Information About Nantou, Taiwan
Like Miaoli, Nantou is both a city and a county. Also like Miaoli, the city itself doesn’t have much to offer. However, the county is quite famous in Asia as it is the home of Sun Moon Lake, a highly popular tourist attraction for Taiwanese travelers, visitors from mainland China, and westerners as well. Another hot destination is Xitou Forest, where you can see some of the most beautiful bamboo forests in Taiwan.
Where is Nantou County?
Nantou County is dead in the center of Taiwan, and of all Taiwan’s counties, it is the only one that is landlocked. Situated in the middle of Formosa, Nantou is also characterized by its rolling hills and mountainous geography. Besides Sun Moon Lake, another popular stop in Nantou County is Puli, a town of around 90,000 known for its fresh water and wine factory.
Hehuan Mountain, near Sun Moon Lake, is another big tourist pull, delivering the familiar, pleasant trio of Taiwanese mountain ranges – scenic hiking, cherry blossoms and a relatively untouched natural environment. I’ve spent tons of weekends in the Hehuanshan area and I can guarantee you that you won’t regret traveling to this part of Taiwan, even if it requires more preparation.
When booking an adventure to Nantou, and Sun Moon Lake in particular, beware that the area is extremely popular and that a recent influx of mainland Chinese tourists has made the place unbearably crowded at times. If at all possible, plan your trip during the week as train and bus tickets could be sold out or generally difficult to acquire.
Things to do in Nantou County and City
It may look strikingly like a temple from your point of view, but this Academy in Nantou City is actually a place of study that was established in 1864. Its architecture is true to that era, and the building is something to see in itself. Additionally, the academy today holds historical artifacts for the visitor to take in. However, the best way to enjoy it is to just stroll around the academy’s grounds and try to put yourself in its 150-year-old world.
This newly-built museum (of sorts) is more like an elaborate library dedicated to the collection of documents and literature relevant to Taiwan’s history. If you are an Asian history buff (being able to read Chinese will be especially helpful here), there is plenty of material waiting for your exploration here. Historica contains archives from the era of Japanese rule, as well as bureaucratic documents from the post-war period and beyond.
For the non-nerds, Taiwan Historica also contains a good-sized collection of “folk relics”. The building’s grounds are well-maintained and the architecture is interesting if not fantastic.
Nearby Puli is famous for its production of grape wine, but Nantou has its own winery as well. There isn’t a great mass of things to experience here, but you can get a taste of the wine production process and have a few sips in the tasting room.
Nantou Night Market
No Taiwanese city or town is safe from the culture of the night market, and Nantou is no exception to this rule. Near the city’s Carrefour there is a night market that is especially lively on Wednesdays. As always, night markets are a great way to try all of a city’s local specialties with one-stop shopping efficiency.
Getting Around Nantou / Local Transport
Surprise, surprise – you’ll want to be renting a scooter near the main bus station in Nantou City, Puli, or even Taichung City to get around as briskly as possible.
If you’re looking to just make your way around the shopping area in Nantou City you could easily walk, which is never a bad option. Non-scooter drivers should write down some names of places of interest in Chinese so that taxis can help you find your way.
Getting around Nantou County is not easy if you don’t have your own wheels as public transportation is not comprehensive and very complicated to understand if you can’t read Chinese. Having your own car or scooter will is a great option. I’ve done most of my travel in the area on two wheels.
Eating in Nantou / Restaurants
As you might have guessed from the existence of a winery, Nantou produces a lot of its own fruit. Grapes and plums are locally grown, as well as tea, mushrooms, pineapple and more. Local fruit stands will be a good option for some of the freshest you’ve ever had.
Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants can be found in every single town around the county and the food can be either extremelly delicious, or awefully bad. I usually stick to places that are packed – which is usually a sign that locals like it.
You can always stop at a 7-11 for instant noodles or tea eggs if you want to save money.
Ching Jing Farms, Sun Moon Lake, and Jiji are packed with good eateries. Most of the good restaurants at Sun Moon Lake are in Itashao and Shuishe Village. Bring your own food if you plan on going for a hike in the Central Mountain Range.
Accommodation in Nantou / Hotels
If you’re looking for something on the cheap side in Nantou City, like many other places in Taiwan your best bet will be to scope out the area around the bus station, where there will be a collection of interchangeable hotels accommodating travelers.
Chinatrust Crystal Resort
Near Sun Moon Lake, this slightly more upscale option has a swimming pool, massage, gym facilities and the like. Most likely among the best you can find in Nantou County.
70-1 Chin Tien Lane Talin Village Yu Chih Township, Nantou City
Travel to Nantou / Getting There and Away
One of the easiest ways to get to places in Nantou County is to first take a train (either HSR or TRA) to Taichung City, and then take a bus to some of the most popular destinations such as Sun Moon Lake, Puli, or Nantou City.
You can take a bus to get to these destinations in front of Taichung train station. If you don’t know where the bus stops are, just ask someone who works at the Tourist Information Center in the train station. These guys can speak English and they’ll be more than happy to help you find your way around.
Travel to Nantou from Taipei City
It is possible to get bus rides to Sun Moon Lake, Puli, and other tourist spots in Nantou County from the main bus station behind Taipei Main Station.