Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

What to see at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan? What is so special about Sun Moon Lake?

Taiwan is full of incredible landscapes. Sun Moon Lake is one of them!

This gigantic lake, surrounded by mountains, is one of Taiwanese’s favorite places.

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know to make the most of your stay, from the history of this place to the local cuisine and the best activities to do. Pack your bags, and let’s take an epic trip to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan!

Why is Sun Moon Lake so Famous?

Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

The Sun Moon Lake area has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years by the Thao people, one of Taiwan’s aboriginal groups. The Thao people are known for their unique culture, handicrafts, and traditional cuisine.

At Sun Moon Lake you can experience their way of life by visiting local villages and attending traditional dance and music performances.

Over the centuries, Han populations and the Japanese have also lived here, bringing their own culture. You’ll learn more about the area’s history by visiting Wenwu Temple, which was built during the Qing dynasty and is dedicated to the gods of war and literature.

You can also visit the Aboriginal Culture Museum to learn about the different tribes that have inhabited the area over the centuries.

Today, Sun Moon Lake is a symbol of harmony between these different cultures, perfect for discovering the local traditions that make Taiwan so rich.

Best Things to See at Sun Moon Lake?

1. Visit the Ci’en Pagoda

Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

The Ci’en pagoda is one of the main highlights during a visit to Sun Moon Lake. This is the first thing we visited during our trip to the lake.

Built by Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother, Ci’en Pagoda offers breathtaking views from its top. The climb (around 20 minutes uphill) is rewarded with panoramic vistas of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

The entrance is free!

2. Visit Wenwu Temple

Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

Wenwu is probably the most beautiful temple we visited in Taiwan and one of the best things to see at Sun Moon Lake!

Perched above the lake, Wenwu Temple is dedicated to the warriors of the past. It’s a stunning example of traditional Chinese architecture, with intricate carvings and sweeping views of the lake below.

Visiting Wenwu temple is one of the best things to do at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, don’t miss it (and it’s free).

3. Cycle Around the Lake

Bicycle Sign at Sun Moon Lake

The cycling path around Sun Moon Lake is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

Rent a bike and enjoy the winding paths that offer magnificent views of the lake and its surrounding landscapes. The route is well-paved and suitable for all skill levels (although some parts are quite hilly).

If you want to go around the lake by bicycle, it would take you at least 3 hours. You can rent a bicycle either from your hotel directly or at rental shops in Ita Thao or Shuishe

4. Visit the Ita Thao Shopping District

Ita Thao Shopping District

This vibrant area, located on the eastern shore of Sun Moon Lake, is named after the Ita Thao tribe, one of the indigenous Thao communities in Taiwan.

At Ita Thao, the streets are lined with stalls and shops that showcase the rich heritage of the Thao people and other indigenous groups. You can find traditional crafts, clothing, and souvenirs that are perfect for taking a piece of Taiwanese culture back home with you.

It’s also a great place to stay during a trip to Sun Moon Lake with nice hotels (more on that later)

5. Walk on the “Nine Frogs Stack” trail


Halfway between Wenwu Temple and Ita Thao, we discovered this little path not to be missed.

The trail is called Shuiwatou Trail. It crosses a small bamboo forest to a platform above the water. Here a statue in the water in the shape of a frog is used to measure the level of the lake.

It’s a popular photo spot at Sun Moon Lake!

6. Cross Sun Moon Lake by Ferry

Guide to Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

Besides cycling, one of the best and most convenient ways to visit Sun Moon Lake is by ferry!

The ferry shuttles run regularly between the three piers of the lake: Shuishe, Ita Thao, and Xuanguan. You just need to purchase a 1-day ticket, and you can take the ferry at any time between the 3 piers!

As you cross the various pier, you will be amazed by the views of the lake and its surrounding mountains!

You can buy your ferry ticket from your hotels directly or by the pier at the visitor centers.

For us, this was 1 of the highlights during our visit to Sun Moon Lake!

7. Explore Shuishe and the Hanbi Trail

The beautiful Hanbi Trail

If you take the ferry from Ita Thao, Shuishe would be your first stop.

The best thing to do in Shuishe is to walk on the waterfront promenade, called Hanbi Trail.

The Hanbi Trail is one of the many scenic trails at Sun Moon Lake. Perfect if you wish to immerse yourself in nature, the trail provides a peaceful escape with stunning views of the lake and its surroundings.

This trail is relatively short and easy, it’s approximately 1.5 kilometers long and can be completed in about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace and how often you stop to take in the views.

8. Visit the beautiful Xuanguang Temple

Xuanguang Temple at Sun Moon Lake

After Shuishe, the ferry will take you to Xuanguang Temple, another highlight at Sun Moon Lake!

