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Taiwan has so much to offer with vibrant cities, amazing night markets, breathtaking scenery, stunning temples and delicious food – it is easily one of our favourite destinations! If you are short on time and only have a few days to explore then we have created a perfect 9 day Taiwan itinerary that covers all of these highlights. The route explores the western side of Taiwan and starts and ends in two large cities that both have airports – Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Here is our suggested Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary:
Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary
The 9 day Taiwan itinerary starts and ends in Taipei and Kaohsiung, which both have international airports served by budget airlines such as Air Asia and Tigerair. The itinerary starts in Taipei and heads down the west coast stopping in the cities of Tainan and Taichung. If you are arriving in Kaohsiung, you can reverse this Taiwan itinerary.
Transport for the Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary
The most effective way to travel from city to city in Taiwan on this Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary is by train. All the major cities on this Taiwan itinerary are serviced by High-Speed Rail as well as cheaper normal trains and buses. We found the trains in Taiwan were modern, efficient and very affordable.
It is recommended that you book your train ticket a day in advance to avoid disappointment. We always booked our tickets in person at the train station but you can also pre-book discounted high speed rail journeys online on Klook – check routes and pricing here >
Use 12go Asia for route timetables and public transport fares:
Sim Card and Internet
We loved having a pocket WIFI device during our Taiwan trip and it was an easy way of accessing the internet on our phones. We pre-ordered one online with Klook and collected the device at Taipei airport and dropped it off at Kaohsiung’s airport. The rental cost was pretty cheap at only £1.25 per day, and we were both able to connect our phones to it. Book your portable WIFI device in advance with Klook.
Alternatively you can purchase a 4G SIM card for pickup at either Taipei or Kaohsiung airport – check here for prices.
For both of the above make sure you check the opening and closing times of the airport pickup counter.
Best time to visit Taiwan
Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are considered the best times of year to visit Taiwan with comfortable temperatures and dry sunny days. We have visited Taiwan twice during the winter months and found that the daytime was warm and sunny, but by night it is a bit colder so you will need to wear a sweater or jacket.
The summer months (June to August) are the worst time of year to visit as the typhoon season brings frequent heavy rain downpours and the temperatures are uncomfortably hot and humid.
Tip – avoid visiting Taiwan during the Chinese New Year holidays. We did this and found that there weren’t any Chinese New Year celebrations to experience as a tourist – most locals leave the big cities to visit family so we found a lot of restaurants and businesses were closed. Because more people are travelling around the country, many hotels and trains were busy/booked up, and visitor attractions such as Jiufen were heaving with visitors.
Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary quick summary
Day 1-3: Taipei
Day 4-5: Taichung
Day 6-7: Tainan
Day 8-9: Kaohsiung
TIP: to save days you can skip the overnight stays in Tainan and head straight to Kaohsiung. Tainan can be done as an easy day trip from Kaohsiung.
Days 1 to 3: Taipei
Day 1: Taipei City
Taipei is Taiwan’s capital city and is a rich mix of new and old, with many night markets, an oasis of urban parks, historic temples and hip urban areas. We could easily spend weeks in the city exploring and eating our way around as there is so much to do here!
Taipei accommodation for 3 nights
BUDGET – Meander Taipei Hostel
Highly rated clean and modern hostel located in Ximending with both dorms and private ensuite rooms.
MID RANGE – Just Sleep – Ximending
Hotel that has been recently renovated in 2019, a 2-minute walk from MRT Ximen Station.
LUXURY – W Taipei
Luxurious hotel with stunning views of Taipei 101, with gym, spa, outdoor pool, bar and restaurants.
Things to do in Taipei:
After checking into your Taipei accommodation head out for some sightseeing and a bite to eat. We recommend heading to Yongkang Street for food as it has some great Taiwanese restaurants such as the famous Din Tai Fung and Yong Kang Beef Noodles. Purchase a Din Tai Fung voucher with GetYourGuide and skip the queues.
Here are some suggestions of things to do during your stay in Taipei city:
Liberty Square is a huge public plaza and home to some impressive buildings such as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. There is an hourly changing of the guard inside the hall which is worth a watch.
