Perhaps you are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path in Taiwan on your visit to the beautiful island. Sure, you have gotten your big city feel in Taipei, but maybe you want to hit the spa, enjoy the countryside, and slow down for a few days. A perfect weekend getaway from many local Taiwanese people and now increased tourism from Japan and Mainland China has put Yilan on the map for many. I highly recommend taking a short trip to Yilan, a city east of Taipei across the mountains. Don’t forget to bring your swimming trunks and caps!
To get to Yilan, you have multiple options from train, bus, renting a car, and even taking a taxi is an option. I am a fan of taking public transportation to experience what the local people see and the scenery along the way is nice!
TRAIN: This last time in Taiwan, I took the train from Taipei to Yilan and the bus back to Taipei. The train was the most popular option before the Hsuehshan Tunnel opened in 2006 (essentially, a lot of mountain driving, which took forever before this miracle tunnel), but I would recommend a similar travel path to enjoy the slower moving train along the northern coast of Taiwan. The timetable and cost can be found at the Taiwan Railways Administration webpage. To purchase a ticket, go to either the Banqiao or Taipei Railway Station and go to the counter to purchase a ticket. A ticket will cost ~200 TWD, so about 8-9 USD. On the train, reminiscent of old time Taiwan, servers sell bento boxes and snacks (essentially a Taiwanese lunch box) to customers. The food is so-so if you ask me, but the whole experience is quite fun.
BUS: The Kamalan Bus is one of the most common ways to get from Taipei to Yilan due to its frequency and being the most affordable way to get there. The fares are very reasonable to get to Yilan ranging from 100-150 TWD (roughly 3-5 USD). Go to either the Taipei Bus Station or Banqiao Transfer Station to acquire your ticket from the ticket booth and then hop on the bus to Yilan. If you want to take the bus back from Yilan, your best bet is to either go to the Luodong Station, Yilan Transfer Station, or Jiaosi Station to hop on the bus back to Taipei.
DO: From the title of the blog, you probably want to go to a hot spring a little north of the Yilan city in Jiaosi. Also note that Taiwanese people do love the water extra hot because the hot water supports and improves blood circulation. If you see a lot of people with their whole feet or legs dipped in the water, take caution and look at the temperature typically posted on the side. It’s not for the faint of heart since the water can go up to around 45-50 degrees Celsius (for people in the US, that’s 113-122 degrees Fahrenheit!)
In Jiaosi, you can find a very high end hotel to a lower end hostel to fit anybody’s budget. Luckily, TripAdvisor has some great recommendations by the community. You can get the whole spa treatment and hot springs soak.
Lanyang Museum is also a fabulous place to visit to see. From Yilan, it is a quick taxi ride (~20 minutes), but it’s architectural structure is nothing like I have seen before. Inside the museum, you can learn about the history of Taiwan from the history of the aboriginal people, the geological formation of Taiwan, and more. It is quite an informative museum and I highly recommend the museum for anybody who wants to learn about Taiwan. Walking around the grounds of the Lanyang Museum is also refreshing. If you look into the distance into the Pacific Ocean, you will see another island called Turtle Island. Named after its shape for looking like a turtle, it is Taiwan’s only active volcano and can actually be visited and details can be found here.
I have to say that I am a huge fan of theabcchef and their journey to Yilan area! This past time I sadly did not get to go to the Luodong Night Market, but I have to say they hit the head on a lot of the famous eats in Yilan.
There is a popular bakery in Yilan and that bakery is Cake Nobel. They are famous for their Swiss Rolls, but honestly, their product is quite delicious. To preface, a lot of Taiwanese people have now popularized bakeries and now have become a very cosmopolitan way of life. The pastries are often less sweet and spongier than it is in the United States, but it is definitely worth the try and I find the baked goods to be quite delicious!
My other favorite to get in Yilan is pork belly buns. A popular Taiwanese snack, I find the ones in Yilan to be superb, even though they can be found across the entire island. Maybe it’s the peanut, maybe it’s the pickled mustard greens, perfectly cooked pork belly, or the soft bun to wrap it all in, I have to say this is always a treat for me to get in Yilan.
So take the weekend away from Taipei and head over to Yilan like the locals. Sometimes we need to slow down a little bit in life and enjoy the greenery, mountainside, and a weekend at the spa!