Languid, tropical south Taiwan is a world away from Taipei, a land of betel nut plantations, pineapple groves and sandy beaches. The southern plains are home to Taiwan’s oldest Chinese settlements, a bastion of Taiwanese culture with a correspondingly high proportion of independence supporters – the counties of Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingdong are Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) strongholds and the Taiwanese language is spoken everywhere in preference to Mandarin. The lush southern mountains, while not quite as dramatic as the central ranges, still offer plenty of gorgeous scenery, predominantly inhabited by the Bunun, Paiwan and Rukai tribes – although, sadly, they were hard hit by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, with eight Rukai and Paiwan villages effectively abandoned. Much of the region’s exuberant culture is encapsulated in its festivals: many temples hold elaborate boat-burning ceremonies every three years, while the horizontal firework display at Yanshui is a chaotic but exhilarating event held over Chinese New Year.

Tainan is an essential stop on any tour of Taiwan. The former capital is crammed with ornate temples, engaging historical sights and some of the best snack food in the country. From here the Southern Cross-Island Highway snakes east across the mountains to Taitung, a dramatic and sometimes perilous route with incredibly scenic views; it cuts through the northern end of Maolin National Scenic Area, no less captivating, with the slate Rukai village of Duona and the thrilling mountain road up to Wutai, another Rukai village. (Much of the Cross-Island Highway and Scenic Area was inaccessible post-Morakot, but most of it should now be open again.) Kaohsiung is the biggest city in the south, with a laid-back, friendly character, rapidly throwing off its grimy industrial image and close to the impressive monastery at Foguangshan. The narrow stub of land at the foot of Taiwan is dominated by Kenting National Park, with its somewhat overrated main resort but a wealth of less visited beaches and excellent surf easily accessible by scooter. The intriguing coral island of Little Liuqiu is just off the coast.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Taiwan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Taiwan beyond Taipei: venturing off the tourist trail

Taiwan beyond Taipei: venturing off the tourist trail

Taiwan, the place the Portuguese once called the “beautiful island”, has long been Asia’s forgotten country. And yet it is home to a trove of national par…

20 Jun 2018 • Mike MacEacheran local_activity Special feature
Cool Taipei: 8 tips for exploring the city

Cool Taipei: 8 tips for exploring the city

As the only democracy in the Chinese speaking world and the most progressive city for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, a legacy of artists and activists have worked to ma…

12 Apr 2018 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan

10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan

Taiwanese xiǎochī, or “small eats”, are justly famed, and no trip would be complete without several street food feasts. Night markets are among the best …

11 Nov 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs