Destinations Explored

1

Taipei

2

Taroko Gorge

3

Sun Moon Lake

4

Alishan Township

5

Kenting National Park

One of the Four Asian Tigers, Taiwan experienced rapid economic growth during the latter half of the twentieth century, a period known today as the “Taiwan Miracle.” In this 12-day itinerary, you'll experience everything this small island nation has to offer, from its mountainous east side to its expansive plains in the west. You'll visit both small towns and great cities, marvel at soaring skyscrapers and thick blankets of jungle dotted with temples. Be prepared for the friendly, hospitable local greeting, "Have you eaten?"—the answer to which is almost always yes in a place like Taiwan where bustling street food markets run late into the evening. 

Key Highlights

Evening Night Market Group Tour

Day Trip to the Magical Towns of Shifen and Jiufen

Kavalan Whisky Distillery Tour

2-Day Guided Hike through Taroko Gorge

Visit the Serene Sun Moon Lake

Best Times to Visit

April - June

September - November

Sample Trip Itinerary

Day 1-4

Taipei

Fly into Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE)

Accommodation in Taipei

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Walk up Elephant Nature Trail

Head up Elephant Mountain in the late afternoon to catch the sunset glistening off Taipei's iconic skyline. The moderate hike weaves through giant rocks and staircases nestled in a lush jungle of native growth. In just 25 minutes, you'll be greeted by some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city. 

Taste Michelin-starred soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung

In a country that's known for the best soup dumplings in the world, Din Tai Fung reigns supreme. This family-owned dynasty, which now has outposts around the world, has perfected the art and the science of the perfect soup dumpling—aka xiaolongbao, or XLB for short.

This branch is just as good as the original, but with slightly shorter lines. Expect to see a team in lab coats carefully crafting the 18 folds needed to elegantly seal the dumplings. In addition to xiaolongbao, there are also excellent noodle soups, dry noodles, vegetables, dim sum dishes, and more. 

Embark on your Ultimate Taipei Sightseeing Day Tour

Get ready for a packed day of sightseeing at multiple must-visit attractions throughout the capital city. Alongside a local guide and intimate group, you'll visit the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Longshan Temple, wander the exhibits at the National Palace Museum, take a dip at the Beitou Thermal Hot Springs, and discover Taiwan's rich history at the Lin An Tai Historical House. 

Taste Taiwanese street food at the local favorite, Raohe Night Market

Street food is a 24/7 obsession in Taiwan—you can fill your belly extremely well for a bargain. Even when it comes to humble street eats, the Taiwanese are fiercely proud of their food. Taiwanese people are constantly eating, thinking about, and discussing food. Everybody holds a vehement opinion of their favorite rendition of any particular dish or night market, down to the very stall.

Raohe is one of the oldest markets in Taipei, and one where more locals frequent. While you'll find many of Taiwanese food's greatest hits along the central 600m long pedestrian street (think mango shaved ice, bubble tea, oyster vermicelli, stinky tofu, goose soup noodles, oyster omelettes, and mochi), don't be afraid to wander off the main street where the hidden gems are. 

Tour Taipei's markets with Taipei Eats' Iconic Food Tour

No trip to Taiwan is complete without a full market tour, and this is one of the best. Come hungry, because over the course of four hours, you'll taste an award-winning pork belly-stuffed Taiwanese burger (刈包 – gua bao), slurp refreshing cold sesame noodles, learn about and sample traditionally fermented stinky tofu, and satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of the infamous Pineapple cake. You'll also get the chance to wander through the Xinyi district's busiest wet market to see where locals visit on a daily basis to stock up on fresh provisions. 

Explore Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Formerly an abandoned wine and sake factory, Huashan 1914 Creative Park became an impromptu performance space when a Taiwanese theater company discovered it in 1997 and started staging plays there. By 2007, this Zhongzheng District gem was fully restored into a collective of buildings to house exhibits, events, restaurants, concerts, films, and more. 

On your first visit, seek out the red kiosk, which has a comprehensive guide to the area's restaurants and cafés. Note that there are two sections to the park, divided by a parking lot, so don't forget to explore both sides if you have enough time. Be sure to visit VVG Thinking. Located on the other side of the parking lot, it is comprised primarily of art galleries, cafés, and restaurants in towering red brick buildings. Fun fact: The towering chimney is part of the boiler room for the old plum wine/rice wine/red wine factories and distillery.

