Taipei is the sprawling, urban heartland of Taiwan, a city of intriguing Taiwanese culture, where modern and ancient customs and architecture fuse together in the light of a welcoming, local atmosphere that leaves international visitors looking to stay for longer and to uncover more of the mysteries of this eclectic destination.
Taipei’s location gives visitors staying in the city unprecedented access to a multitude of beautiful locations which are all just a day trip away, and if you ever tire of the city’s streets, then there are countless national parks and epic, natural locations to visit.
Just a short journey outside the city will bring you to the scenic vistas of the northern coastline, while on the edge of the suburbs are natural hot springs, quaint regional towns and traditional villages.
There are wide lakes, deep gorges and excellent hiking opportunities wherever you turn.
There are countless day trip opportunities from Taipei, but here are our favourites.
Jiufen was once an old Japanese mining town, built as an industrial centre during the late 19th century.
The mine has long since closed, and today, rather than the sooty, industrial town you may be imagining, Jiufen is, in fact, a quaint array of winding alleyways and colourful streets that reflect the vibrant Taiwanese culture.
It’s not far from Taipei, and offers a small town escape from the big city, while at the same time giving visitors a journey through the history of Jiufen, from Japanese colonisation to modern-day tourism.
There are beautiful sea views, rolling hills and an abundance of tea houses and small shops to explore.
Recommended tour: Juifen and Pingxi Day Tour
2. Beitou Hot Springs
The Beitou Hot Springs are found in the suburbs of Taipei and make for a relaxing day trip away from the city centre.
The Hot Springs are close enough to be accessible by the city’s public transport system, located close to an MRT station in the outskirts of Taipei.
This is a lovely green oasis in the urban confines of the city limits, and there are several bathing houses that channel water from natural hot springs.
The best one to visit is the Millenium Bath House, where there are several open-air bathing pools.
The Thermal Valley also needs to be visited, as this incredible hot spring is the source of the water in the bathing houses, although at this stage in its journey, the water is much too hot for bathing.
3. Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu Geopark is found near the coastal town of Yehliu to the north of Taipei, and it’s a spectacular place to spend the day.
This is a really beautiful area and a fine demonstration of the nature that’s waiting to be discovered so close to the capital.
The park is known for being the site of some really unusual geological rock formations, which are quite unlike anything else found anywhere else in the world.
The park extends for almost 2 kilometres from the mainland into the ocean, and along the length of it are strange and weirdly beautiful rocks, cliffs and other natural features.
Recommended tour: Private Full-Day Northern Taiwan Tour by Car from Taipei
4. Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan National Park is one of Taiwan’s most loved areas of natural beauty.
The park is found to the north of Taipei, and as with much of the surrounding beauty, it’s just a short ride away from the city and easily accessible on public transport.
The close proximity to the city though, shouldn’t faze you, as this is an unbelievably spectacular place to see.
There is a multitude of hiking trails that work their way through the scenery and over the peaks and old volcanos that make up the landscape.
There are hot springs, cherry blossoms and much more to waiting to be seen at Yangmingshan National Park.
Suggested tour: Taipei Sunrise Excursion: Yangmingshan National Park
Jinguashi is found close to the old mining town of Jiufen and has an equally intriguing history as an industrial centre set up by the Japanese.
It’s not quite as busy or as big as nearby Jiufen but offers an equally vibrant array of local history and culture.
It’s in spectacular surroundings too, and one of the best things to do here is to take on the Teapot Mountain hike, a trail which leads up to a nearby mountain peak from where you can enjoy vast vistas across the coast and the green landscapes that stretch endlessly into the distance.
Tamsui is a small town on the northern coastline of Taiwan that makes for a wonderful day trip from the city.
It’s not far at all, and Tamsui offers visitors a look at coastal life on the island, with a bustling old harbour and ramshackle streets that have stood here for generations.
