If you are looking for a great cycle touring destination in Asia, go cycling in Taiwan!
This small island seems to have been built for bicycle travel: top quality roads with large bicycle lanes, bike shops in most towns, an impressive network of cycling paths, great food, beautiful scenery, varied terrain and most importantly super friendly people.
I did a 12-day cycling trip in Taiwan with my husband in January 2019 and we were super impressed by this cycling-friendly island. In this article I share all of my tips and advice to help you plan your Taiwan bike tour.
How to get there
If you are coming to Taiwan from abroad, you will most likely fly into Taipei, Taiwan’s capital.
Taipei is a vibrant metropolis with lots to explore. Unless you are on a tight schedule I would definitely recommend spending a day or two in Taipei. There are many Buddhist temples to visit, night markets with local delicacies and even hiking trails (go up Elephant Mountain for a great view of the city!).
Cycling in Taiwan: when to go?
Summers are very hot and humid in Taiwan – so not ideal for cycling. The monsoon season lasts approximately between May and September, which means frequent rain showers and thunderstorms.
The best months for cycling in Taiwan are November, December, January and February. During those autumn and winter months the temperatures range between 19 and 27 ºC (66-80 ºF) during the day and between 14 and 22 ºC (57-72 ºF) during the night. There is also less rain during this period. However, rain showers in Taiwan are common all year round so come prepared in terms of gear.
I would also avoid planning your cycling trip over Chinese New Year as the roads tend to be busier during that holiday period.
Cycling routes in Taiwan
The west coast of Taiwan is very densely populated. This is where the majority of the Taiwanese population lives and works. The east coast is the quiet part of the island. There are no large cities on the east coast. Just small towns, fishing villages, farms and a lot of open space. Between the busy west coast and the quiet, less-populated east coast there are steep mountain ranges and a number of National Parks.
Our itinerary: Taiwan East Coast
We cycled the East Coast of Taiwan from Taipei to Kaohsiung via Taroko National Park. We gave ourselves lots of time to be able to explore and do some sightseeing along the way.
- Day 1: Taipei to Luodong (96km)
- Day 2: Luodong to Fushoushan Farm (90km)
- Day 3: Fushoushan Farm to Taroko Gorge (89km)
- Day 4 (day off cycling): Hiking in Taroko National Park (0km)
- Day 5: Taroko Gorge to Liyu Lake (69km)
- Day 6: Liyu Lake to Shitiping (82km)
- Day 7: Shipping to Dulan Forest (89km)
- Day 8: Dulan Forest to Dawu (76km)
- Day 9: Dawu to Gangkou Beach (85km)
- Day 10: Gangkou Beach to Hengchun (61km)
- Day 11: Hengchun to Kaohsiung (101km)
Other route options
Another popular cycle touring route option in Taiwan is a round-island tour following the coast. This can be done by following a dedicated cycling route called Route No.1 . The length of the loop is about 940km and most cyclists complete it in 8-12 days.
If you plan to cycle a loop of Taiwan, I would recommend cycling down the east coast first before heading up the west coast. That will give you time to get used to cycling in Taiwan before hitting the higher traffic roads on the west coast.
A few other things to consider when planning your Taiwan cycle route
- If you plan to cycle from Taipei to Yilan, keep in mind that bicycles are not allowed on Highway No. 5. Instead, you can take the much quieter provincial highway 9. It is relatively hilly but the roads are super quiet and the scenery is beautiful.
- If possible, avoid the Suhua Highway between Su’ao and Hualien. It is very narrow with heavy, fast traffic and limited space for bicycles. Instead, you can take the train to Hualien or cycle inland via Taroko National Park. Unless you really don’t like hills I would definitely recommend the later option. Taroko National Park is stunning!
- If you are planning on cycling the east coast I would recommend cycling north. Just because that way you will be on the coast-side of the road when you cycle so you will get a better view of the ocean :-).
- If you want to fly in and out of Taipei but you only want to cycle the east coast (and not do a full loop) there is a great railway network in Taiwan. You could for example get a high-speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung (which takes less than 2 hours) and then cycle from Kaohsiung back to Taipei.
- There are some serious climbs in the mountainous areas in the centre of the island. If you are planning to cycle through the mountains, be sure to factor in sufficient time.
Cycling in Taiwan: which type of bike?
The road conditions in Taiwan are excellent so you don’t need a bike that is able to handle off-road or rough conditions. Any type of touring bike will do. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you are planning on heading into the mountains, make sure your bike has sufficient low gears to help you get up those steep hills :-).