Xuanguang Temple is dedicated to Xuanzang, a highly revered Buddhist monk from the Tang Dynasty known for his epic journey to India to retrieve Buddhist scriptures.

The temple houses a portion of Xuanzang’s relics, making it a pilgrimage site for many Buddhists.

Xuanguang Temple is not just a place for spiritual reflection; it’s also a vantage point for some of the most stunning views of Sun Moon Lake.

9. Stop at the amazing Xiangshan Visitor Center

The modern visitor center

The Xiangshan Visitor Center is one of the best things to see at Sun Moon Lake. This is a masterpiece of modern architecture that blends seamlessly with the natural beauty of its surroundings.

This remarkable structure is not just a point of information for tourists but also a destination in itself, offering breathtaking views, architectural innovation, and a deep connection with nature.

Not far, make sure to also check out Xiangshan Scenic Outlook.

10. Take the Cable Car for a Scenic View

The scenic view from the Cable Car at Sun Moon Lake

Taking a cable car ride at Sun Moon Lake is an exhilarating way to experience the breathtaking beauty of the area from a unique vantage point.

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (near Ita Thao) connects the Sun Moon Lake area with the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, a theme park that celebrates the indigenous cultures of Taiwan.

You don’t have to go all the way to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, you can simply take a round trip by cable car to enjoy the view… However, make sure you go as early as possible when the cable car opens at 10:30, otherwise the waiting is absolutely not worth it…

Book your tickets here:


11. Visit the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

As said, from the cable car station at the top, you can connect to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is a unique combination of an amusement park and a cultural museum. This park is dedicated to preserving and presenting the heritage of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.

Apart from its cultural exhibitions, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village also features an amusement park equipped with various rides ranging from thrilling roller coasters to family-friendly attractions.

To be honest, we decided to skip the visit. We read many reviews that mentioned it’s only worth it if you go with kids… Also, you will need almost 1 full day to visit.

12. Visit a Tea Factory

Things to see at Sun Moon Lake

The region around Sun Moon Lake is renowned for its tea production. Visit a local tea plantation to learn about the tea-making process and sample some of the finest teas in Taiwan.

We opted for HOHOCHA, famous for its black teas, including the Ruby Red Tea (also known as Red Jade or Taiwan Tea No. 18), a unique variety developed in Taiwan.

Tea tasting in Taiwan, at Sun Moon Lake

Here you can visit the tea plantation but also enjoy tea tasting! It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

The tea plantation is not exactly around the lake, it requires driving for about 20 minutes inland.

Another option is Antique Assam Tea Farm, which is on the way.

13. Check out Longfeng Temple

Another nice temple around Sun Moon Lake. Longfeng Temple, also known as the Dragon Phoenix Temple, is not as popular as Wenwu Temple or the Xuanguang Temple.

Which makes it less crowded and somehow a bit more serene…

14. Enjoy Kayaking or SUP on the Lake

Kayaking at Sun Moon Lake

Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) are among the best ways to experience the tranquil beauty of Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan.

These water activities offer a closer connection to the lake’s serene waters, allowing participants to navigate the calm surface at their own pace while surrounded by stunning natural scenery. You can rent kayaks and SUP at Ita Thao Village by the pier.

Book here


15. Enjoy local foods, one of the best things to do at Sun Moon Lake!

Best things to see at Sun Moon Lake. This is a platter of local dishes served by a local restaurant.

Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan is not only famous for its stunning landscapes but also for its vibrant food scene!

The area around the lake is dotted with restaurants and eateries that serve both traditional Taiwanese fare and indigenous cuisine.

Make sure to try the following traditional dishes:

  • President Fish (頭目魚): also known as the Formosan landlocked salmon, is a local delicacy named after a visit by Chiang Kai-shek. It’s a must-try dish, usually prepared steamed or fried, known for its tender and flavorful meat.
  • Wild Boar Sausage: reflecting the area’s indigenous heritage, wild boar sausage is a popular snack around Sun Moon Lake.
  • Tea-Flavored Eggs: given the region’s reputation for high-quality tea, it’s no surprise that tea-flavored eggs are a local specialty.

Visiting an indigenous-themed restaurant around Sun Moon Lake allows you to experience the rich flavors of Taiwan’s native cultures. Dishes often include ingredients like millet, taro, and mountain vegetables, prepared in traditional ways.

We highly recommend this place!

Best Places to Stay Around Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake hosts a range of accommodations from luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts.

Here are our top 3 recommendations:

1. The Richforest Sun Moon Lake

Best Hotels at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY – The Richforest offers exquisite wooden rooms and suites with panoramic views of Sun Moon Lake. The hotel is known for its architectural elegance and exceptional service.

