Most people know little about Taiwan, the place that claims to be the only real successor to the Republic of China. Located on a small island just 100km away from Mainland China it is a wonderful surprise and a perfect off the beaten track destination. Taiwan is highly developed with superb infrastructure. Its cities are pretty cool, nature is beautiful and the locals truly special. A speed train connects all major cities on the western coast, so most attractions can be reached within a couple of hours. Though a bit isolated, the east coast can be reached by train. There are even low cost flights between cities.
For tips on great food check this Taiwan food guide.
Here are the Top 5 Taiwan Destinations
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s southernmost city and a great starting point for a tour around the island. Quite a surprise: it’s a very pleasant city with several interesting temples and Taiwan’s largest monastery. There is also a beautiful lake, a river, a cool art centre and a top design metro station. Everything is very colourful and authentic!
Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city and quite different to its other large cities. Less cosmopolitan than Kaohsiung and Taipei it contains more historical buildings. Perfect for walking about its narrow alleys, cool old houses and temples. It even has an old mansion eaten by banyan trees. The West Central District is especially interesting with charming Shennong Street as its highlight.
Lugang is one of the few places that was able to keep some of its Chinese heritage, as most of it is gone from the rest of the country. Narrow alleys, old temples and friendly locals make it quite atmospheric. Several old houses are now museums, shops and cafés. The town is reachable by bus from Taichung.
Taipei is a true hidden gem. A fascinating mixture of fancy and trashy, it is a live display of multicultural heritage settled within a beautiful natural environment. It is also a city full of contrasts: a super rich futuristic metropolis with state of the art public transport and hi-tech towers, together with eclectic temples, memorial halls, narrow alleys and street markets.
Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park is Taiwan’s premier natural sight. Getting there can be tricky since most information is only in Chinese. The route starts in sleepy Hualien, the only big city in the East and goes deep inside the forest into Taroko Gorge. The place is outstanding, and it probably was nicer before 7 lakes were drained at the entrance close to the beach. The perils of development!
Check out this post for a more extensive Taiwan itinerary.