With stunning landscapes and highly developed infrastructure, Taiwan makes for the perfect destination for cycling. This tiny country in East Asia offers more than 3000 roads dedicated for cyclists. And that is something!
Even after living in Taiwan for two years, I still come back to pursue the many adventures that this island has to offer. During my recent trip, I embarked on a 900-kilometer trip around the island. Cycling in Taiwan is an extraordinary experience, and a way to experience the country from an entirely different angle.
Related read: Adventures to Enjoy in Taiwan
The best months to do cycling in Taiwan are September to December and March to May. Summer is simply too hot. Most people start their trip in Taipei and then continue to the East Coast.
There are at least 12 reasons you should go cycling in Taiwan:
01 | Amazing scenery
Mountains, rugged coastlines and waterfalls — Taiwan offers an awfully large amount of natural beauty concentrated in a compact space. The area of Taiwan is roughly equivalent to half of the Czech Republic – and my country is already considered small
The island is very green; two thirds of the area is covered by forested mountains. With changing landscapes and places of interest every few kilometers, cycling trips never get boring.
No matter whether you are hardcore cyclist ready to challenge the high mountains or you are simply searching for some leisurely day trips, Taiwan offers something for everyone.
02 | Riding Along Rice Paddies
Taiwan offers a variety of landscapes to cyclists, but there is one place like no other: the serene East Rift Valley, a fairy tale land of picturesque rice paddies stretching south from Hualien.
The valley is flanked by mountains on both sides, making the scenery different than anywhere else in Taiwan. It reaches perfection around The Bolang Dadao (伯朗大道), one of valley’s most photographed roads.
Many cycling roads in the East Rift Valley are for bicycles only, so there is no need to worry about cars. For example, the dedicated cycling path around the quaint town of Guanshan was the first dedicated cycling path in all of Taiwan. These kinds of paths offer the the perfect mix of freedom and serenity.
If you are interested in visiting an amazing lagoon called Mukumugi, See my article here.
03 | Popular cycling culture
Cycling is a part of the culture in Taiwan, the country that has produced Giant, one of the world’s best bicycle brands. This sport got widely popular in 2005, when “cycling fever” spreading around the island. By now, pretty much everyone in Taiwan loves cycling.
Getting on two wheels, one automatically gains respect from Taiwanese people. They cheer you on and support you. I experienced this many times during my big cycling trip: people would stop their car, roll down the window and shout “Go go go!”
The great thing is that they always try to be helpful, such as when you ask for directions or need to repair something on your bike. There aren’t many countries where you can get so much support. Taiwanese people are simply biker-friendly and love foreigners.
04| Taipei – Asia’s cycling metropolis
Believe it or not, Taipei is the best metropolis in Asia for cycling. Taiwan’s capital offers extensive infrastructure for cyclists. I’m speaking of a network of hundreds of kilometers of cycling roads dedicated exclusively to cyclists and walkers.
Most popular cycling roads are located along rivers and surrounded by greenery including nature parks and amazing mangrove forests. It is possible to cross the city from south to north in just two hours. The trip starts in Muzha and ends in Tamsui.
Heading to Taipei? Check out my other post featuring the best hostels in Taipei.
05| Convenience of Getting Around
Renting a bike in Taiwan is easy and affordable: there are a lot of bike shops especially in Taipei, Kaohsiung and on the East Coast.
When renting a bike for multiple days, I recommend hiring from Giant Bicycles. It costs NTD 1200 (USD 38) for three days and 200 NTD (USD 6) every extra day.
Travelling in Taiwan is easy, and you can always return by train – many of them have half of an entire carriage converted for bike storage only. For longer excursions around the island, you can consider an organized tour (I did my 900 km trip with Giant Adventures).
06| East Coast is a cycling paradise
Most cities in Taiwan are located along the west coast, leaving the eastern part rather untouched.
With cycling roads along the stunning Pacific coast and small towns where life is enjoyed at a very slow pace (the speed limit going through most towns is 70 km per hour), no wonder the East Coast has become the most popular place to go cycling in Taiwan.
A trip from Hualien to Taitung can be completed in 3 days; basically it’s 180 kilometers of awesomeness. If you have time, make sure to visit Taroko National Park, the prettiest national park in Taiwan. Here cycling roads are a little narrow, so you can consider switching to a scooter or bus for half a day.
07| Rejuvenate your muscles in hot springs
During my trip around Taiwan I had to pedal 100 kilometers each day. How did I survive this? Hot springs were definitely one of my secrets: Nearly every day once the cycling was finished, I soaked my muscles in the hot, healing water. It just felt so good!
Taiwanese people love soaking in hot springs; it’s a deeply rooted cultural practice picked up from the Japanese. And Taiwan has a geologically active landscape, so there is a full range of options found throughout the island.
The ultimate must-do is visiting a wild hot spring surrounded by nature. My favorite is definitely Wenshan Hot Spring, inside Taroko National Park.
08| King of the Mountain
If you love a challenge, there is really good news: you can win as much as 30,000 USD. Leading up to the steep Central Mountain Range, King of the Mountain is one of the most difficult cycling races in Asia.
Starting at Qixingtan beach near Hualien, cyclists climb via breathtaking Taroko Gorge to a 3,275-meter peak in Wuling, the highest point in Taiwan accessible by public road.
The course covers 105 kilometers, and last year’s winner did it under 3 hours. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
9| Pedal around Taiwan’s prettiest lake
If you are planning a trip to Central Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a great spot for cycling. It even made the list of “Most spectacular cycling routes” around the world published by CNN.
The shorter route is 12 kilometers, while the longer circuit is 29 kilometers. Make sure to do it before sunset – once I got stuck out late and realized that there was no public lighting.
With mountains surrounding the lake and creating a natural amphitheater, Sun Moon Lake is said to be the prettiest lake in Taiwan. It also has a special importance for Taiwanese people – it is home to one of the oldest, and currently most threatened aboriginal tribes.
10| Tastes from around Asia
They say that when cycling, you burn a lot of fat. Or at least, you should. Many friends expected I would return skinny after cycling so many kilometers. But here is the truth: I actually gained weight. It was only about 2-3 kilograms, but still.
Taiwanese food is influenced by many other Asian cuisines, and I couldn’t help devouring many of my old favorites during my trip, including oyster omelet and green onion cakes. I even ate chicken served with bones.
So, if you go, please try to control yourself. Or rather, don’t bother, and just enjoy!
11| Summer in the winter
Taiwan is one of those places where you can escape from the European cold. Autumn has always been my favorite season on the island.
During my cycling trip we got several light showers, but all in all it was awesome weather for November. While in Czech republic it was freezing cold, I still had to apply sunscreen every now and then. In Kaohsiung it was even 30 degrees at one point!
The south of Taiwan is always several degrees warmer than the north, and the winters are drier, with lots of sunshine.
12| So. Many. Temples.
Cycling in Taiwan, one encounters temples everywhere. Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian – and most of them a combination of religions, temples are simply part of the culture. In total, there are 15,000 of them in Taiwan.
Interestingly, they are the center of social life – in cities, they are very lively and many religious festivals are held there. I experienced one such event in the Matsu temple in Taichung and it was a really interesting atmosphere, with all the people around.
Definitely, they are great places to observe the local people and get a sense of the culture in Taiwan.
DO YOU LIKE CYCLING? HAVE YOU CYCLED ABROAD?
Well, 900 kilometers in just 9 days was a bit extreme. Yet, I feel like cycling is a great way to explore a place and observe the scenery changing. Do you sometimes do cycling on your trips? Or what form of transportation do you prefer? I am curious where you guys have cycled.
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Veronika Tomanova is a Czech journalist, the founder and publisher of VeronikasAdventure.com, a travel blog focusing on the best adventure activities from all over the globe (30 countries and still counting). She is not hesitating to push her limits and loves to inspire others to do it, too. Follow Veronika on Facebook and Instagram.