Most Taiwanese locals see Sun Moon Lake as the ultimate tourist destination! The awe-inspiring natural landscapes play host to a set of beautifully adorned temples and a small gathering of native indigenous tribes.
Taiwan hasn’t been fully experienced until you find yourself on the lake’s shoreline! Whether you seek tranquil relaxation or a cultural adrenaline rush, Sun Moon Lake offers something for everyone.
So in that case, here are the best things to see around Sun Moon Lake!
This article may contain affiliate links which I may be compensated for at no extra cost to you dear readers!
Table of Contents
Sun Moon Lake
Where better to start than the star attractions? Taiwan’s largest body of water is also considered it’s most beautiful, bringing in tourists from far and wide to bask along its tranquil waters.
Visitors can enjoy it along one of the many ferries for about NT$300. Better yet, why not get your hands wet by kayaking or paddleboarding?
Visitors will be able to get out onto the water at 3 major ports – Ita Thao, Shuishe or Xuanguang.
Though Sun Moon Lake may be the star of the show, many see Wenwu Temple as the region’s iconic symbol.
Situated high amongst the rolling mountain vistas, the enormous complex overlooks dominates the lake’s shorelines with its commanding spirituality. It also provides a stunning panoramic view of the entire region!
The temple itself is made up of 3 separate halls, each dedicated to a different deity. Starting from the giant vermillion lions at the front courtyard, the entire complex works its way up the hillside with each level being grander than the last!
For a detailed guide on Taiwanese temples, check out The Ultimate Guide to Taiwanese Temples.
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
Speaking of stunning viewpoints, there are few better ways to see the area’s landscape than in front of the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway!
Leading from Ita Thao all the way to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park hidden in the valleys (more on that later), it gives a stunning new perspective of the area’s natural beauty.
A round trip costs 300 NTD, and tickets are included if you buy tickets to the Formosan Culture Village. If you really want a special experience, make sure you get one with a glass bottom!
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Hidden amongst the valleys at the end of the ropeway is the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park. For many, this is Sun Moon Lake’s main attraction, yet for others, it’s a defining example of cultural appropriation. That’s for you to decide!
The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is a quirky blend of an amusement park crossed with a cultural museum. The first half is a typical theme park with a small selection of exhilarating rides. The other half of the park is dedicated to the various indigenous tribes that are native to Taiwan.
Each “village” gives a brief crash course on the different tribes, their native clothing and some of their unique cultural traits through the use of exhibitions. The park also holds regular shows which give a short introduction to the different tribes by showcasing their traditional dances, tribal practices and unique songs. For short-term visitors to Taiwan, it’s a crash course to the different tribes on the island!
The shores of Sun Moon Lake have more than one extraordinary temple to explore!
This particular ornately designed Taoist temple is a favourite amongst hopeful romantics who come to visit the temple’s main attraction, Yue Lao Shrine. Eager singles come in their droves to pray to the god of love for good fortune in their future relationships. Those already in love shouldn’t pray! Instead, they should leave offerings as thank you for Yue Lao’s help!
If love is not your goal, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the equally fascinating view of the lake from before the temple!
The ultimate guide on travelling to Taiwan’s number one tourist attraction, Sun Moon Lake
How to get there, what to do, what to eat
Ita Thao Shopping Street
Ita Thao is the true tourist centre of the region and has been an area of trade since the arrival of the Han people of China to Taiwan! With a constant stream of tourists since those early days, Ita Thao’s role is the traveller’s hub.
The town features one of the lake’s three ports along with a large congregation of hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores. It’s also one of the easiest ways of exploring the surrounding landmarks, with sites such as the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway being only a short walk away.
Though the real beauty of the town is seen at night as the streets burst into life with a bustling night market! Here you’ll find a myriad of classic Taiwanese street snacks along with some traditional Thao tribal dishes too!
Worried about eating street food? Check out 15 Tips for Eating Street Food Safely.
Visible from almost every point along the lake’s shore, the 43-meter Ci’en pagoda is another postcard image! It was commissioned in 1971 by former president Chiang Kai-shek as a dedication to his late mother and quite a dedication it is!
Luckily visitors can walk to the top of the pagoda for a spectacular panoramic view of the lake.
Nine Frogs Stack
Located along a wooden boardwalk that follows the shorelines from Ita Thao is quite a peculiar art piece poking out of the water. Here you’ll find an ascending stack of nine frogs sitting atop one another, each one smaller than the last.
You’re probably not going to see them all as most will be submerged under the water. Though this might seem like a dreadful design choice, it was actually done on purpose!
The figures are unofficially used to measure the lake’s water level and used to estimate whether the country will have enough water for the coming winter. Though it’s that accurate, for the highly superstitious Taiwanese, this may as well be gospel!
The Thao Tribe Performance Center
While some find the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village to be a bit tasteless and insensitive, there is still one place that gives a true and authentic representation of local tribal culture.
The Thao Tribe Performance Centre was built to preserve and promote the customs of the tribes that lived around Sun Moon Lake, including the Thao and Bunun tribes, which are some of the smallest in Taiwan.
Inside you’ll find numerous exhibitions and might be lucky enough to catch a performance by tribal members that showcase their dances and traditional songs. You might even hear some of the elders speak their native Thao language!
Though it may be one of the more humble structures that surround the lake’s shores, it still provides an equally stunning view of the surrounding landscape. Along with Ita Thao and Shuishe, Xuanguang Temple even has its own dedicated port which brings in hundreds of visitors every day! Though many of them come for more than just spirituality!
Taiwan is known for its love of tea eggs, which are boiled in a mix of tea and spices. Though you’ll find them in every convenience store in Taiwan, the ones at Sun Moon Lake are some of the best. And of the lake’s many freshly brewed eggs, the ones from the humble stall at Xuanguang are the all-time best. Even on a bad day they apparently sell over 1000 eggs!!
The third and final port around Sun Moon Lake is Shuishe. While Ita Thao may be the traveller’s hub, this is the region’s transport centre. This is where all visitors come through including all tourist buses. As such, the small town has a large congregation of hotels, restaurants and bike rentals too. It also has a decent little street of street stalls, snacks and souvenir shops to fit all your touristy needs!
From here, visitors are able to able to explore the rest of the region by bike, scooter, or single bus that travels around the lake’s perimeter.
Named after the holy monk of the Tang dynasty whose remains are held within, the temple has a long history of relocation. During the war between China and Japan, the Japanese took Monk Xuanzang’s remains away to their own temple before finally returning them in 1955. Despite its significance, it’s one of the lesser-visited temples around the lake, so you’ll be certain to avoid the crowds!
Watch Here For More!
Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!
Thank you for reading The 12 Best Things to See Around Sun Moon Lake! Now check out these other helpful articles!