We spent 15 days in Taiwan in September 2018. Our daughter was 13 month old then. We traveled by car and visited the following places: Taipei, Taroko National Park, Kaohshiung, Alishan National Park, Sun Moon Lake and many many night markets!
Read on to learn what to see in Taiwan with a little kid and how to plan your travel.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Haulien & Taroko National Park
- Highway 11 & Tropic of Capricorn
- Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
- Alishan National Park
- Sun Moon Lake
Taipei with a baby – what to see
We arrived in Taipei in the evening after a 12-hour flight. There are several places worth visiting in Taiwan’s capital, but two days should suffice for sightseeing.
On the first day, we only visited the Shilin Night Market, which was located across from our hotel. We saved the actual exploration of Taipei for the following day.
Taipei isn’t a large or exceptionally fascinating city, so two days are plenty to see its most famous sites.
Day 1: We visited the Confucius Temple, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and the Taipei 101 skyscraper (without going to the top).
Day 2: In the morning, we hiked Elephant Mountain, and in the afternoon, we took the Maokong Gondola to the Maokong Village.
Day 3: Before our departure, we visited the zoo (although it rained for most of the day).
We primarily used the metro and buses for getting around the city (we rented a car later for our road trip).
The Taipei 101
The Taipei 101 skyscraper, completed in 2004, held the title of the world’s tallest building until 2010 when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (828 meters) surpassed it in height.
Taipei 101 has, as the name suggests, 101 floors and is 509.2 meters (1,671 feet) tall. We decided not to go to the top on our visit because it was a somewhat cloudy day, and our daughter wasn’t feeling her best. We also thought that the view of Taipei with the skyscraper in the background would be more interesting than the view from the building itself. If you share a similar perspective, we recommend visiting Elephant Mountain (we’ll talk about it below).
However, we highly recommend the food court inside the shopping mall and the Din Tai Fung restaurant, known for its delicious dim sum. There can be a long wait for a table, so it’s a good idea to take a number and go for some bubble tea in the meantime.
ACCESS AND TICKETS >> Take the red line of the metro to Taipei 101 station. There are observation decks on several floors. Various tickets are available, and you can purchase them online. For more details, you can check the Taipei 101 skyscraper’s website (CLICK).
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable buildings in Taipei, and perhaps even all of Taiwan.
The building was officially opened in 1980 in memory of President Chiang Kai-shek, who passed away in 1975. When visiting Liberty Square, where the Memorial is located, you can also see the National Theater and National Concert Hall buildings.
ACCESS >> Right by the exit from the square, you’ll find the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station, served by both the red and green metro lines.
Confucius Temple and Dalongdong Baoan Temple
Taipei doesn’t have too many ancient historical sites, at least not centuries-old ones. The famous temples are mostly reconstructions. However, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth a visit. The most renowned ones are probably the Confucius Temple and the Baoan Temple, which are located next to each other. These temples are still in active use, so they are not just tourist attractions. You’ll likely find more local worshipers than tourists, which was surprising to us since, for example, in Japan, all the famous temples recommended for a visit are historical sites crowded with organized tour groups, and there’s not much mysticism to experience there.
ACCESS >> Yuanshan Station on the metro.
A hill from which you can admire the beautiful Taipei skyline – it’s definitely worth coming here for a sunrise or sunset view.
The climb involves ascending fairly steep stairs. It takes about 20-30 minutes to reach the main viewing platform one way (or faster if you’re in good shape or going without a child in a carrier).
The trail continues beyond the viewing platforms but without such scenic views, instead, it takes you through a pleasant green area. The entire trail is just under 1.5 km and takes about 1 hour to complete, and there’s a map at the entrance.
Unfortunately, we arrived on a weekend, and it was a very hot day, and it was nearing 11:00 am – as you know, with a child, it’s not always possible to choose the perfect time or follow the optimal plan. We strongly recommend visiting on a weekday and arriving no later than 9:00 am or in the late afternoon for the sunset view (which must be fantastic!).
Along the way, both during the hike and at the top, we encountered crowds of other tourists. There were even queues to take photos at the distinctive rocks and on the viewing platform. However, this didn’t spoil the WOW effect, and the view is definitely worth the effort!
