Taiwan West Coast Trip
Taiwan is filled with incredible vistas, ancient traditions, and a vibrant culture that is sure to make anyone want to stay forever. As you travel along the west coast of this beautiful country, you will travel past tropical forests and impressive mountain ranges. Enjoy amazing food, head to ancient temples and so much more during this Taiwan itinerary.
Recommended Days: 10-14 Days
Riding Hours: Approx. 12 hr
Distance: 512 km
Taipei: Beautiful Temples And Incredible Cuisine
Taipei is full of culture and history. Being home to some of the country’s most beautiful temples it is easy to understand why it is the region’s capital. Not only will you find an abundance of history. But you will also have the chance to try incredible cuisine and enjoy the thriving commercial hub of the markets that run throughout the city, day and night.
Danshui’s Old Street is one of the most popular attractions in Taipei. Here you will find the street lined with vendors that offer interesting street food, souvenirs, and plenty of activity during the weekends. Just outside the city is the remarkable village of Wulai where you can enjoy the hot springs and relax.
You may also want to hop on the cable car that takes to you to a nearby waterfall and aboriginal village. The Shilin Night Market is a great spot to visit for a bit of shopping. Here you will find novelty gifts, clothing and so much more at a far cheaper rate than the department stores in the city. But trust us when we say you will not lose out on quality! If you want to learn a bit more about the history of the country, head to the National Taiwan Museum. Where you can learn about the aboriginal tribes, the plants, and also the wildlife that reside or once resided in Taiwan.
Taipei Station THSR→ Taichung THSR Station | Duration: 0:47-1:04h | Transfers: 0
From Taipei’s main train station, take the Taiwan High-Speed Rail direct connection to Taichung. There are several trains leaving throughout the day. Find the timetables and book your high-speed tickets online with 12GO. There are also normal line trains which are longer in journey time than the high-speed, the trains from Taipei to Taichung take 2:15h to 3:20h. These tickets can be bought from Taiwan Railway.
TIP: Taiwan has high-speed trains and slow trains. They also depart from different stations: THSR (high-speed) and TRA (slow). Be aware that high-speed rail stations (THSR) are often located in the outskirts of the city with regular bus connections to the TRA stations. The slow train stations are located often in the heart of the city.
Taichung: Quirky Rainbow Village
Taichung is quite an industrial city and is considered to be a melting pot of culture and culinary delights. It is a vibrant city that is home to many unique features that are sure to keep you on your toes. You can visit the quirky Rainbow Village, take a walk in an expansive park or even enjoy a trip to a local brewery.
If you head to the National Museum of Natural Science you will have the chance to see one of the most popular attractions in the city, the moving dinosaurs. You will learn about the history of Taiwan and watch robotic dinosaurs move around making you think that you might have made it into Jurassic Park.
The Rainbow Village is a sight not to be missed, bright and colorful village used to be a home for former members of the military. Instead of being demolished as originally planned, every surface was painted and is now a protected cultural area. Take a trip to one of the city’s only breweries, the 3 Giants Brewing Company. There you can sample some of the beers and try some food whilst you watch the brewers craft.
Taichung THSR Station → Chiayi THSR Station | Duration: 0:26-0:38 h | Transfers: 0
From the Taichung station, take the Taiwan High-Speed Rail direct connection to Chiayi. There are several trains leaving throughout the day. The high-speed train takes 28-38 minutes and the average train takes 2 hours. Find the timetables and book your high-speed tickets online with 12GO. There are also normal line trains that are longer in journey time than the high-speed, the trains from Taichung to Chiayi take 1:48h-2:05h. These tickets can be bought from Taiwan Railway.
Chiayi: Adventure Off-The-Beaten-Track
The main city within the Chiayi County, is considered the gateway to Alishan, one of the top tourist attractions of the country. The city is a perfect spot for those looking for something less tourist-filled and a bit of off-the-beaten-track adventure. You will find a preserved culture that is waiting to be explored, plenty of warmth and charm.
One stop that you must visit has to be the traditional Japanese styled houses at the Hinoki Village. It is Taiwan’s first forest cultural and creative park and is home to a variety of businesses that occupy the 28 traditional houses. You can wander through the buildings made of Taiwanese cypress trees filled with tea houses, boutique stores, art galleries, crafts, and souvenirs.
The Song of the Forest was designed by the Wang Wen-Zhei and is a landmark that was made with local materials. The dome represents the trees that lie in the forest of Alishan and the walkway is meant to symbolize the railway between Chiai and Alishan. If you head to the Central Fountain, you will have the chance to watch one or two of the 14 water dances that are performed by the fountain every 15 minutes. It is especially beautiful at night as the many lights surrounding the fountain highlight the performance remarkably.
Chiayi TRA Train Station → Alishan Railway Station | Duration: 2:30 h | Transfers: 0
From Chiayi City, you will take the Alishan Forest Railway to the Alishan Rail Station. These tickets can be purchased ahead of time online from the official Alishan Forest Railway website or you can buy them the day of from the Chiayi TRA station (not the high-speed THSR station). Check the timetables and official website ahead of time as sometimes landslides close parts of the track and you will need to take a bus from a certain station along the route to the Alishan train station. The next destination is Zhaoping, walking distance from the Alishan Railway Station.