Explore & shop in the Ximending district

Ximending is one of the first areas in Taipei that was designated as a pedestrian zone. With a labyrinth-like layout bustling with hip, fashionable, young Taiwanese, it is sometimes affectionally referred to as the "Harajuku of Taipei." Get lost exploring the side alleyways, watching street performances, and absorbing Taipei's old-meets-new culture at its heart. Hungry? You can't go wrong with any of the stand-and-eat noodle vendors on the street. 

Ximending is also where you'll find Palais de Chine and its 3-star Michelin restaurant. 

Head out for your private full-day trip to Pinxi, Shifen, & Jiufen

Venture off the beaten path and into the verdant Taiwanese countryside. On this full-day tour, you'll discover the rich culture and history of Pingxi and Shifen while visiting the stunning Shifen and Golden Waterfalls, flying your own sky lantern, and indulging in the iconic taro dessert. 

Release a lantern at Shifen Old Street

Shifen Old Street is a railway town originally built for transporting coal. Today, it's where visitors flock to light and release paper lanterns along the tracks running through the center of town. The lanterns were traditionally used as a signal system to alert people when the train was coming. Now, you can purchase a lantern (different colors symbolize different wishes such as health, longevity, wealth, and even “popularity” or “good studies”), write a message on it, and release it into the sky.

Take in the unique landscape of Jiufen

Jiufen is an old mountain mining town filled with narrow alleyways, tea houses, and street stalls. The architecture may remind you of the Japanese animated film, Spirited Away, though the director insists that Jiufen was not the inspiration for its backdrop. Once you arrive, climb the stairs towards the top and pop into a tea house for a snack and some tea. Some of the tea houses get quite crowded, and many offer stunning views—look for a tea house called “Taro Potato House” hidden through a cave with fewer tourists.

Day 5-6

Taroko National Park

Private Transfer to Taroko Gorge

Accommodation in Taroko National Park

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Enjoy a lunch of Cherry Roast duck at Red Lantern

After exploring Taroko Gorge, fuel up with an elegant meal at the Red Lantern Restaurant in the Silks Place Yilan Hotel, which specializes in traditional Chinese cuisine (including dim sum). The Cherry Valley duck nigiri is not to be missed. 

Contrary to its name, it has nothing to do with cherries. The duck breed, which is endemic to northern China, was once called Peking duck before it was transported to the Cherry Valley in the UK. Today, the agricultural environment in Yilan renders it a prominent breeding ground for Cherry Valley ducks. 

Enjoy top quality, single malt whisky at Kavalan Distillery

The globally award-winning, yet just 10-year-old Kavalan whisky distillery recently launched their own gin infused with local Taiwanese botanicals. They first earned renown for innovative whiskies made in barrels that have undergone their signature “re-charring” method, where the insides of the vessels are fired to the exact level of toastiness, imparting specific “secondary” characteristics, like fruity vanilla, nut, and toffee.

The hot climate means that Kavalan must make good whisky fast, as the whisky “breathes” in the barrel with great speed due to evaporation—so there’s no time to cover up mistakes. The pure mountain water makes for a world-class base.

Hike Taroko Gorge at Taroko National Park

Take in the beauty of Taroko Gorge—one of Asia's 7 wonders—as you explore the stunning greenery, mountains, and beaches in Hualien County at Taroko  National Park. Be sure to leave ample time to explore the marble cliffs, winding tunnels, Liwu River, Swallow Caves, and Shakadang Trail.  

Hike Baiyang Trail through Eight Tunnels & the Water Curtain

The Baiyang Waterfall Trail is dotted with eight tunnels, some straight and others curved, set against the backdrop of lush green mountains. Originally built by the Taiwan Power Company in 1984 to develop hydroelectric power in the area (which never came to fruition), the trail exists today as a nature-filled haven for travelers and locals alike. Don't miss the Water Curtain, an especially scenic spot where the spring water cascades down from the tunnel roof.  

At 4.2km round trip, it should take you about an hour and a half to traverse. 

Hike Taroko's most scenic trail, Zhuilu Old Road

What remains of the Cross-Hehuan Mountain Old Road is now called Zhuilu Old Road and is the only cultural historic area in Taroko National Park. 3.1km of the area are open to hikers. Beginning at the eponymous Suspension Bridge, you'll make your way to the majestic Cliff Outpost and double back in order to exit. 

