Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan has been my favorite place ever since I visited the gorgeous water reservoir in my first year living in the country. The serene alpine lake is as unearthly and mystic as its legend. And the best thing to do in Sun Moon Lake is to just appreciate the beautiful waterscape as its scenery changes as time goes by. 

Nevertheless, this popular tourist destination offers many ways to enjoy the lake. In this post, I will share:

  • what to do, see, and eat in Sun Moon Lake
  • how to get to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung, Taipei, and Kaohsiung
  • and how to get around once you get there. 

Also, see my Sun Moon Lake Itinerary for your travel planning because nearby towns are well worth your visit while you are in the area, too!

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15 Epic Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung | #SunMoonLake #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

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>> Planning for a Taipei trip as well? Whether you are heading there now or adding to your travel bucket list for the future, be sure to check out my Taiwan Travel Tips and Taipei Travel Guides:

Happy Planning!

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung | #SunMoonLake #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

A serene alpine lake from Xiangshan Lookout

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest alpine lake in Yuchi Township of Nantou County. As one of the Eight Beauty of Taiwan Scenic Areas, it is Taiwan’s time-tested and most popular tourist destination.

In the middle of the lake is Lalu Island, a tiny island once inhabited by the Taiwanese aboriginal Thao tribe. According to a legend, the Thao hunters discovered this mystic place while chasing a rare white deer for days across river and mountain ridges. They saw it as a sacred place and moved the entire tribe to settle here.

By the way, have you wondered why it is called Sun Moon Lake?

In the middle of the lake, the tiny Lalu Island separates the water in two sections: the east side resembling a crescent Moon and the west side looking like the Sun. Such a heavenly landscape only deserves the divine legend and the poetic name, don’t you think?

How to Get to Sun Moon Lake

Taichung to Sun Moon Lake

By Car: Driving a car from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake takes about 1.5 hours. Rent a car. You can also hire a private transfer or a shared van from Taichung.

By Motorcycle: Riding a scooter to Sun Moon Lake is also possible. Rent a scooter here. A motorcycle license is required. 

By Bus: Taking a bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake takes about 1.5 hours.

  • Travel to Sun Moon Lake by Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Sun Moon Lake Route from HSR Taichung Station. Bus runs from 7:20 am at every hour until the last departure at 2:20 pm.
  • Another option is the Nantou bus. Online booking can be challenging but try here with Google Translation on. Or, just take a chance without booking and use your EasyCard on board. Bus runs from 7:45 am until the last departure at 5:10 pm. 

Taipei to Sun Moon Lake

By Flight: No direct flight from Taipei to Taichung. 

By Train: Take an HSR (High Speed Rail) from Taipei Main Station to Taichung Station. (Save with the unlimited HSR tourist pass.) It takes less than an hour. Take a bus, hire a driver, or drive a rental from the station to Sun Moon Lake.  

By Car: Driving a car from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake takes about 3 hours. Rent a car here. Or hire a private transfer from Taipei. 

By Bus: Take Kuo-Kuang bus #1833 departs from Taipei Bus Station (NT470 one-way or NT900 round trip). The 4-hour journey can be booked online here, but head to a convenience store for help if any complications. 

Kaohsiung to Sun Moon Lake

By Flight: No direct flight from Kaohsiung to Taichung. 

By Train: Take an HSR (High Speed Rail) from Zuoying Station to Taichung Station. (Save with the unlimited HSR tourist pass.) It takes less than an hour. Take a bus, hire a driver, or drive a rental from the station to Sun Moon Lake.  

By Car: Driving a car from Kaohsiung to Sun Moon Lake takes about 3 hours. Rent a car here

By Bus: Take a bus to Taichung and transfer to a Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Sun Moon Lake Route from HSR Taichung Station.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: How to Get to Sun Moon Lake | A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung | #SunMoonLake #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

How to Get Around Sun Moon Lake

If you don’t have a car or scooter, the round-the-lake bus is the easiest way to get around Sun Moon Lake. It does not actually travel in a complete circle; instead, it stops at every popular tourist site from Shuishe to Xuanguang Temple.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: How to Get to Sun Moon Lake | A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung | #SunMoonLake #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

Be sure to pick up the timetable and know when the next bus comes as it is not frequent. 

