Heat, sun and humidity probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Taiwan. You probably picture cool, mountainous ranges, drizzly weather, and rain-drenched paddy fields. But between the months of June and September, Taiwan is a place where sunshine and humidity are at their maximum. Instead of being cowed by the weather, we’ve found 20 things that you can do to beat the heat.
From ice-cream stuffed pancakes to lakeside getaways, Taiwan during the summer has some incredibly cool things to offer. Both literally and metaphorically.
1. Surf, swim and snorkel at Kenting National Park
Beaches? In Taiwan?! Maybe you thought this place was all mountains! No, Taiwan’s coast is dotted with gorgeous beaches, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Kenting National Park. Located on the southern tip of the island, Kenting is the exact opposite of Taipei. There’s no better way to cool off during the steamy summer months than splashing about in Kenting’s crystal-clear waters for the day.
At Kenting National Park, you’ll find all kinds of activities to suit the outdoors-loving soul in you. Rent a jet ski, explore Kenting’s outlying roads on a scooter, or scuba dive. Kenting’s coast has one of the world’s most diverse range of corals, creating a beautiful underwater world. Kenting’s popularity has grown in recent years, so expect to be battling it out for space and photo opportunities along the beach. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, you can try heading to more secluded beaches such as Baisha Beach or Nanwan Beach.
Do note that June to October is Taiwan’s typhoon season, and the beaches might be closed when the waves are too strong.
2. Feast on summer fruits at a night market
You might hate Taiwan’s summer weather with a vengeance, but guess who’s loving it? The fruits.
Summer is when the most juicy and refreshing fruits are at their ripest. It’s the season for mango, pineapple, watermelon, lychee and longan, just to name a few. All these fruits are sugary-sweet and have a high water content, so they’re perfect during summer. If you’re not keen on just the fruit itself, Taiwan’s night markets and shops have a whole host of ways to serve them. Try out icy smoothies of 木瓜牛奶 (papaya milk) or 香蕉牛奶 (banana milk). For the ultimate fruity cool down, try a mango shaved ice. This dessert comes with soft, fluffy flakes of mango ice and a generous dollop of mango, topped with a scoop of mango ice cream. It’s mango overload and it is so good!
3. Watch the release of water lanterns at the Keelung Chuan Yuan Festival
Taiwan is a place of festivals. All manner of celebrations take place throughout different times of the year. One of the most interesting festivals though is the Ghost Month. Think Halloween, but on steroids. The Chinese believe that during the seventh lunar month, the gates of Hell are opened, and a whole host of hungry ghosts and ancestors come into the world of the living. You’ll see food laid out on roadsides, and opera performances with the front rows left empty for ghostly patrons to sit. Creeped out yet? Don’t be. Just don’t get between the ghosts and their food and you should be fine.
While the usual Ghost Month festivities can be observed anywhere in Taiwan, the city of Keelung, to the north-east of Taipei, has a special take on it. Being a harbor city, Keelung has no shortage of drowned souls. To help guide them to land, water lanterns are lit and sent down the city’s rivers. It creates a scene that is both eerie and spiritual at once. The water lanterns are released on the fifteenth day of the lunar month, which varies from year to year.
4. Go for a soak at a hot spring in Xinbeitou
Before you balk at the idea of soaking in a hot spring in hot weather, there are a few things you should consider. Soaking in a hot spring is the perfect way to soothe aching muscles, or just to relax and recharge. Xinbeitou has plenty of hot springs – and best of all, it has cold springs too. So you can soak in a hot pool, and then end off in a cold pool, which will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the heat again. Moving between pools of different temperature is supposed to be good for circulation, and has the added benefit of making sure you don’t overheat.
Xinbeitou is just a twenty-minute train ride away from Taipei Main Station, and once you get there you’ll be assailed with choices. Nearly every resort or hotel there has their own private hot spring, which you can book on an hourly basis. You can also opt for the public hot spring, which is frequented by locals and is a much, much cheaper option.
Do note that some of the hotel hot springs don’t allow clothes or swimwear, so be sure to ask beforehand if you’re not comfortable with that! Also, take precautions when using the hot springs – bring water to make sure you’re not dehydrated, don’t soak for too long, and if you feel ill, leave the water.
5. Spend a day in island paradise at Xiao Liu Qiu
Xiao Liu Qiu, or Lamay Island, is a small island located just below Kaohsiung, in the southern part of Taiwan. As one of the lesser-known islands in Taiwan, it’s a great place to escape to for a day or two. Xiao Liu Qiu embodies the sleepy little island idyll. One of the main activities for locals is fishing, and the island is full beautiful, untouched nature for you to explore. You will have to pay about 120 TWD (3 USD) for a ticket to visit the three nature sites on the island.
You can walk along the nature trails – some of them wind through old banyan groves and coral caves, creating the feeling that you are walking through a trench. Surrounded by coral reefs, Xiao Liu Qiu is great for snorkeling or swimming. You can look at natural oddities such as the Flower Vase Rock, or just admire the corals. Remember to bring some protection for your feet – corals are sharp!
Xiao Liu Qiu is a great place to spend the weekend reconnecting with nature. Chill out on small secluded beaches and keep a look out for green sea turtles that frequent the coral reefs. As always, remember to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs.
6. Ride a YouBike from Tienmu to Danshui
Taiwan is big on cycling. In recent years, Taiwan’s biking scene has been embraced with surprising enthusiasm by both the locals and the authorities. Because of that, it’s now easy to view Taiwan from two wheels. In Taipei, you can expect to see rows and rows of cheerful orange bikes scattered throughout the city. These are YouBikes, the government’s attempt to encourage more cycling in the city. They work via an unmanned rental system – you just have to swipe your EasyCard. After you’re done, you can return the bike to any one of the YouBike stations throughout the city, and swipe your card again.
You’ll have to register your EasyCard to use the YouBike system, and you will also need a Taiwan cell phone number. SIM cards can be easily purchased at the airport upon arrival. After that, it’s as easy as stopping at one of the YouBike stations, registering your card, and you’re ready to cycle!
One popular route is from Tienmu to Danshui, where the river meets the ocean. Along the way, you’ll pass by rural Taipei and city parks galore. The trail ends at Shalun Beach. The best part about cycling in Taipei is that if you get tired at any point, you can stop and take the MRT back. Do note that there aren’t YouBike Stations in Danshui, so you’ll have to take your YouBike on the MRT with you. Shalun Beach might not be open on certain days, so be sure to check before you go!
Kong Ming Deng is an activity that is gaining more and more popularity in Taiwan. You write your wishes on a lantern and send it up to the sky. Typically, this is done during the lantern festival in Pingxi, but thanks to the growing popularity, you can do it any time.
To do this, you have to head to Shifen, a town in Pingxi District. You can get there via the railway from Taipei Main Station (you will have to change trains at Ruifang Station). Shifen is a cute little tourist trap – two streets of shops with a railway running between them. The shops sell a variety of food, souvenirs, and most importantly – lanterns. There are many, many shops selling paper lanterns. There will be painting stands set up along the tracks, with calligraphy brushes and ink for you to write your wishes. You can also choose different color combinations for your lantern – different colors signify different aspects of your life. Pink represents love, red represents health and so on.
After that, the shopkeepers will help you light your lantern and snap pictures of you holding it, and then it’s time to send your good wishes into the sky! Whether you believe in it or not, it’s still a fun thing to do, and a nice way to think about what you want in life. For the best shots, go around evening, just as the sun is setting.
Another quirky thing about Shifen is that the railway is uncovered – anyone can step on it. In fact, you’re actively encouraged to stand on the tracks to release your lantern or set off fireworks. It’s a funny sight to watch everyone scramble out of the way as the train arrives.
If you want to learn more about the area, join a tour that will let you fly a Sky Lantern and enjoy the spectacular view of the area. The tour lets you explore and discover Taiwan’s heritage with a visit to the coal-mining town of Pingxi, walk down Shifen Old Street and witness the spectacle that is Shifen Waterfall.
