The Ultimate Yilan County Guide – Top 5 Must-Do Activities in This Scenic Nature Paradise
August 25, 2017
Situated in Northeastern Taiwan, the beautiful Yilan County is surrounded by both the ocean and the mountains. My girlfriends and I were transported from Taipei’s dynamic cityscape to Yilan’s quaint townships such as Luodong, Jiaoxi and Su’ao. If you’re driving to Yilan County or taking a bus, you’ll notice the Hsuehshan Tunnel, Asia’s second longest highway tunnel. This tunnel helped reduce the driving time between Taipei and Yilan to less than 50 minutes.
Whether you wish to join the locals as they bargain and feast their way through the night markets, or slow down and enjoy nature at its best, Yilan County has a wealth of activities to keep you occupied!
#1 – Snacking at Luodong Night Market & Trying Yilan’s Famous Food
The vibrant night markets in Taiwan exude a carnival-like atmosphere, and Luodong Night Market happens to be one of Taiwan’s biggest and most crowded night markets. While some night markets specialize in arcade games, what you find at Luodong will go directly into your hungry tummy. There are plenty of shops selling affordable clothes and shoes too.
It was extremely hot when we visited during summer, and you could see perspiration dripping down our faces. But, this did not stop us from trying as much local street snacks as we could stomach. Popular snacks include peanut ice cream rolls, san xing spring onion pancakes, smelly tofu fries, and many others.
Luodong Night Market Details
Address: No. 100 Gongyuan Road, Luodong Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 265
Opening Hours: 5pm to 12midnight daily. Stalls selling clothes and shoes close around 10pm.
If street snacks are not substantial, you might want to check out Weng Yao Ji, one of the most famous restaurants in Yilan County. It is the first clay-oven-grilled chicken restaurant in the area. They use an ancient method of cooking chicken. Specially selected Longan wood is used to enhance the natural aroma of the chicken meat. The tender meat is served with salt, garlic, and chicken oil at the side, but it is good enough on its own.
Weng Yao Ji Details
Address: No. 7, Section 7, Jiaoxi Road, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 262
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10am to 10pm. Sat & Sun 9am to 11pm.
Your visit to Yilan County will not be complete if you haven’t tried the san xing spring onion pancakes. Sanxing town is the prime producers of spring onions in Taiwan, and what makes Sanxing’s spring onions so special is its tender fibres that give a nice crunch, and a sweet and fragrant flavour that is not too spicy yet possesses a mild peppery taste. We recommend trying 柯氏蔥油餅 Ke Shi Cong You Bing. The queue is never-ending at this stall, and the pancakes albeit too greasy, are full of flavours and crunch.
柯氏蔥油餅 Ke Shi Cong You Bing Details
Address: Section 4, Jiaoxi Road, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 262
Opening Hours: 9am to 6.30pm daily
The heat during summer wasn’t unbearable, but it’s always nice to seek shelter and cool down with some ice cream. The flavours available at this shop are very unique, and the ice cream are all hand-made. You can expect yam, dried longan, purple rice, red bean, and many other flavours.
阿宗芋冰城 Ah Zong Yu Bing Cheng Details
Address: No. 267, Section 3, Qingyun Road, Toucheng Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 261
Opening Hours: 9am to 9pm daily
#2 – Hiking at Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area
Taipingshan is one of Taiwan’s three major national forest recreation areas. Featuring a moist climate and abundant rainfall, it has nurtured an environment rich in ecological resources. The area features geothermal energy at the Renze Hot Springs, the largest alpine lake on the island (Cuifeng Lake), and a variety of other spectacular sights. There are different hiking and biking trails tailored for beginners to professionals. Needless to say, we chose an easy yet scenic route.
Entry to the Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area requires a B-class mountain permit, and an A-class permit is needed to proceed on to Cuifeng Lake. You can get your permit by presenting your ID card or passport at the Taipingshan inspection post.
Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area Details
Address: Taiping Village, Datong Township, Yilan County
#3 – Pampering Yourselves at the Cold and Hot Springs
Many hot springs in Taiwan can be traced back to the Japanese Colonial era, and are heavily influenced by the tradition and culture of hot baths and springs in Japan. You can choose between the lowland hot springs of Jiaoxi Township, and the carbonic acid cold springs in Su’ao Township, which is one of the only two cold springs in Southeast Asia. The relaxing and invigorating hot springs are perfect during cold weather, especially that particular day when we went hiking, and were caught in a heavy downpour halfway through our hike.
#4 – Dolphin Watching & Cruising Around Guishan Island (Turtle Island)
Guishan Island is 10 kilometres east of Toucheng Town, and it is the largest island of Yilan County. It is also the only active volcano in Taiwan. The island got its name because its shape resembles a turtle. In order to preserve the natural environment, the number of tourists who are allowed on the island is controlled, and you have to apply for a permit in advance.
The island is surrounded by submarine hot springs that emit steam all year round. Despite large amounts of sulphur and acid in the area, it is amazing that crabs still thrive here. The sea around here is also a favourite haunt for dolphins and whales (if you are lucky enough). Our ferry was surrounded by more than 300 dolphins (according to the detector), and it was so surreal to watch them jumping and spinning above the water in groups like ballet dancers.
#5 – Driving Uphill to Mr. Brown Castle Café for A Panoramic Coastal View
You have to drive uphill to reach this café, or you can hire a taxi from Toucheng train station. However, I recommend driving (self drive or hire a driver) because you can stop the car at some scenic lookout points on the way up to capture photos and take in the beautiful coastal view. Our driver took us to different lookout spots, and to the area where para-gliders take off. The food at Mr. Brown Castle Café wasn’t fantastic, and it’s so overpriced. But, visitors like my friends and I, will still patronize for the views.
Where We Stayed
We booked two nights at Wellspring by Silks, Regent Hotels Group’s first established boutique hot spring resort. Situated in the heart of Jiaoxi, and just 5 minutes walking distance from Jiaoxi train station, this hotel serves as a hidden wonderland for travelers seeking a convenient city escape. We had a large outdoor hot spring bath for us to relax in our room.
Getting from Taipei to Yilan, and around Yilan County
From Taipei bus station, catch the Kamalan bus, which runs regularly and directly to Yilan. The journey is around an hour, and traveling around Yilan to the different townships can be done easily via the local train lines. If you’re more adventurous, you can rent a scooter or bicycle to help you get around in Yilan. Not ready to risk your safety? You can hire a taxi anytime, as long as you are willing to pay.
We didn’t want to worry over transportation issues hence our decision to hire a driver for 4 days. Eason, or affectionately known by his passengers as Cola, is very knowledgeable and helpful. We requested him to bring us around places that are off-the-beaten-track, and non-touristy, and were really surprised. His rates are reasonable, and he always go the extra mile, putting in lots of effort to meet the demands of his passengers. If you’re interested in engaging a driver, you can look Eason up here.
Weather in Yilan County
Be warned that the rain can be relentless in Yilan, which might screw up your travel plans. In any case, you should always have a wet-weather plan, or just pop by any of the hot springs if you don’t know what else to do. We recommend visiting during the summer months between June and August, as these months have the least rainfall, making it ideal for surfing and participating in beach activities.
Yilan is indeed one of the most scenic areas in Taiwan. The rugged coast and rolling green hills provided us with countless jaw-dropping views for miles. If you need to get away from the city for a day or two, you should really consider Yilan.
Thank you for this awesome day-guide to Yilan, I am using your suggestions for my families stay. Any tips on how to book the fairy to go dolphin watching? I know you said you had to get a permit to go to the island, is this permit necessary to be able to book a ferry?
Hi Sarah, glad you found this article useful. I booked the ticket through a driver I’ve hired. However, you can head to the pier and book tickets directly with them (:
Just want to say thanks! for yr detailed and beautiful blog
Thank you for your support (: