TAIWAN – Sun Moon Lake day trip from Taichung (or Taipei)

Cable Car lake view - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

The Sun Moon Lake is the largest lake in Taiwan and a day trip to Sun Moon Lake is a must add on any Taiwan itinerary. It is listed as one of the most beautiful sceneries in Taiwan and famous for its path along the shore. Biking is the best way to explore the lake! As I was road tripping in Taiwan and because it was raining, I decided exploring by car would be my best choice. In the below Sun Moon Lake day trip itinerary, I’ll show you all the highlights around the lake. I’m sure this is a day tour you will like!

Getting to Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake can be reached in various ways from either Taipei or Taichung. I included the Sun Moon Lake day trip from Taichung by car as I had a rental car. It takes just over an hour to get there by car but there are other options as well. Driving from Taipei is possible as well but would take around 3 hours so leave early morning! You can park your car at the bike rental if you go biking or just drive around the lake and stop at the various places. There is parking everywhere.

 

I would not recommend going by bus from Taipei as this would cost you around 4 hours and the bus back goes early afternoon, so you won’t have time to explore Sun Moon Lake. Busses from Taichung go from early morning to early evening several times an hour and this takes about 2 hours. You can then hire a bike. If you want to be more flexible you can charter a taxi from Taichung for a day as well.

Visit the Taiwanese Sun Moon Lake Government website in advance and check if there are any special events. You might want to visit when there is something happening. Once you arrive you probably find yourself in Shuishe on the northwestern shore of the lake. Stop by the visitor’s center before heading out clockwise around the lake. The first stop is the Wenwu Temple which you’ll reach after 3 kilometers.

Wenwu Temple - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Wenwu Temple

The first stop on most Sun Moon Lake day tours is the Wenwu temple but if it’s a busy day I recommend doing the ropeway (see below) first before the crowds get there. Wenwu temple was built from the remains of two older temples in the early 20th century. Due to the construction of a dam the water level rose, and those two temples would submerge. There are stairs from the lake shore up to Wenwu temple which was at one point the only way to get to the temple. Today, the road passes just in front of the temple and there are parking lots for cars and bikes.

Wenwu is a general name for a temple where gods of both civil and marital arts are worshipped. At the Sun Moon Lake Wenwu temple the first hall is dedicated to the god of literature, the second to the war of god and the last to Confucius. Interesting fact of this Wenwu temple is that normally in similar Chinese temples there are no guardian lions. At the Sun Moon Lake Wenwu temple there are.

Wenwu Temple interior - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Exploring the temple takes about an hour if you also walk up the hill behind the temple. I did skip that as it was raining but up there you have beautiful views of the lake with the orange rooftops of the temple in the front. I didn’t walk down the stairs to the lake shore either as I planned to do that later.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway attraction is THE highlight of a day trip around the lake. You’ll have amazing views of the lake during the ride. You’ll also understand why it’s called Sun Moon Lake. One side resembles the sun, the other the moon. You can also see Lalu Island. Legends say that in ancient time Thao tribe hunters discovered the lake while chasing a white deer. The lake brought prosperity and that’s why a white marble deer statue was erected on Lalu Island. To visit the island you’ll need to do a boat ride, which I didn’t do of course due to the rain.

 

Once at the top station of the Sun Moon Lake cable car you have two choices: Go back down (what I did) or visit the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is a mix of an amusement park and a traditional aboriginal village where you can discover the ancient tribes of Taiwan. As you can guess it’s best visited with nice weather and not in the rain. I made a 180 degree turn back down.

Boats on Sun Moon Lake - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Sun Moon Lake itinerary secret stop: Nine Frogs Stack

Just down the road is a boardwalk to the shore of the lake where you can see the Nine Frogs Stack. It’s used to measure the level of water in the lake. It’s a nice short walk through a bamboo forest. If you’re hungry you can also directly go to Ita Thao for lunch or if you have time left the Thao Tribe Performance Center. It’s a great alternative to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village and probably the place I would recommend going to if you want to learn about the tribes in Taiwan.

In Ita Thao there are plenty of restaurants for lunch. In case you’re around the lake in the evening it has a great night market as well. After lunch you’ll need about 2 hours more for 3 highlights of Sun Moon Lake plus other stops you might want to do. Make sure to continue around 2pm for the 2nd half of this Sun Moon Lake day tour.

Wenwu Temple dragon sculpture - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Sun Moon Lake highlights: Ci’en Pagoda and more temples

Before heading to the Ci’en pagoda I recommend having a short stop at the Master Xuan Zang Memorial Hall. He greatly influenced Buddhism in China after he travelled to India in the 7th century to study Buddhism. Just 200 meters down the road is the Ci’en pagoda which offers magnificent views over the lake. It’s worth the 500+ steps up for sure. The pagoda isn’t old as it was completed in 1971 by President Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother. You can see the Ci’en pagoda from around the lake towering above the hill it’s build on.

The last stop for most tourist will be the Xuanguan Temple. It’s a small temple but worth visiting. Make sure to go to the wharf from where you can see (and visit) Lalu Island. For me this was the last stop of my Sun Moon Lake day trip. I did drive further around the island for more views, but the weather simply wasn’t great to spend more time there.

Cien Pagoda - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Other Sun Moon Lake sights

There are a few more places of interest around the island. Those include a peacock garden, butterfly garden and a lilly garden. There are more viewpoints which are best enjoyed if biking around the island. Boat trips are available which I would recommend doing from the last stop back to where you started! It saves going around the full lake.

I enjoyed my Sun Moon Lake day trip from Taichung a lot and I see the beauty even though the weather was terrible. The advantage was that there weren’t that many tourists but on a nice sunny day expect crowds. I arrived back at the Holiday Inn Taichung around 5PM and went out for some great street food. The next day I continued my trip to Kaohsiung. Make sure to check my Taiwan itinerary for more Taiwan highlights.

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Did you visit Sun Moon Lake too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Further reading

Sometimes it’s impossible to cover every single place of interest, activities, food, and others that might be relevant. In the below list you find a list of relevant links with further information which I have carefully curated. These will help plan your trip even better.
 
  • If you have more time and stay overnight in one of the hotels around Sun Moon Lake, then have a look at this article: Best things to do in Sun Moon Lake. It lists some great suggestions for ecological sights and watersport activities.

Gallery Sun Moon Lake

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

Xuan Zang Temple - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Xuan Zang Temple interior - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Xuang Guang Temple - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

Wenwu Temple sculpture - TAIWAN - Day trip to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei or Taichung

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