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Off the beaten path in Taiwan : Ultimate guide on Hualien, Chiayi & Tainan

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Explore the captivating cities of Hualien, Chiayi & Tainan in Taiwan with this ultimate guide on these three cities. Discover hidden gems, off the beaten path experiences, and essential tips for expatriates and tourists seeking remarkable adventures in Taiwan's lesser-known destinations.

Hualien mountains cemetary
Somewhere near Hualien...

Get ready to embark on an extraordinary Taiwanese adventure as we delve into the captivating cities of Hualien, Chiayi, and Tainan. This ultimate guide, filled with insider tips, hidden gems, and a touch of humor, is designed to help expatriates and tourists explore the untapped beauty of these cities. From breathtaking natural wonders to cultural treasures and mouthwatering culinary delights, Hualien, Chiayi, and Tainan offer a remarkable blend of off the beaten path experiences that will make your journey unforgettable.

Table of Content


Hualien: Nature's Wonderland

Hualien is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, offering a wealth of hidden gems and off the beaten path experiences. Begin your adventure with a visit to the mesmerizing Taroko Gorge. Venture beyond the popular trails and explore the enchanting Swallow Grotto Trail, where you'll witness the dramatic cliffs and listen to the echoes of nature. For a unique experience, hike through the serene Liyu Lake and enjoy a tranquil picnic surrounded by picturesque landscapes.

Continue your exploration with a visit to the lesser-known Mugumuyu Hot Springs. Nestled deep in the mountains, these hidden springs offer a blissful retreat where you can soak in the therapeutic waters amidst the serenity of nature. Don't forget to visit the Qingshui Cliffs, towering majestic rock formations that drop into the deep blue ocean. Take in the awe-inspiring views and snap photos of this hidden gem.

Qingshui Cliffs Hualien, where land meets the ocean
Qingshui Cliffs

Chiayi: Culture, Tea, and Quirky Delights

Chiayi is a city brimming with cultural heritage, delicious tea, and quirky delights that await intrepid travelers. Begin your journey at the Alishan National Scenic Area and venture off the beaten path by exploring the hidden trails. Wander through the enchanting forest, discover hidden waterfalls, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature.

For a taste of Chiayi's culinary delights, head to the Wenhua Road Night Market. While popular, it offers a variety of off the beaten path food stalls with unique treats. Try the iconic mountain boar sausage or the exotic stinky tofu to satisfy your adventurous palate. For a quirky experience, visit the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum, which houses a vast collection of artifacts and artworks. Don't miss the intriguing "Cabbage Night" exhibition, featuring a creative twist on the famous Jadeite Cabbage.

In the outskirts of Chiayi, uncover the hidden gem of Hinoki Village. This old logging village has been transformed into a creative hub, with charming cafes, art installations, and craft shops. Stroll through the narrow alleys, admire the preserved Japanese-style wooden houses, and indulge in a cup of aromatic coffee at a hidden café.

Tainan: Historical Marvels and Culinary Delights

Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan, is a treasure trove of history, cultural marvels, and delectable culinary delights. Begin your exploration at the historic Anping District. Visit Anping Old Fort, an ancient fortress that offers panoramic views of the city and a glimpse into its turbulent past. Wander through the narrow alleys of Anping Old Street, lined with traditional shops and street vendors, and sample the local specialty - shrimp rolls.

For an off the beaten path experience, visit the Ten Drum Culture Village. This converted sugar refinery is now a vibrant arts and cultural space. Immerse yourself in the rhythmic beats of the Ten Drum performances and participate in drumming workshops to unleash your inner musician.

As you continue your journey, discover Tainan's hidden temples. Wander beyond the popular spots and explore the atmospheric Kaiji Tianhou Temple or the intricately designed Mazu Temple. Witness traditional rituals and immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of these lesser-known gems.

To satisfy your culinary cravings, venture into the back lanes of Tainan's vibrant night markets. Seek out hidden food stalls that offer unique delicacies such as coffin bread, oyster pancakes, and savory rice pudding. Don't miss the chance to visit the legendary Du Xiao Yue, a local bakery famous for its melt-in-your-mouth pineapple cakes.

Tainan traditional old streets
Tainan Old Streets


Hualien, Chiayi, and Tainan are captivating cities in Taiwan that offer a wealth of hidden gems and off the beaten path experiences. This ultimate guide, infused with essential tips, hidden treasures, and a dash of humor, is your key to unlocking the untapped beauty of these destinations. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Hualien, explore the cultural delights of Chiayi, and delve into the historical marvels of Tainan. Get ready for an extraordinary Taiwanese adventure that will create memories to last a lifetime.


Fun Unknown Facts!

