My legs were tired. The rain kept the heat away but made the 12 km ride uphill more dangerous and challenging. It was our fourth day cycling in Taiwan, the hardest and the most beautiful one. I wasn’t sure if Nat and I would be able to cycle Taiwan’s east coast and if we would survive the 4 days of full cycling, but we did it and it was an adventure of a lifetime.
Taiwan is famous for exporting bikes all over the world. While the bikes leave the island to the streets of Asia, Europe and America, every year more and more people are traveling to Taiwan for cycling. Taiwan is a cycling paradise attracting professional and amateur cyclists from all around the globe. Cycling in Taiwan is a mix of adventures, stunning nature, local experiences and fun, perfect ingredients for an unforgettable trip.
What makes cycling in Taiwan such an incredible experience?
The answer is simple: biking in Taiwan is a serious business. They even have a festival to celebrate their bike culture, the Taiwan Cycling Festival that happens in November. The Formosa 900 is the biggest event during the cycling festival, a 9 days cycling tour around the island covering a distance of 900 km.
Well, Taiwanese people love to cycle and there are many cycling routes in the country. The roads are safe, there are many cycling lanes and the drivers do respect the cyclists. The nature in Taiwan is stunning and you can cycle from easy to challenging routes.
Taiwan produces great bikes, from urban models to mountain bikes and speed bikes, and you can easily rent them from point A and return them to point B. If you are planning a cycling holiday in Taiwan there is no need to travel on your own bike.
You’ll never be alone when cycling in Taiwan, there is a big sense of community among the Taiwanese cyclists and if you need help they will be there for you. Plus, all the police stations along the roads are officially bike aid stations, so if you need to rest, use the toilet, fix your bike or ask for directions, stop at the police station and you will be in good hands. Not to mention the endless amount of 7-11 shops that you will find along Taiwan’s cycling routes. These convenience shops are a safe harbor where you can buy cold & hot drinks, warm soups, sandwiches, coffees or even rest in the aircon and use the toilets.
You can cycle around Taiwan by yourself, in a group or on a guided tour. Our Taiwan bike adventure was in a group of 13 people from all around the world with the same target: cycling Taiwan’s east coast and having fun while doing it. The group was a great mix, four of us were really good cyclists, a couple of us had no previous experience and the rest of the team were all good cyclists. And that was ok, because at the end of the day what really mattered was our passion for having a good time and for pushing our limits. If you have never cycled long distances before I recommend you to go on a cycling tour in Taiwan.
Now we’re gonna break our four days biking in Taiwan down to help you plan your cycling itinerary. It will be divided into daily routes with starting and ending points, the distances we cycled and our perception about the cycling trip.
Cycling in Taiwan east coast: itinerary and tips
Our Taiwan cycling itinerary started at Hualien, inside Taroko National Park and it ended in Checheng town. Taiwan’s east coast route is the most famous one and it offers amazing landscapes, great cycling experiences and you can have a taste of the local life. The west coast is where the big cities, the big ports and industries are. For us, it felt like there were two different countries on the same island, a busy and modern one and a calm, raw and packed with friendly locals one.
Cycling in Taiwan’s east coast day 1:
Cycling from Taroko National Park to Fenglin Township, Hualien County
We started our Taiwan cycling tour in Taipei where we got the train to Hualien to meet our guides and to get our bikes. There are trains departing from Taipei to Hualien every hour and you can board them with your bike. From Hualien Train Station we hopped on a bus to reach Taroko National Park. A traffic jam due to road renovations delayed our arrival at the starting point and our team had only a few minutes to prepare the bikes and start cycling before the road was open for the cars again.
Expectations and anxiety built up and we were off to 10km downhill through the stunning landscape of Taroko Gorge. The sharp curves and the traffic added an extra challenge to this ride, I enjoyed it a lot but I was a bit worried about Nat. She was not used to cycling on busy roads, actually she wasn’t used to cycling long distances at all. The photo breaks were great for admiring the stunning nature and also for Nat to catch her breath up.
Exiting the park we cycled for about 17 km on flat roads to reach Xincheng Township where we would have lunch, the heat was killing us. Seafood for me, vegetarian dishes for Nat, aircon and a cold tea put us back into shape for the second half of the day.
The route from Xincheng Township to Fengling Township included a 23 km long easy ascend, followed by a 10km descend and finished with 7 more km up. On the way we crossed villages, rice fields and the beautiful Lyu Lake. Luckily the sun wasn’t that strong so the heat didn’t drain us that much. We reached our hotel at night time, tired and starving. It was time for a shower, dinner and chatting with the group about our first day.
