Taiwan is a tropical island with jungles and high mountains in the center. The tallest mountain, 玉山 or Jade Mountain in Central Southern Taiwan, is a whopping 3,952 m (12,966 ft) in height. North of Jade Mountain is 雪山 or Snow Mountain, which gets a decent amount of snow in the winter. Snow Mountain is also impressively tall with a height of 3,886 m (12,749 ft) at its summit.
Taiwan's capital city is Taipei, which is located in the north of the island. Other major cities include Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung running north to south on the western side of the island. Major cities on the eastern coast include Keelung in the north, Hualien on the central coast, and Taitung in the southwest.
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Taiwan's main cities
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan, and coupled with neighboring New Taipei City, is by far the most populous metropolis in Taiwan with more than 6 million people. But unlike other large cities around the world, Taipei still has the atmosphere of a small town. Generally speaking, people are incredibly friendly, crime is nearly non-existent, food is diverse and reasonably priced, and navigating public transportation is simple and efficient.
Taipei is also home to Taiwan's top universities, many of which offer Mandarin Chinese language courses and degree programs for international students from the USA. You can find out more about university programs by visiting this page.
Taipei's city skyline is dominated by the Taipei World Financial Center, known more commonly as Taipei 101. At a height of 1,667 ft (508 m), it dwarfs all other buildings in the city of Taipei. Taipei 101 was deemed the world's tallest building in 2003 and held that record until Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai in 2007. You can visit Taipei 101 and take a high-speed elevator to the observation deck on the 89th floor for a breathtaking view of the city skyline.
There are many sites to see in Taipei, including the National Palace Museum, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and the Lungshan Temple. However, one of the best things about Taipei is its night markets.
The weather in Taiwan is generally warm and humid, with temperatures cooling in the night. This has led to an abundance of night life. Night markets offer excitement for all the senses, with a large variety of food, shops, carnival games, and other activities. These markets are something you don’t want to miss if you are visiting Taiwan. While Taipei is well known for its night markets, most other major cities in Taiwan have them too.
Taipei is incredibly unique and diverse, with residents and students from all over the world. Although located at the very north of the island, Taipei is also Taiwan's transportation hub giving access to all parts of this beautiful island nation.
Taipei is home to many top universities attended by American students. These include National Taiwan University, Taipei Medical University, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech), National Chengchi University, National Taiwan Normal University,
Fu Jen Catholic University, Tamkang University, Ming Chuan University, Chinese Culture University, National Taipei University of Technology, Soochow University, Shih Hsin University, and National Taiwan University of Arts.
As well, only 50 miles from Taipei, located in Hsinchu City, there are two very important top universities (National Tsing Hua University and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University) that support the rapid growth of Hsinchu Science Park. These two universities aided the development of many new high-tech companies which helped Hsinchu Science Park become the Silicon Valley of Taiwan.
You can find out more about Taipei here.
Taichung is Central Taiwan's largest city by population, and has a lot to offer Americans looking to live and study in Taiwan. Like Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taichung is a smaller city with all the benefits of a big city. Residents enjoy a pleasant climate as Taichung is often compared to California due to its continual sun-shiny days and lack of humidity.
Taichung has seen rapid growth in recent years due to a large number of manufacturers. Home to many cultural sites and a plethora of night markets, this city is one of Taiwan's best-kept-secrets. You will typically find more American students and residents in Taipei and Kaohsiung, but Taichung also has a vibrant international community. Making local and foreign friends is very easy across the entire nation of Taiwan.
Surely, food and night markets make living in Taichung all the better. With its own international airport and a system of trains and buses, getting and around Taichung, as well as journeying to other cities, is easy and convenient.
Historic sites, outdoor excursions, and amazing food is not all Taichung has to offer. This city is also home to several major universities, many of which have programs for international students, making them a great choice for Americans studying abroad. These include Feng-Chia University, Tunghai University, National Chung Hsing University, Providence University, and Chaoyang University of Technology.
You can find out more about Taichung here.
Kaohsiung is located on the southwest bay of Taiwan near the city of Tainan. Once a small fishing village, Kaohsiung is the biggest city in Southern Taiwan. It is home to an international airport, numerous skyscrapers, a beautiful natural harbor, many universities, and has an abundance of urban and rural attractions to satisfy everyone. Want to get out of the city for the day? A trip to Taipei is a mere hour and a half via high-speed rail. Kaohsiung is a modern city with amazing food and a vibrant night life, yet retains the appeal of natural beauty with farmland, forests, mountains, and hot springs.
Kaohsiung has a diverse international community with residents from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. If you are planning to move to Kaohsiung, you will find a range of affordable housing options as well as excellent transportation links throughout the city, including multiple ferry services which provide views of the beautiful Kaohsiung landscape.
The city also boasts several notable universities such as National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung Medical University, and National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology.
You can find out more about Kaohsiung here.