Taiwan’s most iconic building has an 360-degree observation deck with great views of the city (plus one of the world’s fastest elevators). Book a discounted Taipei 101 Observatory E-Ticket in advance with Klook >
Taipei night markets
Visiting a night market in Taiwan is a must do and Taipei has several great ones all over the city serving cheap Taiwanese food. We recommend visiting Shilin Night Market and Raohe Night Market (try the pork pepper buns at Rahoe!). Book a Shilin Night Market Food Walking Tour >
Maokong Gondola and Maokong Village
Maokong is a quaint mountainside village with hillside tea plantations which you can reach by a gondola, and is also a great spot to drink locally grown tea. Book a Maokong Gondola Round Trip Ticket + Taipei Double-decker Sightseeing Night Bus combo Ticket online with Klook >
Reminiscent of Harajuku in Japan but retaining its own Taiwanese identity, this neighbourhood is a vibrant mix of shops, street food, restaurants and attractions. If you are a fan of all things quirky, make sure you check out the Modern Toilet restaurant! Read more about Ximending in our Ximending guide >
The best way to see and photograph the city and the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper is to climb the short but steep set of steps up Elephant Mountain. It is a popular spot at sunset with plenty of viewing areas.
Getting around Taipei
The MRT metro subway system in Taipei is super easy to use, clean and cheap! There is also an extensive network of buses too. You can get to most places in the city centre very easily just by using public transport.
The two best options for payment to use Taipei’s public transport are:
- EasyCard – this contactless smartcard costs costs NT$100 but saves 20% on regular fares on public transport in Taipei (and Kaohsiung MRT). It can be topped up at metro stations and convenience stores like FamilyMart and 7/11.
- Taipei Pass – unlimited rides on the MRT and buses and can be purchased from MRT customer service counters for either one day, two days, three days or five days.
Day 2: day trip from Taipei
We suggest you use the second day of your trip to explore one of the many day trip options outside of Taipei City. Here are some suggestions of popular places to visit:
This charming mountain town with ancient and narrow streets is packed full of beautiful tea-houses, gift shops and street food stalls, set amidst a backdrop of stunning coastal views. Read more in our Jiufen guide >
Jiufen can be visited independently from Taipei on a combination of train/bus, or direct bus. There are also many group tours available online to book such as: Jiufen Village and Northeast Coast Tour.
Pingxi rail line
The Pingxi Rail line is home to some great small towns along the 8-mile long ‘verdant valley’. Purchase a one day Pingxi line pass and explore Houtong Cat Village, Shifen Waterfall and watch locals release sky paper lanterns in either Pingxi or Shifen. Read more about how to get there and what there is to see in our Pingxi Line guide >
The Pingxi Rail Line is easy to reach independently from Taipei, or you can book onto a half day guided tour with sky lantern experience >
Yehliu Geopark is a fascinating coastal rock park home to a number of unique geological formations and rocks eroded by the sea. This is one of the most beautiful natural parks in northern Taiwan and easy to reach from Taipei – the park is a 90 minute bus ride away, or you can visit as part of a group tour such as Taiwan’s Northern Coast tour.
Day 3: Taipei City
This is the final day in Taipei – use this extra day to do another day trip out of Taipei or explore more of the city. We recommend heading up to Beitou to visit the Beitou Thermal Valley hot spring lake and book a spa experience at one of the hotels in the area. Book a Spring City Resort Beitou Hot Spring Spa >
Day 4-5: Taichung
Day 4: Taichung City
The next destination on the Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary is Taichung – an industrial city and gateway to Sun Moon Lake. There are lots of excellent attractions in Taichung, as well as one of the best night markets in Taiwan.
To reach Taichung from Taipei, you should take the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) to Taichung’s HSR Station. The journey takes 1 hour, but the HSR station is located a little bit out of the city – you can connect to downtown Taichung City by taking either a bus or taxi.