Stop for some seafood, and stay for the sunset, because it’s said by locals that a sunset here, in the perfect position on the coast, is the best sunset that can be enjoyed in Taiwan.
Wulai is found in the mountains near Taipei, and it offers an intriguing look at Taiwan’s indigenous culture, much of which has over the years been unfortunately displaced by colonizers and mainland Chinese.
Wulai is home to a large group of Taiwan’s true locals and it’s a great place to learn more about this understated aspect of Taiwan’s history.
There are many shops and restaurants with an indigenous flair, while many visitors also travel here from the city to experience the cool mountain climes and the many natural hot springs.
Situated on the coast to the southeast of Taipei is Yilan, bordered on one side by rugged mountains and on the other by the open ocean.
It’s a stunning location and there is much to do here.
Explore the streets of Yilan City, visit the local markets, and as with everywhere in Taiwan, soak in the hot springs and baths.
Trek out to the countryside in search of the powerful Wufengchi Waterfall or take on one of the numerous hiking trails into the mountains.
9. Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake has the distinction of being Taiwan’s largest lake.
This beautiful area is found in the rolling hills of central Taiwan, and it makes for a long day trip from Taipei, but one you won’t regret.
There are hiking trails around the perimeter and into the mountains, while it’s easy to catch a ride on the ferries that travel across the water from one end to the next.
Included in: Best of Taiwan 5-Day Tour
10. Thousand Island Lake
A little closer to Taipei, the Thousand Island Lake is an equally unique and attractive destination to visit.
This isn’t really a lake, as such, but more a scenic panorama of the beautiful, turquoise waters of the river, which flow through a maze of inlets more reminiscent of a Norwegian fjord than a Taiwanese lake.
It’s a glorious sight, and the surrounding area is home to many tea plantations which can also be visited at the same time for a taste of culture and a refreshing drink.
11. Taroko Gorge
To the southeast of Taipei is Taroko Gorge, a spectacular natural sight that stretches for almost 20 kilometres through rugged landscapes.
The gorge is protected as a national park because it’s quite unlike anywhere else in Taiwan.
The gorge stretches to the coast from the inland mountains, and there is a vast array of forests, hills and cliffs to be explored in an ever-changing environment.
There are some great hikes, including many which traverse the river that flows through the canyon on breathtaking, but slightly nerve-wracking suspension bridges high above the water.
Pingxi is another rural Taiwanese town that owes its origins to heavy industry.
The coal here in the countryside was exploited by the Japanese, but in recent years, Pingxi has seen a real resurgence as a tourist destination.
While you will find coal museums here explaining this integral part of the town’s history, the real reason to visit now is to walk the old streets, to pop into little tea houses and cafes and to generally enjoy the rural ambience.
In the area, you can enjoy some great waterfalls too, including the dramatic Shifen falls, where a cascade of water flows over the wide rock face into a pool below.
Puli is a charming town in the mountains of central Taiwan, and the perfect place to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
It’s a quiet city and a place that is well known for being the home of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery, where modern culture meets with ancient Buddhist traditions in an unusual setting.
There are many other temples here to visit too, and nearby there are of course plenty of hikes through the spectacular scenery of this mountainous region.
Lukang has long been an important trading hub on the west coast of Taiwan.
Overlooking the strategic Strait of Taiwan, the mainland is never too far away, and through its history it has seen many colonizers and trading powers landing in its natural harbour.
Although it is not as important as it used to be, it’s a great little town to visit to experience the many multicultural influences that have over the years shaped both Lukang and the rest of wider Taiwan.
15. Keelung City
Keelung City is a big coastal destination on the northeast coast of Taiwan, and not far from Taipei.
It’s not hugely popular with tourists and day-trippers because most people just presume that is simply an industrial harbour city.
Actually, there is a lot to do here, and there are plenty of night markets serving up great seafood and Taiwanese specialities, as well as several historic forts, museums and plenty of hikes.