Located just north of Kaohsiung, Tainan is Taiwan's oldest city, boasting several historic sites, nine major museums, and many other cultural influences from the island's history. Cultural relics from the Qing Dynasty China, as well as Japanese and Dutch colonial influences can be found here.
Tainan is home to many parks, great beaches, several night markets and incredible cuisine. Like most of Taiwan's main cities, Tainan has coastland to the west and mountains to the east. It has much to offer for American students looking for a quieter and more relaxing version of city life. The weather in Tainan is milder than the north and similar to that of Taichung, being drier and a bit cooler. Outdoor activities abound as Tainan is close to many hiking trails, hot springs, and waterfalls.
Tainan also boasts more than 10 universities, including National University of Tainan, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan University of Technology, Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Kun Shan University, Chang Jung Christian University, Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, Chung Hwa University of Medical Technology, and Tainan National University of the Arts,
You can find out more about Tainan here.
The only downside to studying and living in Taiwan is that there is too much to do and see. No matter what your interests and hobbies may be, Taiwan has something to offer everyone. Although Taiwan is a small island just slightly larger than the state of Maryland, it has endless options for those who prefer indoor leisure, outdoor activities, or a mixture of both. Life is incredibly vibrant with rich culture and friendly people; it can be said that you will never be bored or hungry in Taiwan.
The natural wonders of Taiwan abound. Snowy mountains, huge waterfalls, dense jungles, and immaculate beaches can all be explored in the same day. You can go hiking, pursue serious mountain climbing, embark on a river rafting adventure, or simply go for a casual walk. The night sky view from Taiwan's mountains is breathtaking. Many universities have astronomy clubs that organize stargazing meetups and parties on higher mountains like Mt. Hehuan.
City life in Taiwan is unlike that of most other nations. They are usually very clean and not overcrowded. There can be some exceptions in Taipei and New Taipei City due to the sheer density. However, most of the time you can find a casual, friendly, and relaxing island lifestyle even among the rush of large urban municipalities. Modern technology is a mainstay, and you will find that shopping for your basic needs is easy and that comfortable transportation is abundant.
There are typically 7-Elevens everywhere and regular supermarkets to shop at. Taiwan's bigger cities often have at least one Costco or Carrefour, which is similar to Sam's Club mixed with a department store.
Cafes, restaurants, and bars are plentiful. Some are similar to those found in the USA or Europe, while others serve Japanese and Pan-Asian cuisine. Not to mention the local Taiwanese style as well. Tea houses are often more common than coffee shops, and some are even open 24 hours a day. Getting around is always easy with subways, buses, and taxis. Using these forms of transportation is convenient and cheap.
Book lovers can find bookstores and cafes everywhere. There are museums in every city, and many have zoos among other attractions. It’s easy to enjoy city life in Taiwan as the cities are clean, spacious, and safe.
The beaches of Taiwan are vast and beautiful, offering great surfing and other aquatic activities. You can also spend the day sunbathing or leisurely strolling along the pristine shoreline. Unlike the crowded beaches of California and Florida, it is easy to find your own secluded seaside getaway.
You can find out more about some of Taiwan's best beaches here.
If cycling is a hobby of yours, then Taiwan is the place for you. Cycling is extremely popular both for commuting and for exploring! The island has over 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) of trails running along coastal roads, through the cities, among lush forests and in the mountains. This makes Taiwan a paradise for cyclists.
You can find out more about bicycling in Taiwan here.
Taiwanese night markets originated several centuries ago. Peddlers would gather to sell food, handicrafts, and other merchandise on the streets. They usually took place during religious festivals and ceremonies. As a place to gather for multitudes of good food and shopping, in the cool of the evening, these markets soon became extremely popular. They are now heavily embedded into the culture.
The most popular type of food found in these markets is commonly known as xiaochi (小吃), which is directly translated as “small eats”. Taiwanese people are very fond of xiaochi, and cook variations of this food throughout the year. While food is one of the main attractions, there are carnival games to be played and shopping to be done at every turn. It is possible to find virtually anything when visiting a night market.
These markets are an amazing part of Taiwanese daily life and are without a doubt something that must be on anyone’s agenda, when visiting our wonderful cities.
You can find out more about night markets in Taiwan here.
Taiwan has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years, with historic sites and ruins dating back to the 16th century. History connoisseurs will never exhaust the rich past of this beautiful country.
Dutch forts, Japanese buildings and temples, and structures from the Qing Dynasty are still intact today and open for visitors. Taiwan possesses a vast art and military history, as well as other national treasures including Buddhist temples, ancient carvings, and archaic architecture. If you are specifically interested in Chinese history, don't forget to visit the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
You can find out more about popular historic sites here.
Taiwan is home to more than three hundred museums, and most cities have at least one. There are museums for history and humanities, arts and crafts, and nature and science. For more information on the variety of museums in Taiwan, please visit the website Museum Island which can help you to not only find information on all of Taiwan's museums, but help you plan your visit as well.
