Our Ultimate Guide to the Top 5 Weekend Trips from Taipei
Taipei is an endlessly exciting city with plenty of attractions and activities to keep you busy during your free time.
But after the obligatory trips to the major museums and a ride up Taipei 101, you may start itching to explore what lies beyond the city limits.
Luckily, trips to the lush mountains, picturesque villages, sandy beaches and steamy hot springs are just a short journey from the city centre, and make an ideal day trip or weekend escape from the grey concrete of the city.
Weekend Trips from Taipei #1 – Teapot and Banping Mountain
Weekend Trips from Taipei #2 – Jiǔfēn 九份
Weekend Trips from Taipei #3 – Wūlái 乌来
Weekend Trips from Taipei #4 – Baishawan 白沙湾
Weekend Trips from Taipei #5 – Surfing at Wai’ao Beach, Yilan 宜兰
#1 : Hiking Teapot Mountain and Banping Mountain
Possibly the best day-hike you can do from Taipei.
This charming and rewarding trek near the northern city of Keelong takes you to two peaks, Teapot Mountain 无耳茶壶山 Wú’ěr Cháhú Shān and then on to Banping Mountain半平山 Bànpíng Shān.
You can climb both peaks in just 2 – 3 hours (4 – 5 hours if you want to go at a slower pace).
It boasts stunning views over Liandong Bay and the surrounding hills and is a fun hike for experienced and rookie hikers alike.
The trailhead starts behind the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park (金瓜石黄金博物园区 Jīnguāshí huángjīn bówù yuǎnqū), an old goldmine built by the Japanese which has now been turned into a museum.
Passing through the museum you will reach a bridge that crosses the river. After the bridge the path starts as a wide and gentle slope. Keep your eyes out for signs to teapot mountain on your right-hand side, where the trail up the mountain starts.
You will pass several pagodas on the first stretch of the hike which make ideal rest stops, before reaching a rocky outcrop that is the summit of Teapot Mountain. You will have to clamber through these rocks using the ropes that are bolted into the cliff.
After scrambling through the boulders, you will reach the trail that takes you on to Banping Mountain. This is possibly the best part of the hike – steadily sloping fields of tall wild grass with sprawling views of the sea and villages below.
USEFUL TIP – You may want to wear long sleeves and trousers if you are there in summer as the grass grows densely and can scratch your skin.
The final leg up to the peak involves a short climb up a rope nailed into a vertical cliff wall (don’t worry, you don’t need climbing experience to get up it), before reaching the jagged, 45-degree angle top that gave the mountain its name (bànpíng 半平 literally means ‘semi-level’).
If you are afraid of heights you may struggle to make it up this last section and the summit is also not for the faint-hearted, but you don’t need to go all the way to the top to enjoy the spectacular views of Liandong Bay and the surrounding hills. Just sit back on the ground below, take in the fresh air and panorama.
One of the best weekend trips from Taipei you can do
How to get there
Bus number 1062 from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station on the blue and brown lines takes you directly to Jinguashi (second to last stop) where the museum is located. The journey takes about 2 hours.
#2 : Jiǔfēn 九份
Just a short bus ride from the base of Teapot Mountain lies the small town of Jiufen.
If you are partial to leisurely strolls while snacking on local treats, you can skip the mountain and go directly to the village by getting off one stop earlier at Jiufen Old Street (九份老街 Jiǔfēn Lǎojiē) on the 1062 bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station on the blue and brown lines.
DID YOU KNOW – This town is particularly popular with Japanese tourists for purportedly being the inspiration behind the setting of the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away.
However, it also draws in a lot of domestic and international tourists for its bustling food market.
Unlike the city night markets, Jiufen market is located in a well-preserved maze of cobbled streets lined with old houses and is surrounded by stunning ocean views.
When you reach the town, head to the Jiufen Old Street, where you will find a narrow street winding through the terraced houses lined with shops and stalls selling all manner of trinkets and specialty foods.
This market is famous for its sweet potato and taro balls 地瓜圆 dìguā yuán and 芋头圆 yùtou yuán which you can get served over shaved ice – highly refreshing and satisfying after a sweaty hike – or hot in a syrupy soup if you are there in the colder months.
Another local delicacy includes the sweet and savoury glutinous rice cakes and translucent red meat dumplings (红槽肉圆 hóngzāo ròuyuán) that are a Hakka cuisine speciality.
