Whether you’re travelling through or in it for the long haul, Taiwan has plenty of fascinating day trips to experience, many of which can be done from Taipei! Though the mountain town of Jiufen or the toasty waters of Beitou are some of the more popular, only one trip includes a healthy dose of indigenous culture!
Taiwan is home to several indigenous tribes, to which some found a home in the valleys surrounding Taipei. Yet what makes this place all the more fascinating is the reason the tribes settled here in the first place!
Wulai is iconic for its natural hot springs which provide a place to escape the concrete jungle for some well-needed relaxation! So, in that case, let’s see how you can experience the town of Wulai in one day!
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A Brief History of Wulai
Taipei is much bigger than you’d think! The central capital of Taipei City is surrounded by yet another sprawling metropolis, New Taipei City, which stretches all the way across the northern part of the island. Wulai is the southernmost of these districts and, as such, is practically in the middle of the island!
The district is also home to the northernmost sect of the Atayal tribe, which is the 3rd largest of the 16 recognized indigenous tribes in the country. More importantly, it’s the closest tribal sect to Taipei!
The Nanshi River is the lifeblood of the valley which feeds the Wulai district its iconic hot springs. According to legend, these hot springs first caught the eye of the Atayal tribe as they travelled through the valley and were named wu lai ga lu or “hot water!” after they came across them!
In recent years, Wulai has become a popular tourist attraction amongst locals and one of the most popular day trips from Taipei. Along with the likes of Beitou, it’s become the number one hot spring destination.
Though in past years the rivers were lined with natural hot springs and half-naked locals, these days the lack of health standards and the numerous nearby hotels hijacking the water has brought the practice to an end. And don’t think of trying it either, as it’s now been made illegal!
Getting to Wulai
Getting to Wulai is pretty simple as all routes lead through Taipei. You can easily get there by car or scooter which should take about 25 minutes.
For public transportation, your first step is getting to Xindian MRT Station (the last station on the green line) before transferring to bus 849 for a 40-minute ride. For this leg, you’re able to use your EasyCard or it otherwise costs NT$15 each way.
If none of that takes your fancy, then you could always take a taxi which costs about $600-800 one-way and takes about 30 minutes.
The ultimate itinerary for visiting the home of Taiwanese hot spring culture and a geological paradise.
The Route to Explore Wulai
Wulai is the perfect spot for day-trippers its a wonderful crash course of natural wonders, cosy hot springs AND has a generous dose of indigenous culture thrown in. Best of all, it can all be experienced in a single day!
Conveniently, all you have to do is follow one easy route through the district.
The Things to See in Wulai
Wulai Suspension Bridge
The first most notable site you’ll come across is the Wulai Suspension Bridge which crosses the Nanshi River. The pedestrian-only bridge is one of the most gorgeous in the region and makes for quite a photo!
The bridge also provides access to Wulai Fude Temple on the other side of the river. Speaking of which…
Wulai Fude Temple
Taiwan isn’t short of temples, though Wulai Fude Temple is one of the few that you’re able to find in the district! Though it may not be as eye-catching as others, it’s said that this was the first Buddhist temple established in Taipei! Quite an achievement!
Wulai Old Street
This is the most iconic spot in the town and the point at which everything gravitates around. The pedestrian street is a congregation of shops, restaurants, and food stalls bursting with traditional aboriginal-themed goods, cheesy souvenirs, and of course, an endless amount of food!
Amongst the Taiwanese classics are numerous traditional aboriginal snacks, including wild boar sausages, caramelised sweet potatoes, bamboo tubes filled with sticky rice (once used by aboriginal hunters as a convenient lunchbox!) and endless bottles of millet wine, a staple of indigenous tribes.
If you prefer a sit-down meal, there are also plenty of aboriginal restaurants which offer more intricate dishes including deep-fried river shrimp and passion fruit flowers!
Wulai Atayal Museum
The inhabitants of Wulai are mainly from the Atayal tribe, the 3rd largest indigenous group in Taiwan. So, after indulging yourself in some local tribal cuisine, why not learn a little more about their culture!