You may also use a mix of boats (#2 below), cable car (#6), and bike (#12) to get around more efficiently. 

>> If you are making a day trip from Taichung, consider booking a Sun Moon Lake Day Tourthis or this.

>> To cover a broader area in one day, this Nantou tour from Taichung takes you to Sun Moon Lake, Cingjing Farm, and Cingjing Skyline. 

Sun Moon Lake Map

As you can see from this Sun Moon Lake Map, you can make one big circle around the lake. I will list things to do in Sun Moon Lake in the clockwise direction, starting from Shuishe.

Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Shuishe Pier || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#1. Shuishe Visitors Center

Consider Shuishe as a city center. Although it is tiny, the area has everything tourists need – hotel & lodging, restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir shops, bike rentals, etc.

It is also a transportation hub. If you are taking a bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, this is where the bus will drop you off. And you can also take a bus around the lake, or out to another area like Qingjing Farm or Checheng.

Shuishe Wharf is one of three major marinas in the area. See #1. Sun Moon Lake Boat below for details. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Itinerary | Sun Moon Lake Boat Tour || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#2. Sun Moon Lake Boat

One of the most fun ways to explore Sun Moon Lake is from the water itself. And it is an inexpensive and efficient way to cross over the lake. Because of these reasons, I would say taking a boat tour is a must. 

There are many little dockyards for private and public boats. But for most of the boat tours, you will be using Shuishe, Xuangguang, and Ita Thao Piers. 

  • Shuishe Pier: See above #1. Shuishe Visitors Center
  • Xuangguang Pier: Xuangguang is close to Xuangguang Temple. You can even walk to nearby Xuanzang Temple or Ci’en Pagoda. But the highlight is to see the Lalu Island (See #3. Lalu Island)
  • Ita Thao Piers: See #8. Ita Thao Sun Moon Lake below.

>> Many discounted boat tour packages are offered together with bike rental and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. I recommend booking in advance.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Lalu Island || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

This tiny island in the middle of Sun Moon Lake is a sacred place for the Thao tribe.

#3. Lalu Island

Lalu Island is a tiny island floating in the middle of Sun Moon Lake. It used to be the habitat of the Thao tribe when it was much bigger than what’s remaining today. The Thao people believe that the island is a sacred place where their witches ask for approval from the ancestors’ spirits.

Tourists are not allowed to visit the island; however, you can get close to the island if you take a boat tour. You can also appreciate it afar from Xuanggang Pier (#2), The Lalu hotel (#15), and Xiangshan Lookout (#11).

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Wenwu Temple | #WenwuTemple #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#4. Wenwu Temple

Wennwu Temple is the most iconic temple in Sun Moon Lake. This Chinese palace-style temple has a magnificent presence on the hillside.

Interestingly, the temple was built as the result of combining two small temples. When the Japanese came to construct hydroelectric power plants, the water level rose and drowned two temples. The leaders of two temples decided to re-construct one giant temple with the compensation they received from the Japanese company.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Wenwu Temple | #WenwuTemple #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

Year of Steps at Wenwu Temple

Before the road around the lake was built, the only way to get to the temple was to take a boat to the nearby pier and climb up the stairs. This steep flight of stairs is 366 in total, symbolizing the 366 days in a year (365+1 day in a leap year).

If you are up for the challenge and want to make a wish, you can buy a wind chime, get blessed by the temple, and go down the steps and hang it.

Hours: Open 24 hours

Location: [Open Google Map]

#5. Nine Frogs Stack

An interesting fact about Sun Moon Lake: Sun Moon Lake is not only a major tourist attraction in Taiwan but also is the main water source for four hydroelectric power plants.

Nine Frogs Stack is the stack of nine frog statues in the water seen from Nine Frogs Stack Hiking Trail. Many believe that Nine Frogs Stack indicates the area’s drought conditions depending on how many frogs you can see above the water.