Elephant Mountain with a Child: Absolutely do not bring a stroller unless you arrange with someone at the bottom (perhaps in a shop or café, although right where the trail starts, we didn’t see anything like that) to store the stroller during the climb. The steps are quite high at times, so it may be challenging for young children to navigate them throughout the entire trail.
ACCESS >> Xiangshan Station on the red MRT line (one stop past Taipei 101). From the metro station, you’ll need to walk for about 10 minutes to the starting point of the trail.
In the afternoon, we took the gondola to the Maokong Village. We hoped to enjoy a beautiful city panorama and see the sunset, but we weren’t quite sure where to go or what to look for because we couldn’t see any beautiful views. The only attraction was riding in the cable car with a glass floor.
It’s worth noting that not all cable cars have a glass floor. The ticket price is the same, but you’ll need to wait in a different queue for the glass-bottomed ones. This line is, of course, longer, but we waited for less than an hour. You can take a stroller inside, but you’ll need to fold it up.
The gondola has 4 stations and is 4 kilometers long. A one-way ride takes about 20-30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on-site at the ticket counter or from a machine.
ACCESS >> Taipei Zoo Station on the brown MRT line. This is the same station you use to get to the zoo.
The zoo wouldn’t have made it onto our list of attractions to see if we were without a child. However, we happened to have a very cloudy day, so we used it as an opportunity to visit the zoo.
I’m not a fan of zoos, but this one is supposedly one of the better ones in Asia, and still, seeing animals in small enclosures was quite disheartening.
In addition to the standard animals, Taipei Zoo also features giant pandas (three of them) and koalas (there were many more of these).
ACCESS >>Taipei Zoo Station on the brown MRT line. This is the same station where you can take the Maokong Gondola.
Taroko Gorge with a Child – The Most Beautiful Place in Taiwan
Taroko Gorge is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, and it’s definitely worth a visit even if you’re traveling with a child. It’s one of the few places that surprised and amazed us with its natural beauty.
How to Explore Taroko Gorge with a Small Child
One of the great advantages of Taroko National Park is that you can enjoy its stunning views with minimal effort. There’s a road running alongside the canyon, so you can simply drive or scooter along it and stop at the most beautiful spots and viewpoints. A quick tour can be done in as little as 2-3 hours.
In Taroko, there are also several hiking trails, varying in length and difficulty from an hour-long walk on flat terrain to more serious hikes that take several hours or even days.
-> Useful links for planning routes in Taroko: Detailed descriptions of the viewing paths on the official park website Taroko map with marked trails List of paths, treks, and other routes in Taroko
Scenic Trails in Taroko – Easy to Do with a Child (We completed the first four):
- Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (Jiuqudong) – 1.9km, 30min round trip
- Baiyang Waterfall – 2.2 km, 1.5h round trip
- Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou) – 1.37km, 10-30min round trip
- Shakadang Trail – 4.4km to 3D Cabin, 3-4h round trip
- Changchun Trail (Eternal Spring Shrine Trail) – 1.35km
- Lushui-Heliu – 2km
- Huitouwan (Switchback) – Lianhua Pond – 3.7 km
How to Explore Taroko Gorge with a Small Child
We allocated one day to explore Taroko National Park, and it was at least one day too short.
We began with a visit to the visitor center, where we received a map and suggestions for trails suitable for families with small children.
-> Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto)
Our first stop was the Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) trail. It’s a short but incredibly scenic section of the gorge, right along the road. We chose to start here because parking spaces can fill up quickly after 10:00 AM.
You need to explore while wearing helmets, just in case something starts to crumble. Fortunately, nothing fell on our heads. Helmets can be borrowed for free right by the road, right at the trailhead – you can’t miss it.
-> Baiyang Watweerfall
When it starts to get crowded in the tunnel, we continue further to the trail leading to the waterfall. It’s a 4-kilometer flat path, but it can be quite sunny.
Tunnels provide some relief from the sun – along the way, we pass through seven of them.
The route is not tiring at all, and the only challenge for some might be crossing the suspension bridge – there’s nothing to fear, it’s very stable and securely fenced.
We take a break at the waterfall for snacks and then hurry back because time is passing quickly. We only have one day in Taroko, and there’s so much more to see!
