Sun Moon Lake, for being one of Taiwan's major tourist attractions, was not at all what we expected it to be. We expected what we expect from anywhere Asia: crowds, crowds, crowds. We were so pleasantly surprised to get off the bus in the unassuming, quiet town that hugs the lake shore and see practically no one and a Starbucks. I hear it is booming during Taiwan's peak tourist season but we went in the off season. It was so off a lot of the shops were closed.
That was okay with us.
Up in the mountains, the air was cooler and fresh. We could hike the lakeside trails and see not one single person. There was no line for the gondola to the top of the ridge. There were no lines at the amusement park on the opposite side of the lake. The was never a wait to get a table at a restaurant. We felt like the lake and town was ours alone to explore.
It turned out to be the perfect weekend get away, far removed for all thoughts of work and city and busy and heat and humidity.
You can take a gondola.
You can go out on a boat.
You can explore temples.
You can hike.
You can go to an amusement park.
You can rent bicycles.
Sean's favorite thing to do was hike. There are nicely groomed [mostly wood paths or stone steps] walking trails that go around the lake and up into the hillsides for nice panoramas. There are public bathrooms and stalls selling bubble tea and the like.
While I did love our hikes, my favorite part of Sun Moon Lake were its temples. Wenwu temple is hands down the coolest temple in Taiwan! Apparently, this temple was built under Japanese occupation when they had to tear down a previous one to build a hydroelectric power plant. My favorite part about the temple was the very top. After climbing a lot of stairs, you get an amazing view of the orange tiled roof and lake!
- Stay overnight! There is simply too much to do in a day trip.
- Take the glass bottom gondola. It is well worth the extra $5.
- Use the lake buses to hop from temple to trail to restaurant. It makes life much more convenient.