Taipei is nice but even Taipei’s netizens need to escape the hustle of such a densely populated city. Unless they are trying to invest a bit more on an HSR ticket, or spend hours on a bus or local train, they go to Yilan, ‘Taipei’s backyard!'

If you prefer beaches, mountains, and coastal hikes that look out over the Pacific, geothermal hot spring hotels, and traditional food at a fraction of Taipei’s cost, and population, then you want to hop on a passenger bus and head southeast to Yilan.

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Yilan County is the flat land between the mountains and the Pacific. In the north, you have Jiaoxi and Toucheng. Yilan City sits right in the middle, and Luodong, the southernmost major city, has its famous and expansive night market. Busses, trains, and the occasional taxi or Uber will take you easily between these locations.

Jiaoxi and Toucheng, the Cities of Hot Springs and Beaches

The two northernmost cities of Yilan country, Jiaoxi and Toucheng are touristy with many restaurants, shops, and accommodations available. Jiaoxi has a selection of hot spring hotels to choose from while Toucheng has its beachside hostels and Airbnb options.

Jiaoxi Resorts Recommendations (prices may vary):

  • Hua-Ge Hot Spring Hotel - 2,266NTD (80.82USD) per night
  • Chuan Tang Spring Spa Hotel - 3,757NTD (133.99USD) per night
  • Art Spa Hotel - 3,437NTD (122.58USD) per night
  • Yamagata Kaku Hotel - 5,610NTD (200.08USD) per night
  • Mu Jiao XI Hot Spring Hotel - 7,795NTD (278.01USD) per night

Scenic Wufongci

Walkable from Jiaoxi city, but also a cheap taxi ride, Wufongci is a simple hike that allows access to five different waterfalls. You can climb up a little past the main part of the hike to a catholic church that overlooks Yilan, or you can head back down from the hike to the touristy strip that is home to many cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Beiguan Tidal Park

A short trip up route 2, Beiguan Tidal Park is an easy hike that traverses the coastal cliffs on the northern Yilan. It’s just 8.6km north of Toucheng station, and easily accessible. With stunning views of Turtle Island and many photogenic vistas, you can enjoy a few hours here taking photos or simply soaking up the sights.

Waiao Beach

With a convenient train stop, Waiao is incredibly accessible from any city in Yilan. Its volcanic black sand beaches make it unique. The waves here make it popular with surfers, with many surf shops, some run by ex-pats, along the coastal road. Lessons are also available. Or, you can just do your normal beach thing, enjoying the waves, the sand, and an amazing view of Turtle Island.

Related: 10 Of The Best Beaches (& Dive Spots) In Taiwan

Downtown Jiaoxi

Jiaox’s downtown is easily walkable, with the local police even putting out cones to keep the, at times reckless, Taiwanese drivers in their lanes. You can find all the expected Taiwanese treats here as well as a few rechao places that focus on seafood.

Restaurant Recommendations:

  • 玉仁八寶冬粉 1號店 - the best noddle dishes in all of Jiaoxi, No. 326, Section 1, Zhongshan Rd, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County, 262
  • 小春礁溪店 - snag some delicious food on a stick, 262, Yilan County, Jiaoxi Township, Section 5, Jiaoxi Rd
  • Seafood And Goose - pretty much what the name says, 262, Yilan County, Jiaoxi Township, Xinyi Rd, no. 29, floor 1
  • 福氣海鮮快炒小吃 - a great noodle, dumpling, and wanton shop, No. 61, Wenquan Rd, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County, 262
  • 老先覺麻辣窯燒鍋 - a cool alternative style of hotpot, No. 15, Wenquan Rd, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County, 262

Yilan City, Access to Everything

Yilan City is the most populous city in Yilan County. It is also conveniently located in the middle of everything. The city itself is home to just a few touristy locations but it has great access to some just outside its main part.

The Kavalan Distillery

A twenty-minute drive from the Yilan train station, The Kavalan Distillery is where Taiwan’s world-famous whiskey is distilled. They have tastings, stores and you can take a tour of the facilities. The tastings are cheap and you can select from the best whiskey they have available. You will be able to catch a taxi or Uber back to the city.

Wanglongpi

Just a seventeen-minute drive from the train station, Wanglongpi is a pound nestled in Yilan’s foothills with beautiful views, elegant bridges that allow one to walk over the center of the pond, and some massive carp. There are also many food-stands here so you can spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying nature and trying to catch sight of some truly huge fish.

Luodong, Home to the Most Famous Night Market in the Northeast of Taiwan

When people think of Yilan and night markets, Luodong is what comes to mind. Luodong is nearly the size of Yilan City with much of its tourist locations collected around its train station.

Luodong Night Market

Less than a ten-minute walk from the Luodong train station, Luodong’s night market is one of the most famous attractions in Yilan. It has several streets of food carts and a couple more for all sorts of odds and ends. Stinky tofu fries are just one of the many famous specialties here, but there is so much more to choose from than that!

  • Stinky Tofu Fries - 60-80 NTD
  • Scallion Pancake - 45 NTD (1.60 USD))
  • Bubble Milk Tea - 45-65 NTD (1.60-2.31 USD)
  • Scallion Chicken Legs - 35 NTD (1.24 USD)
  • Peanut Roll Icecream - 40 NTD (1.42 USD)

Related: Tasty Taiwan: A Guide To Street Food & Budgeting For Foodies

Luodong Forestry Culture Park

A relic of Luodong’s past as a hub for Taipingshan’s forestry, old equipment, trains, and storage facilities still remain as a reminder of how the city of Luodong began. This spot is easily accessible and has become a hotspot for tourism. It has scenic views of the waterways next to it, a collection of well-maintained trains, and other remnants of the city’s past.

Next: A Trip To Taiwan Doesn't Need To Be Expensive, Here's How To Budget While You're There