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City of Taipei, Taiwan (Shutterstock)

For those who make it to Taiwan – still one of Asia’s most consistently underrated destinations – the island’s cultured and liberal vibe makes for a thrilling mix, while its mountains, forests, volcanoes and coast reveal incredible hiking and wildlife-watching.

It’s this balance that makes it so exciting. In the Indigenous villages of the mountainous south or in the 400-year-old temples and colonial forts of Tainan, history and tradition still feel like a part of daily life. Yet this is no island museum. In capital Taipei stands the first skyscraper in the world to top half a kilometre in height, and this was the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

Taiwan’s cities have a kinetic energy to them, fuelled by a mix of Chinese, Western and Japanese pop culture. Bustling night markets hide Michelin-rated jewels, such as those you’ll find at Ningxia Market in Taipei; they also let you fill up on heavenly local snacks like taro balls, pork belly buns and Taiwan milk tea.

Beyond the urban centres, the high rises quickly melt away to reveal a green, mountainous heart, home to north-east Asia’s highest peak. Islanders put this rugged, volcanic geology to fine use in the many hot-springs that scatter the towns and coast, while national parks and scenic areas span the whitewater gorges of Taroko, the coral cliffs of Kenting and the forests of Alishan.

It’s easy to lose what few crowds you’ll find here, but Taiwan’s islands offer perhaps the most well-earned hidden escape. Long-distance ferries can inch you out to the Matsu archipelago, where forgotten military forts and tunnels mingle with old Fujian architecture, or the volcanic Penghu islands, whose basalt coast, palms and corals truly feel a world apart from the mainland.


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Taiwan Mandarin Chinese, Taiwan Hokkien (Taiwanese), Taiwan Hakka, Matsu dialect (Min Dong dialect) and more; Little English is spoken outside of Taipei
23 million
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UK nationals can travel visa-free to Taiwan for up to 90 days
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Type A and Type B
New Taiwan Dollar TWD

When to go to Taiwan

Taiwan is affected by two monsoons every year. The first hits the north-east of the country between October and March, while the south-west monsoon brings rains from May to September. The climate is subtropical, with wet and humid summers and short, mild winters. In the north and on the peaks, it can be several degrees colder than in the rest of the country. The annual ‘plum rain’ (East Asian rainy season) can bring two months of rainfall from early spring to early summer. Generally, autumn and winter are the best times to visit, but the early summer can also be nice. Bear in mind that the Taiwanese love to travel over weekends and on public holidays, so attractions and transport might be packed.

International airports

Taiwan’s main gateway is Taiwan Taoyuan International airport (TPE), 50km west of Taipei. The other international airport is Kaohsiung International (KHH), 10km south-west of Kaohsiung.

Getting around in Taiwan

The Metro, known as Mass Rapid Transit in major cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, is highly convenient for getting around Taiwan’s urban centres. Rail is also the most convenient way to travel between cities, with a 350km-long high-speed line spanning the west coast, connecting Taipei and Kaohsiung in just 90 minutes; a network of slower trains runs the circumference of the island, with very few routes penetrating the centre. A handful of scenic lines (Neiwan, Jiji and Pingsei) take in lakes, waterfalls and historical villages.

Bus is a good alternative for travelling between the major urban centres. For more remote areas, consider hiring a car or scooter; those with thighs of steel may consider tackling the No 1 cycling route (968km), which runs the entire circumference of the island. Cycling on Taiwan can be pretty tough though, and some of the steepest climbs in the world are to be found here.

Ferries and planes serve the outlying islands. Boats leave from Budai Harbour in Chiayi and Gushan Ferry Pier in Kaohsiung for the islands of Penghu, off the west coast. Ferries to the islands of Dongyin and Nangan in Lienchiang County (aka the Matsu Islands) depart from Keelung. The only way to reach the island of Kinmen from Taiwan is by plane.

Health & safety

Cases of dengue fever have been recorded in Southern Taiwan, including cities like Kaohsiung and Tainan. It is important to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and ensure you have the appropriate jabs. Consult your GP or travel health clinic well before departure.

Crime is low; even the larger cities are safer than many in Europe. However, typhoons and earthquakes are not rare in Taiwan; read emergency guides before you travel in order to know what to do in the event of one.

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