgeous view of the sunset over Taipei as you head back down from a day enjoying Maokong, but make sure to check out their gondola schedules ahead of time, as the trips are dependent on the weather.
- Light a sky lantern on Shifen Old Street
One thing you’ll see advertised even before you get out of the airport is the sky lantern, which has lately become a can’t-miss on a trip to Taiwan. The most famous place to light these sky lanterns is at Shifen Old Street on the Pingxi rail line, which is a remnant of the old railroad towns that used to pepper Taiwan. Sky lanterns were once used for signaling by those in the railroad industry, but you can now write your wish on a lantern and send it up for around NT$ 100-150 per lantern.
- Visit the vintage shops in Shifen
While sky lanterns may be the most famous activity to do in Shifen, they certainly aren’t the only attraction in this quaint little town. You can take a look around Shifen Old Street, a collection of different lanes and alleyways around the railway station area. This is a great place to buy some souvenirs and check out vintage stores, which is another great way to get a glimpse of Taiwan’s past.
- Check out the Shifen waterfall and suspension bridge
A 30-minute walk northeast from the train platform at Shifen station will bring you to Shifen waterfall, which is widely regarded to be the most scenic waterfall in all of Taiwan. The moisture from the waterfall will usually create a rainbow, which is great for pictures, and the suspension bridge that takes you across the river is another great place to get a view of the surrounding nature.
- Visit Shilin Night Market
You haven’t been to Taipei if you don’t go to the Shilin Night Market, one of the largest, most popular night markets in the country. This is one of the top spots for tourists visiting Taiwan, and with good reason. This huge market is filled with all sorts of merchandise and food, with something new to try or look at on every corner. There’s a variety of local and international merchandise to attract any shopper, and the huge number of food stalls means anybody visiting will be spoiled for choice.
- Eat Taiwanese street food at Shilin night market
Shilin Night Market is particularly famous for being a hub of Taiwanese street food. Local vendors sell all sorts of different street food for reasonable prices, and you can spend hours going from stall to stall and sampling whatever they have to offer. The most popular dish would probably be the oyster omelet, but you can also find giant fried chicken, fried buns, tempura, bubble tea, and stinky tofu. While the night market is technically open until past midnight, most of the food vendors will have closed up shop by then, so make sure you get there early!
- Look around the National Palace Museum
For those who want to take a deeper look at Chinese art and culture, the National Palace Museum is an absolute must-see. The museum boasts the largest collection of Chinese cultural artifacts in the world, with a permanent collection of almost 700,000 pieces that encompasses 8,000 years of Chinese art history. Some current collections include national treasures, Chinese calligraphy, and paintings on flower vases. The main building is open daily from 8:30am to 6:30pm, and tickets for general audiences typically go for NT$ 350, although you can check their website for the full list of prices.
- Walk around Liberty Square
Liberty Square, also known as Freedom Square, was completed in the 1970s and has remained Taipei’s public gathering place of choice ever since. The name is an important historical reference to Taiwan’s transition to a modern democracy, and true to its name it’s also the home of three of Taiwan’s major landmarks: the National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the National Concert Hall, and the National Theater. The square is located in the Zhongzheng district, and can be accessed via MTR at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station.
- Visit Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
For a better glimpse at Taiwan’s modern history, visitors would do well to visit the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Liberty Square. This hall was erected in honor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, former President of the Republic of China, and has 8 sides (symbolizing fortune and wealth) and 89 steps leading up to the main hall, which represent the 89 years of Chiang’s life. The bronze statue of Chiang is protected by military personnel, and if you’re lucky you can watch the changing of the guard every hour. There’s also a museum that traces his life and career, as well as the history of Taiwan and China.
- Get a foot massage
While you should definitely make the most of your trip to Taiwan, it’s not a bad idea to take a break and de-stress from traveling with a Taiwanese-style foot massage. Reflexology is a big thing in pan-Chinese culture, and there are fewer places better for this than Taipei. You don’t need to go to any particular spot in the city for this, as there are reflexology parlors all over the city. While the initial experience may be a bit jarring for first-timers— systematically going through every acupuncture point can get a little painful— the relief you’ll feel the next day will be worth it.
- Go whale watching in Wushih Harbor
If you’re in Taiwan at the right time, one thing that you shouldn’t miss out on is whale watching on Gueishan Island, off Yilan County in the northeast. Gueishan is one of the largest fishing grounds in Taiwan, and that means whales and dolphins come to the area to feed. The best times for this are in the summer and autumn, and you can take a day-trip from Taipei to Gueishan. A whole trip might cost you about NT$ 1,600, but watching whales come out of the vivid blue waters of Taiwan’s coast make it all worth it.
- Eat steamed dumplings at the original Din Tai Fung
Taiwan is known for being a foodie’s heaven, and no foodie can take a trip to Taipei without making a pilgrimage to the original Din Tai Fung on Xinyi road. Din Tai Fung has taken the world by storm in recent years, and there’s no better place to enjoy their iconic xiao long bao than at the Michelin-starred original branch itself. You might have to prepare for a bit of a wait, but they seat people pretty quickly, and the menu has a wider variety of options than you might see in their other branches across the world. Definitely don’t miss out on this one.
- Take advantage of bargain prices at Wufenpu
The number one place to go bargain shopping for clothes in Taipei is in Wufenpu district. Wufenpu is a maze of different stalls and racks full of clothing, and is the largest garment district in Taipei. This is a fashionista’s haven, with interesting, quality pieces sold at rock-bottom prices. Many a traveler has walked into Wufenpu and come out with a lighter wallet and a much more crowded wardrobe. Wufenpu is accessible through the Songshan station, and it’s best to go on a Tuesday to check out the new stock.