There is a much cheaper TRA train from Taipei (Tze-Chiang Limited Express train) that costs TWD 241. The journey time is longer at around 2-3 hours, but is perfect for travellers who are on a budget. You can also take the bus to Taichung from Taipei – the travel time is around 2.5 hours and runs frequently.
Taichung accommodation for 2 nights
BUDGET – Backpacker 41 Hostel
Trendy industrial loft style hostel located 5 minutes walking distance from Taichung Train Station.
MID RANGE – CityInn Hotel Plus – Taichung Station
Clean and modern hotel located near many restaurants.
LUXURY – Evergreen Laurel Hotel
Elegant hotel with spa, an outdoor pool, 3 dining options and a lobby bar.
Things to do in Taichung
Shen Ji New Village
A hipster independent retail village with gift shops, boutique breweries and cute coffee shops.
Feng Chia Night Market
This is one of the most famous night markets in Taiwan and it is huge – approximately one kilometre in diameter. It is a great place for shopping and to try delicious Taiwanese snacks.
Miyahara is an incredibly popular and Instagrammable ice-cream shop, retail shop and high-end restaurant set in a renovated ‘olde worlde’ red brick building from the 1920s (a former ophthalmology clinic). The shop interior resembles Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies and the ice creams are extremely popular (queues to purchase can be up to an hour long).
Rainbow Village is a former drab residential area earmarked for demolition that is now famous for its vibrantly painted houses. Located outside of Taichung City, it is one of the most Instagrammable spots in Taiwan and very popular with tourists.
Admire the towering wind turbines of Gaomei Wetlands – a grassy and muddy tidal flat where you can catch the sea breeze and watch beautiful sunsets. Book a Gaomei Wetlands Tour from Taichung >
How to get around Taichung
There is no underground metro system in Taichung but they do have a great bus network that you can use with your EasyCard. An added bonus is that any bus in Taichung is free up to a 10 km ride!
Day 5: Taichung day trip to Sun Moon Lake
Taichung is the gateway for Sun Moon Lake – Taiwan’s largest lake with turquoise waters and stunning mountain surroundings. It is a great spot for cycling enthusiasts as the Sun Moon Lake Bikeway was named one of the “10 best breathtaking cycling routes” around the world by CNN. If you do not fancy cycling around the lake you can get around on a hop-on hop-off bus, take a boat ride or board a cable car to enjoy panoramic views.
You can head to Sun Moon Lake independently by bus (journey time is 2 hours one way), or on a group day tour – book a Sun Moon Lake Adventure One Day Tour >
If you decide to visit independently you can pre-book a Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Day Pass/Bike Rental with Klook or a Sun Moon Lake Ropeway Combo Ticket
If you have an extra day and wish to stay overnight in Sun Moon Lake rather than visit as just a day trip – here are some accommodation options:
Day 6-7: Tainan
Taiwan’s oldest city is steeped in history and was once the island’s capital for over 200 years until 1887 under the Qing dynasty. Today it is a thriving but laidback city with a fun hipster scene and great food (try the local dish – coffin bread!)
The best way to get to Tainan from Taichung is again by Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) which arrives into HSR Tainan Station in 40 minutes (Note: this station is a little bit out of the city, so you will need to take a bus or taxi to get to your hotel). The TRA train arrives at Tainan station (in the city centre) and is half the price of the high speed rail, but takes a little longer at just over 2 hours.
Tainan accommodation for 2 nights
BUDGET – Journey Hostel
Highly rated hostel located in the heart of Tainan’s historic district, just 5 mins away from Tainan Train Station. Offers both dorm beds and private ensuite rooms.
MID RANGE – Kindness Hotel – Tainan Chihkan Tower
Clean and comfortable hotel located near an underground station and many tourist attractions.
LUXURY – Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel
Stylish hotel located a 2-minute walk from Tainan Railway Station with swimming pool, sauna and indoor hot tub plus restaurants and bars.
Things to do in Tainan
Anping Treehouse and Old Fort
The historic town of Anping is named by the tourist board as one of the ‘best small tourist towns’ in Taiwan. Here you can visit the Anping Treehouse – a former warehouse that was abandoned for many years and allowed to go to ruin, overgrown with banyan trees.
