This 3-Week Lonely Planet Taiwan travel itinerary served as our general guide.
Start with a few days in Taipei to see the sights and catch the groove of this dynamic Asian capital. It has the best Chinese art collection in the world, a thriving street food and coffee scene, a living folk-art heritage, and some world-class cycling and hiking in Wulai and other on-the-doorstep locations.
Then hop a train to Hualien and spend two days wandering the bedazzling marble-walled Taroko Gorge. More scenic delights await down Hwy 9, which runs through the lush Rift Valley. Take a train to Yuli and hike the nearby Walami Trail, an old patrol route running deep into subtropical rainforest, then recuperate at Antong Hot Springs.
Next, head to Taitung and catch a flight or ferry to Lanyu, an enchanting tropical island with pristine coral reefs and a unique indigenous culture.
Back on the mainland, another train ride – across Taiwan’s fertile southern tip – takes you to Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s buzzing second-largest city. For beaches or scootering along beautiful coastline, head down to Kenting National Park.
In winter take a two-day side trip to Maolin Recreation Area, home of Rukai aborigines and where millions of purple butterflies await spring. Continue by train up the coast to the old capital of Tainan for a couple of days of temple touring and snacking on local delicacies.
Rent a car or scooter for the drive up the winding Dongshan Coffee Road then spend the evening in rare mud hot springs in Guanziling.
The following day continue up into the wild expanse of mountain ranges in the Alishan National Scenic Area. Check out sunset and sunrise, then hike around Tatajia in the shadow of Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain.
The drive from Yushan to Sun Moon Lake the following morning passes some sublime high-mountain scenery and should be taken slowly. At the lake, stop to sample oolong tea and maybe catch a boat tour.
Heading north, fans of traditional arts and crafts will enjoy the following day’s stops in Lukang, home to master lantern, fan and tin craftsmen; Sanyi, Taiwan’s woodcarving capital; and Yingge, a town devoted to ceramics.
Source: Lonely Planet Guidebooks: Lonely Planet Taiwan.