A Useful Guide to Hot Springs in Taiwan

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Wulai is an aboriginal village in Northern Taipei about an hour outside of Taipei. It is best known for its natural hot springs and Atayal aboriginal culture, and I consider it to be among the most picturesque towns in Taiwan. The town is named after an Atayal phrase that translates to boiling water or hot and poisonous. This is the Atayal’s term for hot springs, and the natural hot spring water that bubbles up along the riverbanks of the river that divides this gorgeous little area are clear and odorless. Home to the second largest indigenous tribe in Taiwan, Wulai boasts various religious and harvesting events throughout the year. You can learn more about the Atayals at the Atayal Tribal Museum, where you’ll be able to learn about things like local customs, handicrafts, traditional clothing and weaponry.

Once a prime hunting ground for the Atayals, the town is now touted as one of Taiwan’s most beloved hot spring areas.Wulai Hot Springs_7

Wulai Hot Springs

Spend your day hiking, swimming, and visiting waterfalls or sit back and relax in Wulai’s hot springs while taking in the gorgeous river, mountains and dense green jungle. It truly is a gorgeous place to visit any time of year. I like Wulai best in December through February, when the real chill of winter has set in, but you also can’t beat relaxing in a hot spring bath while looking at the cherry blossoms that spring into bloom during late January through early March.

The town of Wulai is easily traversable on foot and there are lots of hiking trails in and around the area. There is a good resource center that offers literature in the area in a number of different languages. From there, you can wander along Wulai Old Street and follow Lover’s Path out to the Wulai waterfalls.

You can also learn a little about the formosan aboriginals in this area by taking in the show, which is located next to the Wulai waterfalls. Ride the gondola up to the top of a nearby mountain for a different view of the waterfalls. The 10-minute ride extends across Nanshi River and costs around NT$220.

Wulai’s waterfalls were named as one of the eight most beautiful attractions in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period.

While you’re in Wulai, be sure to sample some of the many Aboriginal dishes that are from this area. My personal favorite is a dish that consists of bird’s nest fern, known here as shanshu, This delectable green mountain green is quick fried in garlic and bean sauce. Other favorites include wild boar sausage and bamboo rice tubes, which consists of rice and seasoning that has been steamed in a bamboo stalk.

There is a wild boar sausage stand on the right just before you cross over the bridge on Old Wulai Street. (see photo) Try it! It’s pretty yummy.

Wulai_Wild Boar Sausage

Public Hot Spring Etiquette 

Nothing much can beat a long, hot soak in the public hot springs, unless you opt for your own private hot spring experience. I’ll get to that in a minute though. If you choose to bathe at the public hot springs in Taiwan, make sure you thoroughly wash and rinse your body before entering the water.

Swimwear and clothing is not needed as the pools are segregated by gender. Don’t forget to tie up your hair. Finally, if you’ve got heart disease, high blood pressure, or open wounds or sores, don’t enter the baths.

Riverside hot springs

The Nanshih River in Wulai offers several free hot springs along the riverside. Cross the bridge in downtown Wulai, turn right and walk up the road until you see a stairway that takes you down to the river. You’ll see arrive at an outdoor public hot springs area with a changing rooms and several hot spring pools. You can also enter the natural hot springs that are built right into the riverbank when the water is low. Wulai Hot Spring Pools

If you turn left after crossing the bridge, you can wander down the road and find yourself at a riverbank flanked by a parking lot. There are a number of riverside pools available for free in this area as well. You can even make your own hot spring rock pool on the banks of the river.

There are plenty of hot spring hotels and private hot spring rooms to rent in Wulai. We try a different place each time we visit. Private rooms go from as little as NT$200 to NT$1,200 for a two-hour soak. A stay overnight will set you back for as little as NT$2,300 per night.

Pause Landis is one of the more famous hotels in the area. Their public open air baths offer a gorgeous view of the river and jungle. It is known for its zen decor and modern design.

The Full Moon Spa is a favorite of mine. This beautiful hot spring hotel is decorated in gorgeous natural colors and cypress. Even the hot spring bathtubs are made of cypress! You can sit in the very lap of Mother Nature and relax while looking out at the gorgeous mountain scenery and river. Guests may also make full use of the sauna and steam room, as well as the separate hot springs that are divided by sex.

Wulai is accessible from the Taipei MRT Station. Take the MRT to Xindian Station on the red line. From there, it’s a short 40-minute busy ride on Bus 849. Wulai is the last stop on the line and it costs around NT$15 to get there from Xindian Station. You can also get there by taxi from Xindian MRT Station. The trip takes about 30 minutes and it will set you back NT$600.

Carrie Kellenberger
Canadian expat Carrie Kellenberger has kept a home base with her husband in Asia since 2003. A prolific traveler, Carrie has funded her travels primarily as a writer, editor, travel blogger and photographer, but she has also worked as an educator, voice over artist, model and nightclub singer. She draws upon her 15+ years of travel experience to write about travel-related issues and the countries she has visited on her award-winning web site, My Several Worlds.

Her photography and travel articles have appeared in both print and online publications around the world, including Travel and Leisure Asia, Unearthing Asia and Hip Compass Escapes.
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