Note: Entrance is limited to 96hikers/day on weekdays and 156 on weekends. All visitors are required to apply for a park entry permit, which your Journy trip designer will take care of for you. 

Start your cocktail bar hop at Fourplay

We've never been to a cocktail bar like Fourplay, and we think it's unlikely a place like this exists anywhere else in the world. Started by four best friends, the drinks here are incredibly whimsical and interactive (some require you to inhale helium from a balloon!). To start off easy, order a coffee liquor shot with an absinthe-lit marshmallow. Alternatively, opt for their smokey Manhattan infused with extra smokey flavor courtesy of a smoke gun. 

Continue your cocktail crawl with the rockstar mixologists at AHA Saloon

AHA Saloon is one speakeasy drinking experience you won’t want to miss. For one, it’s the brainchild of award-winning bartenders Kae Yin, Victor Yang, and Jeffrey Chang. The menu is a deep dive on flavors, with categories like “land,” “culture,” “faith”, “memory,” “rock,” and “junkie.” The thought is that if you can at least pick a flavor, the bartender will do the rest. Signature cocktails are especially experimental, with ingredients ranging from asparagus juice and fermented pineapple to orange acid and yam wine.

Finish with a made-to-order cocktail at Ounce

Arguably the best speakeasy cocktail bar in Taipei, Ounce is hidden inside a coffee shop. They're known for their verbal-only menu—just tell one of the mixologists what you're in the mood for (what spirit? up? shaken? stirred? citrusy? boozy? spicy?) and they'll aim to please from there—and likely succeed. 

Day 7-8

Sun Moon Lake

Private Transfer to Taichung / Sun Moon Lake

Accommodation in Sun Moon Lake

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Get picked up for your drive to Taichung/Sun Moon Lake

Because of some key attractions in and around Taichung City, we'll arrange for a driver to take you on the two-hour trip to Taichung so you can stop in these places along the way. 
  • In Taichung, you’ll want to make time for a detour to Yu Zi Xiang Gu Guan 魚之鄉谷關—a caviar farm and sturgeon restaurant. The owner learned how to raise sturgeon in Russia and brought the technique to Taichung. Because of the quality of the water in this area, which flows straight from the mountains, the taste of the sturgeon and caviar from this area is very delicate and sweet.
  • From here, you can also visit Weightstone Winery, a family-owned operation that’s been dedicated to agriculture and farming—with some beautiful crisp whites, roses and sparkling wines made out of local grape varietals. 
  • Heading back to Taichung City, you’ll want to take notice of the beautifully designed National Taichung Theater, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito.

From Taichung, it’s an hour drive to Sun Moon Lake. 

Visit the Rainbow Village featuring murals painted by the "Rainbow Grandpa"

When faced with the prospect of his village being bulldozed over to make room for new development, former soldier Huang Yung-fu decided to take matters into his own hands—literally. This 93-year old "Rainbow Grandpa" got up (and still does) at 3AM to paint the walls of his village with colorful murals. Now, it's become a major attraction for visitors curious to learn more about this unique and heartfelt story. So much so that the government has designated "Rainbow Village" a cultural landmark, keeping it safe from the destruction that nearby villages faced. 

Taste Taiwan's best beef noodle soup at Gubami

Gubami takes what is arguably one of Taiwan's national dishes, braised beef noodle soup, and elevates it to the next level. Sample multiple versions of this famous soup, from a more classic version to a clear broth version, and even one executed in a French style using veal jus and parmigiano, wild mushroom consommé, and smoked bone marrow. The wild lemon oil garnish enhances the floral notes of the broth's spices and adds a touch of acidity to this otherwise rich dish.

Protip: Gubami is also home to a secret bar, Goût Bar. Their house cocktails are elegantly curated with jasmine, chrysanthemum, and other flowers—but the bar staff is equally as skilled in the tried-and-true martinis, Negronis, and more. 

Discover the intricate architecture at Wen Wu Temple

Wen Wu Temple is located on the perimeter of Sun Moon Lake, guarded by Chinese lion statues perched prominently out front. It consists of three halls, each of which are worth visiting: the first is a shrine devoted to the God of Literature, the second (central hall) is devoted to Guan Gong, the God of War, and the third (rear hall) is dedicated to Confucius. 

