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PLACES TO SEE

Taiwan remains largely undiscovered and seriously underrated by Western travellers, but those that make it here are in for a real treat.

01Taipei

Most visits to Taiwan begin in Taipei, the capital and largest city, home to Taipei 101, the National Palace Museum and some of the island’s best restaurants, bars and night markets. It’s also surrounded by a host of worthy day-trips including the cable car to the teahouses of Maokong, the hot springs at Beitou and the volcanic peaks of Yangmingshan National Park, the storm-battered North Coast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area the intriguing Pingxi Branch Line Railway and picturesque Shifen Falls. Nearby, the old mining towns of Jinguashi and Jiufen are deservedly popular for their historic streets and teahouses. Not to miss is the nearby Taian Hot Springs - the island’s most alluring hot-spring resort

Taipei

02Taichung

The vibrant Taichung, renowned for its teahouses and lively nightlife and not far from the city, Changhua - noted principally for its Great Buddha Statue, and atmospheric Lugang is celebrated for its craftsmen and classical architecture. Also very popluar, it is home to the picture-perfect Sun Moon Lake that makes a fitting introduction to Taiwan’s mighty central ranges, a place for languid lakeside walks and gorgeous views. Heading south, Chiayi provides a staging post for the cool valleys and Tsou villages of the Alishan National Scenic Area. Beyond this lies Yushan National Park and the scintillating hike up Taiwan’s highest mountain, commanding awe-inspiring, cloud-capped vistas.

Taichung

03Tainan

South Taiwan is the most traditional part of the island, with Tainan making the obvious introduction to the region, a modern city crammed with historic sights, particularly temples, complemented by superb food. Much of this is a legacy of its former status as capital city, a title it enjoyed for more than two hundred years, and particularly of the seventeenth century, when it was the last independent outpost of China’s Ming dynasty. The Chihkan, Dong-an Fang, Five Canals and Confucius Temple cultural zones contain the richest concentration of sights – reckon on spending at least two days to do them justice

Tainan

04Kaohsuing

Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second city and an earthy counterweight to Taipei, its smattering of sights enhanced by a growing number of parks, outdoor cafés and bars. Nearby is the elegant monastery at Foguangshan, while the dramatic Southern Cross-Island Highway heads east across the mountains to Taitung, slicing through the northern end of Maolin National Scenic Area, rich in Paiwan and Rukai culture. The southern tip of Taiwan is dominated by Kenting National Park, with its popular beaches and surf spots.

Kaohsuing

05Taroko Gorge

A scenic, coastal train ride away from Taipei, Taroko National Park is a jewel among Taiwan’s natural wonders. At times, the gorge's vertical cliffs and winding tunnels come so close together that, from a distance, they appear to meet. From the park entrance, take the Taroko Gorge Trail to the Eternal Spring Shrine. Built in memory of those who died constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway in the late 1950s, the shrine features a tranquil pavilion and waterfall. Swallow Grotto, a 0.3-mile stretch of marble and limestone west of the shrine, is one of the park’s most popular trails for its stunning views of the turquoise Liwu River and the swallows that flit in and out of the rock face. Farther west, the Tunnel of Nine Turns offers incredible views of the gorge’s white marble cliffs, winding through some of its narrowest sections

Taroko Gorge

06Penghu

Taiwan’s offshore islands have their own distinctive cultures and histories. Penghu, in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, is an archipelago of magnificent beaches, old temples and crumbling fishing villages, a haven for windsurfing and other watersports. And just off the coast of China’s Fujian province, the nearby Matsu Islands provide a rare taster of traditional northern Fujian culture, as well as Taiwan’s recent military history. The theme is continued on Kinmen, literally within sight of the now booming mainland city of Xiamen and rapidly remodelling itself as an open-air museum.

Penghu

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