- Visit the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts
The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is the first and currently the only national-grade fine arts museum in Taiwan. The major collections mostly contain works by Taiwanese artists, and the museum attracts over one million visitors a year. Most of the pieces are contemporary, and the curatorial team manages around 30 exhibitions a year. This museum is a must-see for anybody interested in learning a bit more about Taiwanese art and history, and it’s especially attractive because it’s free admission for all visitors. There’s also a large park that you can enjoy in between looking at exhibits.
- Hike around Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park in eastern Taiwan is one of nine national parks in the country, and is perfect for nature lovers who want a closer look at the interesting geology and ecology that make up the island. The park is named for Taroko Gorge, which has an abundant supply of marble, and was carved by the Liwu River over millions of years. Named after the aboriginal Truku tribe, the park also has numerous exhibits, museums, and trails that make for an unforgettable visit.
- Visit Guanyin Cave
Travelers who want to add a spiritual element to their trips may choose to go to Guanyin Cave in Gongguan, Taitung County. Guanyin Cave is a natural stalactite cave, and within the cave is a stalagmite whose shape resembles Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Locals make their pilgrimage to this cave regularly, coming to pray whenever there is any major event in their lives. The landscape in this area is lovely, and good for anyone who enjoys meditative walks.
- Check out the Chimei Museum in Tainan
Taiwan has no shortage of excellent museums, and the Chimei Museum in Tainan is one of them. A private museum that was established in 1992, the museum has collections from Western art, natural history, arms and armor, antiquities, musical instruments, and artifacts. It also has one of the largest collections of violins in the world. General admission is NT$ 200, and while you’re there don’t forget to take a picture at the famous Bassin d’Apollo.
- Take a snapshot of Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain
With Taipei 101 cutting such an impressive figure across the skyline of Taipei, you’ll be wanting to get a photo with the tallest green tower in the world. The best view of this skyscraper is from Elephant Mountain, also known as Xiangshan. The Nangang District Hiking Trail starts from the Xinyi shopping district, and the best time to make the hike is in the late afternoon. Once you get to the top you can catch the sunset and a fantastic nighttime view of the city, but try to shoot for a weekday as the trail can get crowded on the weekend.
- Watch the sunset from Danshui Fisherman’s Wharf
The best sunset views in Taiwan are along Danshui Fisherman’s Wharf, about 40 minutes from Taipei by MTR. Danshui, or Tamshui, has a gorgeous panoramic view of the sunset, and if you can spare the time it’s an easy day trip from the capital. The wharf is not all it’s got going for it, however; it’s also home to native Taiwanese cultural attractions, as well as western colonial, Japanese, and southern Fujianese cultural and architectural sights.
- Go to Long Dong (Dragon Cave)
The landscape in Taiwan is incredible, and not least of the views would be Long Dong or the Dragon Cave. Long Dong is a stretch of sea cliffs on the northern tip of Taiwan, which face east into the Pacific Ocean. The caves are an absolutely stunning geological sight, with tall sandstone cliffs rising out of the water. While the cliffs are popular with climbers, the water is beautiful and clear, and excellent for cliff jumping or snorkeling during the summer.
- Take a day trip to Jiufen
Of course, we would be remiss to end an article about Taiwan without mentioning Jiufen, the gold mining town and Taiwan’s Santorini. The inspiration for the Japanese animated film Spirited Away, Jiufen is a maze of alleyways and small sidestreets rich in history and culture. Many of the buildings in this town still retain their traditional look, and it’s the perfect place to get lost and walk aroud in. It’s about two hours roundtrip by public transit from Taipei City, so it makes for a nice day trip, and you definitely shouldn’t miss out on this one.
- Take in the views from the top of Mount Keelung
While you’re in Jiufen, you might be interested in taking one of the many hiking trails in the area. The Keelung mountain trail is the closest to Jiufen Old Street, only about 350m away from the parking lot. The mountain looks a lot like a pregnant woman lying on her back, which is why locals call it “The Pregnant Beauty.” The lookout from the mountain view is about 588m from sea level, and offers an incredible view of the North Coast and surrounding mountainside.
- Look at the rock formations at Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu Geopark is one of the top destinations in northern Taiwan, and is famous for its multitutde of unique geological formations. The geopark is located along a cape stretching out from the town of Wanli, and is about 1.7km. Notable rock formations would be the Queen’s Head, Sea Candles, Fairy Shoe, Ginger Rocks, Elephant Rock, and Kissing Rock. You can take a bus from Taipei West Bus Station for around NT$ 96 to Yehliu Geopark, and the journey will take you around an hour and a half. This is one of the best places to get shots in Taiwan, so definitely make time for this on your trip.
- Be part of Taiwanese nightlife at Ximending
If you’ve crossed most of the touristy stuff off your list, take your time to unwind at the Ximending Youth Shopping District, also known as the Harajuku of Taipei. One of Taipei’s cultural hotspots, this district is home to a wide variety of clothing stores, restaurants, clubs, and bars. The Ximending Pedestrian Area in particular is an iconic spot, and you can get a fairly glimpse of Taiwanese nightlife if you go here. It’s a perfect place to unwind and grab a dinner and drink to cap off your trip.
For more tips for travelers, check out our travel section on Daydreaming in Paradise.
James Gonzales is a Filipino-American travel enthusiast and writer currently based in the Philippines. After living and working in New York for 10 years, James decided he wanted to see more of the world and leave the city behind. In the course of saving up for what would become an epic trip across Asia, he wrote about previous traveling experiences for various travel websites and publications based in the Lower East Side.
James focused on journeying through the Philippines in the hopes of understanding his roots, and began Daydreaming in Paradise to share his thoughts and experiences. He’s always looking for like-minded travelers to trade stories and swap tips with, and he hopes you’ll join him on his journey.