10 Reasons to Visit Taiwan Now

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When Portuguese sailors first set eyes on Taiwan (officially called the Republic of China) more than 500 years ago, they named it “Ilha Formosa,” or Beautiful Island. Today, the island boasts one of the 20 largest economies in the world and is home to lush mountains and pristine beaches. With influences from the Polynesians, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese, Taiwan is the exotic hidden gem of East Asia. Experience all it has to offer when the subtropical island–known for its unbearable summer heat and humidity–finally cools down from December to February.

By Lisa Chung

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Taipei 101

Recognized as one of the world’s top New Year's Eve fireworks shows, Taipei 101 promises to be even bigger and brighter this year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 1,669-foot tower's completion. This year's 218-second show of 24,000 fireworks will illuminate the night sky in gold and feature the horse to signify 2014’s Chinese zodiac sign.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taipei Guide

Courtesy of Marsalis Home Taipei

Award-winning Cocktails

The Asia Pacific mixology scene was put on the map in 2011 when Japan’s Manabu Ohtake won World Class Bartender of the Year. In 2012, six finalists hailed from Asia to battle their New York, Paris, and Australian counterparts. Kae Yin, Asia Pacific World Class Bartender 2012 winner, now crafts cocktails at Marsalis Home (No. 90, Sōngrén Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan 110, +886 2 2723 6278) by blending tea-ceremony traditions with mixology techniques.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taipei Guide

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Centuries of Culture

More than 500,000 Aboriginals, or 2 percent of the island’s population, call Taiwan home. Village tours and festivals are open to the public and a great way to experience the unique cultures. Also on view from December to May at the National Palace Museum is In Their Footsteps, an eye-opening exhibit on Taiwan’s indigenous people. The museum also houses the world’s largest collection of ancient Chinese art.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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Lantern Festival

Take part in a 2,000-year-old tradition at this year’s Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, a celebration that marks the end of the Chinese New Year. During this February festival, thousands of sky lanterns, each inscribed with a wish for the New Year, are released into the heavens, emblazoning the night sky with floating lanterns.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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Sandy Shores

Said to rival the popular (and tourist-filled) shores of Thailand, the beaches of KenTing National Park reopen this time of year once typhoon season ends. Take Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) from Taipei to Kaohsiung in south Taiwan, for a day trip of lazing on the quiet beaches of Taiwan’s first national park. Or stay at resorts like the luxurious Chateau Beach Resort.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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Untouched Temples

Unlike the temples of China that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, some 500 Buddhist and Taoist temples  have stood for centuries in Tainan, the country’s oldest city and former capital. Of these temples, 53 are National Historic Sites, including eight First Class sites. Among the most impressive is Chikanlou, best seen at night when lights illuminate its towers.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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Food for Miles

Street cars and food stands come alive nightly to serve up Taiwan's cuisine, from longbao (steamed dumplings) to chòu dòufu (stinky tofu) and ma-wan (Taiwanese meatball). Stroll Shilin District’s Night Market, considered Taiwan’s largest with more than 500 food stalls. Tip: Visit Youngkang Street for cute dessert cafes and top restaurants, including the original outpost to Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide    

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Scenic Cycling

More than 3,000 miles of dedicated bike lanes welcome cyclists to explore sea-level jungles, coasts, alpine meadows, and mountains–all in a day's ride. In the last decade, the government invested nearly $100 million in developing bike paths with maps and rest stops throughout its cities and countryside. Leisure-riders can take advantage of bike-share programs in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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Geothermal Springs

Experience the variety of geothermal springs that dot the country’s unique landscape. From cold or mud springs to seabed hot springs, Taiwan offers access to springs that have been diverted into luxurious bathhouses and spas. From Taipei, visit nearby Beitou, which also houses the Bathhouse Museum, a spa once used by Japanese Kamikaze pilots during World War II.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

Beautiful Butterflies

Approximately 600,000 butterflies migrate to Maolin National Scenic Area in southern Taiwan for the winter. One of only two butterfly species in the world to migrate for the winter, the Taiwanese Purple Crow features iridescent blue and purple wings. Don’t miss this phenomenon that occurs only once a year, between December and February.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Taiwan Guide

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