5-Hour Shifen Old Street Walk and Pingxi Sky Lantern Tour from Taipei
Duration: Approximately 5 hours
Price: From USD 52
8. Ogle at the range of products in Taiwan’s 7-11s
‘Convenience’ takes on a whole new meaning in Taiwan’s 7-11s. With the largest concentration of convenience stores per person in the world, Taiwan’s 7-11s are everywhere and they are the best thing ever. Seriously, you can’t turn a corner without seeing a 7-11 somewhere.
Sure, 7-11s can be found in many places throughout the world. What’s so special about the ones in Taiwan, you might be asking. Well, for starters, you can do just about anything and find just about everything there – feed yourself a proper meal, pay bills, buy plane, train and concert tickets, do online banking, buy clothes, mail packages. Taiwan’s 7-11s sell everything from electronics to clothes and food. You haven’t lived until you’ve been to one.
If you’re too overwhelmed by the range of products, here are some suggestions – the shampoo-bottle-like milk tea is godly, as are the cartons of papaya milk and green milk tea. And no 7-11 visit is complete without one of their piping hot tea eggs, straight from the slow cooker.
9. Cool down with the different kinds of ice cream in Jiufen
Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot summer’s day? How about ice cream in a pancake? Or ice cream that’s been fried?
Jiufen was once a quiet little town on a mountain. Now, that little town overflows with visitors on weekends and peak periods. Jiufen was made famous because of pop culture – Hou Hsiao Hsien’s A City of Sadness was set here, and the Ghilbi studio’s Spirited Away was modelled after Jiufen’s narrow alleys and steep stairways.
Combine the hot Taiwanese summer with an overcrowded town and you have every dessert store owner’s dream. In Jiufen, you’ll find all kinds of icy treats. Dorayaki is actually a traditional Japanese treat, and you can find versions of it stuffed with ice cream atop a layer of sweet red beans. Alternatively, you can opt for good old soft-serve ice cream – choose from a variety of flavors like yam or matcha.
10. Savor Taiwan’s famous bubble tea at Chung Shui Tang, the (supposed) birthplace of bubble tea
The birthplace of bubble tea is long disputed. We know it came from Taiwan, but we don’t who the genius was who came up with idea of serving cold tea with sweet, chewy balls of tapioca starch. In an effort to make the tapioca starch balls sound more appetizing, they were renamed pearls. 珍珠奶茶, and bubble tea was born, spread to the rest of Taiwan, and then took over the world.
Whether or not Chung Shui Tang was bubble tea’s birthplace or not, it’s still the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cup of bubble tea. While bubble tea can be found all over Taiwan, what sets Chung Shui Tang apart is that they make their own pearls, instead of buying factory-made ones.
Chung Shui Tang is found in Taichung, on the Western Coast of Taiwan. It has less natural scenery than the rest of Taiwan, so it doesn’t get as many visitors. What it lacks in natural scenery, however, it makes up for in culture, and Chung Shui Tang is just one example of what you can find there.
11. Take a relaxing stroll along the Love River
No, you don’t have to be with your significant other to visit Kaohsiung’s Love River. Single people are allowed here too! The Love River runs through Kaohsiung, and is considered to be the spine of the city. Once a heavily polluted river, the Love River has since been cleaned up and now it is a lovely expanse of water cutting through the city.
There are a whole host of activities that you can do along the Love River. Love River Park has one of Taiwan’s biggest night markets. You can sit at one of the cafes in the park and listen to some live music, or take a boat up and down the river.
If you’re feeling active, you can water ski in the river, or cycle along the bike path. Otherwise, the scenery makes it perfect for calming strolls at night or in the day.
Geography gets weird at Yehliu Geopark. As geological forces pushed the Datun Mountains out of the sea thousands of years ago, a little cape was formed. After a millennia of erosion, thanks to the sea and wind, Yehliu Geopark has one of the most fascinating rock landscapes in the world. The rock formations are out of this world and imaginatively named. The famous Queen’s Head can be found here, as well as Sea Candles, the Fairy Shoes and Mushroom Rocks.