Zhaoping: Tea, Tea, Tea!
Zhaoping is located in the Alishan National Park and it is very close to the Alishan Railway Station. You can walk to Zhaoping from the Alishan Railway Station or take a short train journey up to it. The surroundings have plenty of hiking trails, beautiful scenic areas, majestic temples and more to be explored. Start your day with a sunrise viewing from the train and then take a hike to the Sisters Ponds. The legend of the ponds is that they are named after two sisters from the Tsou tribe who apparently fell in love with the same man and then threw themselves in the ponds to show their grief.
Probably one of the most famous attractions within the National Park is the Sacred Tree. A red cypress tree is believed to be over 3,000 years old. But it fell in 1998 and now visitors come to see the giant tree lying on its side in the middle of the forest.
If you want to visit the highest temple in all of Taiwan, then you want to head to the Shoujhen Temple which is home to around 10,000 miniature Buddhas. All of this walking will make you thirsty, so why not try some of the Alishan Tea. Head to one of the local tea plantations where you will be given a tour and a tasting of the delicious and aromatic tea. Something that is quite quirky that can be done in the area before heading to Stop 5 is to send a wooden postcard. An interesting souvenir that you can send back home to remind you of your incredible journey.
Alishan Railway Station → Tainan THSR City | Duration: 3:57 h | Transfers: 1-2
From Alishan Railway Station, you will take the Alishan Forest Railway down to Chiayi City. These tickets can be purchased ahead of time online from the official Alishan Forest Railway website or you can buy them the day of from the Alishan Railway station. Check the timetables and official website ahead of time as sometimes landslides close parts of the track and you will need to take a bus from a certain station along the route. Upon arriving in Chiayi at the normal line train station (TRA not THSR), you can transfer to a train to Tainan which is another 1:22h. There is also an option upon arriving at the normal line train station Chiayi TRA, you can take a bus to the Chiayi THSR station to take the high-speed train (0:18h) to Tainan. Find the timetables and book your high-speed tickets online with 12GO. For the normal line trains, tickets can be bought from Taiwan Railway.
Tainan: Haunted Houses, Hipster Cafes, And Plenty Of Markets
Once the capital of Taiwan, Tainan is filled with historic sites to be explored. Here you will find cheap and delicious food, friendly locals, and a compact city that is thriving although often hidden from tourist views. There is so much to see and do in this little city, from visiting haunted houses, stepping into hipster cafes, and enjoying a spot of department store shopping.
The Anping Tree House was once thought to be haunted thanks to the locals. The former salt warehouse was overtaken by Banyan roots through the walls, floors, and rooftops giving a very creepy sensation to the house. You can now explore the building thanks to a boardwalk provided by the city government. There you will find hidden nooks and enjoy views from above its roof. If you head to the sky bridge within the treehouse, you will climb onto a viewing deck with views of the Yanshui estuary and wetland area.
There are plenty of markets to be explored in Tainan. For a luxurious feat then you may want to head to Datong night market where you will be able to sample a smorgasbord of street food. It may not be the biggest night market in the city, it is definitely a favorite with the locals when it comes to the food. Why not take a trip to the Fairy Lake Leisure Farm where you can soak in an infinity pool that overlooks the miraculous mountain ranges. You can also explore the farm and go hunting for lychee, coffee beans, longans, and cherry tomatoes.
Tainan THSR Station → Kaohsiung THSR Station | Duration: 0:12-0:16h | Transfers: 0
From Tainan, you can take the 12-16 minute high-speed train to Kaohsiung or the 40-60 minute normal line train to Kaohsiung. Find the timetables and book your high-speed tickets online with 12GO. For the normal line trains, tickets can be bought from Taiwan Railway. All of the trains leave regularly throughout the day.
Kaohsiung: Taiwan’s Second Largest City
Kaohsiung, the country’s largest port city has become a favorite for tourists and locals over the years, a perfect stop on this Taiwan itinerary. This could be due to the remarkable night markets, temples, and restaurants that are available within the city. Being Taiwan’s second-largest city, it is the perfect spot to end our adventurous itinerary.
One of the first foreign consulates on Taiwanese soil was the British Consulate. Set atop a hill, it has a beautiful view of the harbor and the compound has a residence and hiking trail to be explored. Right by the harborside is the Love Pier, also known as the Kaohsiung Harbor. Here you will find cafes and bars with outdoor seating, the perfect spot for a bit of romance. You may even want to jump aboard one of the riverboats and enjoy a cruise.
The Lotus Pond is an exquisite attraction with around 20 temples on the shore and plenty of paths to wander and find hidden gems. The reason for its fame is due to the unusual structure of the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas that are quite a sight to see.
We hope you enjoyed your time in Taiwan by train. Enjoy the journey direct back to Taipei (1:36h with the high speeds or 5:06h with the normal line train), or continue exploring Taiwan on the east coast. Find the timetables and book your high-speed tickets online with 12GO. For the normal line trains, tickets can be bought from Taiwan Railway.
*Disclaimer: Due to the fluidity of transportation schedules, the information seen on RailwayHero may not be up to date at the time of readíng. Always double-check with the operator for the latest information.