Cycling Taiwan: Planning Guide for a Whole Island Loop
Want to cycle around the entire island of Taiwan? This guide tells you how!
In this Cycling Taiwan Guide, we have two goals. First we want this to give you something useful, and second to give you something comprehensive. In this guide, we have aimed to provide you with all the information and inspiration you need to plan, implement and most importantly, enjoy yourself while cycling in Taiwan.
We suggest you read this guide in its entirety. However, if you’d prefer to skip around from section to section, just use the table of contents below! Happy reading, and more importantly, happy cycling in Taiwan! If you have any questions, comments, concerns or compliments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below!
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Our Planning Priorities
Both literally and figuratively, there is no single best way to cycle around Taiwan. The ~900 km (~560 mi) route we crafted was based on our own unique priorities. It’s our hope that once you get to the end of this guide, you’ll have all the information and inspiration you need to craft your own off the beaten path adventure travel experience of cycling in Taiwan. With that said, here is what we prioritized.
Looping Around the Entire Island
First and foremost, we wanted to make a full loop around the entire island of Taiwan. We also wanted to start with the less scenic, more industrial west coast and end with the more scenic, more nature-filled east coast. Consequently, we started in Taipei, and then we cycled in a counterclockwise loop around the country. It is completely possible to loop the country in a clockwise fashion or in just about any way you’d like.
And, if you’re in Taipei, you should definitely check out the top things to do in Taipei before you head out of town on your bikes!
Using No More Than 3 Weeks Time
We also had about three weeks time for our trip. We wanted a few days at the end, back in Taipei, to rest and recover. So, we planned to complete the loop in a total of 15 days which included 5 rest days. In other words, we were on our bikes for 10 of those 15 days. Then, for five of those days we were resting and/or exploring sites along the way (detailed below). Then, after we completed the loop and were back in Taipei, we spent 3.5 days relaxing. All things considered, from the time we left home until we arrived back, we were gone for 20 days.
Physically Exerting Ourselves
Part of what we love about adventure travel is that it requires us to physically exert ourselves and thus get a great workout. This was something we definitely wanted out of this trip. We planned to ride, on average, 100km each day. This was a distance we knew would be challenging yet feasible. We knew this because of some prior biking experience we’ve had.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that we did no training before this trip. When we got on our bikes in Taipei, our legs were completely untrained, at least in terms of biking. We do hike a few of times a week. However, we were pretty green starting out in Taipei.
When you craft your own off the beaten path adventure travel experience of cycling in Taiwan, we suggest you get on a bike at home, and do some field testing. Find out what distance will be appropriately challenging for you. Ride some flats, ride some hills, ride some downhills, and then make an educated guess, and for the sake of your legs and butt (saddle crotch is a real pain), air on the lower side when it comes to planning out your daily mileage.
For the first week, we felt exhausted after cycling 100km each day. However, by the second week we were getting stronger. Thus cycling 100km/day was leaving us feeling tired but with plenty of energy to explore our destination in the afternoons.
Avoiding the Heat of the Day
Since we were cycling in Taiwan in July, another priority was cycling during the coolest hours of the day. To that end, we usually woke up at 5:30AM, and we were cycling by 6:00AM. From 6 to 9 it was usually quite cool, and in that time, we were usually able to complete 40-60km. By the second week of our trip, we were finishing our 100km/day by ~1:30PM. Thus we had plenty of time to explore and relax in the afternoons. If you’re keen to sweat, cycling Taiwan in the summer is fine.
If however, you’d like a cooler experience, consider going in the winter months. The chart below can help you plan the perfect time for your trip.
Avoiding Main Roads (When Possible)
Our desire to avoid main roads also shaped our trip in some very interesting ways. On most occasions, choosing smaller side roads was a GREAT choice. Consequently we cycled through Taiwan’s beautiful agricultural areas. We pedaled through rice fields, pineapple fields, grape vineyards, mango groves, banana forests and even some dragon fruit groves too!
The side roads also often took us through quaint villages, by obscure temples and past charmingly simple countryside eateries. Admittedly, the side roads were not as well maintained. However they were much less busy and much more scenic and interesting. In most cases, they did not add a significant amount of extra mileage to our route.
A Hairy Situation
However, on one occasion where we decided to choose the side roads, it did not NOT go very well. We had been cruising downhill on a side road for nearly 10km. Suddenly the road dead ended at a veritable wall of jungle. Only after a few minutes of gazing at the green mass in front of us, did we realize there was a small hiking trail cutting through it all.
