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The draw of the alpine Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan rests on it being the largest body of freshwater in the country. Here’s what to do in this spectacular scenic spot.
Not far from the nondescript industrial city of Taichung is one of Taiwan’s biggest attractions – Sun Moon Lake. This huge expanse of water in Nantou county, dotted with forested islands and encased by mountains, is one of 13 government-controlled National Scenic Areas in Taiwan and considered to be the most beautiful lake in Taiwan.
It’s also one of those magnificent places you must visit to feel its grand presence since its misty coat means pictures don’t always do it justice. Most images of Sun Moon Lake look incredibly vibrant, with majestic-looking skies and iridescent waters. However, while the lake and surrounding hiking and biking trails are impressive, the spectrum of hues of white, blue, and green are covered with the atmospheric hovering mist of dispersing clouds. This alpine lake area is also incredibly crowded as people flock to this scenic hideaway in the middle of the country.
From boating the waters to bike paths and nature trails to gliding through the air on a gondola, here’s how to see the best of Sun Moon Lake on your visit.
How to Get to Sun Moon Lake
The easiest route from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake is an HSR (high-speed) train to Taichung HSR Station. This takes around one hour, after which you can board the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus just outside of Taichung HSR Station (from Exit 5 on the 1st floor), which takes you directly to Sun Moon Lake.
This bus takes approximately 1.5 hours.
If you are already staying in Taichung City, check with your hotel, guesthouse or hostel to see where the nearest official stop is where the direct bus will pick up passengers. One of the main bus stops is outside Taichung Railway Station.
Sun Moon Lake Entrance and Tours
Once you arrive at Sun Moon Lake, you have a few options to get around.
Boat Day Pass
You can purchase a one-day pass at the Shueishe Visitor Centre on the northern fringes of the lake (where the bus will drop you off). This ticket costs NTD 300 Taiwanese Dollars (£8/$10) and gives you access to round-trip boat rides around key hot spots, connected by Shuishe and Ita Thao Piers, and the Han-bi Hiking Trail entrance. This is a more cost-effective option than paying around NTD 100 per boat ride.
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway cable car is an extra ticket, costing $350 (£9/$11) Taiwanese Dollars for a return ride.
Bus Tours Around Sun Moon Lake
A Taiwan Tour Bus service operates along part of the 37-km route around Sun Moon Lake from 6:30 am to 18:00 pm. There are also two-day options that include accommodation stops along the way.
Shueishe Visitor Centre is also where you will find bike rental stations for independent exploration around the area.
Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake
Wandering around the outskirts of the lake, ferrying between smaller islands and piers, hiking the many steps up to the Ci-En Pagoda, rambling within some of the many green forest spaces and ending the day with a cable car trip to get the ultimate birds-eye view, a day trip here is enough to sample the geography of this national treasure.
I see Sun Moon Lake as a place where one visit is enough, but the area has plenty of scenic view hotels, should you wish to make the most of your time here.
There are also other attractions, including the Formosa Aborigine Cultural Village and a Butterfly Garden and Museum beyond the nature trails.
Travel in Taiwan
Travelling around Taiwan and looking for further tips and destination insights? Check out the following guides: