A two-week road trip is the best way to see Taiwan up close and personal, and this comprehensive road trip begins and ends in Taipei.
small island nation captures the extremes of its high central mountains and long coastlines. It doesn’t take long to see why road trips on this island are so popular.
Enjoy misty mountains, sandy and rugged beaches, while sampling delicious local food along the way.
Taiwan is an easy East Asian road trip through a subtropical island that everyone should try.
How to rent a car in Taiwan
If you want to rent a car in Taiwan, you just need to make sure you have the correct credentials. You will need your passport and an international driving permit.
Day 1: Taipei
If you’re only spending one night in Taipei, think about your priorities. Do you want to spend your time in the modern Xinyi district? Or, do you want to visit a temple and a night market? Then Songshan with Raohe Night Market should be your destination. Want to see old Taipei? Wanhua and Datong districts will have the destinations you are looking for.
Day 2: Taichung
Wake up and start your drive to Taichung. Taichung is more spread out and less vertical than Taipei. A few places to visit here would be Rainbow Village which is very touristy and great for IG, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts is also a great place to visit. The Feng Chia Night Market should definitely be your stop to refuel.
- driving distance – 165km, 2 hours and 4 minutes from Taipei
Day 3: Qingjing Farm
Qingjing Farm was established on February 20, 1961 and is more than just a place to go and see sheep. The drive itself is half the experience, as you constantly gain elevation as you ascend the mountains. If you travel in the spring, you can see blossoms of peach, pear and apple trees. The visual of the misty mountains that surround this small sheepfold is worth the detour in itself.
- driving distance – 85.1km, 1h38 from Taichung
Day 4 and/or 5 (one or two days): Sunmoon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is in the low hills of the central mountain range in Taiwan. Surrounded by low mountain forest, walking trails and the Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village dedicated to Aboriginal history, there is plenty to explore. You can choose to spend a day or two here. Choosing two may be ideal for the more relaxed traveler. Giving the Alishan National Park leg an extra day would allow for more hiking.
- driving distance – 71km, 1h38 from the Qingjing farm
Day 5 and/or 6 (one or two days): Alishan National Park
Alishan National Park is located on Mount Alishan. Alishan is home to tea plantations, Aboriginal culture, old railways and amazing sights. You could spend a day here admiring its beauty, sipping tea while admiring the stunning vistas. If you choose to spend your extra day here, plan to spend that day hiking to the top.
- driving distance – 115km, 3 hours and 4 minutes from Sunmoon Lake
Day 7: Tainan
Tainan is known as the foodie capital of Taiwan, and even if you consider you have only a passing interest in food, you still need to make time to stop here. The city itself is quite nice, smaller than Taipei and Kaohsiung with a little more aesthetic quality. Check out some of the restaurants below and take some time to visit the beach, perhaps take a stroll through the first Confucius Temple in Taiwan, or stroll along the canals and take part in the busy city life. .
- driving distance – 130 km, 2 hours and 22 minutes from Alishan National Park
- 一農甜不辣 – Taiwanese tempura, $
- Mao Fun – Chinese, Japanese, hotpot style, $$
- Grill Tan Zuo Ma Li – Taiwanese BBQ, Japanese, $$$
Day 8: Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and largest port. It’s a much more sprawling city than Taipei, and it’s much more car-friendly. While in Kaohsiung, you can enjoy sights such as Lianchi (Lotus) Lake with its scenic towers and bridges. Blueprint Culture & Creative Park is also a great place to go to see live performances as well as local art. Catch some seafood while you’re here too! It is a port city.
- driving distance – 50km, 53 minutes from Tainan
Day 9: Kenting National Park
Kenting is a popular beach destination for travelers from other parts of Taipei. This is a place for snorkeling as well as enjoying some waves. There are several excellent beach choices here as well as landmarks for taking pictures. There’s also the National Forest Recreation Area if you’re not feeling beachy. You can also find where the South China Sea meets the Pacific.
- driving distance – 108km, 2 hours from Kaohsiung
Day 10: Taitung
Taitung is a slow-paced coastal city in southeast Taiwan. You will find many coastal attractions like Sanxiantai or Xiouyeliu easily accessible by car. Also, Taitung Forest Park and Taitung Seaside Park are nice tours from within the city. There are also good local tea houses to discover!
- driving distance – 122 km, 2 hours and 20 minutes from Kenting National Park
Day 11: Hualien
The drive to Hualien is likely to be a spectacular experience in itself as you pass between the narrow valley between the central mountain range and the smaller coastal range of Hai’an. Hualien is a fun little town with lots to do in terms of outdoor activities. With a car, it wouldn’t be a problem to visit Sixty Rock Mountain. If you want to stay closer to the city, Dongdamen Night Market and 太平洋海濱公園 (a seaside park) are also worth visiting.
- driving distance – 165km, 3 hours and 23 minutes from Taitung
Day 12: Taroko Gorge
You’ll want to plan an entire day around this, and with your own car it’s easy to navigate between the different starting points. There are plenty of them here and they are all beautiful, so choose a few that match your ability level and just enjoy the day in one of the most amazing places in Taiwan.
- driving distance – 55.3km, 1h32 (all the way by the gorge road) from Hualien
- List of trails and difficulty
Day 13: Jiaoxi
Before venturing into the sometimes crowded tunnels of Taipei, take a moment to enjoy a spa and good food. There are plenty of hot spring resorts to choose from, and plenty of little eateries in what is the must-see town getaway for those living in Taipei. Wake up early and try to catch the sunrise over Waiao Beach before finally heading back to Taipei.
- driving distance – 116km, 2h25 from Hualien
Day 14: Return to Taipei
- driving distance – 44km, 40 minutes (without traffic, allow one hour) from Jiaoxi
- Total distance – 1,226.4 km
- Total driving time – 23 hours and 59 minutes
Next: ‘Taipei’s Backyard’: Meet Yilan, a Tourist Alternative in Taipei
13 US Cities With The Absolute Best Seafood (10 To Avoid At All Costs)
About the Author