Before moving to Taiwan from the US, I can’t really say Taiwan was high on my travel "bucket list." However, since moving away, I honestly realize it’s the one destination I miss every day. If you’ve contemplated stopping over in Taiwan on your upcoming travels – do it! While there are easily a hundred good reasons to travel there, here are three reasons to add Taiwan to your bucket list.
1. Taiwan’s Natural Beauty and Outdoor Adventure
Once you venture out of large cities like Taipei, you’ll find that a majority of Taiwan is rugged, natural landscapes. The east coast of the island is stunning, and home to a number of popular weekend destinations.
Drive along the Northeast coast to check out intriguing rock formations that look straight out of a sci-fi movie, or book a bed and breakfast in the lush green hills of Yilan. As you head south, you’ll come to one of Taiwan’s most beautiful destinations – Taroko Gorge. Famous for its landscape, travelers enjoy the hiking, camping, and cultural activities around the gorge and nearby towns like Hualien. If you continue further south, you’ll eventually arrive at Kenting, a popular summertime beach spot and scuba diving destination.
If it’s adventure you’re after, Taiwan offers a variety of outdoor activities aside from just hiking and scuba diving. Surfing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, river tracing, paragliding, mountain climbing, and mountain biking are some of the outdoor adventures that you’ll find.
2. Years of History and Culture
Despite the fact that the modern day Republic of China (ROC) is just over 100 years old, the island dates much further back. Aside from obvious mainland Chinese influences, you’ll find Aboriginal, Japanese, American, and even Portuguese. Taiwan’s nickname is Formosa, which means beautiful island in Portuguese.
This translates into no shortage of historical and cultural sights to visit. Taipei’s National Palace Museum is home to the largest collection of mainland Chinese art and artifacts. Over 700,000 pieces are rotated on exhibition; items originally housed in the Forbidden City in Beijing, but brought to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces during the Chinese Civil War.
There are loads of museums and art galleries, including a high number of specialty or niche museums, like the Museum of Paper or Museum of Drinking Water. Taipei is great for literary buffs, with a multi-story 24-hour Eslite bookstore that is worth spending a few hours exploring.
3. Taiwan’s Endless Food
There is a reason why food travelers rave about Taiwan’s culinary scene. Whether it’s street food or high-end dining you’re after, Taiwan has a wide range of eats. Don’t miss hitting at least one night market; many markets are known for their own specialties, so don’t assume all markets are the same. Night markets are an integral part of the culture, and it’s hard to beat wandering through alleyways filled with delicious cheap eats. Dumplings, stinky tofu, oyster omelets, sausages, gigantic fried chicken patties, and various skewered meats are some of the popular foods you’ll find at a Taiwanese night market.
If you’re interested in Taiwan’s aboriginal roots, there are specialty restaurants in different regions as well. Alishan, for example, is an ideal spot for trying local Taiwanese aboriginal cuisine.
Along with great Taiwanese and Chinese eats, cities like Taipei have quite a variety of international cuisines available too. Michelin-starred chefs like Joël Robuchon and Yannick Alleno have opened high-end restaurants in Taipei. Familiar US fast food chains and restaurant chains have popped up all over the country as well.
When it comes to beverages in Taiwan, there is no shortage of local specialties to try. Bubble tea was founded in Taiwan, and you’ll find a bubble tea shop on nearly every corner. Coffee and regular tea shops are plentiful as well. Taiwan has a strong tea culture, and varieties like high mountain oolong are exquisite. Sun Moon Lake and Taipei’s Maokong regions are great for visitors wanting to learn more about tea production in Taiwan. If you’re curious about "adult beverages," Taiwan produces a variety of beers and local liquors – including award-winning whiskeys, one of which nabbed "world’s best" in 2015, beating out the most renowned Scottish whiskies.
Where would you start your adventures in Taiwan?
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