Lakes in the mountains are my favorite destinations. They give me peace and fill me with awe. I feel that I am living my fantasy when I travel to them. That is why when my sister and I had our travel to Taiwan, we did not miss Sun Moon Lake.
I was not aware that Sun Moon Lake exists before our trip, or I must say, I only knew very little about Taiwan then. Honestly, the only idea that came to my mind years ago when we talk about Taiwan was Taipei 101. Yep, I agree I sucked. But that was years ago. I already learned! 😉
I discovered Sun Moon Lake when my sister showed me the posts of Instagrammable places in Taiwan. I passed on every picture but not over the photo from Sun Moon Lake.
WE MUST VISIT SUN MOON LAKE! I told her. Intensively. Haha!
Weeks passed, we finally arrived in Sun Moon Lake. My first sight of the tranquil lake and the beautiful mountain range pulled my side lips upward. As I expected, it was lovelier than in pictures. Neither do I know Sun Moon Lake was more than a destination for us.
It is a perfect destination for people who want to have quality moments with their loved ones in a mixed nature-culture destination. Sadly we only stayed here for a day. I wish it was longer.
In this blog post, I wrote everything that you need to know about a day of exploration around Sun Moon lake. This post is ideal for travelers who aim to travel many places Taiwan in a week or two, like we did.
Where is Sun Moon Lake?
Sun Moon Lake is located in the middle and mountainous region of Taiwan in Yuchi Township, Nantou County. It is the largest lake in Taiwan that resembles the sun on its east side and the moon on its west side. That is the reason why it is called sun moon lake.
Being at 748 meters (2,454 feet) above sea level, visitors enjoy a sight of a gorgeous alpine view with the clouds almost touching the lake horizon. The aboriginal tribes that lived around the lake are lucky to have such an incredible scene every day.
Why Should You Go to Sun Moon Lake?
Sun Moon Lake is an excellent place to spend time with nature and learn about another culture. Here you can indulge yourself in relaxation by spending some time around the soothing and calm lake; circle it with a bike or with a scooter. There are temples around Sun Moon Lake where you can meditate, explore and learn about their history. Parks for amusement and hikes with incredible sights await you here as well.
Ultimately, Sun Moon Lake is one of the premier destinations in Taiwan. Millions of tourists visit Sun Moon Lake every year. It is a lovely place that you should not skip on your Taiwan trip.
Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake in One Day
The day before we arrived in Sun Moon Lake, my sister and I were still undecided about which spots we will visit. There are just many beautiful, Instagrammable and dreamy places around the lake, and they can’t be all visited in a day. Based on what we have read and experienced, the attractions listed below are the best destinations for everyone’s one-day stay in Sun Moon Lake.
I arranged the following attractions in the most efficient way to visit. If you follow this sequence, you will spend less time in transit, and you should get the best and most picture-worthy view of each spot around Sun Moon Lake.
Take note, most of the sights here are weather and climate-dependent. Check out the best time of the year when to visit Sun Moon Lake in the “best season to visit” section of this blog post.
If you want to follow my list of activities, you should book a hotel near Shuishe. Shuishe is located in the northern part of Sun Moon Lake, and it is the main bus drop-off and pick-up point for tourists. Tourist Information Center is located in Shuishe too. Here, you can get the tickets and passes, inquire about the bus schedule, and get a bicycle for rent.
Let’s kick off the list with the activity that will kick off your day on Sun Moon Lake. That is, to have a good morning walk along the Hanbi trail.
Hanbi trail is a path made from red bricks that stretches for a kilometer and a half (one mile). You can access the trail from Shuishe Wharf. Along this path, you can breathe the fresh morning air and watch the waterfowls splash about the lakeshore. The trail will give you a dreamy view of Ci’en Pagoda and Lalu island, which is definitely fantastic to see.
Hanbi trail also takes you to historic sites like Meihe Garden, Church of Christ, Xingtan Theater, Chiang Kai Shek, and Yule Pavilions. There are picture-worthy spots along the Hanbi trail. You must check out and see Chiang Kai Shek Pier, Shuishe Pier, and the boat dock! They are hard to find on Google Maps, so I created a link for your convenience.
When should I be on Hanbi Trail?
Hanbi trail gives visitors a stunning view of the lake during sunrise. It is the time of the day when visitors witness an unreal view of the lake. This is when the lake is so calm and looks so magical because of the mist that sometimes covers it. A morning walk along the Hanbi trail is beneficial to your health and a perfect activity to capture mysterious and good-looking images of the lake.
Chiang Kai Shek Wharf
Chiang Kai Shek Wharf is one of the most photographed attractions around Sun Moon Lake. You shall see the Chiang Kai Shek Wharf in the middle of the Hanbi trail, near the Lalu hotel.
The place is small. But it shows an incredible sight of the lake with the wooden dock and small boats. When it is still dark, the lanterns are lighted up, turning the view even more splendid.
Other tourists and some locals use the name Jianggong Wharf instead of Chiang Kai Shek Wharf. So don’t be confused when you are told different names. This should help you when you’re asking other people where this is.
Exploring the Hanbi trail would last for 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how fast you walk or spend time with the attractions along with it. If you finished the whole trail, you end up on the other side of the mini peninsula, a 4-minute walk to return to Shuishe Pier.
You can have your breakfast at Shuishe pier. There you shall wait for the ferry to start cruising the lake. The view from Shuishe pier is simply marvelous. You can walk around and take photos near the boats at the docks if you want. Capture the ferries floating on the sparkling water and with the gorgeous mountain range in the background.
There are several tea and coffee shops in Shuishe pier. In the comfort of your seat and hot drink, you must relax and enjoy the moment before you proceed to your next destination. You must be prepared to get the first boat ride to the other side of the lake by 9 am.
Cruise across Sun Moon Lake
The ferries in Sun Moon Lake sail in a counterclockwise direction. If you are coming from Shuishe pier and you arrived in Xuanguang Temple Pier, returning to Shuishe by ferry would require you to have 2 boat trips. You have to stop at Ita Thao pier and get another boat ride back to Shuishe.
Cruising across Sun Moon Lake is an excellent way to see Lalu Island closer in person. The ferry’s captain shall narrate fascinating facts about Sun Moon Lake’s attractions and history while you are on the boat. Have fun watching magnificent sceneries while learning about them!
You can explore the temple for a while after you arrive at Xuanguang Temple Pier. When I was there, I believe I saw nothing much special. So I suggest that you continue immediately to the temple’s bus stop and wait for a bus going to Shuishe. That bus will stop next to Cien Pagoda, your next destination.
If you took the 9am ferry to Xuanguan Temple, you could catch the 9:40am bus. But if you missed it, the next one should arrive at 10:35. The bus schedule is included in the transportation section of this blog post.
Cien Pagoda is a 46-meter (151 feet) tall structure on the top of Mount Shalaban, which stands 954 meters (3,130 ft) above sea level. The beautiful pagoda is octagonal in shape with stunning exteriors designed in Chinese architecture. It has 12 floors which anyone could climb through a circular staircase inside the structure.
The highest floor of Cien Pagoda blesses the visitors with a stunning panoramic view of the lake. There are bells on the 12th floor of the pagoda. They are believed to bring blessings to anyone who rings them and prays at the same time.
Before you reach the site where Cien Pagoda stands, you have to walk through a 900-meter uphill trail. But don’t let it discourage you. The path leading to Mount Shalaban’s summit is scenic, covered with trees, and is paved with bricks. It is going to be a delightful and refreshing hike, I’m sure.
In some seasons, fireflies appear in Tsen Pagoda Hiking Trail, the trail leading to Cien Pagoda. From late April to early May, Black-Winged Fireflies appear here. Then Mountain Fireflies during October and November.
The start of the trail to Cien Pagoda is just a 2-minute ride from the Xuanguang Temple bus stop.
When we arrived in Cien Pagoda, only 3 to 5 other tourists were exploring the area. It was a peaceful and quiet place. All we heard was our footsteps over the gravel and the whooshing sound created by the wind and the pine trees.
Actually, I thanked God because there were seats in the compound! It gave my sister and me a moment to cool down from a 20-minute stroll to the site. The trees cover the benches from the sun, making it an excellent point to admire the pagoda’s grandeur. I wished that there is a place like that in our home.
Because I was so excited to see the Sun Moon Lake from the 12th floor of the pagoda, I immediately rushed to the foot of the pagoda and started climbing after a short break.
I felt dizzy after climbing the circular staircase. Actually, I was afraid of heights. I think it was the cause of my dizziness, maybe. It’s good that the Cien Pagoda has nets inside. It reduced my anxiety about falling from the stairs.
When I reached the 12th floor of Cien Pagoda, I realized that Sun Moon Lake is “truly” a worthy destination. The view was epic! I could stay up there for a day meditating, relaxing, and enjoying the magnificent sights.
You must finish your exploration of Cien Pagoda and return to the bus stop before 10:37 am / 11:22 am. That is for you to have enough time for your next destination in Sun Moon Lake (Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village). Do not forget to ride on a Shuishe bound bus for a shorter trip to your next stop.
You can have your lunch in the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village or at Sun Moon Lake Ropeway Station. You can also make a stop on Ita Thao to eat more affordable meals. Here is the bus schedule table for your reference.
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Get a unique experience from Taiwan’s largest amusement park by immersing yourself in the culture of indigenous tribal groups, strolling around European-style gardens, and hopping on thrilling amusement rides.
