Planning a trip to Taiwan requires more research as this small-but-INCREDIBLE country has so many exciting things to offer.
We all know that creating an itinerary is one stressful step in planning. So if you need to save time, this 5-day itinerary that I have prepared might help you achieve your Taiwan-derful goals!
To put it briefly, Taiwan is well-known for its night markets, exciting food scene, incredibly efficient public transportation, grand and well-maintained parks, and its very own Taipei 101 that once held the World’s Tallest Building title.
If you are in time for spring season, you may catch sight of cherry blossoms scattered almost everywhere within the country.
Without further ado, let’s get on with our classic must-do 5-day Taiwan itinerary!
Day 1 – Arrival at Taoyuan International Airport + Taipei City Short Trip
Taipei City, where any first-time visit should start, is still a 1-hour MRT ride away from Taoyuan International Airport.
You’ll need to allocate an hour allowance before you can check in to your hotel. Most accommodation in Taipei have a 2pm check in rule so it’s most likely only around 3pm that you can begin to explore the city.
You can usually only check in earlier if there is an available room already without having to pay an extra cost. Or you may also leave your luggage at your hotel’s front desk so you can start exploring while waiting for check-in.
If you wish to stay in a hotel within Ximending area, you may wish to consider staying at Westgate Hotel. It stands right in the heart of Ximending, which means you will have easy access to many shops, cafes, and restaurants within the area. You can also expect a clean, modern and comfortable stay.
Begin your exploration at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park which is the most notable historical landmark in Taipei. It’s accessible via the MRT Red Line.
Then from there, you can board the same MRT Red Line going to Taipei 101 which is something you really cannot miss while in Taipei City.
If you want to get a killer view of Taipei City, you can do so at the Taipei 101 Observatory.
National Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is another site worth visiting. It is walking distance from Taipei 101. The hall is surrounded by a huge park with a well-manicured garden.
And if your energy still permits, climb Elephant Hill at sunset to have a better viewing angle of Taipei 101 and a breathtaking, panoramic view of Taipei City. It’s a mere walking distance from Taipei 101.
If you happen to visit during spring season which usually begins from February until mid-April, you may witness cherry blossoms at Chiang Kai Shek, Sun Yat Sen, and Taipei 101.
Do take note though that the onset of cherry blossom season may vary each year.
Day 2 – Taichung Tour via Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) Train
Any Taiwan experience wouldn’t be complete without boarding the THSR train. And trust me when I say it feels more like boarding an airplane than a train because of its advanced facilities.
This super efficient and fast train system could take you to Taichung in just an hour’s ride, which makes day-touring Taichung possible. THSR operates from 5am to 11:30pm daily, and the train leaves every 30 minutes.
Some sites worth visiting in Taichung for a day include the Zhongshe Flower Market, Rainbow Village, Lavender Cottage, and Gaomei Wetlands.
If you come during sakura season, you may include Tai’an Cherry Blossoms on the list. Sun Moon Lake is another wonderful site but it’ll require more than just a day tour.
Zhongshe Flower Market is also known as Houli Flower Farm or Chungshe Flower Farm. All those three names are used interchangeably but they all mean the same place so don’t be confused. Locals are more familiar with the name Houli Flower Farm, so when asking for directions, you might want to try using that term.
Do take note that this day trip to Taichung is only possible if you’re renting a car.
Public transportation within Taichung isn’t as efficient as in Taipei. If you commute by public transport, you will only be able to visit two sites. For instance, during our trip, we have only visited Zhongshe Flower Market and Tai’an Cherry Blossoms via Taichung’s local train (TRA).
Day 3 – Maokong Gondola + Tamsui Tour + Shilin Night Market
A cable car ride is another fun activity when in Taiwan.
Maokong Gondola is the first cable car system in Taipei City. The ride itself is another exciting experience as it will let you see beautiful panoramic landscapes along the way.
A one-way ride takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Upon reaching the final stop which is Maokong Station, you can have some tea at any of numerous tea shops within the area. Maokong Gondola is accessible via the MRT Brown Line, Taipei Zoo Station.
