When you think of things to do in Taipei, what normally comes to mind? Taipei 101? The National Palace Museum? The endless plethora of night markets? While all the aforementioned landmarks are certainly worth a visit, the areas surrounding the city are also host to a few lesser known locations that offer up some beautiful scenery and fresh air; sometimes hard to come by in the madness of the city.
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Tiger Mountain – 虎山
I list this location first as it was one of my favorite things to do in Taipei outdoors. This hike can be done in several different ways as the trail network around Taipei is very extensive, though I will share the route my friends and I took as I think it offered up some beautiful views as we traversed upwards into a sea of green.
To begin with, take the MRT Blue Line to Houshanpi Station and then take the bus (number 207 or 263) to Fongtian Temple. Walk into the temple grounds and have a moment to peek inside. Walk around to the right hand side and you will reach the stairwell you see in the photo.
Once at the top of the stairwell, a paved sidewalk meanders right and left for quite some time, allowing you to take in some true green beauty. Eventually, you will come to another staircase, and that’s when the views of the city start getting really good.
This slightly grueling ascent is last before the peak. The photo is a tad bit deceiving, as this was more or less a 90 degree climb upwards, and it goes onward and upward several more times. For a guy not so fond of heights, this was quite the accomplishment for me!
However, the view at the top is definitely more than worth it.
The way in which we journeyed back down was different. My good friend who was acting as our guide led us down the normal sidewalk path again, which eventually led us to a small, sort of “public space” sanctuary. Old cottages, small ponds of coi fish, and dozens upon dozens of potted plants dot the path, complete with peaceful butterflies scattered about. It’s as if an old mountainside village had simply gotten up and left, leaving behind their homes undisturbed for decades afterward.
The path continues downward until you reach the temple again. Take the same public transport in reverse to venture back into the city. If you go on none of the other adventures listed, this one is a must-do among all the things to do in Taipei!
Wulai Hot Springs – 烏來温泉
On a cold, rainy, or overcast day, the Wulai Hot Springs are most definitely amongst the best things to do in Taipei. We were fortunate enough to have these exact conditions on the day we visited and it couldn’t have been any better!
To get there from Taipei, take the MRT Green Line to Xindian station. Just outside of the station, you’ll find a bus stop just next to the taxis, behind the Information Counter. The bus to be looking for is number 849. It comes every 15 minutes, so not to worry if you’ve just missed it. The stop for the hot springs is Wulai and it costs just 15 NT one way. It’s the very last stop, so grab a seat on the right side of the bus and enjoy the river view!
When you get off the bus, walk along the river towards the little tourist town area. It should be pretty clear which way it is. Waltz through the town, grab a snack (and a drink!) if you like, and make your way across the bridge over the Nanshih River. Take an immediate right at the other side, and not but 100 meters or so on the right, you’ll see a sign for the hot springs. Follow the path down to the riverside and walk the sidewalk all the way to the pools.
Once at the pools, find a dry spot to put (or hang!) your stuff, find a changing “room,” and hop in. On a crisp day, the fifth of spirits is highly recommended.
For a particularly refreshing session, you could spend a few minutes massaging your glutes here as my good friend did.
To return to Taipei, simply backtrack all the way back to the bus stop and again take the 849 back to Xindian. The same bus will also go all the way to Taipei Main Station for 45 NT.
Qixing Mountain – 七星山
Qixing Mountain is quite a misty, mysterious, slightly fragrant sort of mountain, due to its sulfuric personality and location way up high in the clouds. Qixing is actually a dormant volcano, sleeping now for over 700,000 years. It is part of the Yangmingshan National Park and is the highest mountain in the Taiwan area. It truly was unlike anywhere I’d ever been before, and due to its uniqueness of scenery, I wholeheartedly enjoyed this spot.
To first get to the National Park, take either the MRT Red Line to Jiantan Station, and then take bus R5 all the way to the end of its route, which is the Yangmingshan Bus Station. Alternatively, you can also take Bus 206 all the way from Taipei Main Station. Once you arrive at the Yangmingshan Bus Station, take Shuttle Bus 108 to the Xiaoyoukeng Visitor Center. From there is the trailhead for the Qixing Mountain Main Peak Trail.
You should absolutely, positively bring a full stomach, plenty of snacks, and a decent amount of water for the hike. The entire hike is about 4 and a half kilometers round trip, though much of it is ascent / descent style hiking!
On the day we traversed the mountain, the weather was very overcast, creating a thick fog that really made the hike feel mysteriously cool, yet calm. Only 20 or 30 meters behind, I completely lost sight of my friends.
Further up through the mountain, the clouds would part to reveal the secrets they had been hiding.
Beware, however! The stench emanating from some of the sulfuric dikes upon the trail can be pretty noxious. Plug your nose and venture through at your own risk…
Eventually making it to the final peak makes the burning of your calves and rancid plight of your nostrils all the more worth it.
To return to Taipei, just take the Shuttle Bus 108 back to Yangmingshan Bus Station, and from there again take either Bus 206 all the way back to Taipei Main Station, or bus R5 back to MRT Jiantan Station.
Daan Forest Park – 大安森林公園
Located in the heart of the city, Daan Forest Park is a pleasant little green space with several kilometers of rolling sidewalks and dirt bike trails. Take the MRT Red Line to the Daan Park Station to get there.
Upon arriving at any of the park’s entrances, you’ll be informatively told about all of the fun things of which are prohibited inside the park grounds. You will also be kindly reminded to answer the call of the wild, should the call come in the form of a dainty pile of droppings from your pooch.
Jungle gyms reminiscent of my childhood days abound in Daan Park. If you’re lucky, you may even get to witness some of the true miracles of wildlife, also!
Overall, not having to go too far to have a break from the chaos of the city is what makes Daan Park most worthwhile.
Climbing Spot (amongst the most secret things to do in Taipei!) -秘密的攀岩場
Last, but certainly not least, is the Secret Climbing Spot. Hidden somewhere in the southern part of Taipei, this secluded bouldering spot is never crowded, and will more than satisfy the avid climber passing through Taipei – for free.
To keep its location the underground mystery that it is, it is vital that I do not disclose the directions publicly! However, if you are so inclined to seriously venture here, please comment below and I would be happy to entrust you with the whereabouts of this particular sanctuary.
In closing, Taipei is home to endless landmarks, attractions, and many more spectacles of outdoor beauty. Stop through and stay awhile to check out all these cool outdoorsy things to do in Taipei – you may need a couple weeks, just as I did!
Heading to Hong Kong soon? Check out these 8 hilarious things I learned while visiting the city!
VD’s Hostel Recommendations for Taipei
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