We hadn’t deeply scrutinized this part of our route on the Guru Maps App that we were using to navigate. (There is much more below on how to best use the Guru Maps App.) Clearly would not have chosen this route knowing that it included any hiking trails. Regardless, on the Guru Maps App we could see that the trail in front of us branched out into three separate paths. All of them apparently led back to the road we wanted to get to.
A Bit of a Dilemma
We certainly did not want to pedal back up the 10km hill we had just come down. So we took a gamble and decided to push, and occasionally but carefully ride, our bikes down the jungle hiking path. Each was loaded with about 10kg/22lbs in our panniers. Keep in mind, it was about 33C/91F and 90% humidity that day. To complicate things further, we didn’t have very much water with us. So we were flirting with getting severely dehydrated.
We tried two of the three trails. Both appeared feasible on the map, but they both led us to a dead end.
By this point, our legs were cramping quite severely. This is a sign of severe dehydration. We were now seriously considering riding back up the the 10km hill. We knew this option would take us by some houses where we could refill our water and get us where we wanted to go. However, in a last ditch effort to avoid that 10km beast of an uphill, we tried the third branch of the hiking trail. Thankfully, it took us out to the road.
A Word of Advice
The reason we’re telling you all this is twofold. First, in spite of getting lost in the jungle with our bikes, we still highly recommend taking the smaller side roads by using the the Guru Maps App. Doing so will almost certainly kick up the interesting-factor on your cycling in Taiwan experience. Second however, if you do decide to take the side roads, you should scrutinize your entire route ahead of time. In our entire ~900 km experience of cycling in Taiwan, Guru Maps only lead us astray this one time. Nevertheless, it was one time too many!
How to Get There
When we were cycling in Taiwan, we rented our bikes, started cycling and ended cycling, in Taipei. That meant for us, “getting there” entailed flying to Taoyuan International Airport (TPE). Then we used the Taoyuan Airport MRT Train to get into Taipei. Then, we took the Taipei Metro to the bike shop. And once at the shop, we rented our bikes. (Details on how to rent bikes in Taipei are below in the section titled “How to Rent a Bike in Taiwan”.)
Depending on the particulars of your cycling in Taiwan excursion, you’ll be able to determine the best way to get to and from Taiwan.
Generally speaking, there are 4 international airports in Taiwan. They are:
- Taoyuan International Airport (TPE)
- Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH)
- Taichung International Airport (RMQ)
- Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA)
If you do plan on renting bikes (see “Bike Rentals vs. Bring Your Own”), of course plan your flights accordingly.
Best Time To Go
No matter when you choose to cycle in Taiwan, there will be pros and cons. We were cycling in Taiwan in the middle of July and had a FANTASTIC time. However, the most common time to do this trip is in the cooler months, roughly October to March.
Summer Months: Pros and Cons
Something we loved about cycling around Taiwan in July is that we seldom encountered other cyclist traffic. For the majority of our days, we were the only people on the roads cycling. Maybe we were the only ones crazy enough to be cycling in the intense heat. Regardless, biking in Taiwan in the summer helped us avoid a lot of bicycle traffic and crowds. Choosing to go cycling in Taiwan in the summer will do the same for you.
In addition, biking in Taiwan in the summer allowed us to make the most of our days. First and foremost, summer days simply have more daylight hours than winter ones. Since we woke up early, we were able to get in a few hours each day of cool early morning riding on nearly empty roads. Then we would arrive in the early afternoon at our guesthouse/hotel (see “Where to Stay”). This gave us plenty of daylight o explore our destination on foot.
Another pro of cycling in Taiwan in the summer is that we had no problem securing rental bikes. The man working at the bike rental shop said in the cooler months rentals are often completely sold out. In the summer, it’s seldom a problem to secure rental bikes.
If you’re willing to ride early in the day, able to stay properly hydrated protect yourself from the sun, cycling in Taiwan in summer could be a great option for you too.
The obvious and major con of cycling in Taiwan in the summer is the heat. Admittedly, it was quite hot (30C-34C/86F-93F) each day. It certainly did not keep us from enjoying ourselves, however, we would have preferred cooler weather. With that said, if you don’t like the heat, you might want to wait to do this trip in the cooler months.