After the Maokong Gondola tour, you may spend the second half of the day at Tamsui.
It’s located at the west coastal part of Taiwan so it’s a great place for viewing sunsets. Tamsui is accessible via the MRT Red Line.
To get there, board the MRT Brown Line from Taipei Zoo Station and alight at Daan Station. Upon reaching Daan Station, transfer to MRT Red Line. Tamsui Station is the last stop on the Red Line.
Among sites worth visiting in Tamsui are Tamsui Old Street, Fort San Domingo, Aletheia University, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Lover’s Bridge. Sunset-viewing at Lover’s Bridge is a great way to cap-off your Tamsui trip.
After the tiresome exploration, you may refuel your energy by savouring delectable food specialties and street food at Shilin Night Market. Just board the MRT Red Line again and alight at Jiantan Station (not Shilin Station).
9:00 AM Maokong Gondola tour 2:00 PM Tamsui Old Street; Fort San Domingo; Aletheia University 4:00 PM Fisherman's Wharf; Lover's Bridge 7:00 PM Shilin Night Market
Day 4 – Northeast Coast Day Tour + Ningxia Night Market
The Northeast Coast tour comprises four uniquely charming sceneries: Yehliu Geopark, Shifen Old Street & Sky Lantern releasing, Shifen Waterfalls, and Jiufen Old Street.
The sites are a bit far from each other, thus difficult to DIY. It is only possible to do a day tour if you book a tour with local operators via KKday or Klook.
Renting a car also makes a nice option especially if you’re traveling with a big group.
In our case, we availed this tour via KKday and it was indeed a smooth and hassle-free tour! The tour ends at around 5pm but you may opt to skip the tour bus back to Taipei City if you wish to witness Jiufen’s grandeur at night. Whenever you are ready to return, you can take a public bus bound to Taipei City.
10:00 AM Yehliu Geopark 11:30 AM Shifen Old Street & Sky Lantern Releasing 02:00 PM Shifen Waterfalls 04:30 PM Jiufen Old Street 09:00 PM Ningxia Night Market
After the tour, you may visit Ningxia Night Market which is one of the nearest night markets in Taipei City. You can access Ningxia Night Market via the MRT Red and Green Line, Zhongshan Station. From Zhongshan Station, you will only need to walk for about 5 to 10 minutes to reach Ningxia Night Market.
TIP: I strongly suggest to have a less hassle and more relaxed tour on Day 4 since your energy isn’t as high as in Day 1 anymore. You can still opt to hustle and saturate your itinerary but remember, it’s okay even if you couldn’t make it to visit all of the attractions listed above.
Day 5 – Shopping at Ximending; Leave Taiwan
Before leaving Taipei, you might first want to go shopping at Ximending as it is filled with trendy shops and boutiques. It is also packed with lots of cafes and restaurants where you can eat and relax after a tiresome shopping activity.
I suggest you try the Modern Toilet Restaurant as dining here is another exceptional experience! Everything in this restaurant is worth the gram and will definitely add fun to any Taipei visit.
We actually discovered the Modern Toilet Restaurant while strolling around Ximending. You can also hunt for Taiwan’s famous Milk Tea around the area as this is another activity you cannot miss while in the birthplace of those yummy Bubble Teas!
Depending on your flight schedule, you may add more nearby places worth checking out. But do make sure to allot one hour for your MRT ride back to the Airport, and one to two hours for queueing and the immigration process. So if for example your flight is at 4pm, you must leave Taipei City on or before 1pm.
Surely, a five-day Taiwan trip isn’t enough to really experience the wholeness of Taiwan’s beauty.
But if it’s your first time in this country, these top destinations should allow you to make the most out of your trip. Then you can explore less popular, yet, equally stunning destinations on your next visits back to Taiwan.
And that’s pretty much it! I hope you’ve learned something from this post that could be of help in your Taiwan planning. Always remember that this itinerary is just a guide, so feel free to allow your spontaneous spirit to lead you where it desires.