We had a support car following our group and two guides cycling with us all the time, one leading the squad and the other following behind making sure everybody was still alive. Every hour or so we stopped for photos, drinks, resting or to get the squad back together. Nat was the first one to get a flat tire which was promptly replaced by our support team. On the first day, we revealed our addiction by stopping several times at 7-11 shops to get iced coffees. By the end of the cycling trip, we were not the only ones.
– Cycling in Taiwan’s east coast day 2:
Cycling from Fenglin Township to Chishang Township, Taitung County
Distance: 99 km
After a good night of sleep and a replenishing breakfast we were ready for our second day cycling in Taiwan’s east coast. The morning ride was supposed to be an easy one, about 50 km of which 7 were ascending until our lunch break. The route was easy, the issue again was the heat. The sun was terrible, Nat needed to stop for a while in the shade to cool down. The bright side is that we cycled by tea plantations with beautiful mountains along the road.
The afternoon was reserved for one of the most beautiful cycling paths I’ve ever been to, Yufu Cycling Pathway. Built over a former railway track it crossed lush green rice fields with impressive mountains in the background. And on our way to Chishang we saw vast pineapple, noni, sugar cane and dragon fruit fields.
The second day was easier than the previous one, I even went for a 5 km run after cycling 99 km.
– Cycling in Taiwan’s east coast day 3:
Cycling from Chishang Township to Taimali Township, Taitung County
Distance: 99 km
Not sure if the run on the previous day was a good idea, my legs were really sore on day 3. While Nat was feeling 100%, I was complaining at breakfast, not much excitement that morning. The weather forecast for our 3rd day biking in Taiwan wasn’t good and we left the hotel under the rain.
All the beautiful rice fields we had seen before became average after cycling along the rice fields in Chishang. Opulent mountains on both sides of the valley, narrow roads and green rice fields as far as the eyes could see. Even with the rain, the place was outstanding. This was in the beginning of our journey that day and such a beautiful landscape put everybody in a good mood.
Our journey was about to change sceneries, from valleys to rolling hills with sea view. The views were fantastic but there was a drawback, part of the road was under construction, so we needed to share our space with cars and big trucks while cycling up the big hills. The rain followed us almost the whole day, at least on our third day cycling in Taiwan we didn’t suffer from the heat.
– Cycling in Taiwan’s east coast day 4:
Cycling from Taimali Township to Checheng Township, Pingtung County
Distance: 81 km
They saved the best for last. Our fourth day cycling the east coast of Taiwan was the most scenic, challenging and rewarding one. The first 30 km we cycled by rolling hills along the coast and for about 1 hour we could see a storm approaching the shores of Taiwan and once again the rain was our companion. No complaints as the rain kept the heat away and the big waves crashing on the shore were beautiful. That was the scenic part of our cycling itinerary.
Then the biggest challenge of our Taiwan’s cycling trip started: 12km uphill to reach Souka Bike Station which was 460 meters above sea level. To be honest it went better than I expected, not easier but better. The countless curves and the traffic added an extra challenge to it. It took us about one hour to cover the distance and at Souka Bike Station there were dozens of bikers, a proof that Taiwan breathes cycling. Yes, that was the challenging part of the day.
Our lunch was 11km downhill from Souka Bike Station. I was so happy to hear these 2 words: lunch and downhill. The 11km downhill were pleasant but required a lot of attention as the road was quite narrow and there was some traffic. The food at Maljipa Aboriginal Restaurant was outstanding, my favorite restaurant of the trip. They served aboriginal food prepared with fresh ingredients and served in a simple way , we loved it.
In the afternoon we cycled 28 km to reach Taiwan’s west coast. We couldn’t believe that our cycling trip in Taiwan was about to end. This was an easy and enjoyable ride, we chatted with the group, stopped for more photos and of course, for more iced coffee.
Our final destination was the Checheng Fuan Temple where our support team was waiting for us. We returned the bikes, changed clothes, kissed goodbye and set off to Kaohsiung by bus. The convenience of having guides and a support car made our trip quite enjoyable and easier.
We not only survived the 4 days cycling in Taiwan’s east coast, we also loved the experience. And to my surprise at no moment we thought of giving up, Nat and I cycled the whole 346 km route. This great feeling of accomplishment was the reward of the journey.
How to plan a cycling trip in Taiwan
When is the best time to cycle in Taiwan?
The weather in Taiwan can really influence your cycling trip. Between June and September expect high temperatures, rain, high humidity and chances of typhoons. Said that, avoid these months.
