Experience Taipei, Taiwan in a three day long weekend
Updated: Feb 22
Our three-day long weekend itinerary to experiencing Taipei and its mountainous surrounds:
Day 1 Morning: Take to the city on foot and temple hop toward Longshan Temple.
When you think Taiwan, the quintessential red lanterns and traditional intricate wooden carved temples is one of the first things which come to mind. Our day began with a visit to the renowned Longshan Temple. The sound of an elderly choir chanting in unison filled the air, singing songs of their local hymns. We paced slowly around mesmerized by the sights and sounds.
Day 1 Lunch: Learn about Taiwan’s political history at the Presidential Offices and Memorial Museum
Walking back through the wide and bustling streets we stumbled past a tour entrance to the presidential palace. Without a set plan in mind for our day, we decided to take the tour. While in line we got speaking with an elderly Taiwanese-American couple, born in Taipei under Japanese occupation. They shared their struggles of life under the later Chinese occupation. We learned of their fears and their lack of freedom, which eventually lead them to America. They also shared their current pride in Taiwan and how happy they were to be back and visiting this democracy. This conversation was the perfect context for our tour, in which we would learn much more depth of the history.
Day 1: Afternoon: Witness the military precision of the changing of the guard ceremony at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
After exiting we carried on through the memorial park, toward the momentously sized white complex of the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This place is several football fields in length of towering halls. On a hot day, we watched the guards in their heavy full-length dressings maintain complete stillness until their changing of the guard ceremony.
Day 1 Evening: Taste the local street stall snacks at a night market
Chaos, Neon lights written in Chinese characters, and the smells of street food in the air – this is Shinlin Night Markets and it was one of our favourite experiences of Taipei. Taipei is full of night markets, and with so many delicious street food stalls there’s no going hungry in this city! We tasted all the local specialties including dumplings, fried chicken and the infamous stinky tofu.
Day 2: Book yourself of a private tour around the traditional mountainous towns of Juifen and Pingxi
A 45-minute drive into the mountains is the town of Juifen. This little town is filled with red lanterns, cobblestone laneways of tasty local delicacy’s and unique craft and souvenir stores. It was once an old gold mining town but has since become a place of rich culture and history. More recently the inspiration for some of the locations in the movie Spirited Away. We stopped to enjoy a warm tea and take in the view in one of the wooden tea houses.
Our next stop was the Shifen Waterfall, surrounded by lush greenery. It was a quick stop for a photo opportunity.
Our final stop was to the town of Pingxi. We enjoyed a traditional miner’s lunch in an old mining café along an abandoned railway. Lining the railway was small stores selling local crafts. We purchased a small wooden bamboo tree trunk which we could write our wishes and hang along the railway line with all of the other tourists’ messages.
The real highlight of Pingxi, however is the chance to release sky lantern along the railway. The locals believe that this practice can bring good health and fortune. Be careful of the wind direction, as we also saw a few crash and burn. It’s an exciting feeling as you watch your own try to make it above the building and high into the sky.
Day 3 Morning: Stop and smell the Japanese Lilly’s or hike a Volcano in Yangmingshan National Park
From February to March (when we visited), Yangmingshan National Park is in full bloom for the flower festival. While it is most famous for the seas of pink cherry blossom trees, our highlight was the fields of white Japanese Lilly’s. For $10 we were able to pick our own bunch of flowers wandering through the fields. The park is very spread out and can be busy during this period. For this reason, we hired a private taxi for a half-day to take us around.
Wanting some cooler air, we carried on through the park, elevating up to 805 meters to visit Xiaoyoukeng Volcano. It was a surprise for us to learn there was a dormant volcano so close to the city. From the lookout point, it is possible to see the volcanic steam rising from the crater and smell the sulfur in the air. Along the footpath, there’s also several hot pools of bubbling sulfur to get up close to.
Day 3 Afternoon: Get cultured in an abandoned Sake distillery turned creative hub
Originally an old Sake distillery built in 1914, this space is now full of quirky and unique stores, cultural displays and street art. It felt very hipster, we stopped for a nice restaurant lunch and picked up some market souvenirs.
We hope you enjoyed our weekend travel guide to Taipei, Taiwan. For more blog posts on weekend getaways and travel itineraries check out the destinations section of our blog.
Follow us @littlesherpatravels