Bike hire options
We brought our own bikes on the plane. Most airlines actually allow you to replace your normal baggage allowance by a bicycle for free as long as it is packed up in a box and below a certain weight. But check your airline’s baggage allowance conditions to be sure.
If you want to avoid the hassle of packing up and transporting your bike you can easily rent a bike in Taiwan. There are many bike rental shops in Taipei, in Taitung (on the east coast), in Kaohsiung and in most other towns on the west coast. The Giant bike rental shops allow their customers to pick up their bike in one Giant shop and drop it off in a different city which is a great option if you want to do a point-to-point route rather than a loop route.
For more detailed information on how to rent a bike in Taiwan, have a look at this website, it goes over all the practical details around bike rental in Taiwan.
Cycling in Taiwan: what to pack?
A few things to keep in mind when you are packing for your bike trip in Taiwan:
- Bring a rain jacket. Rain showers are relatively frequent in Taiwan, even outside the monsoon season.
- If you are planning on going into the mountains pack some warm cycling gear (i.e. long sleeve cycling top or arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves, buff, waterproof trousers). The temperatures in the hills are much lower than on the coast and rain showers are more frequent.
Our gear list:
We stayed in hotels and hostels to keep our gear to a minimum (and also because Kenny doesn’t really like camping 😉 ). If you are planning to camp you would obviously have to add camping gear to the list below.
Cycling in Taiwan: accomodation
Hotels and hostels
Finding accommodation in Taiwan is easy. There are plenty of affordable hotels and hostels even in the less populated east coast. Hotel rates in Taiwan are higher than in other parts of South East Asia but there are also many hostel options if you are travelling on a budget.
We booked all of our accommodation through Booking.com. On the east coast the majority of people don’t speak English so booking your hotel via a booking platform just makes it easier. You could also use AirBnB or Agoda (which has the biggest selection of hotels in Asia).
If you prefer to camp, there are campsites in some of the towns and scenic areas like Taroko National Park.
I have also heard from a cycle-touring couple we met in Taiwan (who were camping most nights) that in some of the more remote areas cyclists are allowed to pitch their tent inside primary schools. Just let the concierge know that you are planning to stay overnight and he/she will show you the best spot for your tent. It’s free but obviously you need to leave early in the morning before the school kids arrive.
Cycling in Taiwan: food and supplies
I really loved the food in Taiwan. It’s like Chinese food but with a Japanese twist. Some of my favourite dishes were the steamed buns filled with soy and vegetables, steamed spring rolls and rice porridge with peanuts for breakfast. But there are also plenty of options for meat lovers like for example beef noodles and chicken soup with dumplings. In coastal towns most restaurants serve wood-fire grilled fish. There are also lots of exotic fruits like Dragon fruit, Buddha head fruit, guava apples and passion fruit.
Food and water are easy to find when you are cycling in Taiwan. There are small local shops and restaurants, fruit stalls, street vendors and gas station type convenience stores in pretty much every town so you don’t need to carry many supplies with you on the bike.
The most common convenience stores are 7-Eleven and Family Mart. They are everywhere! What I loved about them is that aside from snacks and water they also sell hot food like sweet potatoes. Plus, most of them have an ATM and toilets. Very convenient 🙂
Many towns also have night markets. They are the best place to go to if you want to immerse yourself into the local culture and taste some Taiwanese dishes. If you are passing through Luodong (near Yilan), I would definitely going to the night market there – great atmosphere and delicious food!
One thing to keep in mind is that local restaurants in small towns tend to close really early (around 6-7pm). So make sure you get there in time if you don’t want to go to bed hungry!
A few places worth visiting in Taiwan
Here are a few places I would definitely recommend visiting during your cycle trip in Taiwan:
- Taroko Gorge: Spectacular scenery and amazing downhills through the canyon. If you are into hiking, I would recommend walking the Zhuilu Old Road trail.
- Luodong night market: Great atmosphere and lots of delicious (and cheap) local food.
- Shitiping scenic area: Really cool rock formations.
- Donghe Township in Dulan Forest: A quaint little seaside town with nice cafés and good beaches nearby.
- Gangkou beach: Taiwan’s surfing hotspot. But even if you are not into surfing, the beach is beautiful.
I hope this article has inspired you to go cycling in Taiwan! If you are planning a cycle touring trip to Taiwan and have any more questions, just get in touch, I would love to help.