bicycle touring taiwan
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Bicycle Touring Around Taiwan

In January of 2020, we spent a month bicycle touring around Taiwan – starting and ending in Taipei. Cycle tourism is huge in Taiwan, and making a loop around the entire island is seen as a rite of passage by many Taiwanese citizens. Taiwan Cycle Route No. 1 was inaugurated in 2015 to facilitate cycle tourism, and the government put a lot of effort into developing resources and infrastructure such as cyclist rest stops.

Route

bicycle touring around taiwan map
Map of our route around Taiwan. We wound up taking a train from Taichung to Taipei due to a health problem, but the map above shows the typical route.

The Taiwanese tourism board has put together a great bike tour planning packet that you can download here.

Taipei

We arrived in Taipei around 4:30 in the afternoon after a 13 hour flight from Vancouver. We had a little bit of difficulty getting a van big enough for our massive bicycle boxes. The first taxi stand said they only had vehicles large enough for the boxes alone with no room for people. The second one we approached got us a large van that fit us and the boxes with room to spare, for $20 more than a regular taxi. Not terrible.

We got in to our hostel, Meander Taipei Hostel, and went out to the nearby Ximen Night Market for dinner. The first thing we ate in Taiwan was rice flour noodles with beef broth and intestines. The broth was good but the intestines were chewy, and we weren’t really used to the texture.

taipei night market
Roast pig for sale at the Shinlin night market in Taipei.

We spent a few days in Taipei running errands, sightseeing, trying lots of new food, and getting over jet lag. We went to several different night markets and fell in love with brown sugar boba tea.

boba tea in taipei
Famous spot for boba tea in Taipei, so delicious.

Northern Coast

Big cities are usually a pain to ride out of, but in Taipei we were able to get on a bike path right next to our hostel and ride it for 17 miles north to the next town. It was possibly the most relaxed and wonderful start to a bike trip that we’ve had, thought we did have to hike our bikes up a flight of steps to initially get on the bike path.

bicycle touring taiwan
Huffing up an overpass to get to the bike path in Taipei.
bike path in taipei
Awesome bike path heading out of Taipei.

From Taipei we headed toward Tamsui and rode along the northern coast, starting out with some short days to get our legs warmed up. We hiked around the colorful rock formations of the Mysterious Coast and splurged on a nice hotel with a hot spring-fed bathtub, as this area is famous for its hot springs.

hiking on the mysterious coast
Hiking around the rock formations on the Mysterious Coast.
twin candlesticks in taiwan
Drone shot of the Twin Candlesticks.

We ventured through the Futuro UFO village that was a whole neighborhood of (mostly) abandoned futuristic-looking houses, and then stayed a night in Keelung, which had a bustling night market with amazing food. The ride going into and out of Keelung was pretty intense traffic-wise.

futuro ufo village in wanli
Futuro UFO Village in the Wanli District.
keelung night market
Keelung Night Market.
keelung night market
Backpack dog, Keelung Night Market.
keelung night market
No shortage of cool photo ops at the night markets.

We stopped to see the Houtang Cat Village after leaving Keelung, which was a little way off the main route and up a steep climb. The village is pretty much taken over by cats, which lounge around all over town and wait for people to feed them. There’s also a bunch of cat street art and themed cafes.

houtang cat village
Houtang Cat Village.

Jiufen and Towns Along the Northern Coast

Getting to Jiufen entailed another steep climb, this time with a fair amount of traffic and especially annoying buses. The views were great though, and the drivers were very respectful despite their density. We got a lot of thumbs ups and shouts of encouragement, although one guy shouted to cheer us on and his dog interpreted that as the signal to attack. It ran down a 30 foot embankment and harassed us, but it didn’t actually do anything.

bicycle touring jiufen
Taking a break on the ride up to Jiufen.

Once we arrived in town we had to locate our hotel, which was a challenge unto itself. It turned out to be down the Old Street, a tight corridor packed with tourists and businesses. We had to walk our sweaty selves and bikes down the tight alleyway, pushing through the press of tourists.

paper lanterns in jiufen
Busy stairwell in Jiufen.

We got to our cute little bed and breakfast and locked the bikes up outside in the rain – it was too nice inside to bring them in as it also operated as a teahouse. After showering and doing laundry we headed out into the town. We started out with some desserts – a peanut and ice cream spring roll with cilantro and a taro filled puff pastry. After that we wandered around more, saw the famous A-Mei Teahouse, gawked at the paper lanterns Jiufen is famous for, and of course ate more food.

stray cat in jiufen
Cat protecting its food in Jiufen.
bicycle touring taiwan
Another rainy day on the way down from Jiufen. Really fun downhill led back to the coast.
bicycle touring in taiwan
Bicycle tunnel that played music as we rode through.
public hot springs in Jiaoxi
Top notch lighting display at the public hot springs in Jiaoxi.

Wild Camping Misadventures

We decided to wild camp for the first time near Dong-ao. We followed an old GPS waypoint we found online to a campsite near the main highway, supposedly next to a cold spring. It was difficult to locate and eventually turned out to be locked up. We tried another side road and found a super creepy graveyard, complete with strange clucking jungle noises and little cherub things on the tombs.

