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Taipei is in the perfect location. It’s centrally located in Northern Taiwan making it super easy to base yourself there to take day trips from Taipei to the surrounding cities and towns. Whether you want to hike, visit a night market, wander through old streets, or all three, there are tons of easy day trips from Taipei. You can even do all three in one day if that’s all you have, it’s just deciding which that is the hard part.
Tamsui and Beitou
While these are still technically in Taipei, I’m still counting them as a day trip. These two can even be reached by MRT, on the same MRT line. I would start at Beitou in the morning and go to Tamsui in the afternoon/evening. Of course, it can be done in reverse, too.
In Beitou, make a stop at the Beitou Hot Springs. If you’re on a budget, hit up the Millennium Hot Spring, the most popular hot spring in Beitou. If you want to splurge a little, stop into one of the private hot springs along the river. While you’re here, don’t forget to stop at Thermal Valley to admire the steaming jade water.
In Tamsui, make sure to check out the Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf and the Lover’s Bridge. This is a fun area to wander around near the water, to enjoy some ice cream, and to just do some people watching. Don’t forget to wander the Tamsui Old Street. I wish I did this, but I didn’t even know it existed when I was there. I didn’t know a whole lot about Tamsui, it was a last minute (literally, the last day) trip.
You can hang out in Tamsui until sunset and watch it from the Wharf or Lover’s Bridge before heading to (or back to) the Old Street to have a little something to eat before heading back into Taipei. Or, you can head to one of the markets around Taipei to sample tons of treats for dinner.
Tips for visiting Tamsui and Beitou:
- Weather can change pretty drastically between Taipei and Tamsui, so I’d suggest bringing layers, at least in January.
- Definitely, bring a daypack to carry anything you might need for the hot springs. It will be easier the rest of the day.
- Research hot springs before you go to Beitou and make sure you know the etiquette before going in, gender, clothing, all that.
- To get to both, just take the MRT red line to the end for Tamsui and almost the end for Beitou.
- If you’re going to the Beitou Hot Springs, take the MRT to Beitou station, then take the pink line one more stop to Xinbeitou. The hot springs will be straight ahead on either side of the park when you leave the station.
- There is a beach nearby that you can take a bus to, but we couldn’t get the bus to stop, so I wish I could help more with this.
- Even if it’s super foggy, still go to the wharf. It looks pretty cool in the fog.
Jiufen and Jinguashi
These two would make the perfect day trip from Taipei together as they are only a ten-minute bus ride apart. You can do a little hiking, wander the old streets, eat everything, and drink some tea while watching the sunset over the coast. If you can only do one day trip from Taipei, I would highly suggest this one.
Jiufen is a charming little town, sometimes called Taiwan’s Santorini, that may look familiar if you’ve seen Lost in Translation. It’s got a few temples and stellar views of the coast, but it’s known for it’s Old Street, where you can wander for hours trying local food and shopping for souvenirs.
Take a few hours to wander through the Old Street, admire the views, and even stop in a tea house or two. The one in the picture on the right under here is wonderful. I actually went there twice. I would go in the afternoon to see it in the daylight and as the sunsets into the night.
In Junguashi, you can wander around the town, check out it’s Old Street, head to the Gold Ecological Park to visit the Gold Museum and Benshan Fifth Tunnel, or do a little hiking and climb Teapot Mountain, which also leaves from the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park.
I would definitely recommend doing the hike and maybe wandering around the Old Street before heading over to Jiufen to get something to eat. It’s a pretty easy, straightforward hike taking you up the mountain through the rock that looks like a teapot from Jinguashi. I didn’t get a picture of it, but the bottom left picture is from inside the teapot. It’ll take a couple hours, but it’s a great way to experience some of Taiwan’s amazing hiking on a short trip to the area.
Tips for visiting Jiufen and Jinguashi:
- They can easily be combined into one trip and you could even add in a stop at the Keelung Night Market on your way back into Taipei if you want a real night market experience before leaving.
- Another day trip option is to combine Jiufen and Yehliu Geopark into one.
- Jiufen is pretty much always busy, so be prepared to fight the crowds. Don’t let this stop you from going, though.
- From the bus stop, just walk straight (to the right) to get to the Jiufen Old Street. Or just follow the crowd.
- To get to Jiufen from Taipei, take the MRT to Taipei Main station, get a train to Ruifang, leave the train station in Ruifang, cross the street and walk to the bus stop off to the left. From here catch a bus up to Jiufen. If you’re going to Jinguashi, just stay on for a couple more stops.
- If you’re there during Chinese New Year, Jiufen does shut down at least one day during festivities.
Yehliu Geopark is a geological oddity on the northern coast of Taiwan. It’s a rocky area jutting out into the ocean covered in strange rock formations, the most well known being the Queen’s Head. There is also one that looks like a whale’s tail that I personally preferred. You can wander among the formations and climb up the little hill thing off to the right of the rocky area. It offers some pretty nice views of the park and surrounding area.
