If you’re a lover of warm weather, Taiwan is definitely the place for you. In the week I spent wandering around, Taipei stayed at an average of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) during the daytime, if not hotter.
If you’re more of a cold weather fan like me, signing up for such a warm climate can ensure you’ll spend most of your trip sweaty, tired, and in desperate need of ice-cold drinks on hand 24/7. With this in mind, I opted to get out of the city as much as possible during my stay.
Enter: Yangmingshan National Park.
The park, written as 陽明山國家公園 in Chinese characters, is a massive area home to forests, mountains, and all that other good nature-y stuff. It’s easily accessible from Taipei for a day trip, or you could opt to spend several days in the area. Know your own limits when going, because there are some hiking trails you should not attempt if you’re a beginner or just want to look at pretty things.
You can reach it from Taipei Station by getting on bus 260. The bus comes pretty regularly, so don’t worry if you happen to miss the one you wanted to get on! Most of these buses will go up to the entrance of Yangmingshan Park. However, three each day will take you further into the park, up to the Flower Clock, which otherwise would be a 20-30 minute walk from the entrance. Personally, I didn’t find it worth waiting; the walk was pleasant enough.
When you board the bus, you may be surprised to find a total lack of seats, save for the priority seats. Grab hold of the handrails and hold on tight; this bus will be winding up and around switchbacks to get you where you need to go!
Once you’re at the entrance, you’re presented with multiple options on where to go next. First, you could always take that walk toward the Flower Clock and beyond to some waterfalls. Or, alternatively, you could get on the in-park bus, the 108.
About the buses:
- Note that this bus does require you to pay every time you ride it. It runs from early in the morning, 7:00, to about 5:30 pm.
- These drivers will not wait for you! My friend and I were convinced that their goal was to loop around as many times as possible in the day, because a couple of times we saw folks trying to get on just as the doors were closing and the bus driver would refuse to let them board. So be waiting at the bus stop and do not hesitate to board once they open the doors.
- Timing can be unclear on these guys. The official website claims an average wait time of 15-20 minutes. While that’s likely true for the most part, this doesn’t take into account situations where the bus is already full. If the bus is at maximum capacity, they won’t bother to stop and you may have to wait 40 minutes for the next chance. Bring water, a hat, and some way to amuse yourself just in case.
What we did there:
Upon arrival, my friend and I immediately headed off for the Flower Clock and Datun Waterfall. The walk took about an hour in total, and we found it very pleasant. There was a lot of shade along the way, and plenty of hidden rest areas for picnicking. We spotted a couple of food stands along the way, but brought our lunch so we only stopped for an egg-shaped popcicle.
The Flower clock played a little tune every hour on the half hour, so for example at 11:30, 12:30, etc. Even though it was summer, it was lovely–I imagine it’s even better in spring!
Beyond that, though, I really liked the waterfall. Not only was it out of the way and quiet, but you could hang out on some large boulders right by it and dip your feet into the cool water while resting.
When we tired of the waterfall, my friend and I ducked back to the entrance and hopped on a bus. The bus route takes you to multiple spots, some of which apparently more famous than others. We opted to head to number 7, “little oil dig”, first. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We wandered around there for a good hour or two before wanting to move on. We admired the “Xiaoyoukeng Volcanic Landform”, walked along the Arrow Bamboo Trail, and checked out the view of nearby Mt. Qixing and Mt. Datun.
Note that there is an information center near the bus stop that has a screen showing estimated bus time arrivals, helpful staff, air conditioning, and a potable water fountain. If you’re running low on water, use it as a refill!
Our next stop on our adventure was number 10, Qingtiangang Grassland. This area had absolutely no shade, so at 4pm we could feel the sun beating down on our backs. Despite already wearing a hat and keeping hydrated, I felt the need to pull out an umbrella to give myself a break from the sun.
That said, it was gorgeous. The area used to hold cattle, but a sign will inform you that they can no longer be seen. You can, however, still see the Daling Ranch where the animals were once kept, and there are multiple paths to explore the area.
By the time we finished with the area, it was 5pm and we were exhausted from our day. Luckily for us, it just so happens that bus 15 from the city stops at the Grassland bus stop. This meant that we didn’t have to go back to the entrance and transfer; we could just get on and head all the way back to MRT Jiantan Station–handy, if you want to check out Shilin Night Market like we did!
Looking at the website, it feels like we barely touched the surface of what you can do in Yangmingshan National Park. It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s not overly crowded (at least on weekdays), and there are so many places to explore. We didn’t even go near the public baths, or the restaurants, or any other number of things. I’d go there again in a heartbeat, but keeping these things in mind:
- Bring: a hat, sunblock, bugspray, loads of water, and a cell phone just in case.
- Be patient: be prepared to wait a long time for buses, or bathrooms.
- Know your limits: before you go haring off on a hike, be honest with yourself and how well you’ll be able to handle the heat, the length of the hike, etc.
- Don’t go alone: while you can certainly enjoy the areas reachable by bus on your own, hiking alone is not recommended by the park authority.
Have you been to Yangmingshan? What did you see there and recommend?
Alternatively, how do you escape the city heat? What national parks have you been to that you enjoyed?