Even when all nine frogs are visible, the lake has about 80% water storage capacity. So I can say the common belief is technically inaccurate. Still, the statue is an intriguing thing to see in Sun Moon Lake.

Unfortunately, Nine Frogs Stack Hiking Trail was temporarily closed during my recent visit to Sun Moon Lake. Taiwan has experienced a drought in recent years, and I have seen the reporting that says 7 of 9 frogs were exposed. Although I missed the opportunity to see the rare scene (darn!), I could see the significant water level drops compared to my first visit to SML only five years ago! 

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Sun Moon Lake Ropeway || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

See cherry blossoms underneath your feet from a Sun Moon Lake cable car.

#6. Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway connects Sun Moon Lake and Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village over the mountain. The 1,877m-long ropeway takes about 7-9 minutes one way. You have the option of riding a crystal cabin (glass bottom) and a regular one

A few years ago, I chickened out to take a crystal cabin on my way to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong. This time, I decided to ride the clear-bottom gondola on the way up to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village. Although it was quite scary at first, to be honest, it got better and I did not regret it. On the way down, I took the regular one because of the long line for the crystal cabin. 

If you took Sun Moon Lake Ropeway to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village, note the last gondola lift leaves earlier than the park’s closing time. 

Admission: NT$300 round trip [I highly recommend buying a ticket here to avoid lining up.]

Hours: 10:30 am – 4 pm | weekends & holidays: 10 am – 4:30 pm (Closed on the first Wednesday of the month for maintenance)

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Many discounted boat tour packages are offered together with bike rental and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. I recommend booking in advance.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Formosa Culture Village || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

#7. Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village

Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village is an amusement park and museum, where you can learn about Taiwan’s 9 main indigenous tribes. While I was not impressed with the amusement park, I recommend visiting this cultural village during the cherry blossom festival

Not to be confused with #6 Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village has another Skyline cable car inside the park. (You can also see a bird-eye view of cherry blossoms on the gondola lift.) Once getting off from the Skyline, walk down the park passing aboriginal exhibits besides the cherry blossom-lined roads.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Formosa Culture Village during the Cherry Blossom season || #SunMoonLake #cherryblossom #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

The highlight of blooms is in Cherry Blossom Forest in the middle of the park (near the Spanish Coast). Many locals bring a mat and snacks to go cherry blossom picnic here. It can get quite crowded, but it is worth visiting for cherry blossoms. (You can also take this cherry blossom day trip.) 

During the cherry blossom, the culture village showcases special aboriginal performances throughout the day. Also, the park is open in the evening for the illuminated night viewing of cherry blossoms. 

Each year’s cherry blossom festival dates change. But it typically falls from February through early March. In 2021, cherry blossoms were in full bloom in mid-February. I got the tail end of the cherry blossom festival; unfortunately, many pedals have gone from the rain the day before. 

Admission & Hours: Seasonally varies. Purchase Admission with Ropeway & Boat

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Ita Thao Visitors Center Area || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#8. Ita Thao Visitors Center

Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area has been inhabited by the Thao tribe since the Qing Dynasty. The Thao is the most minor official aboriginal recognized by Taiwan.

Ita Thao Visitors Center is the central area to take a peek at the indigenous culture and lives of the Thao. Daily cultural performances occur on weekdays from 11- 11:40 am and 3 – 3:40 pm, except Wednesdays (break). On weekends and holidays, you can catch one more performance at 5-5:40 pm.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Sun Moon Lake Food: President Fish, Bamboo Sticky Rice, Aboriginal Cuisine  || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaiwanFood #TaichungDayTrip #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

The area also has a small shopping street where you can find souvenirs and street foods. I recommend trying traditional aboriginal food such as boar meat (山豬肉), sticky bamboo rice (竹筒飯), millet mochi (小米麻吉) and millet wine (小米酒).

Local specialties like Aruzay lake fish, a.k.a. President Fish (總統魚), are worth trying. (The late President Chiang Kai-Shek enjoyed the Aruzay fish dish whenever he visited Sun Moon Lake.)

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Ci’en Pagoda || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#9. Ci’en Pagoda

Ci’en Pagoda has the best view of Sun Moon Lake. The late President Chiang Kai-Shek built this pagoda in memory of his mother in 1971. You can imagine he precisely picked the most beautiful spot overlooking the misty lake.