Explore the scenic area around Sun Moon Lake

The countryside surrounding Taiwan’s largest body of fresh water is one of the island’s natural wonders. The diverse terrain spans mountains, rivers, and waterfalls and is dotted with temples, pottery kilns, and community centers—not to mention the hiking and cycling trails, which are some of the most beautiful in the world. 

Take in panoramic views of the lake from a ropeway cable car

View the stunning scenery around Sun Moon Lake from the ropeway, a hanging cable car tour above the treetops. The ropeway is open from 10:30AM-4PM and costs 300 NTD per person, but is free for those who purchase entrance tickets to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (780 NTD), which Journy will handle for you. 

Experience Sun Moon Lake on a stand-up paddle board at sunset

Walk around the pier and eat dinner at the Ita Thao market stalls

Ita Thao may be smaller than some other street markets in Taiwan, but it doesn't disappoint. Be sure to sample wild boar meat, which is typically made into sausages or stir-fried with ample amounts of garlic. You'll also come across fried buns stuffed with cabbage and mushrooms, grilled Muah Chee (rice balls), and fried sharpbelly or lake shrimp with curry leaves. 

Day 9

Taipei

Private Transfer Back to Taipei

Accommodation in Taipei

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Explore and eat at the Addiction Aquatic Development fish market

Addiction Aquatic Development in the Zhongshan District rivals Tokyo's Tsukiji when it comes to modern fish markets. The space is divided into 10 sections with live seafood tanks, sushi bars, groceries, and a charcoal-grilled seafood restaurant. Be sure to carve out enough time to fully explore the vibrant, sensory market—and don't miss the wine bar for an excellent glass of vino. Cash only. 

Day 10

Add-On - Beitou

Accommodation in Add-On - Beitou

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Unwind in the hot springs at Grand View Resort Beitou

This nine-meter high atrium garden, which is divided into sections via bamboo screens (and separated into male and female areas), features every type of bath you could want: a hot spring pool, cold pool, ice pool, oven, steam room, slate bath, and relaxation area. Spend hours taking in the expansive views at this white sulphur spring—the first of its kind in Dahuangzui. 

Day 11

Add-On - Alishan Mountain

Accommodation in Add-On - Alishan Mountain

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Enjoy the beautiful scenery for a day at Alishan National Forest

Alishan National Scenic Area lays claim to soaring mountains, aboriginal villages known for tea production, and excellent hiking trails. Be sure to take the Alishan Forest Railway for a scenic ride.

Day 12

Add-On - Kenting National Park

Accommodation in Add-On - Kenting National Park

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Swim, eat, & explore at Kenting National Park

Taipei's first national park is an oceanfront destination with white-sand beaches, coral reefs, hiking trails, and street stalls dishing out fresh seafood. The park became famous in 2008 as one of the settings for Taiwanese director Wei Te-Sheng's movie, Cape no. 7, before being featured in Ang Lee's Life of Pi in 2012. However, locals have been coming here log before to swim, surf, snorkel, dive, and enjoy good eats at the night market nearby. 

Traveling with kids? Be sure to take them to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium. 

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Taiwan

Taipei, Taroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake, Alishan Township, Kenting National Park

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Carol’s Family Trip to Japan

“The experience was out of this world! Anything that we requested or that we were interested in, Sarah was able to accommodate it for us.”

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Omar’s London & Paris Family Vacation with Kids

“We really enjoyed the mix of cultural, food and shopping experiences. Most of all, it was great to hit the ground with a plan for each day, but also improvise depending on how our kids were feeling.”

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Deborah & Lew’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in Italy

“Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I had some specific ideas about what to see—what art, what part of the countryside, etc. Elena (our trip designer) was very patient with me as we worked out just the right itinerary.”

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Carol’s Family Trip to Japan

“The experience was out of this world! Anything that we requested or that we were interested in, Sarah was able to accommodate it for us.”

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Omar’s London & Paris Family Vacation with Kids

“We really enjoyed the mix of cultural, food and shopping experiences. Most of all, it was great to hit the ground with a plan for each day, but also improvise depending on how our kids were feeling.”

Testimonial Profile Image

Deborah & Lew’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in Italy

“Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I had some specific ideas about what to see—what art, what part of the countryside, etc. Elena (our trip designer) was very patient with me as we worked out just the right itinerary.”