Although we never got rained on during the entirety of our trip, the summer months are indeed the more wet ones. Truthfully, we were very lucky to never experience any rain. If indeed you do plan to cycle around Taiwan in the summer months, make sure you have some rain gear with you. (We’ll go into all the gear you’ll need right below in the “What Gear You’ll Need” section.)
Fall/Winter Months: Pros and Cons
The most obvious pro of cycling in Taiwan in the winter months is that it will be quite cool. Instead of worrying about dehydration and sunburn, you’ll likely be comfortably cool at all times. You might even be inclined to wear wind protecting layers to keep yourself warm.
Another pro would be the increased camaraderie from other bikers. For us, traveling is just as much about the people as it is the places. So, while we were glad to avoid cyclist traffic, we were a bit bummed that we didn’t meet many other cyclists along the way.
As the fall foliage is spectacular in Taiwan, this could be yet another reason to opt to cycle in Taiwan in the cooler months.
The cooler fall/winter months are the most popular ones for cycling in Taiwan. Thus, you will likely experience more crowdedness on the roads and accommodations. You may also have more difficulty renting bicycles.
Since the days are shorter in the fall and winter, you will have less daylight hours to use each day. Thus you might need to cycle further each day or take more days to complete the loop. Also, you will likely only have a few hours to explore each destination before it gets dark.
Ultimately, we’ll say it again, there is no single best way to cycle around Taiwan. We did it in the less-popular summer time, and we had a brilliant experience! We know other people who have done it in the cooler winter months, and they too had a brilliant time. You know yourself (and your schedule) best. Thus you’ll know when you’d find the most enjoyment out of cycling in Taiwan.
What Gear You’ll Need
The type of bike adventure you plan to craft will determine the type of gear you will need. We were essentially light touring – bringing only what we could fit in two small panniers and staying at guesthouses/hotels. So we didn’t need too much gear.
Broadly speaking we each brought:
- Two pairs of bike clothes (This allowed us to wear one pair while we washed and then dried (on the back of our bike) the other pair.)
- One pair of “semi-dress clothes” (We used these mostly in Taipei to go out to dinner in the evening.)
- One pair of day hiking clothes (We used these when we were day hiking on our biking-rest days.)
- Rain gear (Rain pants and a raincoat have myriad uses, so we seldom travel without them.)
Below is the specific gear we brought.
Raincoats and Rain Pants
We seldom travel without our raincoats or rainpants. Given the increased chance of windchill factor when biking, we definitely brought them with us when we were cycling in Taiwan. We recommend these: Male Raincoat Option, Female Raincoat Option
Here are the bike clothes we brought. You’ll definitely want to get some padded bike shorts, like the ones below. Your butt will thank you profusely!
Clothing Layers/ Day Hiking Clothes
At high elevation (which we experienced on some of our side trips) it got pretty chilly. So, we were glad we prepared for some cooler weather. From head to toe, inside and out, we brought the following clothing.
USB Power Strip
We bring a good bit of tech stuff with us, so we like to have a bunch of places to charge USB devices. We bring this 8 port USB power strip. One of the USB ports even charges at high speed. This is very convenient for quickly topping our phone batteries, etc.
Power Bank/Wireless SD Card Reader and External Hard Drive
We regularly used our phones to navigate while we were biking in Taiwan. While we did not buy a Taiwan tourist SIM card, it wouldn’t have hurt to have had one. Thus, we brought a power bank with us just in case we needed a little more juice. This power bank also has a built in SD card reader. Thus, you can use it to backup your photos in the field. Just connect it to an external hard drive, and voila! We love this water-resistant, shock-resistant, SUPER small, solid state (SSD), 500GB hard drive.
When you’re in a scenic place such as Taiwan, you’ll want to have a camera. Preferably, you’ll want something weather-resistant. We use this Sony camera and we use this Sony lens. We love them both! This setup is light, high quality, weatherproof and VERY durable.
We also bring our drone, and we love this little DJI drone! If you’re looking for an entry level drone, this one is a GREAT choice! It’s easy to learn, takes 4K video and has some fantastic quick shot (autopilot) modes. The quick shots will help you get some fantastic footage right out of the box!