We already regret that we planned only one day in this area.
-> Tunnel of Nine Turns
This is supposedly the most beautiful stretch of road in Taroko. Since it’s the most beautiful, everyone comes here, of course. We drive through this section several times, but we don’t stop anywhere because there’s simply nowhere to park.
After lunch, as the conclusion of our visit to Taroko, we head to the Shakadang Trail. Similar to the walk to the waterfall, the trail is mainly flat and not tiring, but it offers breathtaking views of the river.
Unfortunately, time is running out, and we don’t manage to walk all the way to the end of the trail. We turn back after about 1.5 hours because we want to make it to the cliffs before it gets dark.
-> Qingshui Cliffs
The cliffs are outside of Taroko National Park, about a 30-minute drive. Unfortunately, we only arrive when it’s dark. We literally run down the stairs from the parking lot.
We manage to take two photos along the way.
Afterward, total darkness falls. With our headlamp, we climb back to the parking lot and head to Hualien for dinner at the night market.
Where to stay in Taroko
To explore the canyon, you can stay within the park (there are several hotels, some of poor quality, and a few good ones, but very expensive). You can also stay in Hualien, which is about a 40-minute drive from Taroko. However, this option is for people with a car.
Personally, I recommend staying in Hualien, preferably in a B&B with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Combined with the night market, it’s the perfect way to spend an evening after a day in the park.
What to do in Hualien: night market and oceanfront walk
Hualien Night Market
One advantage of staying outside the national park in Hualien is the night market. We highly recommend this market, especially when traveling with a child. Unlike those in Taipei and Kaohsiung, it’s less crowded, the streets are wider, and the food is equally delicious.
Kaohsiung – Why You Must Visit If You’re Going to Taiwan
Kaohsiung is a large but pleasant city. It’s worth staying here for a few days because there is plenty to see. In addition to the main attractions like night markets and famous pagodas, you can also take a day trip from here to the Buddha Museum and the historic city of Tainan.
What to see in Kaohsiung
-> Dragon and Tiger Pagodas by Lotus Pond
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are some of the most famous landmarks in Kaohsiung. It’s a relatively new and touristy area. Some say it’s too touristy and lacks a mystical or spiritual atmosphere. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t skip visiting this area. We enjoyed it, although we had to endure the heat.
In addition to the picturesque pagodas by Lotus Pond, there are also many temples, the Spring and Autumn Pavilions, and the Confucius Temple. The biggest attraction for our daughter was a bear statue, a symbol of Taiwan.
We spent a significant part of the day here, as we also stayed for our daughter’s nap. If you don’t plan to walk around the pond and explore all the buildings, but only want to see the pagodas, two hours should suffice.
There is a convenient path around the lake that you can stroll along with a stroller.
Directions: Zuoying MRT Station, Exit 2. You can then take bus number 301 or walk. We chose to walk.
-> Love River Riverside Walk
-> Liuhe and Ruifeng Night Markets
Directions: Formosa Boulevard MRT Station on the red and orange MRT lines, Exit 11.
-> Ruifeng Night Market
Reportedly the largest and best night market in Kaohsiung – Ruifeng.
What to eat at the night markets:
- Bubble tea
- Taro balls
- Seafood Stinky tofu – caution, I do not take responsibility for your culinary experiences. Reportedly a Taiwanese classic, a must-try, the most popular street snack… I ordered it, tried it, and thank you, but I can still smell it (the name doesn’t lie).
-> Pier 2 Art Centre
If you enjoy street art, industrial vibes, and non-chain cafes, this is the place for you.
The Pier 2 Art Centre is a former warehouse complex that has been transformed into a cultural hub. The place is relatively new – officially opened in 2002. Initially, only a few warehouses were converted, but now there are dozens of them. It’s reportedly the most frequently visited attraction in Kaohsiung in recent years.
If you’re not afraid of the sun and heat, you can easily spend half a day here. We only had trouble finding a decent place to eat.
Directions: Yanchengpu MRT Station (O2 station), Exit 1, or Sizihwan Station (O1 station) on the orange line, Exit 2.
