A modern metropolis, Taipei is a multicultural oasis that fuses Chinese culture with southeast Asian, Japanese, and American influences. As the capital of the Republic of China, or Taiwan, the 300-year-old city in an ancient lakebed is like a museum that encourages wandering and exploring. Temples hum with Taoist prayers. Villas and barracks were transformed into shops and museums. Good coffee is available on every street. Hundred-year-old trees line Japanese colonial lanes. The lively food scene (be sure to try soup dumplings) and night markets are unforgettable. The culture is cosmopolitan, and the people are warm and friendly. When you fly into Taipei in a private jet, keep in mind that Taipei is much more than its major attractions. Just outside the city limits are wonderful parks, trails and hot springs that provide a welcome distraction and retreat from the buzzing streets and neon lights.
Yangmingshan National Park
Just 10 miles north of downtown Taipei, Yangmingshan is one of Taiwan’s nine national parks and home to the island’s tallest dormant volcano, Seven Star Mountain. Commemorating the Ming Dynasty scholar and philosopher Wang Yang-Ming, visitors flock to the 45-square-mile green space for its dozens of trails, abundant waterfalls (particularly around the Tianxiyuan Ecology Education Center), lakes, and hot springs. During the spring, cherry trees and rhododendron filled with blossoms paint the landscape. From May to August, 168 different species of butterfly drink from the nectar in the park’s flowers, especially in the misty Erziping area. In the fall, silver grass, Japanese maple, and other deciduous trees invite leaf peepers wishing to gaze upon the autumnal colors. During the winter or after a hike, take a relaxing dip in one of the nearly dozen hot springs.
Hike along the scenic trail at Xiaoyoukeng to see its famed fumaroles, sulfur crystals, hot springs, and unique terrain. When you reach the viewing platform, you’ll have an unparallel view of Jinshan coastline, Mt. Datun, Mt. Zhuzi, Mt. Qixing and Mt. Xiaoguanyin. Take the East Peak trail for a bird’s-eye view of downtown Taipei and My. Shamao.
About a 15-minute walk from the base of Taipei 101, Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain, is among the most popular of the region’s “Four Beast” mountains. While the hardscaped Nangang District Hiking Trail makes the trek simpler for novices, be prepared to climb hundreds of steps. Thankfully, there are plenty of benches if you need to take a break. Along the way to the peak, several lookout points offer glorious views of the city that you won’t see from the windows of its tallest buildings. If you continue on the trail, past the lookout point, you will reach exercise areas, a charming Buddhist statue garden, Tiger Mountain, 9-5 Peak and different parts of the city. The best time of day to climb Elephant Mountain is in the evening, just before the sun sets. The view at night is equally impressive. Avoid the crowds and make the trek on a weekday.