Graveyard that our GPS brought us to.
No thanks.

Andrew loved it and wanted to camp nearby but Jenny vetoed. After that we headed down to the beach, where we setup camp in the sand well above what we thought was the high tide line. It rained all night but turned out to be a super pretty spot in the morning.

wild camping in taiwan
Wild camp on the beach.

Eastern Coast

The eastern coast of Taiwan is the highlight for many cycle tourists – the coastal highway is cut high into the cliffs and there are beautiful beaches as well as the magnificent Taroko Gorge. The scenery didn’t come easily though. The highway through this section can be busy, and there are numerous tunnels that are pretty scary to ride through on a bike.

drone shot on the eastern coast of taiwan
Drone shot from above the coastal road.
bicycle touring taiwan
Views on the coastal highway.

Taroko Gorge

We stayed a couple nights in a hotel so that we could ride up into Taroko Gorge without our luggage. Despite being a popular destination, the traffic through the gorge really wasn’t that bad, though the tour buses cut it pretty close sometimes. The marble cliffs were amazing, and flying down the canyon at the end of the day was spectacular.

taroko gorge taiwan
Waterfall in Taroko Gorge.
taroko gorge taiwan
Stream through the marble canyon of Taroko.

Hualien

Shortly after leaving Taroko, we hopped onto an awesome bike path along the coast that brought us into Hualien. As usual, we wandered around the night market and sampled a variety of delicious foods.

night market in hualien
Dumpling shop in Hualien.
hualien night market
Hualien Night Market.

East Rift Valley

The East Rift Valley is an important agricultural area, and we rode along countless rice paddies, which were very scenic. We rode through the famed Mr. Brown Avenue, which was the filming location for a popular coffee commercial. Most of the rice paddies were full of yellow flowers at this time of year, and it was a beautiful area.

mr. brown avenue
Rice paddies at Mr. Brown Avenue.
drone shot of mr. brown avenue
Drone shot above Mr. Brown Avenue.

Southern Coast

We went all the way down to the southern tip of the island to explore the Kenting area. We stayed at a hotel in a beach town and went out to a cool bar in the back of a truck for Andrew’s birthday. When we told the owner of the bar that we were biking around Taiwan, he casually mentioned that he was the first person to skateboard all the way around the island.

We went to a few really pretty beaches on the southern end of the island, though it wasn’t quite hot enough to want to go swimming.

coast of kenting taiwan
Fishermen on the coast near Kenting.
life of pi beach
Beach from the Life of Pi.

Western Coast

The western side of Taiwan is very urban, but the roads had good shoulders and it wasn’t as bad as we were expecting traffic-wise. The most annoying thing was the constant stoplights, where you’d go a short distance and have to stop over and over again. We visited Kaohsiung and stopped in Tainan for New Year’s Eve. Tainan is the old capital of Taiwan and it was a great place to walk around, and there was a beautiful paper lantern festival going on when we were there.

pineapple fields in taiwan
Pineapple plants are adorable.
bicycle touring taiwan
Road conditions on the west coast of Taiwan. The right lane is shared between scooters and bikes.
wild camping in taiwan
The second and last time we wild camped in Taiwan, this time at a public park.
new year's eve fireworks in tainan
Fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Tainan.
lantern festival in tainan
Strange frog man at the lantern festival.
bicycle touring in taiwan
OSMand+ directions for the win.

We visited a famous ice cream parlor in Taichung which did not disappoint and saw lots of cool street art. Jenny got a nasty eye infection around this point, and it was painful to be riding a bike in the wind. We wound up taking a train the rest of the way into Taipei, where we were able to get some antibiotic eye drops from a pharmacy.

Miyahara ice-cream parlor
Amazing treats from the Miyahara ice cream parlor in Taichung.
animation alley in taichung
Animation Alley street art in Taichung.

Taking our bikes on the train was pretty brutal – bikes weren’t allowed on the high speed train, so we had to take a local train which stopped every 5-10 minutes. There was a guy sitting down in the bike zone who refused to move until a Taiwanese cyclist yelled at him near the end of the journey. We were also standing right next to the bathroom and saw a feverish-looking guy vomit. This was January 2020 and we were just starting to hear about COVID, so kind of wild in retrospect.

shibu inu in taiwan
Regal doge.

We spent a few more days in Taipei before heading home, so we got to go to our old haunts minus the jet lag.

scallion pancake in taiwan
Scallion pancake, a favorite street food snack.

Final Thoughts

Taiwan was an amazing place to bicycle tour. The cities and night markets were a ton of fun, and there was also lots of beautiful nature to experience. The government has put a lot of time into making the country bike-friendly, and those extra amenities go a long way. We can’t wait until we’re able to go back to Asia!

7-11 in taiwan
It may be hard to believe, but 7-11s in Asia have amazing snacks and make a great bicycle touring pit stop.

Bicycle Touring Around Taiwan Video

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