Bicycle Repair Gear
Whether you rent bikes or not, you won’t need much in the way of bike repair gear, as there are MANY bike shops on/near the route you’ll take when cycling in Taiwan. However, you will want the basics in order to, at the very least, change a flat tire on the road. If you have never changed a bike tire, practice BEFORE you leave home. Much beyond that, we didn’t worry about having with us, but to each her/his own. Specifically, make sure you have at least two spare tire tubes (you can buy them from the rental shop), as well as a set of bicycle tire levers (you can buy them at the shop too). If you rent a bicycle, it will come with a road pump and a lock, so unless you want specific ones of those, you won’t need to buy your own.
Rentals vs. Bring Your Own
The major benefit of bringing your own bike is the comfort factor.
The major drawbacks of bringing your own bike are the time, effort and money it’ll take to transport it to Taiwan. Just exactly how to take a bike on an airplane varies from carrier to carrier. However, broadly speaking you’ll have to disassemble your bike and either put it into a bike box like this one or a bike bag like this.
The major benefit of renting a bike in Taiwan is you won’t have the hassle of transporting a bike internationally. Also, you’ll be able to travel much more lightly if you rent a bike! The major drawback of renting a bike in Taiwan is the potential lack of comfort of the rental bike.
We found our bikes to be of average comfort level, compared with how we’ve felt riding our own bikes before. However, the average comfort was worth not having to go through the hassle of bringing our own bikes. If you take the time to fit your bike correctly, you’ll be able to get a comfortable ride out of a rental too. The cost of the carbon fiber framed rental was USD 8.30/day. If you want to skip ahead a bit, all the details on How to Rent a Bike in Taiwan are right below.
The Bikes We Rented
We rented the Giant Fastroad, and we paid NT$1,500 (US$48) for the first 3 days and then NT$200 (US$6.50) for each day thereafter. Since we rented the bikes for a total of 16 days, our average cost/day was NT$254/day (US$8.30/day). The Fastroad has a full carbon fiber frame and was loaded with the stock Tiagra components. For us amateurs, we found the bikes to be quite light, strong and fast. In other words, our rentals were perfect for cycling in Taiwan.Our rentals also included a back rack, two panniers (~10 liters each) that attached to the back rack, a lock, a bike computer and a small road pump. Rentals do NOT include a helmet, so make sure to bring your own, or plan to buy one from the bike shop. You will NOT want to go cycling in Taiwan without a helmet. There are other bike models you can rent, if you’d prefer something other than the Fastroad, but again, we suggest you get the lightest model your budget can afford.
In other words, our rentals were perfect for cycling in Taiwan. Our rentals also included a back rack, two panniers (~10 liters each) that attached to the back rack, a lock, a bike computer and a small road pump. Rentals do NOT include a helmet. Make sure to bring your own, or plan to buy one from the bike shop. You will NOT want to go cycling in Taiwan without a helmet. There are other bike models you can rent. However, we suggest you rent the lightest model your budget can afford.
How to Rent a Bike in Taiwan
There are LOTS of bike rental shops in Taiwan. In this Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide you can find many bike rental shops. However, if you’re planning to fly into and out of Taipei, we highly recommend renting from the Giant – Taipei Xinzhuang Store. This is where we rented from. The staff were very helpful. The store is located very near to the route we took, and they had a large supply of rental bikes. We are not Giant affiliates however. We simply had a great rental experience with them, so we certainly recommend them to you!
Unless you’re able to understand Taiwanese Mandarin, you’ll have to use Google Translate to navigate the Giant bicycles site and reservation instructions page. We simply sent our e-mails in both English and Chinese (Traditional). At the time of writing, the contact information for the Giant – Taipei Xinzhuang Store is as follows: Email: [email protected] Phone: +886-02-29942655. ***Make sure to verify this information, as it may change from time to time.***
If you’d prefer to explore some of the other Giant bike shop rental locations, you can search for other Giant bike rental locations here. Once you have selected the shop from which you’d like to rent your bikes, this page details how to make a bike reservation with any Giant bike rental shop.
The Specific Steps
Generally speaking, the six steps below detail how to make a bike reservation with a Giant bike shop. However, ***make sure to verify this information with the shop from which you will be renting. It may change from time to time.***
2. Email the rental shop, in English and in Chinese (Traditional) using Google Translate, the following details:
- Contact Name
- Phone number
- Date of rental
- Number of bicycles
- Height of person #1,2,3, etc. (male or female, choose one)
- Preferred model, first choice (the bike model choices are here)
- Preferred mode, second choice
- Pickup Bike Location (Store Name)
- Return Bike Location (Store Name)
3. Wait for their email reply with further instructions. The first reply will likely be instructions detailing how you can make the requisite bank transfer of NT$1,500/bike (at the time of writing, ~US$48/bike) to secure your reservation.