-> Trip to Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum The Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, a relatively new attraction opened in 2008, is a must-visit near Kaohsiung. While it may not be an ancient relic, it makes a tremendous visual impact. Plus, it offers some respite from the sun’s heat.
It’s a perfect place for a leisurely stroll, although it’s best to visit right after opening to avoid crowds. The museum is one of the most frequently visited places in Taiwan.
If you only want to take some photos and spend a lazy time wandering between pagodas, two hours should suffice for a visit. Of course, you can spend the whole day here exploring all the exhibits.
Directions: You can reach the museum from Kaohsiung by car in about an hour, or even a little over 30 minutes if there’s no traffic and you set out early.
-> Trip to Tainan
Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city and its former capital. It’s just an hour away by train from Kaohsiung, making it a perfect destination for a day trip.
We visited for a day from Kaohsiung, and that was enough to see the most interesting places.
Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, once the capital. It’s a pity not to add it to your list when you’re in Kaohsiung. Below is a quick guide on what to see in Tainan.
This is not a complete list because we only visited there for a one-day trip, and the scorching sun made it challenging to explore with a child. In our opinion, one day is definitely enough to explore Tainan, especially if you’re not slowed down by a child.
Sometimes, people ask whether it’s better to stay overnight in Kaohsiung or Tainan – in our opinion, unquestionably in Kaohsiung – there’s definitely more going on there.
The train is a very convenient way to travel, so we didn’t even take our car out of the hotel parking lot; we just went across the street to the station. The train ride takes less than an hour.
Here’s what you can see in Tainan:
We happened to visit during a festival and a parade between temples, so it was hard to find a mystical atmosphere inside the temples. But if someone likes temples, they will be satisfied with what Tainan has to offer.
-> Old streets: Shennong, Zhengxing Xinmei
A few streets with older buildings, no car traffic, but you need to watch out for scooters suddenly popping up. It’s worth heading there first because it gets quite crowded closer to noon. It’s a bit of a walk from the station, but you can easily get there on foot.
–> Anping Tree House
An old warehouse that has been overgrown by a gigantic Banyan tree. It’s like a micro, micro version of Angkor. It takes about half an hour to walk around the entire house.
–> Anping Old Fort (Fort Zeelandia)
Within walking distance from Anping Tree House. While visiting, you can also explore souvenirs and try local street food from the vendors.
–> Tainan Park (Zhong Shan Park)
We found our way to the park in search of shade and coolness (we took a taxi). There’s a picturesque pavilion by the pond that looks great in photos, and you can take a leisurely stroll along the water.
–> Chihkan Tower (Fort Provintia)
A fortress from the 17th century, the interior may not be particularly impressive, but it’s worth visiting the building and watching the fish in the streams. We went in primarily to catch some shade because it was really hot…
In general, we didn’t really like Tainan. We expected something more intimate and peaceful. Instead, it’s a big, loud, and crowded city. The terrible heat certainly didn’t help. On top of that, there’s total scooter madness – either there are no sidewalks, or they’re blocked by rows of scooters and cars.
TAINAN WITH A CHILD: Getting around with a stroller was quite problematic because we often had to go onto the street. There’s really heavy traffic there, and the scooters are crazy, appearing out of nowhere and seemingly not paying any attention
ALISHAN NATIONAL PARK
Alishan Forest Recreation Area, as it is actually called, is a beautiful forest with trees that are several thousand years old.
Here, we definitely had too much time because exploring all the trails takes no more than two hours, including the train ride. We arrived the previous evening, spent the whole next day in the forest, and left early in the morning (without booking accommodations in advance).
A significant part of the road towards Alishan Forest runs through the mountains, where tea plantations adorn the slopes, and supposedly, the views are phenomenal. We can neither confirm nor deny this because all we saw was mist and clouds… September certainly doesn’t favor witnessing the famous sunrises. However, we did manage to capture one small tea plantation in the frame.
ALISHAN WITH A CHILD: The forest is indeed a very pleasant place for a stroll with a child (note: there are a lot of stairs). It doesn’t quite resemble a typical forest walk since you mainly walk on walkways. Despite that, it’s not advisable to bring a stroller; it’s better to have a baby carrier with you.
he roads in this area are winding, and sometimes you can get stuck behind a truck, which can significantly lengthen the travel time. Children with motion sickness or those who simply don’t enjoy car rides might find this section challenging.
