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Lamp, Lantern, Taiwan

10 reasons to visit Taiwan: One of Asia’s most underrated countries 🇹🇼

I've recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Taiwan, where I spent a week visiting Taipei, Taichung and Tainan. I ate my way through each city and attended several cultural festivals.

Although my time in Taiwan was short, I quickly fell in love with the country and its people. Taiwan offers a unique combination of stunning scenery, cultural treasures, vibrant city life and excellent cuisine! And whether you're interested in nature, history, food or culture, Taiwan has something to offer every type of traveller. Read on to find out why I think it deserves a place on your holiday wish list.

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1. Taiwan is a much cheaper alternative to Japan

If you've never been to Asia before and are trying to decide which country to visit first, just hear us out on this one. We assume that Japan and Thailand are probably pretty high up on your list, but we honestly think that Taiwan is a better call. Most people assume that a holiday in Asia must cost a lot of money. It's either the plane tickets that are expensive or the destination itself (like Japan), but Taiwan is relatively cheap to get to (we've seen flights from around £400) and a very affordable destination. Your pound will go much further in Taiwan than in Japan, and you'll be able to eat and sleep like the kings and queens you are.

2. Taiwan has beautiful scenery

Taiwan is renowned for its natural beauty, with majestic mountains, lush green valleys, picturesque beaches and impressive waterfalls. Places such as Taroko National Park, Mount Alishan and Sun and Moon Lake all offer spectacular scenery that is well worth a visit in its own right.

Plus, the country really values practising sustainability and sustainable tourism. I've never travelled anywhere where sustainable options were so easy to choose.

Discover all the sustainable options including sample train, bike and walking routes in our guide here.

3. Taiwan has a rich cultural scene

While travelling in Taiwan, I discovered that the country's distinctive essence and character stem from its unique history. Taiwan boasts a fascinating blend of cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, and aboriginal influences, which make the island truly one-of-a-kind. Visitors can explore ancient temples, attend traditional festivals, visit art and history museums, and even discover local handicrafts.

I also learned that the 'Made in Taiwan' label is a source of pride due to the country's history. The Taiwanese value hand-crafted items, which is refreshing. Tourist souvenir shops are notably absent in the country.

During our visit to Taichung, we went to the Shen Ji New Village, a historic Taiwanese community that combines industrial heritage with cultural charm. Vendors sell handicrafts, goods, and delicious food. The sun was shining, making it a peaceful and enjoyable afternoon.

In Taipei, we visited the Songshan Cultural Centre and Park, which was originally a tobacco factory from 1937. The buildings now house small businesses that sell handmade crafts and locally produced products, as well as the Taiwan Design Museum. Next door, there is a shopping mall with small shops that focus on handmade goods. At the very top, there is a 24-hour bookshop.

4. Taiwan is ranked as the third-safest country in the world and is extremely LGBTQ+ friendly

Solo travellers will be especially happy to hear that Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world. What’s even better is that it’s a safe place for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. In fact, Taiwan was the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage and hosts the largest Pride celebration in Asia each year in Taipei.

No matter your gender or sexual orientation, you’ll be able to feel safe either alone or with someone else at all times.

5. You’ll be welcomed with open arms

To build on the fact that the country is extremely safe, the locals are also very warm and welcoming. And interacting with locals is an excellent way to immerse yourself in any culture you visit.

During my time in Taiwan, I was struck by the happiness of everyone around me. One thing is for sure, the Taiwanese people are friendly, cheerful and have a killer sense of humour. And their cheerful and humorous nature was certainly contagious.

We were told that Lunar New Year was a time to be happy, that parents shouldn't shout at their children or it would bring bad luck. Possibly, the good cheer that Lunar New Year brings was part of the collective happiness. However, something tells me that any time of the year you plan to visit, you’ll also be greeted with smiles.

6. Taiwan is an authentic destination

I was most surprised by how understated Taiwan is as a destination. The country has a slightly worn and rough-around-the-edges feel. Unlike Myeong-dong in South Korea, for example, it doesn't have glossy neon lights, or polished historic cities like Kyoto in Japan.

And while their history is complex, it doesn't complicate the experience. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Taiwan is a destination that straddles the line between simplicity and complexity, resulting in a poetic narrative that makes you feel a part of it. The locals welcomed me with friendly smiles and genuine curiosity, often approaching me to ask how I was enjoying my time there. These simple interactions left a lasting impression on me.

7. The festivals in Taiwan are wild!

A large part of their rich cultural heritage is celebrated through festivals.

During my travels, I was an active participant in the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, which is also known as the world's most dangerous festival, and the Lunar New Year Lantern Festival.

The festival takes place in Yanshui, a sleepy village about an hour between Taichung and Tainan that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year specifically for the festival. The festival, which is in its 150th year, was originally started to ward off a plague. The villagers believed that being hit by fireworks would bring good luck.

Before the festival started, we put on heavy firefighter jackets with fireproof gloves and motorcycle helmets with fireproof flaps that covered our necks. We then participated in the parade procession, following a deity as fireworks were ignited at each stop along the way. We concluded the festival with a spectacular fireworks show, named 'the beehive castle', which was launched into the crowd. It was an exhilarating experience, to say the least!

Learn more about the different types of festivals in Taiwan that are worth visiting here.

8. Taiwan has some of the best cuisine in Asia

When it comes to food, Taiwan is probably most famous for being the home of bubble tea. During my trip to Taiwan, I had the pleasure of trying bubble tea at Chun Shui Tang Teahouse, which is said to be the place where bubble tea was first invented in 1983. I ordered their Brown Sugar Bubble Tea Latte and it was hands down the best bubble tea I've ever had in my life. The tapioca balls were smaller and fluffier than any I've had outside of Taiwan. This was easily one of the food highlights of my trip.

The other food highlight for me was eating the world-famous xiao long bao soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Easily one of the best meals I had while in Taiwan and definitely worth the wait to get a table. Last but not least, I also visited Taipei's famous night market and tried all kinds of food, including oyster omelette, sweet potato puffs, stinky tofu, chicken rice and taro ice cream in a crepe with peanut brittle shavings and coriander.

Want to know more about the best foods in Taiwan? Read our guide on Taiwanese cuisine here.

9. Taiwan would make a fabulous home base for any digital nomad

Taiwan is an affordable and great place to work from. UK visitors and citizens of Schengen countries can stay in Taiwan for up to 90 days visa-free for tourism purposes. The internet is fast, reliable and available at hotels and Airbnbs. Plus, free WiFi is available at many public places and attractions.

10. Taiwan has a vibrant urban scene, with Taipei as a particular highlight

Taiwan's major cities, such as Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung, offer a vibrant urban life. You'll find modern skyscrapers, bustling shopping malls, bustling night markets, artistic districts and historic neighbourhoods.

We ended our journey in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan.I think this was my favourite of the three cities we visited. Taipei is known for its vibrant nightlife and many trendy restaurants and cafes.

While in Taipei, I enjoyed wandering around different districts and getting lost. One of the places not to be missed is Dihua Street, a 19th-century thoroughfare in the Datong District. The street is home to old shops selling spices and foods for Lunar New Year, as well as cute restaurants and cafes. There's also the Taipei Xiahai Chenghuang Temple, where singles go to pray for true love! Another great experience is shopping in Ximending district. For fans or those feeling nostalgic for their childhood, there is even a Hello Kitty-themed 7-11.

Learn more about Taiwan in our full pirate guide

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