4. Make your bank transfer following their instructions.
5. Wait for their confirmation email regarding your payment. After receiving confirmation from the shop, your reservation will be secured.
5. When you are at the shop, pay the remaining balance using either a credit card (we used a Visa) or New Taiwan Dollars (NTD).
6. Enjoy cycling in Taiwan!
Again, ***make sure to verify this information with the shop from which you will be renting. It may change from time to time.***
Where to Stay
There is no definitive list of the “best” places to stay while cycling in Taiwan. What seems amazing to one person may seem awful to another. So instead of trying to tell you where you should stay, we’ll simply tell you where we stayed. All of our accommodations are listed below. You’ll also find the four broad “guidelines” we used in selecting our accommodations.
What we Looked For in an Accommodation
First and foremost, we looked for high value accommodations, especially when we were not planning to spend a rest day at that particular spot. For us, this meant we were willing to spend about NT$1,200/night (US$40) for an accommodation that included breakfast. We spent about double this amount for the places at which we’d be taking rest days since we’d be able to more fully utilize the accommodation and the surrounding areas.
Second, we looked for accommodations located near attractions, sites, cities, landscapes, etc. that we found interesting and exploration-worthy, especially when we were planning to spend multiple nights at an accommodation.
Third, where we planned to spend multiple nights, we chose guest houses and or homestays (instead of hotels), as we usually find we are able to form deeper connections with guest house proprietors and are able to experience a place more fully when we have a guest house proprietor giving us tips about what to do in an area.
Fourth, We did not worry about making sure all of our accommodations were directly on our cycling in Taiwan route. While this meant sometimes we did not ride along the most direct path from point A to point B, we usually did not add very much mileage to our daily ride, and only one time in the entire trip did our accommodation choice require us to backtrack. However, the place that required us to backtrack, the Yilan Ya Lu Homestay, turned out to be one of our favorites, so we didn’t mind the extra pedaling it took to get there and then back onto our route.
The Places We Stayed
Again, we were cycling in Taiwan in a counter clockwise fashion, and we started and ended in Taipei. Also, we averaged 100km/day. The accommodations below are listed in that order and are spaced approximately 100 km (60 mi) apart. If you do choose to stay at these same places, make sure to verify that our biking pace would be comfortable for you too. We go into a lot of details on how to do this (and more) below in the “How to Plot Your Own Route” section.
Below are the places we stayed.
Places on the West Coast
1. Hotel Purity – Taipei City [This is a basic budget style accommodation.]
2. Xinshe Hotel – Hsinchu City [This is a basic budget style accommodation.]
4. Ron Gong Hotel – Chiayi City [ This is a basic budget style accommodation.]
5. Wei Feng Hotel – Kaohsiung City [This is a basic budget style accommodation.]
6. Tiny Greece – Fangshan (1 rest day – Beach) [This is a beach side bungalow hotel. It wasn’t uber fancy, but the waterfront location, and thus beach access was nice.]
Places on the East Coast
7. Jie Yuan Sheng Bao – Taimali [This was a basic budget style accommodation.]
8. Wisdom Garden Homestay – Yuli (1 rest day – Yushan National park, Chikeshan – Mountain top daylily fields) [We HIGHLY recommend this semi-upscale but very relaxed guest house! It was nestled cozily up a mountain road, and the host made DELICIOUS, home cooked, traditional Taiwanese breakfasts each morning.]
9. Hong Ying B&B – Xiulin (2 rest days – Taroko National Park – link to our own article coming soon!) [This is a basic budget style accommodation, but since it is located just a few hundred feet from the entrance of the Taroko Gorge National Park and ~25 feet from the bus stop for the bus which will take you throughout the entire park, if you’re planning to explore Taroko (which we HIGHLY recommend you do), Hong Ying B&B is a great place to stay.]
