Sun Moon Lake is the second biggest lake in Taiwan. It has also been nominated several times as the top 8 places to visit in Taiwan since the Japanese colonization.
Sun Moon Lake is also one of the best locations to see sunset and sunrise.
Where is Sun Moon Lake located?
Sun Moon Lake is a lake that is situated in Sun Moon Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan which is inland Taiwan.
There is a theme park next to Sun Moon Lake. It is The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village that provides a lot of Formosan aboriginal culture and shows.
If you look at the picture above, Nantou County is the only place in Taiwan that is not close to the ocean and that is what makes this location so unique.
Taiwan’s tallest mountain, Yu-Shan, is located there and there are also two aboriginal tribes living in this area as well.
History of Sun Moon Lake
Lake Candidius was the former name of Sun Moon Lake.
It was named by William Campbell, one of the Presbyterian missionaries from Scotland to commemorate George Candidius. George Candidius was the Dutch Reformed Church missionary during Dutch Formosa from 1627 to 1637.
Lake Candidius was not the only name used by missionaries to refer to this lake. Some of the names included, Dragon Lake and Nin-Isivatan Lake, however, nobody really knows who gave the lake these names.
There is a tiny island called Lalu that is in the middle of Sun Moon Lake, it is a holy place for the Thao tribe.
There is a story of Lalu Island, people say, a white deer led the Tao hunters to Sun Moon Lake, while those hunters tried to chase it.
Those Tao hunters discovered that it is such a beautiful place and most importantly, there are many fish living in the lake that were used as a food source.
The Sun Moon Lake has divided into two Lakes which were Sun Lake and Moon Lake by the Lalu Island.
Lalu Island was renamed many times by different colonizations, Lalu island was previously known as Guanghua Island which was named by the KMT government.
How to get to Sun Moon Lake?
Driving to Sun Moon Lake is absolutely the best option to get there. But I really highly recommend not driving in Taiwan, particularly because there are so many trucks around this area.
It is not only because you might not be familiar with traffic in Taiwan but also because many drivers in Taiwan drive dangerously, unfortunately.
There are a couple of options for getting to Sun Moon Lake by public transport, for anyone who does not consider driving.
Taking public transport is a smart option for tourists, in addition, there is a direct bus from Taipei, so you do not need to worry about transferring.
From Taichung THRS Station
From Taichung THRS Station(1st floor, exit 5, platform 3) and transfer Taiwan Tourist Bus to Sun Moon Lake.
- The route takes roughly 1 hrs and 15 mins.
- Running Hours: (The timetable might change)
- Weekday (approx. every hour): Departure from Taitung Train Station 07:45 – 20:10 | Departure from Sun Moon Lake 07:25 – 19:25
- Weekend (approx. every hour): Departure from Taitung Train Station 07:45 – 20:10 | Departure from Sun Moon Lake 07:25 – 19:25
- Bus Ticket price: Adult NT $170 (Cash) | NT $150 (with transport card)
**Recommend: Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) Unlimited Tourist Pass
From Taichung Train Station
From Taichung Train Station and transfer Taiwan Tourist Bus to Sun Moon Lake.
- The route takes roughly 1 hrs and 35 mins.
- Running Hours: (The timetable might change)
- Weekday (approx. every hour): Departure from Taitung Train Station 08:20 – 16:20 | Departure from Sun Moon Lake 07:25 – 19:25
- Weekend (approx. every hour): Departure from Taitung Train Station 07:23 – 21:48 | Departure from Sun Moon Lake 08:40 – 19:25
- Bus Ticket price: Adult NT $197 (Cash) | NT $173 (with transport card)
From Taipei Bus Main Station
From Taipei Bus Main Station and transfer Kuo-Kuang Bus No. 1833 to Sun Moon Lake.
- The route takes roughly 4 hrs.
- Running Hours : (The timetable might change)
- Departure from Taipei Bus Main Station : Mon – Sun 07:00, 08:00, 10:00, 14:00 | Departure from Sun Moon Lake : Mon – Sun 07:30, 09:20, 13:20, 14:20, 16:00
- Departure from Taipei Bus Main Station: Extra services 07:30 (Sat Only), 13:20 (Sun Only)| Departure from Sun Moon Lake: Extra services 11:50 (Sat Only), 17:50 (Sun Only)
- Bus Ticket price: Adult Single NT $470 | Adult Retune NT $900
>>Related Post: 10 Amazing Places To Go In The Most Ugliest City Taipei
The three options above are the most popular and easiest ways to get to Sun Moon Lake.
