Fascinating Small Towns to Visit in Taiwan

Photos and Info Provided by Taiwan Tourism Bureau

Taiwan is a beautiful island in the heart of Asia, home to incredible culture, rich history, and picturesque scenery. With the central mountain range, miles of coastline, numerous national parks, and many breath-taking landscapes, Taiwan offers a rich selection of beautiful towns to visit. Many small towns are known for their unique characteristics, which can include hot springs, delicious street food, beautiful architecture, signature art craft stores, museums, and unique outdoor activities and cultural events. In addition to the main island of Taiwan, there are various other islands to include on your “must-see” list. Check out our guide to some of the most wonderful, charming, and historic places to visit in Taiwan.

  1. Penghu

Like pearls scattering in the East Sea, the Penghu archipelago is located in the southwest of the Taiwan Strait. Penghu is known as the pearl of the Taiwan Strait. Composed of 90 islands, the county is steeped in history and culture, with magnificent ocean views and many other natural wonders.
Basalt columns sculpted by the elements are a dominant part of the geological landscape on the Penghu Islands. The islands host brilliant fireworks festivals in the spring and summer, and in fall and winter visitors can enjoy the fresh and delicious catch of the sea at the Penghu Seafood Carnival. Penghu is also an excellent choice for seaside fun, with blue seas, clear skies, soft white beaches, plenty of beach and water recreation facilities, and an amazing marine ecology and scenic beauty.

2. Ruisui

Ruisui Township boasts a wide range of specialty products, cultural attractions, and some of eastern Taiwan’s best tourism resources, with something to satisfy every visitor’s desire.

Ruisui is also an ideal place to enjoy the leisurely pace of life on Taiwan’s East Coast. One can enjoy delicious dairy, coffee, tea, and other beverages, take a healthy hot spring excursion, savor a spectrum of specialty cuisine, experience small town life, or go on an exciting whitewater rafting adventure. Local and Hakka ceremonies and stirring percussion performances at the Drum King Competition further add to the township’s unique tourism appeal.

3. Hengchun

Hengchun is on the southern tip of Taiwan and gets its name from its year-round spring-like weather. The old city was built in 1873 during the Qing dynasty. The city wall, which is the best preserved in Taiwan, is 2.700 meters long with gates.

The old walls in the center of Hengchun sit on the highway to Kenting. Travelers can begin their visit at the West Gate and walk to the Queen of Heaven (Mazu) Temple, the South Gate, and the East Gate, where they can climb to the top for panoramic views of the town, and enjoy the ancient city atmosphere.

Hengchun Ancient City, situated at the center of the township, is one of Taiwan’s more well-preserved historical buildings. The four ancient city gates of east, west, south and north are just enough to make an ideal tour route.

4. Beitou

Beitou Hot Springs is a conveniently located area in Taipei where visitors can enjoy authentic thermal hot springs. Now filled with inns, hotels, tea houses, parks and nice resorts, Beitou has become a very popular resort destination. Clearly a wellness escape in Taipei, Beitou Hot Spring, provides a much-needed rejuvenation after a long trip. No matter what your budget might be, you are certain to find a hot spring suitable for you.

One of the coolest green buildings in the world is Taipei Public Library’s Beitou Branch, as assessed by international travel website When On Earth. Among its environmentally friendly features are its rooftop solar cells and its rainfall capturing and storage systems. Inside the library there are over 63,000 books, with a large collection of books dedicated to ecological conservation. The three-story structure was designed by architect Kuo Ying-chao to breathe and blend in with its environment.

5.Yanshui

The “Yanshuei Beehive Fireworks’’ is one of the most representative religious events in all of Taiwan. With hundreds of thousands of firecrackers all going off at the same time, it is a cacophony like hundreds of thousands of bees streaming out of their hives. The event attracts huge numbers of onlookers every year and is paired with the “Pingxi Sky Lanterns” in describing Lantern Festival activities:

“Sky lanterns in the north, beehive fireworks in the south.” Tradition has it that the “beehive fireworks” originated in July/ August, 1885 as a cholera epidemic raged in the streets of Yanshuei.

The “Yanshuei Beehive Fireworks” event consists of a circuit around the outskirts of the town by palanquins, each symbolically armed to the teeth, with thousands of local inhabitants and visitors clustered around them as they slowly wind their way through the streets. Once the palanquins come upon the residential gate of a business, the lead one sets up a large or small “gun deck” (also called a “gun wall”) on the street and lights the fuse. The “gun deck” consists of thousands of rockets that ignite all at the same time, creating a deafening, bee-like sound that fills the air as sparks fly. Every year the ear-splitting power of these rockets, and the excitement that comes in their wake, attract crowds of tourists from both Taiwan and abroad to come “rush the beehive barricades”!