For more information: You can find a wealth of useful information about Alishan in the link provided: “THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ALISHAN NATIONAL RECREATIONAL FOREST.”
SUN MOON LAKE
We spent three days at Sun Moon Lake, and they were very relaxing days. For those who are more active, there’s definitely a lot to do here. The biggest attraction is the bike path around the lake, which can also be enjoyed with a child.
At Sun Moon Lake, you can’t swim in the lake itself, but the proximity to the water still creates a wonderful atmosphere. The main attraction is the bike path that circles the lake, and it’s suitable for biking with a child.
Here’s what you can do at Sun Moon Lake:
-> Bike ride around the lake
The bike path around Sun Moon Lake is the main attraction of this place. It runs partly on specially built bridges right above the lake. However, parts of the route are shared with cars. The road is very narrow, and I wouldn’t recommend completing the entire circuit with a small child.
You can rent bicycles in Yuchi. If, like us, you stay on the southern side of the lake in Ita Thao, you can simply take a ferry to the other side and find bike rentals there. Once you exit the pier, there are several rental shops right there.
To rent a bike, you need to provide your passport as collateral – you’ll have to leave it for the duration of the rental. Just don’t forget to pick it up afterward, as we did… It’s worth mentioning that the rental shop immediately tried to contact us and called our mobile phone (because you also need to provide a phone number when renting). So, in terms of honesty, we have no complaints here.
We couldn’t find a rental shop in Ita Thao.
–> Biking around Sun Moon Lake with a child
There’s no problem finding a bike with a child seat – there are various options available depending on your child’s age. You can also rent an electric bike with or without a child seat.
Before planning your trip, it’s worth reading about the different sections of the bike paths. Not all of them are suitable for riding with a child; some can be quite steep or less enjoyable due to car traffic.
Our bike route around Sun Moon Lake:
We started our bike trip by taking the ferry to the northern part of the lake, to Yuchi (Shuishe Pier). There, we rented bikes.
First, we headed south along the western shore to the Visitor Center. It’s worth going up to the viewpoint overlooking the lake at the Visitor Center.
The whole trip took us half a day, but we also made a stop for lunch at the Visitor Center and Nelli’s nap at the Center.
Due to heavy car traffic, we didn’t bike all the way around the lake.
There are several temples around the lake that are worth visiting during your bike trip. We drove to the temples on a different day because our daughter’s daily schedule dictated our sightseeing plan.
Longfeng Temple – we didn’t visit this temple. Xuanguang Temple – a temple on the hill with a view of the lake.
-> Boat Tours on the Lake
Around the lake, there are three piers where boats regularly depart. Their primary purpose is to transport people to the other side, but many tourists treat these boats as sightseeing cruises.
We chose to go shortly after it opened (you know how it is when you’re on vacation with a child – you don’t sleep in…) and we happened to get an empty boat – we had a private tour just for ourselves.
-> Cable Car to the Aboriginal Village
From Ita Thao, you can take a cable car to the Aboriginal village. The journey only takes a few minutes, but the view of the lake must be spectacular.
As you can see, we managed to take a photo under the station, but we couldn’t take the cable car because it only opened at 11:00, which was definitely too late for us. In the afternoons, when we had time, it was already closed.
It’s a good idea to check the opening hours on the website or at the location itself to plan your visit accordingly.
Pingxi is a vibrant and charming place with a unique atmosphere. The lanterns, street food, scents, and souvenir shops seem to create a delightful experience.
We went to Pingxi for a few hours. It’s very easy to get there from Taipei by train. It’s best to stay until the evening when the streets light up with red and gold lanterns.
We traveled by car, but if someone chooses to go by train, it’s worth going first from Ruifang to Shifen Old Streets and the waterfall, and then going to the end of the line in Jingtong and walking back along the tracks to Pingxi.
PINGXI WITH A CHILD: A stroller is highly discouraged – the streets are narrow, there are many stairs, and there are plenty of tourists. A baby carrier or sling works great here – you won’t spend more than 3-4 hours on-site, including lunch.