The most famous is the National Palace Museum, more commonly known as the Palace Museum. With hundreds of thousands of pieces from thousands of years of history, it is virtually impossible to see them all. The majority of the museum's collection consists of priceless artwork and artifacts collected by China's former imperial emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Palace Museum in Taiwan was originally established in the Forbidden City in Beijing on October 10th, 1925, shortly after the fall of the Qing Dynasty and expulsion of Emperor Puyi, the last emperor of China. The collection was moved to Taiwan in 1949. Several thousand crates of artifacts were transported to Taiwan. And while the National Palace Museum of Taiwan does not have every item from the original collection, the pieces found there today are still of the very best and rarest quality.
You can find out more about the Palace Museum here.
The National Taiwan Museum is Taiwan's oldest museum. Built by the Japanese government in 1905, it houses thousands of exhibits and is one of Taiwan's most notable public structures. The museum is still the same size it was when it first opened. Anthropology, earth sciences, zoology, and botany continue to be the emphasis of the collection and research. It also includes educational activities and thematic exhibitions.
You can find out more about the National Taiwan Museum here.
Taiwan-Mountain Night Sky- Photo licensed by NTHU Astronomy Club
Taiwan is internationally known for having some of the best food in the world! Whether visitors already have a love for Asian cuisine or are willing to try new things, there will be no disappointment with what this nation brings to the plate.
For those less adventurous, Taiwan also has many European and American-style restaurants, as well as many local adaptations of Western food like Taiwanese hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes.. While there are thousands of notable dishes, listed below are some of the most internationally popular, Taiwanese delicacies.
Beef Noodles 牛肉麵
This is one of the most common and most liked foods that can be found in Taiwan. For authentic, delicious, beef noodles, there are three essential elements: noodles, broth and beef. The broth is extremely important as it is the heart of the dish. There are typically two varieties of beef noodles, one made with braised beef and the other with stewed sirloin and cow tendon. This delicacy, often referred to as the pride of Taiwan, is so popular that it is sold by street vendors and high-end restaurants alike.
Xiao Long Bao 小籠包
Xiao Long Bao are is a very famous Chinese dish and for good reason. They are small, steamed dumplings with thin doughy skin and filled with a variation of meat and vegetables. They are often filled with pork and cabbage, beef, shrimp, or simply vegetarian. Each order usually consists of eight dumplings, but due to their small size and wonderful flavor, you may find yourself going back for seconds and thirds. Xiao Long Bao can be found in night markets as well as in restaurants.
Wonton Soup 餛飩湯
This staple consists of small, meat filled dumplings and piping hot soup broth. When you order these fresh, do be slow in eating them as they are known to pour hot soup broth. It is absolutely delicious! You can find it in most restaurants, but the Din Tai Fung restaurant is famous for its Wonton Soup.
Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐
While stinky tofu can be found in China, Taiwan has a way of getting this dish just right. It is called "stinky" due to its often-unpleasant aroma. While the smell may put you off at first, the flavor certainly will not. Consider it to be similar to some European cheeses where a bad smell is complemented by wonderful flavor. Stinky tofu is commonly found in night and amongst street vendors. It is served fried or steamed in a bowl of Taiwanese kimchi and duck blood, or on a stick with some light sauce over it. It is definitely worth stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Fishball Soup 魚丸湯
For seafood lovers, Fishball Soup is a must. This dish boasts an extraordinary flavor, without being overly fishy in smell or taste. The actual “fish ball” is made up of minced fish fillet, tapioca starch and minced scallions simmered in a delectable vegetable broth. This specialty is particularly wonderful during the brief cold season.
Bubble Tea (Pearl Milk Tea) 波霸奶茶
Bubble Milk Tea, or Boba Tea, is a very popular drink in Taiwan that you may have already tried in the USA. The chewy tapioca balls floating in the mellow milk tea are the most distinctive element that make this drink not only delicious but fun as well. The texture of bubble tea is so special that it is extremely well received and has become the most iconic drink of Taiwan. It is extremely popular all across Asia, the Middle East, and the USA.
Shaved Ice 刨冰
First introduced to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era, shaved ice is a favorite dessert that can be found throughout the island. You may have had shaved ice at a local park, little league game, or in Hawaii, but the Taiwanese rendition is not to be missed! This sweet treat often comes topped with fresh fruit, nuts, and condensed milk. It is simply incredible!
As a subtropical island, Taiwan has an abundance of fresh fruits. These include dragon fruit, jack fruit, longyan, lychee, loquat, and many types of tangerines, grapes, and other delicious fruits not commonly found in the USA. Above all, the mangoes of Taiwan are simply out of this world. In some areas nearer to the mango groves, you can find shops specializing in every type of mango, as well as mango juice, ice cream, shaved ice and mochi snacks. If you enjoy fruit, you will love Taiwan.
You can find out more about food in Taiwan here.