6. Daxi

In the old days, the Tamsui River was navigable all the way inland to Daxi. The dock was where the old Heping Road runs today, and from Ching Dynasty times this has been the town’s business commercial area. In addition to the traditional wooden furniture shops, on the Old Street today you can still see the old professions: the making of Daxi’s famous dried bean curd, iron mongering, and stone working. The street was formed during 1895-1945. The shops are faced in Japanese baroque style with washed stone and are beautifully decorated with intricate carvings of birds, animals, flowers, and plants.

7. Kinmen

Kinmen, also known as Quemoy, is a small island with a very big reputation. Situated just off the coast of mainland China, it was the site of fierce fighting between Communist and Nationalist forces when the latter withdrew from the mainland in 1949.

The military installations developed at that time have become an invaluable tourism resource for the islands.

Many of the historic monuments in Kinmen have been preserved, particularly near the Juguang Road area. This includes the Lingli Ancient Temple, built during the Tang Dynasty. Next to the Temple is the magnificent Chastity Arch for Qiu Liang-gong’s mother. Be sure to also visit the Qing Dynasty Military Headquarters, Kuige (Kuixing Tower) and Wujiang Academy.

You’ll also find plenty of ancient Hokkien-style houses around Juguang Road, Zhupu Road, and the Guangqian Road area.

Among Kinmen’s best-known specialty items are knives fashioned from old mortar shells, peanut candy, sorghum wine, vermicelli, sorghum vinegar, porcelain and ceramics. The local vermicelli, taro, and pickled cabbage also stay true to tradition. Seafood specialties include oyster omelets, oyster vermicelli, and fried sandworms. For a light snack one can choose from bite-sized savory pastries, date candy, Cantonese congee, and stuffed clay-oven rolls.

8. Meinong

Meinong is a small southern Hakka community with plenty of visual charm. Meinong came out on top in the “Land of Smiles” internet survey jointly conducted by CommonWealth magazine and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Its vibrant Hakka culture, rustic landscape, and simple, sincere residents make it a popular destination for visitors who want to experience the richness of the Hakka culture and way of life.

The Hakka people have a close connection to the land—a link that is reflected in the community’s strong disposition towards environmental protection.

Meinong has preserved its roots in Hakka tradition more fully than any other town in Taiwan. The best way to experience these living traditions is to stroll through the town and take part in its daily life activities.

Clear water and ideal growing conditions have made Meinong a center for high-quality rice, vegetables and fruit. These ingredients combine with the town’s Hakka food culture to create a number of must-try specialty dishes. With its richness of culture, history, natural beauty, and tourism resources, Meinong is a destination you will want to see with your own eyes.

9. Lukang

Lukang was the economic and transport hub of central Taiwan in earlier times. The saying “first Tainan, second Lukang and third Mengjia (today Wanhua District in Taipei),” illustrates the high position of the town in its glory days.

A national historic landmark, the Lukang Mazu Temple has over four hundred years of rich history. It is one of the first temples to enshrine one of the six inaugural Mazu statues, and one of the first maze temples in the world. The temple’s Sanchuan Hall contains some of the most extraordinary artwork found in the temple. In fact, all of the hall’s stone sculptures, floral carvings, and paintings were created by renowned masters. Since the destruction of the Mazu temple during the Cultural Revolution, the Lugang temple’s Mazu statue and the thousands of antiques it preserves have become even more precious. The Lukang Mazu Temple was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.

In addition to being the early cultural capital of Taiwan, Lukang is unrivaled for its high cuisine and a diversity of local snack foods reflecting its broad immigrant mix. Delicious seafood, baked goods, and distinctive street food are part of Lukang’s signature appeal. Its diverse food culture, along with historic sites, scenic attractions, beautiful craftsmanship, make Lukang a destination as rewarding to the eyes and mind as it is to the palate.

10. Jiufen

It is said that long time ago there were only nine families in Jiufen. Before the roads on land were built, all materials were transported via ships. Thus a habit was formed that nine pieces of same object were purchased at one time for reservation.

Located within the hills in northeast of Taiwan, Jiufen is next to the mountain and facing the sea. In 1890, someone struck gold near Jiufen. The poor village with only nine families soon attracted prospectors of 4,000 families. The village was recognized as the “Gold city of Asia”, “Little Shanghai”, and “Little Hong Kong”. To this day, Jiufen is whispering its golden past. Now, there are many unique teahouses to visit in Jiufen. Theere is also the beautiful ocean view of Keelung outer sea.

Traversing through most of the village, Old Street is the busiest shopping district in Jiufen. Along the street there are shops vending the most famous country snack of Jiufen and various local dishes. There are some historical items well preserved. Jiufen has many places of accommodation provided by local residents. If you’re not in a hurry, you may want to pick a nice inn and stay for the starlight and fishing lights at night!