From October to May the temperatures are more pleasant and it rains less. We traveled to Taiwan in the beginning of October and still got rain almost daily. I would suggest planning your Taiwan cycling tour between November and March, but be prepared for lower temperatures on the mountains.
How to rent a bike in Taiwan? How to choose a bike tour in Taiwan?
Our cycling trip was organized by Taiwan Cycling Travel Association, they took care of everything, bikes, guides, support car, meals, accommodation… Our only concern was to cycle and enjoy the ride. Their website is in Chinese, but if you send them a message in English they will reply you back with all the information you need in English.
Renting a bike for a cycling trip in Taiwan is fairly easy. There are many companies that either just rent out bikes or rent out bikes and organize the trip for you. One of the resources to find bike rentals in Taiwan is the Taiwan Cycling Festival website. As we were traveling full time until 2019, we always rely on rental services, on my cycling trip in Spain, Ironman in Malaysia and the Ironman 70.3 Thailand we also rented bikes.
What to pack for cycling in Taiwan?
Your packing list will depend on your itinerary, on the season, if you are on a tour or by yourself. In all cases you will need a couple of jerseys, bike shorts, bike gloves, bike shoes, a helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and a rain jacket. Regarding equipment don’t forget headlights and taillights, squeeze water bottles, a cycling computer or smartwatch, a waterproof bag for your money/electronics, a toolkit and extra tubes & tires.
A cycling trip in Taiwan will have memorable moments, so an action camera like GoPro comes in handy to record these moments. Use the waterproof case and mount it on the bike handlebar, on the helmet or even onto your chest for different angles.
How to travel to Taiwan and get around
Taiwan is a travel destination that offers a wide range of experiences. Taipei is the perfect place for travelers who love the hustle and bustle of big cities, nightlife and food extravaganza [read our Guide to what to do in Taipei here]. Nature lovers can enjoy Taiwan’s beautiful east coast with its wild beaches, hot springs and mountains. If you are seeking adventure go for some serious hiking and face the challenge of cycling in Taiwan.
But before planning your activities you need to plan your trip to Taiwan, so here goes some essential travel tips:
Taiwan Tourist Visa
You might need a visa to Republic of China – Taiwan, before buying your flight ticket visit the Taiwan Bureau of Consular Affairs website to check if you are eligible for the free visa or if you need to apply in advance.
How to get to Taiwan:
How to get around Taiwan
Taiwan is well connected with domestic flights, high-speed trains, conventional trains, buses and ferries to the islands close by. Depending on your itinerary, traveling in Taiwan can be super easy or a bit complicated due to the language barrier. Bear in mind that if you are in the big cities or if you purchase the transportation tickets online you might be able to do it in English. But you might struggle with the language if you need to buy a ticket in a small village bus station.
Traveling along Taiwan’s west coast is easy and fast, our trip from Kaohsiung to Taipei by high-speed train took less than 2 hours. The Taiwan High-Speed Rail website has an English version and you can buy the tickets online. Book your ticket with at least 5 days in advance and you can get up to 35% discount.
The conventional trains are also a good option to travel in Taiwan, the Taiwan Railways website has a map of the routes and you can book the tickets online and in advance. If you want to travel to small towns by bus, or take a bus from a train station to a small town use Taiwan Trip. This is a governmental website that can help you find out the bus routes and which company operates the bus lines.
Where to stay in Taiwan:
In our Taiwan cycling itinerary, we stayed in different hotels while biking the east coast. If you need recommendations for hotels in Taipei, check out our 4 Days Taipei Itinerary, we have some great accommodation tips there. We spent one night in Kaohsiung city and there we stayed at the iconic 85 Sky Inn, the tallest building in the city.
The best websites to book hotels in Taiwan are:
- Agoda [they have the biggest selection of hotels in Asia]
- Booking.com [sometimes they have good deals with breakfast included]
- Airbnb [works really well in Taipei and big cities, click on the on Airbnb and get up to 30 USD credit to use on your next trip]
Hope we convinced you to cycle around Taiwan, it’s not an easy trip but it’s an amazing adventure. Cycling in Taiwan’s east coast is one of the many great experiences you can have on this beautiful green island. If you need more information about biking in Taiwan or if you have done it already, leave us a comment below.
Traveling to Taipei: read our guide to what to do in Taipei and best places to stay
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PS: our cycling trip in Taiwan was organized in partnership with Taiwan Tourism Board, but doesn’t matter who paid the bill you always receive our honest opinion about the services and the destination.