If you follow us on Instagram, you have probably heard the news: we’re now based in Tainan, Taiwan! It’s a city on Taiwan’s southwest coast, well-known for its centuries-old fortresses and temples and it’s our first visit here, although we have explored Taiwan in the past. We’ll be staying here until the end of 2018 and who knows where we head next.
Since we have been here, we’ve noticed the island of Taiwan isn’t exactly a travel hot-spot. Generally speaking, you can ask anyone if they know anything about the place they would most likely come up short. Heck – the vast majority of people are unlikely to be able to point to it on a map!
For those who’d like to know, it’s a little island roughly the same size as the Netherlands, located about 100 miles off the coast of southern China. It’s bustling, silicone-chip capital is Taipei, a heady mix of ancient and modern lifestyle and architecture.
Historically known as Formosa, Taiwan has a surprising number of interesting sights and attractions, and with a beautiful, mountainous topography, it can be a photographer’s dream. Since we’ve spent a long time in China and explored its island neighbour, and they’re here to give you the skinny on some top sights at which to point your camera lens.
#1 The Taipei 101 and Skyline
Undoubtedly the modern symbol of Taiwan, the Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa stole top spot in 2010. The iconic skyscraper dominates the Taipei skyline from almost everywhere you look, but it’s best viewed from the nearby Elephant Mountain, which is a great location to take fantastic photographs of the whole city.
It’s best viewed at night when the cityscape lights up, but it’s enjoyable to make the moderate hike up at any time of day. Just don’t forget your tripod if you want a really good night-shot!
#2 The Sun Moon Lake
Located almost in the heart of the island just over three hours drive from the capital, you’ll find this picture postcard lake. It’s the largest body of water in the country and if you time it right and are blessed with good conditions, you could well snap one of the best photographs of your trip.
There’s an undeniable air of mystery about this beautiful spot, nestled in the foothills of the Nantou mountains. The area is also home to the indigenous Thao tribe, but make sure you respectfully ask for permission before taking photographs of them.
Heading north and at the very tip of the island is this geological cape, with its distinctive and unusual rock formations carved from the sea. Strange shapes have been eroded down through the centuries, creating a unique landscape from hard and soft rock.
The Geopark is an extremely popular day trip to get you out of the big city while being a great location to take some distinctive shots. Don’t miss the iconic “Queen’s Head” rock formation – a big tourist draw in these parts.
#4 Jiufen Teahouses
One of Taiwan’s most famous and visited regions is the charming mountain town of Jiufen, which has an air of magic about its tiny, clustered streets. Everywhere you turn there’s a kodak moment, but it’s the city’s teahouses that are particularly photogenic.
Such was the influence of the town’s mystical aura it became the inspiration for the setting in the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. As such, scores of visitors (and photographers) now flock to this once declining former mining town.
#5 Rainbow Village, Taipei
If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your photographs then you’ve come to the right place! The Rainbow Village is a fascinating curiosity located in a district of Taipei. It used to be a military settlement, but a local man and former soldier decided to brighten up the place by painting the houses. He then got seriously carried away!
Now the region attracts locals and tourists alike to marvel at the colorful streets and dwellings, which have been saved from demolishing thanks to his artistic talents.
#6 Taroko National Park
One of nine national parks in the country where countless photographic opportunities abound, Taroko Gorge is arguably the most famous and attractive to tourists. Although there are options to day trip from Taipei, if you really want to explore the region you should be booking accommodation in the area.
You’ll be dazzled with stunning mountain vistas, dramatic gorges and thundering rivers, and it’s the perfect region for avid hikers. Make sure you take the Swallow Grotto trail for the best experience.
#7 Maokong Mountain
If you’re into drinking tea as well as taking photographs (everybody should be really) then this is the spot for you. Maokong mountain is reached by a scenic gondola just outside the capital and it used to be the city’s largest tea-growing region.
Today there’s still a thriving tea culture as well as some of the best spots to view the whole city. There’s also some excellent hiking and camping to be had in the region, so pack your gear and go for a couple of days. You won’t be running out of tea anytime soon, that’s for sure!
Taiwan is a really diverse little country that packs a lot in considering its size. The locals are an extremely friendly bunch too, so don’t be afraid to ask around for the best locations to fire off that shutter. You’re likely to come home with some really beautiful pictures and a memorable experience in this seriously underrated country.
Let us know your thoughts on Taiwan – where would you like to visit?