Train your binoculars on black-faced spoonbills
Drawn by Taiwan’s mild winters, vast numbers of waterbirds descend on wetlands and abandoned salt pans along the island’s southwest coast. Among the star avians are the rare and elegant black-faced spoonbills.
Grab your helmet for Yanshui’s Beehive Fireworks Festival
Marking the defeat of a 19th-century cholera epidemic, this audience-participation fireworks celebration is to east Asia what running with the bulls at Pamplona is to Europe. Don’t go anywhere near the frontline without a full-face motorcycle helmet, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a scarf to prevent stray rockets from getting under your visor.
Witness tang-ki in action at Nankunshen Daitian Temple
Nankunshen, one of Taiwan’s busiest folk shrines, is also the best place in Taiwan to see tang-ki, entranced spirit mediums who cut and slash themselves to demonstrate the protective powers of the gods which possess them.
March with the sea goddess
On the 23rd day of the third lunar month (usually late April) over a million devotees of Taiwan’s most popular deity, the sea goddess Mazu, celebrate her birthday with an immense parade and a nine-day pilgrimage through central Taiwan.
Springtime is outdoors time
As the mercury rises and the first rains falls, Taiwan’s countryside bursts into life. Wildflowers are everywhere; creeks gurgle and dragonflies flit across ponds. Get away from the cities and off the main roads. Rent a bicycle or explore the National Trail System.
Relax in Meinong’s glorious Yellow Butterfly Valley
Lemon emigrants are just one of this valley’s 110 butterfly species, but they dominate between May and July. Bring a picnic and paddle in the pristine stream before returning to downtown Meinong for a Hakka-style meal.
See Taiwan from the air
A recent but hugely popular addition to the tourist calendar, the Taiwan Balloon Festival runs through the summer from its base at Luye, a district in the southeast renowned for tea-growing and paragliding as well as stunning scenery.
Carry sunblock and an umbrella
Typhoons are a distinct possibility at this time of year, and if you’re told one is coming, plan to spend the next few days in a major city, visiting museums and restaurants. Between showers expect scorching sunshine and dazzlingly blue skies.
Tour temples in Tainan
Like Kyoto, Tainan is a former capital which has retained a huge amount of traditional character. The city’s Confucius Temple is one of the most sublime in Greater China, but no walking tour is complete without stops at the shrines where the city god, Guan Gong and the Jade Emperor are worshipped.
Hike in the high mountains
The wet season is over but the days haven’t shortened too much, making it the best time of year to tackle Mount Jade (3,952m) or Snow Mountain (3,886m). If you lack the energy to climb, dip your toes into Taiwan’s alpine national parks at Tataka or Wuling Farm.
Pedal your way through the east
Taiwan’s east has few of the island’s people and virtually none of its industries, yet a disproportionate share of the country’s natural attractions. Cycle from Hualien to Taitung on Highway 11, the coast road, then return through the stunning East Rift Valley on Highway 9 and Road 193. Really serious cyclists can attempt the King of the Mountains Challenge through Taroko Gorge.
Head to the beach
Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Taiwan, and locals save their cash and vacation time for the Lunar New Year around the end of January, so everywhere is open but nowhere gets crowded. Kenting National Park is a good choice this month as the weather is reliably dry and sunny yet uncomfortably hot. Also, the scuba diving is good year-round.