Finding a Kaohsiung itinerary can be a somewhat daunting task, in spite of how much the internet seems to love Taiwan’s second city. That’s the first reason I’m glad you’re here—I know how frustrating it can be to want to plan a trip somewhere, but to lack the resources to create an actionable (or even meaningful) outline.
Of course, part of the reason that information can be so difficult to come by is that Kaohsiung things to do are neither as numerous nor as conspicuous as the attractions that comprise the average Taipei itinerary. Here’s how to make the most of your trip to Kaohsiung, no matter how many days you have available or how you’d like to spend them.
Top Kaohsiung Attractions
Tiger and Dragon Pagodas
Probably the most famous (and certainly, the most photographed) of all Kaohsiung attractions, the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas are the first place in the city I’d head, if I were you. Many of the other attractions in Kaohsiung Lotus Pond are also attractive, however, and the second floor of the pavilion that juts into the middle of the lake is a great spot to watch sunset. Moreover, a street food market sets up on the main pond-side road in the afternoon and evening.
Cijin Old Town
Need a little history? Ride the metro to Kaohsiung Port (Sizihawn station of the Kaohsiung MRT) and take a quick ferry over to Cijin island. But rather than ticking items off the limited list of attractions here, the most notable of which is the Cijin Shell Museum, focus your energy on getting lost in this decidedly local part of town. This was one of the highlights not only of the days I spent in Kaohsiung, but of my Taiwan trip in general if I’m completely honest.
The path that leads up to the top of this Kaohsiung mountain is just a few minutes by foot from the port, which makes it the perfect follow-up activity to an afternoon on Cijin. Known in Chinese as Shoushan and in English as Monkey Mountain, it’s the perfect spot to get a panorama of Kaohsiung’s CBD and its glittering harbor. You can even look back on Cijin and the ships just off its shore, which is an awesome shot to get indeed. On your way back to the city center you could stop at the Love River, though I find this waterway pretty forgettable.
Liuhe Tourist Night Market
Fair warning: Many a local person will say the best Kaohsiung night market is Ruifang, and not the Liuhe Tourist Night Market. I prefer the latter, not only because I love the fried dumplings you find here, but because it’s convenient—it’s just a few minutes’ walk from Formosa Boulevard, the central station of the Kaohsiung MRT. It also offers a larger variety of food than Ruifang, which compensates for the number of tourists here in my opinion.
Day Trips from Kaohsiung
If you’ve explored the city center but haven’t gotten your temple fix, the most obvious choice is to visit Fo Guang Shan monastery. Accessible via the 8501 Bus from Zuoying HSR Station, this is an appealing day trip in one sense, but can be frustrating if you’re a photographer. Reason being, the viewing deck seems to be off-limits except for during major Buddhist holidays, which makes it near-impossible to get the “money shot.”
If you aren’t taking a trip all the way around Taiwan, and still want to enjoy some beach time, you’ll also head to Zuoying Kaohsiung train station. The most effective thing to do is rent a car here, so you can drive not only to Kenting National Park, but to superior beaches farther north such as Taimali. However, you can also take a direct bus from Zuoying to Kenting National Park, and just chill out in and around town for the day.
How Many Days in Kaohsiung?
Although there’s not as much sightseeing as you would find in, say, Taipei, there’s still enough to spend two full days in the city center. You could condense this to one, if you’re comfortable leaving a few things out, though I wouldn’t recommend a day trip to Kaohsiung from Taipei—the city is large and rich enough in activities that you really owe yourself at least one sleep here.
Ideally, you’d plan a 3 days itinerary, which would give you two full days in the city center, plus a day for an excursion to somewhere outside. While Fo Guang Shan will be the Kaohsiung day trip choice of most travelers, you could head north to Tainan for an urban adventure, or even rent a car and drive to Kenting and back as described two paragraphs up.
The Bottom Line
This Kaohsiung itinerary is a lifesaver, whether you come on an excursion from Taipei, stop during a comprehensive Taiwan itinerary or visit the city on a standalone basis. From must-see Kaohsiung attractions like the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas, to interesting day trips like Fo Guang Shan Monastery, to the underrated Cijin historical district, my itinerary for Taiwan’s second city is first-rate. Make sure to leave a comment below if my itinerary helped you plan your trip to Taiwan.
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.