English Guide to Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 (Taiwan)

This is a guide to transportation, food, activities, and lodging for a Sun Moon Lake trip, based on my own experiences. My friend and I traveled from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake in July 2015, staying one night by the lake.

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Traveling to Sun Moon Lake

From Taichung

We traveled from Taichung (台中), since we wanted to explore the city the night before. Taipei to Taichung is one hour by high speed rail (HSR), two hours by train (TRA), four hours by bus.

We purchased a package deal for Sun Moon Lake from Nantou Bus Company across from Gancheng station, which is near the train station. Packages can also be purchased from the Taichung HSR station.

There are many options for packages, but the 570 NT package includes:

  • Round trip bus tickets between Taichung and Sun Moon Lake (383 NT)
  • Ferry rides for one day (200 NT)
  • Bike rental for two hours from Merida Bikes or one hour from GIANT (200 NT)
  • Round trip bus tickets between Shuishe and Xiangshan, two stops at Sun Moon Lake (48 NT)

According to my computationally intense calculations, this saves you 261 NT. It’s a good deal.

Duration: 1.5 hours
Price: 570 NT for package deal (see Nantou site for other options)
Location: Across from Gancheng station (sells packages), Taichung HSR station (sells packages), or Taichung TRA station. It stops at Shuishe Pier, the main hub of Sun Moon Lake.

From Taipei

I didn’t travel from Taipei, but the King Bus timetable lists bus times from Taipei Main Station.

Type: Bus
Duration: 4 hours
Price: 460 NT each way
Location: Taipei Bus Station

Miscellaneous: We stayed at a nice and cheap hotel in Taichung, the Moon Lake Hotel (11 USD per night). It is less than a kilometer away from the train station.

Type: Bus

Getting Around

Ferry

The ferry is the most convenient way to cover a lot of ground and hit the main destinations. It has three stops, forming a triangle along the lake.

  • The first pier is Shuishe, the main pier.
  • The second pier is Xuanzang Pier, and it has a legendary tea egg store that has been run by the same woman for about fifty years (13 NT per egg).
  • The last pier is Ita Thao, which has many food stands.

Bike

Biking is a scenic way to get around the lake. Details on bike shops can be found here. See the Activities section for more information about the bikes in the package deal.

Bus

The Round-the-Lake bus, which goes ‘round the lake, is the main bus. A trip on the bus is more or less 20 NT. An unlimited trip ticket is 80 NT. You can use your EasyCard.

Advice: Wave down the bus drivers as they approach, because they probably won’t stop for you otherwise.

Things To Try

Food

Ita Thao has all the good food. Edibles to try:

  • Pork buns (Ita Thao): I recommend the stand that has pumpkin pork buns.
  • Assam tea (Ita Thao): Stands advertising Assam tea are everywhere. It’s a type of tea imported from India or Japan. It tastes like tea. For some reason (I don’t know because I’m Chinese illiterate), it’s famous in the area.
  • Chicken stuffed with rice (Ita Thao): I have no idea what this is called. Look for a stand with deer horns. Also, if you don’t like spicy, ask for “no spicy” because even “small spicy” was super spicy.
  • Old woman tea eggs (Xuanguan Pier): These were mentioned above. They’re at the first ferry stop after Shuishe.

Places

There are many destinations at Sun Moon Lake, but I recommend:

  • Ci’en Pagoda, a tall building commissioned by Chiang-Kai Shek, has a sweeping view of the lake. Sun Moon Lake has hiking trails, but many of them don’t have a nice view of the lake. To reach the pagoda, take the round-the-lake bus. Although Ci’en Pagoda is not listed as a stop, it is the second-to-last stop before (I think) Xuanzang Temple.

  • Ita Thao, an area with many food stands. Because food.

Advice: The bus does not stop at Ci’en Pagoda between 1 and 3 PM, and none of the main piers are within short walking distance (around 5 km). We tried leaving at 1:30 PM. Not wanting to wait around for 1.5 hours, we hitchhiked our way back.

Advice: Bug your bus driver to stop. Our bus driver was not-too-nice and chose not to stop Ci’en Pagoda– despite knowing that it was our destination. You might notice a pattern here involving interactions with bus drivers.

Activities

  • Walking: Self explanatory.
  • Biking: The best activity by far. The package that we did gave us bikes for two hours from Merida Bike, which was enough time to bike about a third of the lake (going out and coming back to the bike rental shop). Renting bikes for longer (i.e., to go around the whole lake) costs more, but I’m unsure how much more. Bike shops want bikes back by around 6:30 PM.
  • Cable car: It exists, but I didn’t do it.
  • Being ignored by bus drivers: It exists, and I did do it.

Miscellaneous

None of these were that interesting to us, but if you have more time, this is an incomplete list of other activities in the area:

  • Aboriginal Culture Village (link): This sounds like a village for cultural edification, but it turns out it’s actually an amusement park.
  • Puli: It’s a town.
  • Cingjing Farm (link): It’s a farm. It’s about 40 minutes from Sun Moon Lake.

Lodging

Because Sun Moon Lake is a popular tourist destination, lodging is relatively expensive.

Super secret hacker budget stay: Naluisland House. This place is so secret that it doesn’t show up on Kayak or have reviews on TripAdvisor. You can book through Agoda or Ctrip.

We shared a room with two queen sized beds between four people, and it came out to about 450 NT per person (15 USD in July 2015). Our room was sufficient for a one night stay. There are rooms with four beds for a little more. Some rooms also have private bathrooms, which costs a little more as well.

To get to Naluisland House, take the ferry or bus to Ita Thao, which is one of the major destinations of Sun Moon Lake. However, buses and ferries close around 5:30 PM – be very careful to get to Ita Thao before then. We learned that a taxi from Shuishe, the main port, costs about 500 NT (try negotiating).

I’m not sure if the owner speaks English, but she was very helpful.

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Last updated: July 2015

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