These lesser-known facts about Hualien, Chiayi, and Tainan bring light on the intriguing and often overlooked aspects of these captivating Taiwanese cities. Embrace the joy of discovery as you uncover these hidden gems and delve deeper into the rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural wonders that these destinations have to offer.

Unknown Facts About Hualien:

  1. Marble Wonderland: Did you know that Taroko Gorge, the star attraction of Hualien, is a natural marvel carved out of marble? Over millions of years, the Liwu River skillfully shaped the stunning marble cliffs, creating a breathtaking gorge that leaves visitors in awe of its beauty.

  2. Eternal Spring Shrine: Within Taroko Gorge, you'll find the Eternal Spring Shrine, a unique temple built to commemorate the workers who lost their lives during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway. The shrine sits beneath a cascading waterfall, symbolizing eternal respect for their sacrifice.

  3. East Rift Valley: Beyond Taroko Gorge, Hualien offers the lesser-known gem of the East Rift Valley. This picturesque region boasts sprawling farmland, hot springs, and scenic cycling routes. Take a leisurely bike ride through lush green fields and immerse yourself in the rural charm and tranquility of this hidden paradise.

Unknown Facts About Chiayi:

  1. Mountain Railway Legacy: Chiayi is home to the renowned Alishan Forest Railway, a historic narrow-gauge railway that winds through misty mountains and dense forests. Built by the Japanese during their occupation, this heritage railway continues to delight visitors with its charming steam locomotives and breathtaking mountain vistas.

  2. Traditional Puppetry: Chiayi is a hub of traditional Taiwanese puppetry, an art form that dates back centuries. The city's Puzi Puppet Museum showcases a stunning collection of intricately crafted puppets, providing insights into the history and cultural significance of this unique theatrical tradition.

  3. Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum: While most travelers visit the main branch in Taipei, Chiayi is home to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum. This impressive museum boasts an extensive collection of Chinese artifacts, calligraphy, and paintings, providing a quieter and more immersive experience compared to its bustling counterpart.

Unknown Facts About Tainan:

  1. City of Temples: Tainan is often referred to as the "City of Temples" due to its vast number of religious sites. In fact, there are over 1,500 temples scattered throughout the city, each with its own unique architectural style and historical significance. Exploring these lesser-known temples offers a fascinating glimpse into Tainan's religious and cultural heritage.

  2. Birthplace of Bubble Tea: Bubble tea, a beloved Taiwanese drink worldwide, originated in Tainan. In the 1980s, a local tea vendor named Liu Han-Chieh revolutionized the tea-drinking experience by adding tapioca pearls to his iced tea, thus creating the iconic bubble tea we know today.

  3. Fort Zeelandia: Tainan is home to Fort Zeelandia, a historical fortress with a rich Dutch colonial heritage. Built in the 17th century, this fort played a significant role in Taiwan's history. Explore its sturdy walls, cannons, and museum exhibits to learn about the Dutch East India Company's influence on the island.

Fort Zeelandia in Tainan with its well known tower
Fort Zeelandia


Where to stay in Hualien, Chiayi & Tainan?

Discover the top hotels in Hualien, Chiayi, and Tainan with options for every budget, including luxury, mid-range, and backpacker accommodations.

Disclaimer: some links provided in this article are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you book through my links.


  1. Luxury: Silks Place Taroko Hotel - Experience luxury in the heart of Taroko National Park, with stunning views and top-notch amenities.

  2. Middle Budget: Azure Hotel - Enjoy a comfortable stay in downtown Hualien, close to attractions and night markets.

  3. Low Budget: Classic City Resort - Affordable rates and a central location near the train station make this a great budget-friendly option.

  4. Backpack: Mini Voyage Hostel - An affordable hostel near Hualien Train Station, perfect for budget-conscious travelers.


  1. Luxury: Hotel Day Plus - Indulge in modern elegance and convenient access to transportation hubs.

  2. Middle Budget: Look Royal Resort - Experience comfort and convenience near Alishan Forest Recreation Area and night markets.

  3. Low Budget: Chiayi King Hotel - A wallet-friendly choice with cozy rooms and helpful staff.

  4. Backpack: Light Hostel Chiayi - Experience a friendly atmosphere and convenient location in downtown Chiayi.


  1. Luxury Budget: Shangri-La Far Eastern Tainan - Revel in luxury, impeccable service, and stunning city views.

  2. Middle Budget: 天下南隅 Provintia Hotel - Enjoy a comfortable stay in the heart of Tainan, near popular attractions.

  3. Low Budget: Hwa Du Hotel - Affordable and conveniently located near Tainan Railway Station.

  4. Backpack: 158 Hostel - Simple and clean rooms at a budget-friendly price near Tainan Railway Station.


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