10. Yilan Ya Lu Homestay – Datong (1 rest day – Songluo Alpine Lake) [We HIGHLY recommend this semi-luxury guest house! Nestled in a mountainside tea field, overlooking a sweeping valley below, this relaxing and luxurious accommodation was extremely good value! The design of this guesthouse was very well thought out, as the premises, common areas and rooms lulled us into feeling as mellowed out as we feel at a spa. The home cooked, six course dinners were delicious, and the gazebos out in the front of the property offered another relaxing place to enjoy the beautiful views of the valley below. ]
11. Caesar Metro Taipei – Taipei [This was a budget style accommodation with a new and modern feel. The room itself was newly renovated, and the entire hotel had a clean, fresh and modern feel. It was located right in the heart of Taipei, so it was a great place to begin our daily explorations. A nearby cooked food market became one of our favorite dining spots, and since the Caesar Metro Taipei is about 2 minutes walking from the Longshan Temple, we were able to easily visit it both during the day and at night, when it was illuminated by hundreds of candles.]
To be completely honest, we cannot tell you the exact route we took while we were cycling in Taiwan. Generally speaking, we followed the suggested route laid out in the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide, but we also used the Guru Maps app’s biking-directions function (LOTS of details on this amazing app, below in the section titled “How to Plot Your Own Route”) to help us avoid some the more busy and traffic laden main roads.
So, if you have a look at the above-linked guide and then when you’re cycling in Taiwan, if you use the biking-directions function in Guru Maps, you’ll likely be following nearly the same route we took. The white stars in the image below show roughly where we rode. Again, we started in Taipei, rode in a counterclockwise direction and ended in Taipei.
Notes on Our Route
The West Coast
Broadly speaking, the west coast is heavily developed, comprised mostly of cityscapes and is where we encountered the most car congestion on the roads. There are some beautiful coastal stretches, but they are quite short.
Towards the southern end of the west coast, things start to get much less congested.
While we certainly enjoyed biking southward on the west coast, as we are quite outdoorsy folks, we were not most impressed with this section. If however, you like the comforts that cities have to offer (and you don’t mind biking on busy roads), the west coast might become your favorite part of cycling in Taiwan.
The East Coast
As mentioned above, we are very outdoorsy people, so the east coast was the section we enjoyed the most.
Roughly speaking, from Taitung County, all the way up the east coast and back into Taipei, there are GORGEOUS coastal views, breathtaking mountain ranges, massive rivers, and roads that (in our experience) were not at all crowded with cars or other bikers.
Whereas on the west coast we often felt eager to “get our miles out of the way” on the east coast, we savored them. From hiking to biking (obviously) to river rafting, camping and more, the east coast is an outdoor-lovers paradise!
The Bottom Line
If you like the city scene and the various cultural attractions that go along with it, spend more time on the west coast. If you’re looking to escape into nature, plan to spend more time on the east coast. Whatever you do though, definitely go cycling in Taiwan. You’ll be very glad you did so!
How to Plot Your Own Route
The Guru Maps App
We found the Guru Maps App to be extremely useful. More specifically, its biking directions function enabled us to avoid busy main roads and stick to quieter and more scenic side roads.
If you’re looking for GREAT biking roads while you’re cycling in Taiwan, the Guru Maps App will not disappoint. As an aside, we are not affiliated with the creators of Guru in any way, we just used their app nearly the whole time, and we loved it.
Downloading Offline Maps
For in depth details on how to use the Guru Maps app, check out the Guru Maps App manual. You’ll definitely want to download the Taiwan map data to your mobile device, so you can use it while you’re offline. The section in the manual titled “Vector Maps Settings – Download Maps” is where you can find details on how to do so.
Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide
Additionally, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide provides you with the names of the roads you will need to follow in order to cycle entirely around Taiwan. However, we discovered that the roads the guide suggests are entirely main roads and were often quite heavily filled with traffic and traffic lights. Thus, we very quickly stopped following the guide verbatim, and eventually used a combination of the Tourism Bureau Biking Guide and the Guru Maps App’s biking directions function to navigate each day.
A Great Planning Resource
For 99% of our trip Guru provided us excellent biking directions, however there was one day when the biking-directions included a bit of a hiking trail, and it caused us quite a large inconvenience. If you haven’t yet read about the sticky situation we had, it’s detailed up above in the section titled “Avoiding Main Roads (When Possible)”. The moral of the story is however, if you’re using Guru, double check the route it creates before you start cycling along it.
The Bottom Line
Suffice it to say, the best advice we can give about how to plot your own route is (a) use the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide as a starting point, and (b) thereafter (if you’d like to avoid main roads and bike mostly along more quiet and scenic side roads) use the Guru Map app’s biking directions.
