When the Portuguese first landed on Taiwan in 1590, they named it ‘Ilha Formosa’ (beautiful island’) and were not wrong. Taiwan is, despite its size, an incredibly beautiful and naturally rich country. Most of Taiwan’s population lives along its sprawling coastline, while the centre of the country is filled with dense forest. Within these forests lives the Formosan black bear, a symbol of the country and the only bear species native to the country. Taiwan is also the ‘butterfly kingdom’, thanks to the 400 species that call the small island their home. In the past, Taiwan exported their butterflies; however, now authorities are more focused on conserving the species.
Taiwan lies in the Ring of Fire, an area of the world where earthquakes are frequent. Taiwan can experience more than 1000 earthquakes every year. A unique local quirk in Taiwan is the use of the word ‘no’. Seen as rude, locals will instead say ‘maybe’. Tradition is huge in Taiwan, and there are many festivals to get involved with when visiting. In August, the seventh month in the Taiwanese lunar calendar, ghosts rush out of the gates of hell during the Hungry Ghost Festival. Offerings of money, food and drinks are left out for the spirits to feast on.
Taiwan is an incredible country to visit despite the ongoing tensions with China. It has the largest collection of Chinese art globally, the most hot springs outside of Japan, and the Taiwanese invented bubble tea. With a lot to love, and even more to explore, here are 20 natural, historical and famous landmarks in Taiwan to help you plan for your adventure.
- 20 Taiwan Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks in Taiwan
- Historical Landmarks in Taiwan
20 Taiwan Landmarks
Natural Landmarks in Taiwan
The majority of Taiwan’s population lives in congested coastal cities, leaving nature to take over the centre of the country.
Shei-Pa is a national park within the central mountain range of Taiwan.
Shei-Pa covers 75,000 ha of forests, mountains and river origins.
The highest mountain within the range is Xueshan at 3886m (12,749ft) high.
The park is also home to the origin of the Danshui River, where its waters have carved out spectacular valleys.
Shei-Pa, due to its size and varying altitudes, has created several ecosystems that support a range of plant and animal life.
One particular animal of note is the national animal of Taiwan, the Formosan Black Bear.
The Formosan Black Bear is an endangered species that is protected by the park.
Shei-Pa is at 364, Taiwan, Miaoli County, Dahu Township, 100號.
Translating to ‘Dragon Cave’, Longdong is a geological marvel in north-eastern Taiwan and a must-visit natural landmark.
Longdong resembles a sleeping dragon resting on the water.
The bay Longdong is located in has crystal clear waters making it a popular destination for divers and snorkelling.
The cliff itself is well worth a hike to the top for spectacular views and interesting geological features along its 2 km (1.2 mile) cliff face.
The cliff face is formed from coarse quartz conglomerate, which appears here in a range of different colours adding to the magic of this natural landmark.
Longdong is at 228, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Gongliao District.
3- Queen’s Head Rock
Another of Taiwan’s geological wonders is Yehliu GeoPark, which has many unusual rock formations creating an otherworldly experience for visitors.
The park runs along a 1.7 kilometre (1 mile) cape close to the town of Wanli.
The rocks are all limestone eroded by the wind, rain and the sea.
Many of the larger rock formations have curious names like Queens Head, which appears to form the shape of a queen when viewed from a certain angle.
Other unusual formations within Yehliu Geo Park include Elephant Rock and Ice Cream Rock.
Yehliu Geo Park is at 207, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Wanli District, 港東路167-1號.
4- Fireflies at Rueili
The mountain town of Rueili is filled with tea plantations, quaint B&B’s and splendid walks through the countryside.
It is not its famous plantations nor its daytime beauty that makes Rueili a stand out destination and must-visit landmark. Instead, Rueili is most famous for its fireflies.
There are a variety of firefly species that live there, and that can be seen year-round.
Swarms of fireflies, making for magical photographs, can be seen between March and June.
As the skies and landscape surrounding Rueili are almost entirely dark at night, the fireflies shine brightly through the darkness.
See the fireflies at Rueili in Meishan Township, Chiayi County, Taiwan 603.
5- Penghu Blue Cave
Penghu Blue Cave is a mesmerising natural landmark in Taiwan.
The blue cave lies on an uninhabited islet called Xiji.
The waters surrounding the cave are part of the South Penghu Marine National Park which protects the cave and the surrounding waters.
The Blue Cave is comprised of basalt columns which are common in Penghu.
The caves get their name thanks to an opening in the cave’s ceiling.
When light shines through onto the basalt walls and the water below, the cave is lit up in a blue light that shimmers off the walls as the water moves.