TIP – If the weather is good and you set off early, you can fit both the hike to Banping Mountain and the town in one day.
Otherwise, you can stay the night in Jiufen and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere and beautiful night time vistas over the bay.
#3 :Wūlái 乌来
Wulai is an idyllic little village nestled in the mountains in the south of New Taipei City that makes for a relaxing day trip.
This is an aboriginal settlement home to the Atayal indigenous group (泰雅族 tàiyǎzú), whose traditions and culture have been preserved by locals to this day.
The top activity to do here involves one of the most beloved of Taiwanese pastimes, to pào wēnquán 泡温泉 – soaking in hot springs!
A result of Taiwan’s position at the confluence of three tectonic plates, these natural thermal springs are a national treasure and are believed to have medicinal properties, being particularly beneficial to your skin.
The river running through Wulai is heated by this natural phenomenon and visitors can bathe in it for free along with the locals.
If you are looking for something a little more upscale, you can choose to visit a spa in one of the hotels on Hot Springs Street (温泉街wēnquán jiē).
Unfortunately, a typhoon in 2015 caused significant damage to the town and swept away many of the springs, but there are still a few hotels that offer access to public and private thermal baths.
The hotel spa hot springs are usually separated by gender and don’t allow guests to wear any clothing, including swimwear, so you may want to opt for bathing in swimsuits in the river if you feel shy in front of strangers.
Soaking in a steaming bath surrounded by pristine nature is a truly unique and memorable experience and comes highly recommended.
You can explore the charming village and get a bite to eat at the Wulai Old Street, where shops and stalls sell traditional artefacts and local fare, such as boar sausages 山猪香肠 shānzhū xiāngcháng and rice steamed in bamboo stems 竹筒饭 zhútǒngfàn.
From the old street, you can continue on foot to the Wulai waterfall. This is an easy 20 – 30 minute walk along a gentle path that follows the river and is an excellent way of taking in the beautiful scenery.
How to get there
Either take the MRT green line to the terminal station of Xindian and take bus 849 to Wulai (about 35 minutes), or get on at the terminal at NTU Hospital (about 85 minutes). This bus takes you straight to the centre of Wulai.
#4 : Baishawan 白沙湾
If you are in need of a leisurely day suntanning on white sandy beaches, Báishāwān (literally ‘white sand bay’) is the spot for you.
This is one of the only beaches in the northern part of the island that offers the classic, soft white sands and is ideal for a relaxing swim and perhaps some casual water sports.
The surrounding countryside is also covered in footpaths that follow the coastline and offer views of the beautiful volcanic precipices and coral reefs below.
OUR FAVOURITE KIND OF PRICE – Access to the beach is free of charge and you can rent tents, parasols and surf boards from local shops.
How to get there
Getting there is a little bit of a trek, but this is what makes this beach well worth the journey as its remoteness keeps the bulk of visitors away and leaves the beach relatively empty even in busier months.
Take the MRT red line to the terminal station of Tamsui 淡水. From there, head to the bus stop across from the MRT exit number 2 and take bus 862 towards Keelong 基隆 or 863 towards Jinshan 金山 and get off at Baishawan (about 30 minutes).
#5 : Surfing at Wai’ao Beach, Yilan 宜兰
If you want a more adventurous day at the beach, you can head to the black sandy beaches in Yilan county to the east of Taipei and try your hand at surfing.
The iconic black sands of Wai’ao beach 外澳海滩 Wài’ào hǎitān are a result of the volcanic rock foundations of Taiwan’s east coast.
There are several beaches in Taiwan that are known surfing spots and Wai’ao is one of the best that is reachable in a day trip from Taipei.
July to September is the best time of year to catch the biggest waves, but surfing is possible here all year round.
You can rent surf boards and other water sports equipment such as wind sails from local surf shops at the beach. Some surf shops also offer beginner classes in English if this is your first time or you need a refresher course.
If you have had your fill of the waves, there are also numerous hiking trails you can follow to explore the coastline.
How to get there
You can either take the local train 区间车 qūjiānchē from Taipei Main Station to Wai’ao or bus number 1877 to Wushi Port 乌石岗 wūshígǎng from Nangang Exhibition Centre MRT Station on the brown and blue lines.
There you have it, five great weekend trips from Taipei to keep you on your toes and keep you busy for the near future!
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