The pagoda is 46 meters tall from the ground and 1 km above sea level. If you go up the spiral stairs all the way up to the tower (nine stories), you can have an unobstructed 360-degree view of the lake and surrounding mountains.

To get to Ci’en Pagoda, you have to hike up the hill about the 700 meters long stairway.

Hours: 9 am – 4:30 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Xiangshan Visitors Center | #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

Xianghan Visitors Center totally reminded me of Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Seoul!

#10. Xiangshan Visitors Center

Xiangshan Visitors Center is an incredible modern architecture mixed with concrete and green grass. A Japanese architect Dan Norihiko designed this avant-garde building to be in harmony with its surroundings.

It is gorgeous architecture with good photo spots in hidden nooks and crannies. Besides several exhibits, the Xiangshan Cafe is a stylish place to grab a coffee while appreciating the lake view.

The best way to get here? I’d say riding a bike through a well-laid bikeway from Shuishe. (See #12 for details.) And you can also swing by Xiangshan Lookout (#11).

Hours: 9 am – 5 pm

Location: [Open Google Map]

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Xiangshan Lookout | #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#11. Xiangshan Lookout

Want to take an up-close look at Lalu Island (#3)? Continue riding that bike behind the Xiangshan Visitors Center.

There is an extension of the bikeway. Park your bike, and you can walk over the skywalk. Voila! Enjoy the gorgeous view of Sun Moon Lake. 

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Getting tired of just looking at the lake? If you want to be on the water, check out this SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) on Sun Moon Lake.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Sun Moon Lake Cycling | #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

I rented this e-bike from the Giant bike shop.

#12. Sun Moon Lake Cycling

The bike road around Sun Moon Lake is one of the world’s top 10 most beautiful bikeways by CNN. 

The most straightforward course is from Shuishe to Xiangshan Visitor’s Center. It takes about 30-min one way. You can follow along the flat, wooden decked bikeway separated from the car road.  

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Sun Moon Lake Cycling | #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

Take a glance at this bike map around Sun Moon Lake, provided by the Giant bike shop.

For more serious bikers, you can make a complete circle around the lake on a bike. Be aware that some parts of Sun Moon Lake’s outer roads are hilly and winding (see red lines in the photo above). You may feel that burning sensation in your hamstring!!! The Sun Moon Lake bikeways are not built in a complete circle, so you will have to ride next to cars at some point. Please wear a helmet!  

If you’d like a little help, go to the Giant bicycle store to rent an e-bike. Their selections are pricier than other bike shops but surely much better quality. Depending on the model you choose, the price per hour varies.

By the way, I own a Giant e-bike, which I named “Giselle.” It is a European model that is not available in Taiwan, so you won’t see it at the store. But I absolutely love this elegant yet powerful bike. Check out my Instagram to see her.

Giant Store Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Last rental at 4 p.m.)

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> Bike rentals are offered as part of packages with a boat tour and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Ci’en Pagoda || #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

An interesting fact: Black tea is translated to “red tea” (紅茶) in Chinese.

#13. Sun Moon Lake Tea (Antique Assam Tea Farm)

Taiwan’s most renowned tea variety is oolong tea. But when it comes to Sun Moon Lake Tea, black tea is noteworthy – Assam tea, to be specific.

Yuchi near Sun Moon Lake is at an altitude of 700m and surrounded by mountains. Heavy moist and stable year-round temperatures make a remarkable environment for growing black teas, similar to India’s Assam tea farms. During the Japanese colonial period, the Sun Moon Lake area has become the epicenter of Assam tea cultivation. And it was considered the top-quality tea, good enough to gift their emperor as royal tribute.

Sun Moon Lake teas are hand-picked and have full flavors. Three kinds are considered the best: No. 7, No. 8, and No. 18. Particularly, No. 18 is famous, known as Ruby 18, Ruby 18 Red, or Taiwan Red Jade (紅玉); it exudes an aroma of cinnamon with a hint of mint.

