Travel Guide to Yilan (Ilan)
in Northeastern Taiwan
Chinese opera during the Ghost Month in Toucheng, Yilan County
Yilan Travel Information
Facts About Yilan (Ilan)
Yilan, like Taipei and many other cities in Taiwan, refers to both a city and a county (this article's travel ideas refer to both). It is one of few cities on the mountainous eastern coast of Formosa, and is humble in size - Yilan city is home to under 100,000 people.
Book your hotel in Yilan before you get there!
Yilan is well-known as a historical center for some of the many aboriginal peoples whose diversity has come to be synonymous with Taiwan. Geographically, Yilan County is characterized by rolling mountains, rocky seaside and heavy rain. The city of Yilan is located on Taiwan's second largest plain - the Yilan Plain.
If you're looking to make it out to Yilan, be warned that the rain can be relentless. You might argue that this is just part of getting the local experience, but a few days of torrential downpours might get you feeling a little bitter about your trip.
The summer months (Jun-Aug) have the least rainfall, and are also ideal for the surfing/beach opportunities weather-wise. If you get a chance to make it in the summer, do so. If not, bring rain gear. However, rainy winter moments aren't all bad - they serve as the perfect time to hit some of Yilan County's famed hot springs.
A port in Yilan county, along the eastern coast of Taiwan
Things to do in Ilan
Yilan's tourism mostly surrounds the two most unique aspects of the area - a rich aboriginal cultural history and lush nature. All of the areas listed below, if not in Yilan City, are easily accessible via train on the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) lines.
Jiaoxi (Jiaosi) Hot Springs
In the northeastern section of Yilan County lies Jiaoxi, one of the hottest of all hot spring stops in Taiwan. Nearly everything in Jiaoxi is written in Japanese and Chinese; the former have a reputation for loving the steaming hot baths. Arriving in Jiaoxi you will be immediately confronted with unending hot spring offerings as it has one of the few ground-level steam baths in Taiwan.
Beaches are rare in this part of Taiwan; the northeast coast is mostly populated by rocks and cliffs. Wai-Ao in Yilan County is a "black sand" beach, where the rocks are pulverized into small grains. While the waves aren't crazy, Wai-Ao is a great place to learn how to surf, or get a bit of intermediate experience under your belt. You can always wait for typhoon season to get some serious (and possibly fatal) rip curl.
Another cool place to surf not too far from here is Fulong Beach.
Luodong Night Market
One of the most famous night markets in all of Taiwan, the modestly-sized town of Luodong will serve up any and every local food specialty you can think of. While some night markets specialize in arcade games or clothing, Luodong's goes straight for the mouth, and Taipei residents regularly make visits to the market to fill their stomachs.
Old Yilan City
For history buffs, Old Yilan City has set up a lot of old buildings to put you in the shoes of early- and mid-20th century Taiwan. Buildings such as the Former Taiwan Railway Administration Office, Former Official Residence of the Magistrate of Yilan, Former Rice Inspection Bureau and others were often built during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and are an interesting peek into the architecture and life of years' past.
2 other excellent destinations to check out ancient Chinese stuff are Lugang and Tainan.
The vast Yilan Plain viewed from Highway #5
Getting Around Yilan / Transportation
Getting around in Yilan, like in many parts of non-metropolis Taiwan, is best done on scooter. Drop by the tourist center near the train station to get a map, then rent a scooter (don't forget your valid International Driver's License) and you're free to roam. Bicycles can also be rented at the train station, which are a decent option. If you're afraid of the roads, taxis can be hired without a problem, and can even take you to other parts of Yilan County if you're willing to pay.
Eating in Yilan
Tons of restaurants (Chinese, Taiwanese, McDonald's) can be found around the train station. If you are a seafood lover, you'll want to head to one of the seaside villages along the east coast to gorge on fresh-but-cheap fish, shrimps, and squids.
Yilan Green Onion Cake - Yilan is famous island-wide for its green onion cakes. They are sold throughout the area at small stands. You're sure to find this delicious at any night market in the region.
Luodong Night Market - (see above) - Luodong in Yilan County has one of the most famous night markets in Taiwan. If you go, make sure to do so on an empty stomach.
Mashed Taro - An Yilan favorite is a simple combination of mashed taro, pork lard, sugar, eggs and candied kumquat. Yilan's travel website says that mashed taro "represent[s] the characteristics of the Yilan people: cold on the outside and burning hot on the inside".
As with most Taiwanese cities, the cheapest hotels / hostels are located near the train station. It's possible to pay as little as 800NT$ for a night in Yilan if you don't mind staying around the train station. Yilan county has hundreds of bed and breakfasts / homestays (minsu in Chinese).
Hotel Royal Jiaoxi ($$$) - Stay in Jiaoxi if you want to keep the hot springs constantly within reach. Relaxing Japanese-style minimalism and natural steam baths will help you rest easy.
- No. 69 WuFeng Rd., DaZhong Village, JiaoXi Township
Fukun Motel ($) - A cheap option located near the train station.
- No. 259 ZhongShan Rd., Section 5, Yilan City
Find more Yilan hotels on HotelsCombined.com
This website makes it easy to check availability, room rates, and find great discounts. I have been booking hotels in Taiwan for years with them and I've never had any problem.
Travel to Yilan
Getting in and out of Yilan is most easily done by TRA trains. These trains can also bring you to any of the surrounding towns quickly. Tze-Chiang trains (fast trains) takes around 1h 20m from Taipei to Yilan.
Buses are also available from some places, and a new tunnel makes getting to Yilan from Taipei a breeze. You can catch a bus for Yilan City at the bus station behind Taipei Train Station; 230NT$.
Some have dared to make scooter trips through the old mountain pass from Taipei, which makes for a thrilling ride with breathtaking views. A taxi can also take you from Taipei for about NTD$1,000.
My friend Dane, having a good time with a Toucheng local at the train station
Other cool destinations in the area
Fulong - Hualien - Taroko Gorge - Taipei - Danshui
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