While it is currently unsafe to enter the cave, and those who do risk a heavy fine, boat trips still head over to Penghu Blue Cave with visitors able to see inside the cave from its entranceway.
Penghu Blue Cave is at 882, Taiwan, Penghu County, Wang’an Township.
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6- Taroko Gorge and Qingshui Cliffs
Taroko Gorge and Qingshui Cliffs are the most famous natural landmark in Taiwan, and therefore a must-visit.
Tokoro Gorge is vast and was created as the Liwu River carved out the marble of the surrounding cliffs over hundreds of thousands of years.
The gorge is the worlds deepest marble canyon.
Qingshui Cliffs near the gorge have an almost vertical 1000m (3280ft) drop into the Pacific Ocean below and continue to drop well beneath the surface of the water.
One of the best ways to see both Taroko Gorge and Qingshui Cliffs is from the water on a canoe or boat tour.
The cliffs are also popular with hikers.
Taroko Gorge and Qingshui Cliffs is at 972, Taiwan, Hualien County, Xiulin Township.
7- Yangming Mountain
Yangming Mountain is an active volcano that, unlike other mountainous volcanoes, is more reminiscent of a hill.
This grassy covered mountain is a beautiful spot for a picnic and hike.
The area around the mountain has trees that bloom pink with cherry blossoms, hot springs and peaceful fields.
There are many hiking options available up to Yangming Mountain, one of the best being the Tianmu Trail.
The Tianmu Trail features a 100 step stairway leading up the mountain with incredible views over the valleys.
Yangming Mountain is in Taipei City, Beitou District.
8- Beitou Hot Springs
Taiwan is famed for its abundance of hot springs, and Beitou Hot Springs stands out as it is easily accessible by metro.
Beitou sits at the foot of Yangmingshan, a mountainous region of Taiwan.
Surrounding the springs themselves is a lush valley that is fed by the thermal waters.
There are over 1200 species of plants and 160 species of butterflies.
The hot springs started being used for commercial purposes during the Japanese occupation.
The area surrounding the springs was transformed into a must-visit destination and included hotels, restaurants and parks.
Today there is an eco-friendly public library, many restaurants, a museum dedicated to the springs and a pool inside a crater.
Beitou Hot Springs is at No 6. Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City, Taiwan 112.
9- Shifen Waterfall
Cascading over a 20m (65ft) drop and is 40m (131ft) wide, Shifen Waterfall is Taiwan’s most famous waterfall.
The waterfall has been eroded into a horseshoe shape often seen in wider waterfalls.
Due to its form, locals have nicknamed it “Little Niagara of Taiwan”.
The waterfall is a spectacular natural landmark of Taiwan at any time of the year.
It’s surrounded by woodland, which completely changes the landscape as the leaves move from greens to orange according to the season.
The waterfall has many natural viewing areas and pleasant walks in the woodland surrounding it.
Shifen Waterfall is at No. 10 Gankeng Road, Nanshan Village, Pingxi, New Taipei 226.
10- Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake is a natural alpine lake nestled in the centre of Taiwan with a small island named Lalu.
The lake was named because of the shape of the shores.
The east side of the lake and its shoreline resembles a sun, and the western side resembles the moon.
Sun Moon Lake is also the largest body of water in Taiwan.
The lake is 27m (89ft) deep and covers nearly 8 square kilometres (3 square miles).
Surrounding the lake are many hiking trails, some of which take a loop around the entire lake.
Sun Moon Lake is at Zhongshan Road, Yuchi Township, Yuchi 555.
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Historical Landmarks in Taiwan
11- Chimei Museum
Chimei Museum was inspired by Ancient Greek architecture and houses a collection that Forbes magazine describes as ‘the most surprising art collection in Asia’.
The entire collection at Chimei is privately owned by Shi Wen-Long, who founded Chi Mei Corporation, which lends its name to the museum.
Wen-Long grew up disadvantaged and wanted to give something back to the people of Taiwan to allow local children and adults alike to be immersed in world cultures.
Housed inside its grand architecture are fine arts collections, musical instruments, natural history, armour and antiquities.
Wen-Long is an amateur violinist with a passion for the instrument and its history so, unsurprisingly, the museum houses the worlds largest violin collection.
Chimei Museum is at No. 66, Sec 2, Wenhua Rd, Rende, Tainan 71755.
12- Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum is an educational and cultural museum and a must-visit historical landmark.
Fo Guang Shan is the largest Buddhist organisation in Taiwan.
The museum sits next to the monastery and headquarters of Fo Guang Shan.
The museum houses many important relics of the organisation, including Sakyamuni Buddha’s tooth, who founded Buddhism.
By the front hall of the museum are a series of giant white elephants and lions.
The animals are symbolic of the conception of Prince Siddhartha.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum is at No. 1號, Tongling Road, Dashu District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 84049.
13- Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
A stunning historical landmark in Taiwan and one that draws in visitors from all over the world is the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas.
Built-in 1951, the towers and the Lotus Pond, an artificial pond that the towers sit on, comprises seven floors, each ornately decorated in yellow, red and orange.
A large dragon sculpture fronts one tower and a large tiger sculpture the other; each forms the entrance to the towers through the creatures mouths.
Adorning their respective towers are different sculptures and symbols linking either to dragons or tigers.
This is certainly a unique landmark that should not be missed when visiting Taiwan.
Dragon and Tiger Pagodas is at No. 9號, Liantan Road, Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 813.
14- Longshan Temple
Settlers from Fujian built Longshan Temple in Taipei in 1738.
The temple was formed as a Chinese folk temple and acted as a place of worship and meeting place for Chinese settlers.
Longshan translates to ‘dragon mountain’, and many figures of dragons and other creatures important in the culture are seen on the temple’s roof.
Inside are hundreds of statues from Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian religions.
The walls are adorned with detailed paintings, and to protect the temple are carved stone statues of mythical creatures.
Longshan Temple is at 108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 富民里.
15- Fort Zeelandia
The Dutch East India company took 10 years to build the fortress (between 1624 and 1634), which was used by the Dutch during their 38-year rule over Taiwan.
Rather than being used solely for military purposes, Fort Zeelandia was primarily used as a business centre where the nations discussed trade deals between Asia and Europe.
The fort was besieged in 1661 as Ming-dynasty loyalists attacked and 2000 men protected the fortress against the loyalists 25,000.
As a result of the siege, which lasted a surprising nine months, the Dutch surrendered when they ran out of fresh water and realised that no one from their homeland was coming to their aid.
The fort is now a museum to the fort’s history and the siege that pushed the Dutch out.
Fort Zeelandia is at No. 82, Guosheng Rd, Anping District, Tainan City, Taiwan 708.
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16- Red House
Kondo Juro, a Japanese architect, built the Red House in 1908 as the first public market built by the government.
The Red House has also been used as a cinema and bookshop. More recently, Red House has been renovated and is considered the best-preserved Class-III historic building in Taiwan.
Today the building shows theatrical performances in its upstairs theatre and boasts two floors of craft stalls and a small cafe.
Red House is at 10 Chengdu Road, Wanhua Dist., Wanhua, Taipei, Taiwan.
17- National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum houses one of the most significant collections of ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks in the world.
The building has a permanent collection of 700,000 objects which spans more than 8000 years of Chinese history.
Many of the objects within the museum were collected by Chinese emperors for their collections while in power.
Notable items on display within the museum include Mao Gong Ding, a cauldron of Duke Mao, which has dated back to 1046-771BCE.
The cauldron is covered in Chinese bronze inscriptions.
There are also numerous rare books from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties.
National Palace Museum is at No.221, Sec.2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin Dist, Shilin, Taipei 11143 Taiwan.
18- Confucius Temple
Confucius Temple was built in 1879, demolished during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, and Wang Yi-Shun rebuilt the temple in 1930.
The temple was designed in the style of a Confucius Temple in Qufu, and the exterior decorated with southern Fujian-style ceramics, making it stand out against more traditional temples.
Confucius Temple is at No.275, Dalong St., Datong District, Taipei City 103.
19- CKS Memorial Hall
A famous and historical must-visit landmark in Taiwan is the CKS Memorial Hall.
The hall was constructed in honour of Chiang Kai-Shek, who passed away in 1975.
Within the memorial hall are relics and photos that document the hall’s construction from its design to the final brick being laid.
The memorial hall sits within a 25 ha park featuring Chinese gardens and ponds filled with fish.
The memorial is beautifully decorated with Chinese-style windows, archways and welcome, cooling corridors to explore to escape the heat.
CKS Memorial Hall is at No.21, Zhongshan S.Rd., Zhongzheng Dist.,Taipei City 100011
20- Lin Family Mansion
The Lin Ben Yuan family built the Lin Family Mansion in 1851 as the family residence.
The mansion is famous mainly for its beautiful architecture, gardens, and Taiwanese culture collections it houses.
The gardens are filled with ponds, an extensive collection of plants, both native and non-native, and a series of smaller buildings, including pagodas.
The home is intricately decorated with windows shaped like butterflies and fans.
The Lin Family Mansion is the most significant surviving example of architecture in Taiwan from the 19th century.
Lin Family Mansion is at No.9, Ximen St., Banqiao District, Banqiao, New Taipei 22056.