If you can make it to Antique Assam Tea Farm, I recommend checking it out. An old tea factory is a unique place you can learn about how tea was produced back in the days. You can also walk around the tea hill to look at the tea leaves up close and personal and purchase renowned Sun Moon Lake Black Tea.

Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Location: [Open Google Map]

>> If you are making day trips from Sun Moon Lake, consider joining the Puli Culture Day Trip. This tour takes you to Paper Dome, Chung Tai Chan Monastery, Shuili Kilin, and Jiji – Checheng Stations in one day. 

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Antique Assam Tea Farm | #SunMoonLakeTea #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

#14. Sun Moon Lake Mushrooms & Tea Egg

Nantou’s ecological environment with abundant water resources is also suitable for mushroom cultivation. Sun Moon Lake mushrooms are considered one of the best in the country. And these quality mushrooms are easily found in local restaurants, food stalls, or shops.

I bought some mushroom chips from Yuchi Famers’ Association shop. It was so good that I regretted getting only two bags. I also love that it is a natural vegan snack, besides additional flavorings such as salt, sugar, and cinnamon.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Things to Do + Itinerary: Sun Moon Lake Tea & Souvenirs | #SunMoonLakeTea #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #TaichungDayTrip

Yuchi Famers’ Association Shop

Hours: 9 am – 8 pm (Closes at 9 pm on Sat & Sun)

Location: [Open Google Map]

Where to Stay in Sun Moon Lake: The Lalu Resort Sun Moon Lake - Afternoon tea | #Lalu #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #SunMoonLakeResort

#15. Afternoon Tea at The Lalu Sun Moon Lake

The Lalu Hotel is the most notable luxury Sun Moon Lake resort. When the Taiwanese talk about Sun Moon Lake, everyone thinks of this iconic hotel built in the late president Chiang Kai-Shek’s favorite summer vacation home.

Indeed, the 5-star hotel features the most picturesque view of the serene lake. Of course, this gorgeous view comes with a hefty price tag. It’s ok if you don’t want to spend a fortune on that view because there is another way for you to enjoy it at a much affordable price.

When you confirm your travel date, call The Lalu to reserve a table for afternoon tea (ask for the window table or outdoor terrace). The important thing to note here, though, is that this “afternoon tea” is actually a buffet, not a British afternoon tea with three-tiered-plate desserts. (But they offer lots of desserts.)

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: Things to Do + Itinerary | Afternoon tea at The Lalu Resort Sun Moon Lake | #Lalu #SunMoonLake #TaiwanItinerary #SunMoonLakeResort #lakeview

I have to warn you, though, that it gets pretty crowded with tourists. Although it might not be “serene,” you will get to appreciate the fantastic lake view without breaking the bank. 

I tried to book a seat at their tea room, but they said it was only reserved for hotel guests. The Lalu keeps the crowd away from roaming all over the property to ensure their guests have exclusive access to the 5-star amenities. If you can afford it, it is well worth staying at the best location in Sun Moon Lake: The Lalu Sun Moon Lake [Book here]

Afternoon Tea: NT$799 on weekdays or NT$850 on weekend per person + 10% service charge

Hours: 2:30 – 5 pm (Reservation required: +886-(0)4-9285-5311)

Location: [Open Google Map]

READ MORE | Don’t leave Taiwan without tasting its famous pineapple cakes! Find the best pineapple cakes in Taiwan >> 

Where to Go Next in Taiwan for Nature Lovers

>> Taroko Gorge National Park: A hiker’s dream destination with a magnificent marble gorge view from a soaring cliff

>> Penghu: Taiwan’s Underrated Hidden Gem Island

>> Xiaoliuqiu Island: Swim with Sea Turtles

>> Juming Museum: A mountaintop sculpture park with the famed Juming’s artworks

>> Wulai Hot Springs: A secluded aboriginal village tucked in a mountain famous for hot spring

>> Beitou Hot Springs: An urban retreat only a stone’s throw away from Taipei

Bon Voyage!

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15 Epic Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake Taiwan: A Picturesque Alpine Lake near Taichung | #SunMoonLake #TravelTaiwan #AsiaTravel

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