The sea slams into the stones with vengeance here, which makes you wonder how much longer these formations will last before nature claims them.
Yehliu Geopark is in Northern Taiwan, in the Wanli District. It is remote, and you’ll have to take a bus from Taipei Main Station or Tamsui Station. However, if you’re a geography nerd, this a must-see. The place is packed with tourists during the peak season, so be prepared to battle it out for the best photo spots, or go on a weekday.
Instead of taking the public transport there, tours provide you with a hotel pickup and drop-off service so you can reserve all your energy in checking out the extraordinary features there.
Small-Group Tour of Yehliu Geopark and Sculpture Art on Northern Coast of Taiwan
Duration: Approximately 8 hours
Price: From 98 USD
13. Escape the city and the heat at Cinjing Farm
Pet sheep. Feed goats. Clamber about the hills and feel the cool mountain breeze. Cinjing Farm is the perfect getaway from the summer heat and city life. How can you resist a farm where part of it is named the Green Green Grasslands?
You can easily spend half a day here. Start out at the Green Green Grasslands and pet the friendly sheep who roam the paths and fields. You can also buy feed for the sheep. Just follow the trails that wind through the farm – you can’t get lost. You can watch sheep get sheared or ride a horse. You can also take a walk to the aptly named Small Swiss Garden. With colorful fields of flowers and a little windmill, you’ll feel as though you’re in Northern Europe rather than in Central Taiwan.
Cingjing Farm can be reached from Taipei and other parts of Taiwan via bus or car, but, given the distance, you might want to make this an overnight trip instead of a day trip. Cinjing Farm offers rooms for this very purpose.
Nantou County is the only landlocked county in Taiwan, but it makes up for that by having the Sun Moon Lake. It’s the largest body of water in Taiwan, and it’s famous for clear, beautiful water set against a backdrop of mountains.
Because the lake is so huge, there are little pockets of attractions that dot the coast. Shuishe is one of the more built-up areas, and it’s where you’ll find a ton of hotels and shops. Other attractions include the Ita Thao village, Xuangang Temple, and Wenwu Temple. You can take a lake shuttle boat to hop between all the destinations. Alternatively, rent a bike and cycle the whole 29 kilometers (18 miles) around the lake. You can also buy an all-day Sun Moon Lake bus pass.
Of course, the main pull of Sun Moon Lake is the lake itself. It looks nice by day, but the magic really happens at dawn or sunset. The best way to catch those views is to book yourself a hotel along the lake. The views will be worth it.
Don’t want to miss anything? Check out this 1-day tour that lets you explore the Sun Moon Lake Area, which includes the lake, Shueili River, Puli, Jhuoshuei River and Jiji.
Sun Moon Lake 1-Day Leisure Tour from Taipei
Duration: 1 day
Price: From 150 USD
15. Watch a dragon boat race in Taipei
The Dragon Boat Festival, like most Chinese Festivals, has a rather tragic backstory. According to legend, when his state was captured by the Qin State, the Chinese poet Qu Yuan committed suicide by throwing himself into Miluo River. Distraught, his followers jumped into their boats to save him, or at the very least find his body. They also wrapped rice dumplings in leaves and dropped them into the river to keep the fish from eating his body.
Today, dragon boat races are held throughout Asia, and zongzi, the sticky rice dumplings, are eaten as a traditional snack. Dragon boat racing has become an international sporting event, with teams from all over the world coming to Taiwan to compete. It’s an exciting, intense event and one that definitely shouldn’t be missed. The dragon boat races take place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, so the date will vary from year to year. The races are held throughout the country, so you’ll most likely be able to catch one no matter where you are. Rice dumplings are sold at roadside stalls in the weeks leading up to the festival – you can spread the many different kinds of dumplings over different days and eat your fill.
At an elevation of 1,120 meters (3,675 feet), Mount Qixing is the highest peak in all of Taipei. If you’re looking for a good, tiring hike, pick this route. It brings you past some of the most iconic views and landscapes of the park. Hiking up Mount Qixing will give you panoramic views of Taipei, and after that you’ll reach the smoky, sulphurous landscape of Xiaoyoukeng. The trail is about 4.9 kilometers (3 miles), and will take four to five hours.