While on the Road
When we were cycling in Taiwan, we CAREFULLY used our phones to navigate while we were on the road. We did not have a bike phone mount, but we really wished we had one. We highly recommend you buy a bike phone mount, as it’s quite difficult (and a bit dangerous) to bike with one hand and use your phone with the other. Also, remember to use the appropriate cycling hand signals!
As crazy as this may sound, we ate 90% of our lunches each day from either 7-11 or Family Mart. There are TONS of these and other convenience shops along the way, and many of them have free wifi, air conditioning and affordable and reasonably healthy, cycle-appropriate food items, i.e. high carb delights!
Also, we never carried much more than a few bananas for snacks, as again, there were so many convenience stores along the way.
If you have special dietary preferences/restrictions, you might want to consider carrying your own snacks and/or meal provisions, but otherwise, there is no need to carry extra weight via. food, as there will be plenty to eat along the way.
Just as we ate at a lot of 7-11 and Family Marts, so too did we fill our water and/or buy more water from these shops. The majority of the time they allowed us to refill our bottles, and on a few occasions they didn’t want us to, so we bought some bottled water and/or sports drinks.
Taiwan has such a rich and well established cycling culture that we were never far from a bicycle repair shop. We did carry some basic bicycle repair items (check out the section titled “Bicycle Repair Gear” for all the details) for the odd chance that we needed to do some basic repairs when we were not near a bike shop, but again, if we had needed some major repair done, we easily could have found a shop to do it at. Even when we couldn’t find a shop on our own, we asked for some information at a police station, and they (to our massive surprise) provided us an escort to the nearest bike shop!
Sites of Interest Along the Way
We are not going to try and provide you a comprehensive list of all the sites you might want to check out over the course of this ~900 km (~560 mi) cycling journey in Taiwan, because doing so might preclude us from ever doing anything else in the future other than writing this guide! However, the places below definitely stand out in our minds as some of the most amazing we encountered on our trip, so we’re confident you’ll find them pretty awesome too! Combine our list with the attractions detailed in the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide, and you’ll have plenty of information to craft your own cycling in Taiwan adventure!
Our Favorite Sites Along The Way
West Coast Fruit Fields
We can’t point you towards any specific fruit fields, but while you’re on the west coast, if you use the
Guru Map App’s biking-directions function to navigate, you will almost certainly be routed through numerous fields of rice, bananas, grapes, coconuts, watermelon, pears, breadfruit, pineapples and even dragon fruit!
Some of the fields, with their perfectly repeating rows of plants, were so expansive that we found ourselves overcome by their beauty in a similar way to when we stare out into a vast stretch of ocean that extends all the way to the horizon.
West Coast Temples
We lost count of how many beautiful, small and obscure temples we passed along the west coast. It seemed as though each village had their own temple, and they gave us a wonderful excuse to stop and take a rest.
Night Markets and Street Food
Generally speaking, once the sun goes down on a Taiwanese city, the night time food market culture bursts alive! These markets are ripe for culinary exploration and some great value eats! The markets are usually full of street food stalls selling everything from pig’s blood cake, to bubble tea, to fried chicken to Taiwan’s hallmark shaved ice desert, Baobing, and much much more!
One of our favorite street foods was run bing. Made from wrapping a pseudo-crepe around some crunchy bean sprouts and cabbage and then sprinkled with crunchy bits of fried rice and doused in a tangy and spicy sauce, at ~US$1/wrap, this topped the charts for us in terms of deliciousness and value! Ultimately, if you end up in a city at night, put your well earned hunger towards a self-guided night market food tour, and find your own Taiwanese favorites!
Yushan National Park
The day we set aside to explore Yushan National Park, there just so happened to be a bear cub that was lost and separated from its mother, so the park was closed for two weeks. While we were happy to see Taiwan’s deep commitment to conservation, we were a bit bummed we weren’t able to explore the park. In any case, from everyone we spoke with, we got the impression that Yushan is a hiker’s paradise and a place you’ll not want to miss. Many folks mentioned the Walami Trail as one of the top places to hike in the park. So you’ll have to check it out, and let us know what you think!
Yuli (Daylily Mountains)
Yuli is right down the road from Yushan National Park, and here too there are many activities with which you’ll be able to keep yourself occupied. Something you are definitely going to want to do is head up the mountains to see the stunning views from up there.
We rented a motor scooter so we could cover more ground and rest our legs a bit.