2. Fleur de Chine Hotel

Best Hotels at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

LUXURY – This 5-star hotel is renowned for its world-class spa facilities, including hot spring baths with lake views. Fleur de Chine also offers a variety of family-friendly amenities, such as themed suites for children, making it an ideal choice for a family vacation.

3. Del Lago

Best Hotels at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan

GOOD DEAL: Located close to the Shuishe Pier, Del Lago offers easy access to boat tours and the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. With comfortable accommodations and lake views, it’s a great option for those looking to stay close to the action.

How to get to Sun Moon Lake?

Getting to Sun Moon Lake, located in Nantou County in the heart of Taiwan, is straightforward, with several transportation options available depending on your starting point and preferences. Here’s a guide on how to reach this stunning natural attraction:

From Taipei

By High-Speed Rail and Bus:

  1. Take the Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR) from Taipei to Taichung (approximately 1 hour).
  2. From the Taichung HSR station, you can catch the Nantou Bus directly to Sun Moon Lake. The bus journey takes about 90 minutes. Ensure to check the latest bus schedules and ticket prices online or at the station.

By Bus:

  • Direct buses to Sun Moon Lake are available from Taipei Bus Station. The journey takes approximately 4 to 5 hours. It’s a convenient option if you prefer a direct route without transfers.

From Taichung

By Bus:

  • The Nantou Bus offers regular service from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake. You can catch the bus from various points in Taichung, including the Taichung Railway Station or the Taichung High-Speed Rail (HSR) station. The journey takes around 90 minutes to 2 hours.

By Tour Operator:

  • Consider booking a day trip through a tour operator if you prefer an organized tour. Many tours available from Taichung include transportation to Sun Moon Lake, along with a guided tour of the lake and surrounding attractions.

From Other Locations in Taiwan

  • If you’re coming from other parts of Taiwan, the best approach is to get to Taichung via train or bus and then transfer to a Sun Moon Lake-bound bus or arrange for a private car or taxi.

By Car:

  • Renting a car provides flexibility and convenience, allowing you to explore Sun Moon Lake and its surroundings at your own pace. From Taichung, take the National Freeway 6 to the Puli Interchange, then follow the signs to Sun Moon Lake. The drive from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake takes about 1 to 1.5 hours.

How to get around at Sun Moon Lake?

Getting around Sun Moon Lake is relatively easy and enjoyable, thanks to the various transportation options.

1. Cycling

One of the most popular ways to explore Sun Moon Lake is by bike. The area boasts one of the most scenic biking routes in Taiwan, with designated paths that offer breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

2. Walking and Hiking

For those who prefer to explore on foot, there are several walking paths and hiking trails around Sun Moon Lake. These range from easy, paved paths like the Lakeside Trail to more challenging hikes such as the Mt. Maolan Trail.

3. Public Buses

Sun Moon Lake has a local bus service that connects major points of interest around the lake, including Shuishe, Xiangshan, Ita Thao, and the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The Sun Moon Lake Pass includes bus rides and can be a convenient and cost-effective way to get around, especially for visitors planning to hit multiple attractions.

4. Boat Tours

Boat tours are a fantastic way to see Sun Moon Lake from a different perspective. Ferries connect the main areas of Shuishe, Xuanguang Pier, and Ita Thao Pier, allowing visitors to hop on and off at various points of interest. The boat ride itself offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains, making it a must-do activity while at Sun Moon Lake.

5. Cable Car

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway connects the Sun Moon Lake area with the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The cable car offers spectacular aerial views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s not just a mode of transportation but also an attraction in its own right.

6. Scooters and Electric Bikes

For those who want more flexibility, renting scooters or electric bikes is an option. These are available for rent at several locations around the lake. Riding a scooter or an electric bike can be a fun way to explore the wider area around Sun Moon Lake, including nearby attractions and viewpoints.


7. With your own car

Renting a car and driving in Taiwan is fairly easy! We chose Klook to rent our car from Taipei and drove all around Taiwan without any issues. It was the perfect road trip for us and gave us maximum flexibility.

Final Thoughts – Is Sun Moon Lake worth a visit?

Things to see at Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake is undeniably a must-visit destination in Taiwan. Celebrated for its breathtaking natural scenery and rich cultural heritage, we absolutely loved our visit to Sun Moon Lake.

The tranquil beauty of the lake, set against a backdrop of majestic mountains, offers a serene atmosphere.

Count at least 2-3 full days to really enjoy this place…

We hope you enjoyed this guide with the best things to see at Sun Moon Lake! Feel free to leave a comment below.

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