A short walk from Anping Treehouse is Anping Fort which was built in the 1620s by the Dutch East India Company, to act as an international business centre. You can climb up some steep stairs to a viewing tower, giving you 360 degree views of the neighbourhood. Read more in our dedicated Anping district guide >
Hayashi Department Store
The largest of Tainan’s old buildings, Hayashi Department Store opened in 1932 during the Japanese occupation. It was restored in 2014 and one of the highlights is the rooftop where there are several food outlets (and a lovely tearoom), plus a gorgeous gift shop.
One of the most picturesque streets in Tainan, Shennong Street used to be the main entrance for the river ports during the time of the Qing Dynasty. These days, the historical street is filled with lovely gift shops and cafes.
Getting around Tainan
There is no underground metro system in Tainan but they have a great bus network. The Tainan tourist shuttle bus (88 and 99) runs daily and takes you to all the major places of interest in the city. Fares are between 18 – 36 TWD one way, or you can buy an all day pass from Tainan train station. The city has also recently introduced a new double decker sightseeing bus which you can book online in advance with Klook >
Day 8-9: Kaohsiung
The final destination in the Taipei to Kaohsiung itinerary is Kaohsiung – a sprawling coastal city with a vibrant arts scene and loads of fun things to do. We recommend spending two full days exploring all the attractions in Kaohsiung.
To reach Kaohsiung from Tainan there are many options – the bus, high speed rail or the local train. We recommend taking the local train (801) rather then the HSR as it arrives straight into Kaohsiung’s city centre rather than the HSR station which is located a bit further out, plus the local trains run more frequently.
Kaohsiung accommodation for 2 nights
BUDGET – AHIRUYAH
Brand new guesthouse located near Formosa Boulevard metro station with private and dormitory rooms.
MID RANGE – Just Sleep Kaohsiung Station
Clean and spacious hotel located a 5 minute stroll away from Formosa Boulevard MRT Station.
LUXURY – Silks Club
Modern and stylish hotel with rooftop infinity swimming pool and SPA and wellness area.
How to get around Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung has a really easy to use transport network for getting you to all the main places of interest in the city. They have an underground train system (MRT/KRT) with 2 separate lines (red and orange), plus a light-rail system (LRT), and an easy to use bus network. Purchase a Kaohsiung Unlimited MRT Pass >
Things to do in Kaohsiung
There are a few islands you can visit by ferry from Kaohsiung including Xiaoliuqiu island and Cijin Island – we visited Cijin, a tropical paradise just a short five minute ferry ride away from the mainland.
The black sand beaches here are suitable for sunbathing and surfing, plus you can walk or cycle along the coastal path to visit famous attractions such as the Rainbow Church, the Giant Seashell, Tinamou Temple and sculptures in Turbine Park. Read more in our guide to Cijin Island blog post >
Pier 2 Art Center
This immense complex is spread over several old industrial warehouses right next to the port, hosuing quirky pop-up shops, cafes, fun modern sculptures and street art murals. Read our full blog on the Kaohsiung Pier 2 Art Centre >
A short train or bus ride away from the city centre brings to you to Lotus Lake – a man made lake that was built in the 1950s, as a way to entice more visitors to the area and home to several large statues and religious shrines. Check out the amazing Tiger and Dragon Pagoda where you enter through the dragon’s mouth and out via the tiger’s jaws to increase good fortune in Taiwanese tradition.
Dome of light
The Dome of Light can be found at the Formosa Boulevard MRT station and is the ‘world’s largest domed underground station’. There are several light shows daily but it is still spectacular if your visit doesn’t coincide with a show. Check out our blog post on Kaohsiung’s Dome of Light >
More Asia blog posts
- Taiwanese food – the best Taiwan food guide
- Taiwan’s 7-Eleven stores
- Visiting Houtong Cat Village on the Pingxi Line, Taipei
- Everything you need to know about the Anping District in Tainan
- Tasting local delights on a food tour in Xinyi, Taipei
- Hong Kong 3 days itinerary – the perfect Hong Kong layover
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