In the middle of Wulai Old Street, you’ll come across the Wulai Atayal Museum, a free museum dedicated to the local Atayal tribe.
Inside are several small exhibits which display Atayal clothing, tools, as well as detailing some of the local traditions such as hunting and weaving. The most noteworthy customs are facial tattoos which were once a rite of passage and iconic trademark of Atayal women.
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What to see, how to get there, where to stay
Wulai Scenic Train
Having reached the end of Old Street and with a belly full of street snacks, walking might be the last thing on your mind. Luckily, there’s the perfect chance for you to rest your feet!
The Wulai Scenic Train was originally built by the Japanese in 1928 to transport timber through the mountains. Since the departure of the Japanese and the logging industry in general, these carts were given an adorable paint job and converted into a tourist attraction that transports eager visitors deeper into the valley.
The 1.6 km ride costs NT$50 each way, and is worth every penny! You could walk the same route if you wanted, though it’s best to take the train up so you don’t have to deal with the growing incline!
The tiny choo choo train conveniently drops you off right next to the area’s most iconic attraction, Wulai Waterfall. The 80-meter cascade is easily visible from the observation deck on the opposite, though it can be pretty difficult to get in your camera frame!
The area around the waterfall has also gathered a small number of shops and cafes. The nearby Wulai Forestry Life Museum is also worth checking out with its small exhibits detailing the history of the area and the old logging industry.
The area also plays host to regular performances by local tribe members which are also worth your time. If that’s not enough, then it’s also a great place to spot cherry blossoms from January to February!
For one of the best views of the waterfall and Wulai in general, the Wulai Gondola is just the ticket! Taking off from the Taiche Waterfall Station, the gondola travels right over the waterfall to Yun Hsien Resort.
Before the hotel is a small recreation area, much like a miniature version of what you’d find in Sun Moon Lake. The park has some lush greenery to explore and a number of smaller activities including paintballing and archery of all things! Entrance to the park is covered by a return ticket for the gondola at NT$220.
Being deep in the valleys and surrounded by some fantastic mountain ranges, Wulai is the perfect setting for a day of hiking!
Once you reached the waterfall then you can keep on heading deeper into the valley to find many different trails. These include the Xinxian Trail which follows Nanshi River towards Wusha Creek and Neidong Forest Recreation Area
From there you could also take the 2.9 km long Neidong Forest Loop which leads past the Neidong Forest Recreation Area, Wusha Creek and Doll Valley.
If you want a real adventure, then you could also hike all the way to the Sanxia district of New Taipei or all the way to Jiaoxi Hot Spring village in Yilan County.
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It would be criminal to come to the hot spring town of Wulai without stepping into the toasty waters yourself! Luckily there are more than plenty of places for you to do just that. The clear and odourless waters come out at about 80° C and are rich in minerals that are believed to do wonders for your skin!
Though I would highly recommend spending the night in Wulai to get the full benefit of relaxing with your private hot spring, it isn’t actually necessary, as many hotels and resorts rent hot springs by the hour!
They range from high-class spas with elegantly designed private and public hot springs to small, basic rooms with hot spring bathtubs which can cost as little as NT$100 per hour.
Jiajiuliao Stream (Extra)
This next one is by no means necessary to add to your day trip and depends on the time of year and fortunate weather…but it’s so worth it when the timing is right!
A popular summer pastime for local Taiwanese is river tracing, where they will walk up rivers and creeks and find spots to swim and play around in the waters. Luckily, Wulai has one of the best within reach of Taipei!
The Jiajiuliao stream can be found after stepping off the bus at Cheng Gong Bus Stop and following the road beside Jiajiuliao Bridge. The stream gathers all manner of crowds during the summer that come for BBQs as well as having a chance to whisk their way down a rockslide to the cooling waters below!
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Thank you so much for reading The Ultimate Travel Itinerary – Wulai in 1 Day! Now check out these other helpful articles!