A beautiful island that has everything from snow-dusted peaks and steaming hot springs to wildlife-filled nature reserves and neon-drenched cities, Taiwan is shaping up to be one of the most popular destinations in Asia.
Foodies flock to Taipei to sample some of the world’s tastiest street foods (don’t leave without enjoying a bowl of beef noodle soup, Taiwan’s unofficial national dish), while nature lovers come to explore its national parks, sky-scraping mountains and spectacular coastline. Wondering about the best time to go to Taiwan? The good news is that because of its topography and size, there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit.
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Winters are relatively mild in this subtropical destination, and although light rainfall can occur throughout the year, these (usually short) precious rain showers are key to the lushness of Taiwan’s vibrant landscapes. Generally, September, October and November are the best times to explore the country’s great outdoors, while spring means endless opportunities to enjoy the stunning colors of nature and some of Taiwan’s top festivals.
November and December are fantastic times to explore cities like Taichung and Taipei. Remember that the further south you go, the warmer it will be, and don’t make the mistake of ruling out a winter getaway – winter in Taiwan is much less severe than in Japan or China. And the best bit? You’ll never be far from a steaming hot spring in which you can ward off any winter chills – although the downside is that rates at hot spring hotels are higher during the colder months. Luckily, this doesn’t apply to other types of accommodation, which often offer brilliant discounts at this time of year.
Enjoy the beauty of cherry blossom season without the intense crowds © Getty Images
Embrace flower power in January and February
Thought the cherry blossom displays in Japan were spectacular? Cherry blossom season in Taiwan is just as stunning, and we guarantee there’s less chance of a stray selfie stick working its way into your Sakura shots. Some of the best places to see cherry blossom displays are in and around Taiwan’s cities, and these floral extravaganzas are precisely why January and February are regarded by many as the best times to visit Taipei. Hot spots for cherry blossom displays here include the gardens surrounding the city’s temples, such as Taipei’s Wuji Tianyuan Temple, where meandering alleyways are lined with Yoshino cherry trees.
The start of the year (and winter in general) is also an ideal time to soak in a hot spring – visitors can ease aches and pains in over 150 hot springs in Taiwan. Some of the best are close to Taipei, although there are several hot spring resorts in Guguan, a mountainous area close to the city of Taichung, a 2.5-hour bullet train ride from Taipei. We recommend the Beitou hot springs near Taipei – great public transport connections mean they’re easily accessible and crowds will be thinner in January and February.
Explore the lush green tea plantations in Taiwan’s countryside © Getty Images / iStockphoto
Get a culture (and caffeine) fix between March and May
Springtime is all about nature in Taiwan. You’ll still see cherry blossoms in March and May, although it’s also a fantastic time to explore Taiwan’s more remote regions and coastal areas. Fancy a spot of pedal power? Consider exploring Taiwan by bike – temperatures are cooler than in summer, and the country’s national parks explode with color.
Spring is also a great time to visit Taiwan’s tea plantations (oolong is the most common variety produced here), which are at their lushest. Top tea destinations in Taiwan include Chiayi, Miaoli and Taoyuan. There are fantastic festivals throughout the year, although several of the most important indigenous celebrations take place in spring.
Our favorite? The Bunun tribe’s Ear-Shooting Festival in April or May (the exact date depends on the lunar calendar). This is when this indigenous group’s coming-of-age ceremonies take place. Men will head into the forests to hunt wild deer and an ear from the deer is then fixed to a wooden post. Young men will try to shoot the ear with an arrow – a symbolic act that represents the transfer of hunting knowledge to the group’s younger generations. Locals are happy for tourists to watch the ceremonies, most of which take place in and around rural villages in eastern Taiwan.
Explore Taiwan’s cities during the summer months
June, July and August are great times to visit Taiwan, especially its cities. These months can be hot and humid, which is why the Taiwanese (especially those living in urban areas) tend to migrate to the country’s coastline during this time.
Cities will be quieter and less crowded, and the abundance of museums, galleries and indoor attractions make it easier to escape any rainfall – this is technically monsoon season in Taiwan, although showers are typically short and sweet (bear in mind rainfall will be heaviest in southern Taiwan). We recommend booking ahead if visiting during these months, especially if you’re on a budget – hotel rates can increase by up to 50 percent during July and August (expect price hikes during the Chinese New Year, too).
When is typhoon season in Taiwan?
Typhoon season takes place between May and November. Also known as tropical cyclone season, typhoons are more likely during this time, but it’s worth noting that on average Taiwan is hit by an average of just 3.7 every year. The country’s infrastructure is more than capable of coping with these typhoons, and the vast majority only affect specific parts of the country.
The best approach is to keep an eye on weather forecasts and be flexible when it comes to plans. It’s worth bearing in mind that peak tourist season (between May and September) takes place during typhoon season – a reminder that Taiwan is still a fantastic destination to visit during these months.
August is the perfect month to take a hike through Yushan National Park © Getty Images / iStockphoto
Take a hike in August
During August, expect average lows of 28C and average highs of around 32C. It’s hot and humid, and a great time to escape the heat by heading to higher altitudes – to mountainous regions such as Yushan National Park, which has a network of walking trails. We also love the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail – it’s close to Taipei and the well-marked walking routes weave around various waterfalls, providing plenty of opportunities to cool off.
Embrace Autumn in Taiwan’s nature reserves
Taiwan’s autumn colors are spectacular – the thick swathes of forest in areas such as Nantou County’s Aowanda Forest Recreational Area (the highlight of which is its beautiful Maple Trail) transform into endless expanses of gold, red and ochre. Autumn is also a great time to sign up for a scenic train ride. We recommend bagging a seat on the Alishan Forest Railway – a century-old steam train that chugs through the forests and mountains surrounding Chiayi County, in south-western Taiwan. Another reason to visit during September and October? It’s shoulder season, when rates you’ll pay significantly less for midweek hotel stays.