However, if you are considering going to Sun Moon Lake from other places in Nantou such as Cingjing Farm, Jiji or Ali Shan and Taichung Airport, you can check the Sun Moon Lake website.
If you travelling with more than two people, I highly recommend hiring a private driver, it is not really expensive if you share the transport fee.
**Recommend: Taking a Private or Share Transport to Sun Moon Lake
What can you see in Sun Moon Lake?
Now that you know the location, history and how to get to Sun Moon Lake, I hope you are interested in Sun Moon Lake and are ready to learn what there is to see in this beautiful lake.
Sun Moon Lake is quite massive, the length of Sun Moon Lake is 33 km and its area is 800 hectares, it takes about 45 – 50 mins to drive around the whole lake.
In general, all the transportation will arrive at Shuishe which is one of the wharves of Sun Moon Lake.
The main spot for getting on and off transportations and most people will purchase boat tickets there.
There are some shops, restaurants and also a small Aboriginal welcome show in front of the wharf, but the rest of the wharves are prettier.
The connection of Sun Lake and Moon Lake. You can have a closer look at Lalu Island and there is a very small and famous shop that sells Tea and Shiitake Flavored Boiled Eggs.
There is also a walking path to the lookout points where the temple Ci’en Pagoda is located, while you get to the highest lookout point you will pass some beautiful temples as well.
Note : It is forbidden to enter Lalu Island.
Ita Thao Wharf/Yidashao Wharf
Ita Thao Pier is one of my favorite places in Sun Moon Lake. Once you get off the boat, you will see there is an Aboriginal welcome show on the main plaza.
There are also some streets that sell local Aboriginal food and souvenirs which you can purchase for your family.
> >Related Post: Taiwan Street Food Guide, How To Eat Like Local People
I highly recommend exploring the alleys around the area, you will find out many small and very local food vendors hidden there.
How to get around in Sun Moon Lake?
There are many ways you can get around Sun Moon Lake and the most popular one is taking a boat. But these days, doing SUP on Sun Moon Lake is also a new trend.
>>Related Post: Stand Up Paddle on the most beautiful island in Yilan.
- Taking a boat: Ticket prices range is NT $150 – NT $350 (depending on the boat company, one way or return tickets), NT $300 is sort of the official price for a return ticket, but if you want to get a decent price, you can book in advance, click here to get a good price.
- SUP on Sun Moon Lake: Price is around NT $1600
- Renting a bicycle: Price range between NT $150 – NT $900 (depends on the bike condition and brand)
- Taking a Lake touring bus No.6669: Price range between NT $26 – NT $51 for a single trip, A day pass is NT $80. If you pay the ticket with Easy Card or i-Pass will be cheaper from NT $23 – NT $45, but day passes are not available.
Note: Make sure you purchase your boat ticket with a big company or agency. If you also consider doing multiple activities, click here to get to the package deals.
What can you do in Sun Moon Lake?
Since you know what you can see in Sun Moon Lake now, let’s talk about what you can do there.
Sun Moon Lake is a big lake, if you plan to stay there for half a day, you probably will miss a lot of things. The ideal time to stay is about one and a half days or at least one full day.
Taking a boat
There are somethings you can do in Sun Moon Lake, taking a boat is totally worth the experience if you want to get closer to look at the lake from different places.
If you understand Mandarin, you will learn a lot about the lake’s history and stories.
Cycling on Bikeway
I have been to Sun Moon Lake at least 6 or 7 times and what I enjoy most is cycling on the bicycle path and looking out onto the lake.
The bikeway was considered in the top 10 most beautiful bikeways in the world by CNNGO and it is about 39km long and will take 3.5 hours to ride the whole thing.
However, if you prefer not to spend too much time riding, you can choose any section of the path you like.
I have tried one section which was from Shuishe Wharf to Xiangshan Visitor Center and it is the easiest way. It is remarkably beautiful, there is about a 400m path that is right along the lake.
This path is about 3.4km and is mostly flat so it is not very challenging and perfect for anyone.