Up at the high elevation it’s not only quite a bit cooler, but the bright orange blooms carpeting the mountain tops contrast against the mellow earth tones of the mountain landscape creating a scene that feels otherworldly. If you hit the daylilies in full bloom, there are also a number of local culinary treats that they make from the baby and mature blossoms.
Taroko Gorge National Park
We cannot speak highly enough about Taroko Gorge National Park. Taroko Gorge in Taiwan is a must see spot! We gave ourselves two and a half days to explore Taroko, but we easily could have spent four or five. For some of the most popular hiking trails in Taroko, such as the Zhuilu Old Trail, you will need to apply for and secure permits ahead of time.
In our Taroko Gorge National Park Guide (coming soon), we go into all of the details on that process. For the most popular parts of the park, you will not need permits. And don’t worry, even if you don’t get permits for the more obscure spots, there is still plenty of GORGEOUS ground to cover.
Beaches at the Foot of Taroko Gorge
Quite a bit to our surprise, we did not find any lounge-worthy beaches along any of the stretches of coast we rode along, with one big exception. Right at the foot of Taroko Gorge National park there was a FANTASTIC stretch of beach, and it seemed completely undeveloped.
You won’t likely find it listed in any tour books, and we hardly found it ourselves, but if you give a click on the above link, it’ll show you exactly where you can sit back, relax, and catch some rays. Keep in mind, this beach has no amenities, so you’ll have to bring along with you any provisions you’d like to have.
Also near Taroko National Park, the Qingshi Cliffs (ching-shee cliffs) are spectacular. We do NOT recommend you ride your bikes out to this area, as the road is very narrow, there is no designated bike like, and this this are is VERY dangerous for cyclists. In fact on page 46 of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Biking Guide they explain how you can take a train to bypass this section. However, even if you do not cycle on this section, we recommend you rent a motor scooter from one of the shops near the Xincheng Train Station, and then scoot your way on out here! The scooter rental shop required us to leave a passport as collateral, and it cost us ~NTD400 (~USD12) per day.
If you’re a whisky connoisseur or you like beautiful mountain landscapes or you like mountains and oceans, or all of the above, you’ll probably want to spend a few days in Yilan. Regarding the whiskey, Kavalan whiskey is made in Yilan, and Kavalan offers free factory tours. We aren’t big whiskey fans, so we skipped the tour, headed straight to the tasting room (where they also sell gelato) and then continued on our way. However, it is possible to spend a few hours on the tour, tasting, and gift shopping, so if this is your kind of thing, you’ll want to set some time aside for the Kavalan factory tour.
Before heading back into Taipei, if you’re keen for some more Taiwanese culture, food and some bizarre geology, consider taking this Yehliu, Shifen, & Jiufen Day Tour.
Regarding the mountains, Yilan, like most of Taiwan’s east coast is chock full of mountains. The Yilan Ya Lu Homestay, which we’ve already mentioned above, is close to a hiking trail network that extends for hundreds of kilometers in many different directions. If you’re keen to do some hiking, Yilan is going to be a great choice.
Get Cycling in Taiwan
PHEW! We know that was quite a beast of a post, but we hope it has provided you with all the information and inspiration you need to craft your own cycling in Taiwan adventure! We ABSOLUTELY loved cycling in Taiwan, and we think you will too!
In the comment section below, please let us know if you have any comments, questions, concerns or compliments, and we’ll get back in touch with you in a flash!
Nearby Adventure Travel Experiences
If after reading all that you’ve decided that cycling in Taiwan is not your thing, consider checking out this more mellow two week itinerary in Taiwan. Maybe you’re on a multi-country journey and you’re looking for other nearby island destination? You should seriously consider visiting the quaint fishing village of Zamami Island in Japan or if you’re looking to head south, you should consider affordable and friendly El Nido in Philippines. If you’re heading WAY south, you will not want to miss the SPECTACULARLY gorgeous paradise on Earth that is Palau. Going on an orangutan safari in Malaysia is also a fantastic option in this general part of the world, or if you’ll be heading home after your trip to Taiwan and you are heading through Hong Kong, reach out to us for a guided hike up Suicide Cliff in Hong Kong, or any of our other off the beaten path adventures in Hong Kong.
No matter what you do, again, if you have any questions, comments, concerns or compliments, leave us a comment in the section below, and we’ll get back in touch with you in a flash!
Happy cycling in Taiwan!