Taipei has delicious food, star-rated hotels and spas, excellent public transportation, temples and markets aplenty. There’s enough to see, do and eat in this compact city that you may not have time for any day trips.
But Taipei is surrounded by nature, all of it accessible by bus or train. You’d be remiss not to get out of town for at least a day. Here’s where to go.
Pack a towel and swimsuit for your day trip to Beitou, a hot springs hub less than an hour from central Taipei. Right outside the Xinbeitou metro station, where you’ll arrive, are maps of the hot springs area, all of which is walkable.
Start out at the free Beitou Hot Springs Museum, formerly the public bath house. The handsome building dates to 1913, when it was built by the Japanese, though the design skews Victorian. Get the scoop on Beitou’s history before making for the hot springs.
The public Millennium Hot Springs are clean, well maintained and inexpensive, but many travelers opt for hotel hot springs. Two solid mid-range options are Grand View Hotel and Beitou Hot Spring Resort. Both have outdoor hot springs, cold plunge pools, ice pools (heavenly in summer) and two winter treats — steam rooms and stone baths.
A more upscale option is the luxurious Villa 32, which has beautifully appointed shared and private hot springs.
Getting there: Take the red metro line to Beitou Station, then switch to the metro shuttle to Xinbeitou. The trip from central Taipei takes 30 to 45 minutes.
A trip to Yehliu Geopark is likely the closest you’ll come to walking on another planet of the three options. The natural wonder, on a peninsula in Taiwan’s northern coast, is composed of sedimentary rocks.
It has a craggy moon-like surface formed by thousands of years of erosion by the wind and the ocean hitting the shore. Its expanse is dotted with 180 otherworldly rock formations, called hoodoo rocks. Hoodoo rocks are common in arid, rocky landscapes, but what sets Yehliu’s formations apart is that they exist next to the sea.
Many of the rocks are shaped like mushrooms, but several have earned names like the Queen’s Head, Peanut and Fairy’s Shoe for their uncanny resemblance.
Getting there: A bus runs from Taipei West Bus Station to a stop 15 minutes away from the park entrance. In Taipei West, go to Terminal A and look for the window selling tickets to Kuo-Kuang; pick bus 1815, which leaves from east gate 3. The trip takes an hour and a half.
Yangmingshan National Park
It’s worth the 1.5-hour trip from Taipei to romp through this gorgeous national park. Shuttle bus 108 runs around Yangmingshan so you can tackle a few different areas and still get back to Taipei for dinner.
The hiking trails here are of varying intensity. Two popular but not overcrowded hikes are up Mount Qixing and Mount Zhugao. To reach Mount Qixing’s peak, take the mile-and-a-half-long Maipu Trail. The path is mostly made up of stone steps, which can be a bit slippery, so hiking shoes are recommended.
Make your way through the verdant forest and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Taipei 101 surrounded by the sprawling city and backed by mountains.
You can go back down via Xiaoyoukeng Trail, known for its fumaroles (sulfuric vents) from which volcanic steam rises.
The climb up to Mount Zhugao’s peak is much easier; a casual stroll through lush fields and well-trod paths earns you the same view of Taipei 101.
Getting there: Take the red metro line to Jiantan station and then take bus R5 to Yangmingshan, or take bus 260 from Taipei Main Station to Yangmingshan Station. The trip from central Taipei takes an hour and a half to an hour and 40 minutes.