Xiangshan Visitor Center
Xiangshan Visitor Center is a beautiful building in a Japanese design, where you can take a break to have afternoon tea and get to know some of the local features.
You can find a lot of services there, luggage storage, sending posts, phone charging, fixing your bike, borrowing a wheelchair, baby cart…etc.
The coolest thing about this building is its roof that is flat and anyone can go on the roof to enjoy the unlimited space.
If you head to Sun Moon Lake from Xianshan Visitor Center, there is a Xiangshan Scenic Outlook where you will find an observation deck.
Ita Thao Wharf
Ita Thao wharf is one area you should absolutely go to check out, even though it is a very touristy area.
You will find a lot of local Aboriginal restaurants and souvenirs shops there and the food is quite delicious, and it is something you will not find in other places in Taiwan.
If you prefer street food, go to alleyways where you should be able to find some good food there as well. The price probably will pretty be the same but the flavor might be slightly different.
Once I went to an alleyway and tried to find some very local food and the man who sold the Thao flavored sausage showed me his traditional clothing and asked if I want to be a tribe princess.
Most people in Sun Moon Lake are really nice but please make sure you respect their beliefs.
When exploring an area you will have many options for how to go about exploring, walking is one of them.
If you prefer to discover Sun Moon Lake on foot, that is not a problem at all. There are many walking paths to choose from and the most popular one is Ita Thao Walking Path.
Where is the best place to see the Sunrise and Sunset?
If you are wondering where is the best spot to enjoy the sunset or sunrise, there are a few options that you can choose from.
- Mt. Maolan: It is located 1.7km away from Shuishe Wharf, takes about 3 mins to get there by car and on foot about 24 mins.
- Shuishe Dam: It is somewhere between Shuishe Wharf and Xiangshan Visitor Center.
- Hanbi Peninsula: It is next to Shuishe Wharf and in front of a fancy Hotel, The Lalu Hotel.
- Ci-en Pagoda: It is located on Xuanguang Wharf and a 20 mins walk along the Zinglong Trail (青龍步道)
- On the cable car: If you remember there is a theme park next to Sun Moon Lake, they provide the most spectacular way to enjoy the Sun Moon Lake view. When you take a cable car during sunset time, you should able to see the most incredible view.
Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake?
There are many hotels surrounding the Sun Moon Scenic Area, the hotel price range is quite broad and you can find one that suits you. You can choose based on the convenience of transportations or food.
The Shuishe area is the main entry for public transportations and there are many restaurants and convenience stores nearby as well.
According to Sun Moon Lake’s official website, there two camping sites available. One is close to the Youth activity center and the another one is located between Ita community centre and Syun-zang temple.
However, I found out that there are actually more camping sites, some of them even provide tents or camping houses. Staying in a hotel is not the only option in Sun Moon Lake, you can also consider staying in a camping house or tents.
When is the best time to go to Sun Moon Lake?
The best time to travel to Sun Moon Lake is pretty much any time of year, except for the typhoon period. Each season has its own feature and festivals.
- Jan – Mar: Cheery bloom season
- Apr- May: Firefly season
- Sep: Once per year, thousands of people swim together and it is the only chance to swim in Sun Moon Lake & the annual Harvest Festival of the Thao tribe.
- Oct to Nov: Cycling, music & firework season
Sun Moon Lake FQA:
Local aboriginal food, black tea
No, it is forbidden. Except for one time per year, when thousands of people swim there together.
Yes, you can. But you need to apply in advance and there are some rules you need to follow.
Yes, you can fish but some unsafe areas are forbidden, you might need to check if there is a “no fishing” sign or not.
Sun Moon Lake is one of the top 5 popular nature destinations in Taiwan. No matter which season you visit, the lake view can always surprise you.
If you are planning to go to Taichung, maybe also consider taking a day trip to visit this stunning lake in the inland of Taiwan.
*Both offer cheaper entry tickets to many attractions, such as museums and theme parks. You can even get discounts on sim cards, transportations and much much more.
When I look for flight tickets I usually go to:
Skyscanner is the biggest flight ticket search website
When I look for accommodation I usually go to:
- Agoda (Tip: if you book a non-refundable room, you usually get a very good deal).
- Booking.com (my favorite one, easy to manage bookings).
- Hotels.com (If you book more than 10 nights, you will get one night for free).
Read more about Taiwan
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