Why Taiwan Should be on Your Travel Radar in 2024!

yilan cycling

I had pretty low expectations when I first travelled to Taiwan a few years ago.

But I was surprised to find myself constantly surrounded by magnificent mountains, forests and beaches. Over a month in the country, my partner and I lived on a family-run tea estate in the mountains of Fengchihu, cycled down the breathtaking Taroko Gorge, spotted fireflies by night and a sea of clouds on an early morning, learnt about local traditions from an Indigenous Truku family, cycled along the mist-engulfed East Rift Valley, and took the slow train or high speed rail everywhere!

Also read: Not Your Typical Travel Guide to Taiwan

jiufen taiwan
Why travel to Taiwan? Because surprising beauty lies at every corner.

So when Taiwan Tourism invited me to return to Taiwan this month, I was overjoyed, and determined to visit sustainable tourism initiatives in the country.

Over a week, I learnt about how tourism became a means to protect the cultural heritage of the remote mountain settlement of Jiufen, met the Indigenous chief of Bulau Bualu – an inspiring community-led tourism initiative, and stayed at OrigInn Space – a restored heritage inn in the heart of Taipei.

Here’s why Taiwan is worth visiting in 2024:

Long overshadowed by its neighboring countries

Like Japan, which is exploding in popularity and crowds this year

teapot mountain hike

Taiwan remains a stunning but underrated destination

Portuguese colonists named it Ilha Formosa – beautiful island.

Jiufen taiwan

Where you can take the slow train

taiwan train

To ancient mountain settlements

Like the 17th century Jiufen – once a gold mining town, where old buildings, blacksmith shops and mining tunnels were restored into B&Bs, restaurants and tea houses

Jiufen

With stunning day hikes overlooking the YinYang Sea

So called because pyrite (fake gold) flows from the mountains into the water, giving it a bright blue tinge in the midst of a dark blue sea

yinyang sea

And the ‘Spirited Away’ feeling at night

The street lamps line the old streets, built along stairs on the steep mountain

jiufen night

Family recipes have survived the test of time

Try Jiufen’s special sweet taro balls – made of sweet potato flour and water, chewy in texture, accidentally vegan

jiufen sweet taro balls

And plant-based eating is aided by the influence of Buddhism

Ask for “Quan Su” 全素 food – food without animal products (and onion/garlic) for Buddhist monks. Use the HappyCow app to find vegan / vegetarian food wherever you are!

[I couldn’t palette the smell of pork balls, duck heads and stinky tofu in the night markets though.]

vegan food taiwan

Historical influences are found across the island

Taiwan has a long history of colonization, leaving it with Dutch, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese influences

jiaoxi waterfall

And heritage railways still ply the mountains

Ride the narrow gauge Alishan Forest Railway, first built in 1910

Photo:  Jisun Han

Cherry blossoms bloom in spring – minus the crowds of Japan

I was surprised to experience them in Alishan last time, but missed them by a few weeks this time

Mineral-filled hot springs gush out of the ground

in the spa town of Jiaoxi, I experienced a relaxing nude bath, segregated by gender!

jioaxi hot springs

And fireflies glow under the night sky

fireflies alishan

Here you can spend time with Indigenous communities

I was incredibly inspired to visit Bulau Bulau – a community-based tourism initiative by the Atayal community

(Thanks to Wild Taiwan for the introduction!)

bulau bulau

Learning about the revival of ancient traditions

like millet wine-making, weaving, living roof building and more – where indigenous culture meets contemporary living

atayal weaving

Hike alone on well-marked mountain trails

filled with waterfalls, wildflowers, and shrine-shaped pitstops

jiufen hiking

Cycle down the breathtaking Taroko Gorge

in Taroko national park

Or to black sand beaches in Yilan County

overlooking the biodiverse Guishan Island – on my travel wish list, along with the environmental treasure trove that is Green Island.

yilan cycling

Feeling safe and welcome as a solo traveller

with none of the usual ‘where is your husband, why are you alone, you must want company’ questions asked

jiufen

Meeting friendly locals along the way

I had a good laugh with many Taiwanese people at lost in translation conversations via Google Translate (it once translated the ingredients of a chocolate as ‘sand in the feet’ ;-))

taiwan solo travel

Who’ll make you feel like a friend returning home

because the Taiwanese culture and warmth transcends the language barrier

taipei locals

Practical Information

How to get to Taiwan

Unfortunately Eva Air no longer runs direct flights to Taiwan from India. On my latest trip, I took Thai Airways with an overnight layover in Bangkok.

Taiwan visa for Indians

Taiwan offers e-visa for Indian passport holders, who hold a valid visa for the US, UK, Canada and a few other countries. Apply for the Taiwan ecode using your valid visa of one of the above countries, then fill the Taiwan evisa application using the ecode. I received both almost instantly. The visa fee is 1600 NTD, or roughly 50 US$.

Why go to Taiwan in 2024

  • Incredible natural beauty
  • Friendly, welcoming, helpful locals
  • Unique traditional culture
  • Easy to find vegan / vegetarian food
  • Little information in English, leading to unexpected adventures. That keeps the joy of travel alive in the age of over-information and over-planning!

Would you like to visit Taiwan someday? What else would you like to read about my recent trip?

Note: My first trip to Taiwan was self-funded, while my second trip was on assignment for Taiwan Tourism. As you know, opinions on this blog are always mine!

Also read:

What to do in Taiwan: Ideas from my not-so-typical guide to Taiwan

Solo travel in Taiwan

Community-based tourism at Bulau Bulau, Taiwan

the shooting star academy, get paid to travel course

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6 Comments

  1. Stephen Gamber says:

    Thanks. Great pictures! (I am a long-time subscriber)

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Thanks Stephen, and glad you’re still around!

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      That’s awesome Ajith, thanks for sharing!

  2. Omg! I am from Taiwan and I’m so proud to see such a lovely post from my country. I moved away from home. I am so busy that I can only afford to go back once a year. Seeing this really reminded me of what a gem the little island is. I miss the food so so much. Luckily I’ve also taken up cooking so I can try to replicate some of the dishes there. I will be sure to follow your future posts and thanks again!

    1. Shivya Nath says:

      Aww, lucky you for having grown up there! Was it in Taipei? I hope you have the chance to revisit soon, such a special place.

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