Whether you’ve got a flight connection or want to extend a business trip, Taiwan is the ideal destination for a memorable 24-hours. And with its easy access to everything from breathtaking national parks to terraced tea gardens, historic villages to stunning coastlines, Taipei is your perfect home base. Need a few travel tips? Read on for eight of our favorite easy to execute adventures.
Once nothing more than a village tucked up in the lush hills northeast of Taipei, Jiufen became a booming town during the gold rush of the late 1800s. Today, it's popular for another treasure: food. Vendors hawking traditional Taiwanese fare (taro balls followed by peanut ice cream rolls, anyone?) line the intricate network of cobblestone alleyways, each illuminated by beautiful red lanterns and some yielding stunning ocean views. Catch a bus from the outskirts of Taipei and prepare to be transported.
Like Jiufen, Pingxi is a town flush with food and brimming with old world charms. However, it's the outdoor options surrounding town that get our nod. After a quick ride on the Pingxi Branch Rail Line, avid trekkers with a head for heights will love the Xiaozi Shan Hiking Trail, whose network of metal ladders and steep staircases carved into the rocks will take you up and down craggy peaks. For a more gentle but equally stunning journey, check out the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail, or take the train to Shifen and embark on the 20-minute walk to Shifen Waterfall, widely considered Taiwan's most majestic.
Just 15 miles south of Taipei (take the MRT to Xindian station and grab the 849 bus), Wulai feels a world away. Unlike most of Chinese-influenced Taiwan, Wulai proudly clings to its aboriginal roots (locals belong to the Atayal Tribe). Notched in a tight, mountainous valley, Wulai's Old Street is the perfect place to find handcrafted goods and sample hearty traditional food, while just outside town you'll find waterfalls, swimming holes and natural hot springs, not to mention an abundance of birdwatching.
We realize scaling a peak might not top your to-do list if you're only in Taipei for 24-hours, but Qixing Mountain sounds a lot more imposing than it actually is. Only an hour's commute from teeming Taipei (take the 260 bus out of the Main Station), Qixing is located in the heart of Yangmingshan National Park, a post volcanic region whose hillsides still puff with sulphur gas exhaust. The hike to Quixing's nearly 4,000 foot summit is only a mile in length, but the views that stretch back across the park, down into Taipei and out to sea might as well be endless.
Of course you don't need to hike a mountain to get an amazing view. You don't even need to leave the heart of Taipei. At 1,670-feet, the Taipei 101 -- the world's tallest skyscraper until 2008 -- yields 360-degree city views from its 89th and 91st floor observatories. Technological marvels abound, from an elevator that takes just 37-seconds to reach the top floors to a 660 ton pendulum designed to offset wind forces, while down below a five-floor mall is perfect for boutique shopping. Tip: Arrive before the 9 a.m. opening to beat the crowds.
No visit to Taiwan would be complete without a visit to a teahouse. In mountaintop Maokong, you'll not only find the highest quality locally grown tea, but you'll sip it in one of the most tranquil spots this stunning country has to offer. Grab a glass-bottomed gondola out of MRT Taipei Zoo Station and enjoy the scenic ride. Once in Maokong, you'll stroll through gardens, along nature trails and past Buddhist temples before sitting down to sample the best homegrown brews. Feeling peckish? Stay for a leisurely dinner as dusk drapes itself over the green hills and the twinkling city lights below.
Imagine if the iconic hoodoo rock formations of southern Utah were set against the sea? Well, that's exactly what you get at Yehliu Geopark, an otherworldly limestone cape that juts out into the East China Sea. Take in the oddly shaped geological wonders (each laying claim to an awesome name like Ginger Rocks or Fairy Shoe) as you wander along the 1,700 foot stretch of land, where it's easy to pretend you're hopping from page to page in a Dr. Seuss book. Located 90-minutes from Taipei West Bus Station, the popular day-trip is well worth the effort.
Traveling as a couple? Inject a little romance into your stay with a trip to Tamsui, a 40-minute train ride from Taipei Main Station. Here, you'll walk along the river down Tamsui Old Street, famous for its vibrant atmosphere and fragrant snack food (try the a-gei, which mixes glass noodles and fried tofu to perfection). Once you've reached the end, jump on a ferry to Fisherman's Wharf and watch the sun set over Lover's Bridge.