Taiwan - When and where to visit


Climate
When to visit
Highlights and itineraries

Climate

As you’d expect of a country that straddles the Tropic of Cancer, Taiwan is wet and warm. Seasons are distinct in terms both of temperature and the likelihood of rain. Daytime highs of 38°C have been recorded in urban areas during the summer. In December and January, northerners shiver as the mercury hovers around 10°C. The south doesn’t get so cold, but jackets and gloves are essential if you’re out early in the morning.

Taiwan’s annual average rainfall is 2,471mm. The north gets more than the south; the north’s wet season is longer but less pronounced. A few places near Keelung receive close to 6,000mm of rain in a typical year. Taipei (an average of 170 rainy days per year) is noticeably wetter than central Kaohsiung (92 wet days each year). The ROC’s outlying islands are relatively dry: Kinmen gets just 1,049mm of rain a year. Snowfall is uncommon below 2,000m in the northern half of Taiwan and below 3,000m in the south.

Taipei gets 1,408 hours of sunshine per year. Kaohsiung gets 2,082 hours, while in Tainan – where they used to produce salt by using sunshine to evaporate seawater – the annual average total is 2,264 hours. The days are relatively short, even in summer. In Taipei in early July, the sun rises about 05.10 and sets before 19.00. At the end of December, the times are around 06.40 and 17.20.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau publishes detailed English-language forecasts on their website (www.cwb.gov.tw).

When to visit

Even if you’re sure you can endure the heat and humidity of a Taiwanese summer, avoid July, August and early September because of the typhoons that blow in from the Pacific. From late June to the end of August, thousands of local college students crowd Kenting National Park and Green Island. Yet for those who can handle the temperatures Taiwan’s summers are wonderfully vivid. The skies are blue, the rivers are full and mountain peaks are clearly visible from the lowlands. Butterflies and flowers are abundant. Overall, October to March is the best period to visit because temperatures are comfortable and there’s little chance of getting caught in a downpour. That said, it can get downright frigid in the mountains. Because of landslides, mountain areas are occasionally inaccessible during the summer wet season. The best times of year for high-altitude hiking – or any kind of mountain exploration – are October to November and the early spring. During the colder months, excursions to Penghu County and Orchid Island are less pleasant and more prone to delays. People with very sensitive respiratory systems should avoid Taiwan’s southern lowlands during the winter because air quality declines during the season’s long dry spells. Also, don’t come around Lunar New Year – accommodation rates go through the roof, trains get booked out and the roads are jammed with sightseers and people visiting relatives.

Highlights and itineraries

Highlights

Your first impressions may be of bewildering urban chaos but with a little nudging (and this book) the door to the treasure house opens. Taiwan not only has a tremendous range of attractions – cultural, scenic and ecological – but also great depth in every category. Two weeks isn’t nearly enough to do justice to its mountains, museums, minorities, temples or birds.

A personal top 6: nature and outdoors

East Taiwan

Hualien to Taitung by Highway 11 is many cyclists’ favourite but the inland route brings you closer to the region’s indigenous population.

Little Liuqiu Island

The coral chunk, Little Liuqiu Island, is near enough to Kaohsiung to make an excellent day trip, yet far enough from ‘mainland’ Taiwan to have a completely different vibe.

New Central Cross-Island Highway

The high-altitude road that links Sun Moon Lake with Yushan National Park and Alishan more than justifies renting a car or hiring a driver.

Penghu County

Straight, empty roads link sandy beaches, crumbling coral houses and superb windsurfing spots are what make up Penghu County.

Snow Mountain

Taiwan’s number two peak in terms of height is a world-class three-day hike offering stunning vistas.

Taroko Gorge

You’ll understand why Taroko Gorge is called a ‘must-see’ as soon as you reach Swallow Grotto or the Tunnel of Nine Turns.

A personal top 6: culture and man-made attractions

Folk religion and temple culture

The fervour and colour of Taiwan’s tang-ki and zhentou are unforgettable.

Kinmen County

Staggeringly quaint villages scarred by Cold War battles.

Lugang

Get lost in the backstreets of Lugang; Taiwan’s living museum.

National Museum of Taiwan History

Whether you know nothing about Taiwan’s past or have immersed yourself in the subject, you’ll find this museum very satisfying.

National Palace Museum

The cream of the artistic output of one of the world’s oldest and most accomplished civilisations.

Tainan’s Martial Rites Temple

The most exquisite shrine in a city famous for temples. Tainan is a place of supreme tranquillity and refinement.

Suggested itineraries

Spend weekdays exploring the countryside, the mountains and little towns like Lugang and Danshui; spend weekends and national holidays in the major cities. Many scenic spots are all but deserted in the middle of the week; room rates are lower and there are some discounts on admission charges. Many museums close on Mondays.

A long weekend

As Asia-based Western expatriates are discovering, a long weekend in Taiwan is very feasible. Fly to Taipei for culture or Kaohsiung for outdoors adventure. The capital has more than enough shops, restaurants and museums to keep you out of mischief. For glimpses of tradition you needn’t go beyond the city limits. Baoan and Longshan temples are among Taiwan’s most interesting shrines. Dihua Street, where business is still done the way it was a hundred years ago, nicely counterpoints the city’s department stores and boutiques. Central Kaohsiung has its attractions but if time’s limited, speed away from the city, either towards the hills, or down to the beaches and beautiful hinterland of Kenting National Park.

One week

Try to hit at least two but not more than three of the following: Taipei, Tainan, Taroko Gorge and somewhere in the high mountains. If you restrict yourself to the northwest, you’ll probably be able to take in the woodcarving centre of Sanyi and possibly an indigenous village. Those staying in the south should get their own transport, and drive or ride towards Taitung on Highway 9. The return leg to Kaohsiung can be via Kenting National Park.

Two weeks

Ease yourself in with a full three days in and near your city of arrival, then rent a car or a motorcycle for a week so you can traverse the Central Mountain Range by whichever road is open and takes your fancy. When you reach the east coast stop at a hot springs if the weather’s cool, a mountain creek if it isn’t. Spend up to three days in Taroko Gorge. To find solitude or something close to it, arrive on Green Island or Orchid Island on a weekday. Consider hiking into the eastern part of Yushan National Park before heading back to western Taiwan by any mountain road you haven’t already seen. If you’ve no intention of braving the roads, get to grips with the bus schedule or find a tour operator who can transport you to and around the hills. Do this because if you leave having seen only the places served by trains, you won’t have seen the best of Taiwan.

Back to the top

Taiwan articles

View all

Beehive Fireworks Festival

Fireworks and firecrackers are part of the Taiwan soundtrack, but the citizens of Yanshui takes things to an extreme.

Read more...

Exploring Taiwan's indigenous communities

Taiwan's indigenous villages offer unique experiences different from the rest of the country.

Read more...

Five reasons to visit Taiwan

From ornate temples to tranquil islands, here's our top five reasons to visit Taiwan. 

Read more...

Related guides and other books

View all