You’ll have to take a bus to get here. Start at the Taipei West Bus Station in Terminal A. This is at Taipei Main Station. You’ll get the ticket at the KuoKuang window for 96TWD to Yehliu Geopark. The bus ride takes about 90 minutes, and the bus will drop you off on the main road just outside the park entrance. Walk down the lane on the left side to enter.
This may not be a full day trip, but it will take up a good portion of the day, so there will be a little spare time for something else once you’re back in Taipei, or head to Jiufen for some tea in the hills at sunset.
Tips for visiting Yehliu Geopark:
- The weather can change pretty quickly here, so be prepared. It was cold and rainy when we got there, but it was warm and sunny soon after.
- It can be pretty busy here, so be prepared for that, too. While it is busy, it’s easy to get pictures without people.
- If you want a picture with the Queen’s Head, there is a line and a guard shooing people out of the background for you. Not that I would know what it’s like to get shooed out of the way.. If you’re in that area, just watch out for the lines on the ground.
- If you’re limited on time, this wouldn’t be my first choice of day trips, unless you love this kind of thing, but if you have a lot of time, definitely check it out.
- If you’re traveling around the island and liked Yehliu, consider a quick trip to Xiao Yehliu as well. It’s a small (less impressive, but still fun) version of Yehliu.
Houtong, Shifen, and Pingxi
If you decided to do all three of these in one day, it’s going to be a busy day, so make sure you get going early! Even just doing two would still be fun. If you do all three, you can get a taste of the classic Old Streets, the weird things Taipei has to offer, and a little bit of nature with some hiking. This is a great option to get a little variety.
First stop, Houtong Cat Village! Yes, an entire village dedicated to, and filled with, cats. If you like cats, this is a must-see place. You can hang out with cats (live ones) in shops and restaurants as well as on the streets. You can enjoy cat music, like meowing versions of popular songs. You can buy anything you can imagine with cats on it. I came home with two pairs of cat socks. Even if it’s rainy you can still spot cats outside, and especially in the shops. It’s a small place, so you don’t have to spend tons of time here. There are restaurants if you decide to eat here.
Next up on the Pingxi Railway Branch is Shifen making it the next logical stop. Right off the train, you’ll be able to explore the charming little Old Street, which isn’t much of a street, but still worth exploring. I wish I made it to Shifen when I was in the area. I saw it from the train and thought it looked adorable! While you’re here, on the most popular stop on the Pingxi Railway Branch, you can send a lantern into the sky or hike about 20 minutes to the Shifen waterfall.
Finally, we have Pingxi, most famous for its Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival during Chinese New Year, which I was lucky enough to make it to. And believe it or not, I didn’t even know it was a thing when I first booked my tickets to Taiwan. Even if you aren’t there for the festival, which happens in late January, it’s still worth a visit to send up your own lantern or to explore, you guessed it, the Old Street. I bet you never saw that one coming. It’s a fun little town to wander around and is definitely worth a day trip.
Tips for visiting Pingxi, Shifen, and Houtong:
- Even if it’s rainy, still go and do these things. It was rainy the majority of the time I was in Taiwan. If I didn’t still go do things, I wouldn’t have seen anything! Just dress in layers (it can get cold) and bring an umbrella or rain jacket.
- You can get a day ticket for Pingxi Railway Branch unlimited uses. I would suggest that since all of these are on the line.
- Check train times the day before you plan to go so you can plan a little better and make the most of your day. When we went to Houtong, we had to do a lot of waiting for trains.
- While send up a lantern may be fun, consider skipping this activity for the environment. The lanterns and their frames end up stuck in trees for a little too long and they can cause fires. I would still consider going back for the festival if I was there then, but only as a spectator.
Yangmingshen National Park
Finally, we have Yangmingshen National Park, which, I’ll admit, I didn’t even know about until recently. This is an easy escape from the city and perfect for fans of hiking. It’s about an hour from Taipei and you can hike from the Visitor Center up to the peak of Quixing Mountain, about halfway up to Xiaoyoukeng. Here, you can admire sulfur being puffed into the air.
To get there from Taipei, take the MRT to Jiantan Station. From there, head outside and take bus R5, leaving every 15 minutes. Another option is to take bus 260 outside from Taipei Main Station for a more direct route to Yangmingshan. Bus 260 from Taipei Main Station does take longer than from Jiantan Station.
Tips for visiting Yangmingshen National Park:
- From Xiaoyoukeng, you can take a bus back to Taipei City or keep walking back to the Visitor Center.
- The hike up takes a couple of hours, especially if you stop and take a lot of pictures.
- The park is famous for it’s venomous snakes, so watch out on the trail, and if you go off trail, definitely watch out there.
- Try and be down before sunset so you’re not walking on the steep trails in the dark.
- Check out the Erziping Recreation Area if you’re here. There is also a trail here. It sounds pretty tough but worth it.
- Like most hikes, dress in layers and bring a rain jacket, especially if you go in the winter.
Have you been to Taiwan? Did you go to any of these places? What was your favorite day trip from Taipei?