From Yangmingshan Park Headquarters, you can head to the Miaopu entrance, which is the start of the Mount Qixing Hiking Trail. After reaching the summit, you can head north to the stunning landscape of Xiaoyoukeng. Part of Taiwan’s youngest and largest range of volcanoes, you’ll see white sulphurous fumes being given off by the sulphur fumaroles in the area.
After that, you can take minibus S15 (hang on tight, the ride is full of twists and turns) to other destinations within Yangmingshan. You can soak your tired feet in a hot spring at Lengshuikeng, or admire the rolling fields of green at the Qingtiangang Grassland Trails.
If you are not comfortable with a solo hike, join a small group hiking tour that will ensure the hike goes smoothly, without any worries.
Small Group Hiking Day Tour On Qixing Mountain from Taipei
Duration: 1 day
Price: From 70 USD
17. Hide in the air-conditioning at Taipei Public Library, Beitou Branch
A library as a tourist spot? No, we’re not kidding. The Beitou Branch of the Taipei Public Library is a marvel of architecture and green design, and is a must-see for lovers of books, architecture and design. A sloping form of glass and wood, the library blends into the greenery that surrounds it in Xinbeitou. It’s just a three minute walk from the Xinbeitou MRT station.
Peek inside and admire the spacious windows, the rows upon rows of books and the glossy wood paneling covering everything. All the wood used in the construction of the library was taken from managed forests.
Nevertheless, it still is a library, so tread softly and keep your voice down. Photography is not allowed inside, so put the camera away, curl up with a book in one of the many reading nooks and while the afternoon away.
18. Cuddle with cats at Houtong Village
If you’re a cat lover, why are you still reading this? You should making your way to the Houtong Cat Village right now. Originally a prosperous mining town, Houtong declined with the coal industry in the 1920s. Young people emigrated, and few residents remained. However, in 2008, a local cat lover begin organizing volunteers to look after the abandoned cats in the village. They posted pictures online, and the cat lovers of the world responded.
Today, Houtong is ruled by cats. From the second you step off the train, you’ll find all kinds of cat paraphernalia. Postcards, stickers, figurines – the most important thing to buy though, is the cat food. The cats aren’t hard to find, but after years of being coddled by locals and tourists alike, they’re used to playing hard to get. Tempt them with a bit of food and catnip, and you’ll soon have a one or two felines cuddling up to you. Do note that while the cats are taken care of by the locals, they’re still strays. Observe proper hygiene, especially if you have little ones!
Aside from the cats, you can also see the remains of a coal processing plant, tour an old mining tunnel and admire the view of the Keelung River as it runs through the town. But really, everyone comes here for the cats.
19. Go shopping at the Taipei 101 mall
If you don’t feel up to joining the insane queues waiting to go up to the Taipei 101 observatory, why not look at all the pretty things that are for sale at the Taipei 101 mall? One of Taipei’s swankiest malls, the Taipei 101 mall brings some of the world’s top brands in fashion and food. Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s still a delight to wander through the mall and admire the natural light shining through its glass roofs.
20. Sip tea and admire the sunset atop Maokong Shan
Maokong was once the biggest tea growing area of Taipei. Today, no trip up the mountain is complete without stopping by one of the many teahouses for a cup of tea. The best time to do this is in the evening as the sun sets, giving you a gorgeous view and an unforgettable experience. If you don’t feel up to taking another hike up a mountain, don’t worry. You can take the Maokong Gondola up to the top. If you’re not afraid of heights, you can opt for a Crystal Cabin – the base is made of glass, so you can see all the way down to the forest passing below.
Once you’re on the top of Maokong Shan, you can wander about its winding lanes to find a teahouse or a café to sit in and admire the sunset.
Soak up that summer sun
A summer getaway to Taiwan will offer you sides of the island that you never thought you’d see from a place famed for night markets and mountains. So pack your sunscreen, grab your favorite pair of shades, and get ready for a cool, sun-drenched vacation.