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village covers 62 hectares of land and home to an experience mixture of fun, discovery, and relaxation. Reviews say it something you must try, especially if you brought your kids on your trip.
Your kids will enjoy the fantastic rides which the park boasts. Don’t miss a ride to UFO Gyro Drop, Mayan Adventure Roller Coaster, The Spanish Coast, Caribbean Splash, The Gold Mine Adventure, and Space Mountain VR.
Sure thing there is something for adults here as well. Check out the aboriginal villages where you can learn about the indigenous people of Taiwan. There are outdoor theatre & performances around the park that would level up your encounter with the aboriginals’ culture.
On your day trip to Sun Moon Lake, Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village would be the best place to go after visiting Cien Pagoda. After viewing the lake from the top, I think you should go “deeper” to get some substance from your trip.
Like, who are the people who first lived here; what is their culture, and how do they look like? Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village shall give you answers, not through a boring museum experience though, but from fun encounters.
If you are going to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village from Cien Pagoda, catch a bus passing Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (Shuishe-bound). Travel time is about 10 minutes. But if you are coming from Ita Thao, you can take a 15-minute walk to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway through Yidashao Lakeside.
Alternatively, you can hop on a bus that’s only a minute away from the ropeway. Finally, ride on the Gondola to Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Station.
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (Sunset viewing)
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is another spot where you can have an overlooking view of the lake. Unlike Cien Pagoda, you can have a magnificent panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains without any effort or footwork.
It is a must-do activity for your day trip around Sun Moon Lake. Here, you will enjoy the stable and comfortable seats inside an airconditioned gondola while traversing the scenic mountains and watching the glamorous lake.
When is the best time to ride on a Gondola in Sun Moon Lake Ropeway?
A ride during the late afternoon gives you the best view of Sun Moon Lake from the ropeway. It is when you will see the lake turn into a pit of molten gold shimmering splendidly as the sun kisses the mountains. It could be the best seven-minute ropeway ride of your life.
My sister and I were smiling like crazy during our ride to the Gondola in Sun Moon Lake because it totally completed our trip to the lake. The view was absolutely stunning, like what I’ve described above. It was my sister’s second ride to the ropeway, and she told me, that indeed during the sunset is the best time to ride the gondolas in Sun Moon Lake.
I recommend that you get the gondola ride from Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Station to Sun Moon Lake Station by 4:30 pm. You must arrive at Sun Moon Lake early and get the 5:01 pm 10-minute bus ride to Wenwu Temple.
Wen Wu Temple
Wen Wu Temple is located on the steep slopes of the northern portion of Sun Moon Lake. It is an impressive temple with beautiful gardens and three halls. You will stand in awe at the unbelievable talent that the master craftsmen showed in building this temple.
The halls of Wen Wu Temple are dedicated to deities and historical figures in Chinese history. The first hall is a shrine devoted to the God of Literature and to the First Ancestor Kaiji. Moving further up, visitors see the central hall dedicated to Yue and Guan Gong, a warrior god and the God of War. Finally, the last hall at the rear end of the temple is dedicated to Confucius.
Wen Wu Temple is an excellent place to admire Chinese architecture and culture. It is also a marvelous place to watch the setting sun in Sun Moon Lake. Observe in awe the details of the temples’ roof highlighted by the thinning angle of sunlight with the horizon.
The temple never closes, but you might want to catch the last bus at 6:20 pm back to your hotel.
Transportation to and around Sun Moon Lake
The easiest and fastest way to arrive in Sun Moon Lake is by riding a bus from Taichung City. It is also in Taichung you shall get your passes to go around Sun Moon Lake. Buying a Sun Moon Lake Pass shall also save you tons of money.
For the maximized one-day itinerary I prepared for you, the best ticket that’s gonna fit your trip is the Sun Moon Lake Water, Land, and Air Pass NT1160. That ticket includes:
- Taichung-Sun Moon Lake (Bus Round-trip Ticket) [One-way ticket actual price: NT198. Total of NT396 for a round trip]
- Boat Voucher (Round-The-Lake)[Actual price: NT300]
- Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Ticket (Including Cable Car Ticket)[Actual Price: NT850]
- Sun Moon Lake Round-The Lake Bus (One-Day Pass)[Actual Price: NT80]
- Sun Moon Lake-Xiangshan (On-Way Ticket)[Actual Price: NT25]
- Shopping Discount Coupon
It is the most comprehensive ticket that solves your transportation in, out, and around Sun Moon Lake. If you are going to buy tickets individually, you will spend NT1651. But if you buy this pass, you will save NT491.
Here are some of the links that you need to check when you are in Sun Moon Lake:
- Cable Car Maintenance News and Schedule
- Nantao Bus Schedule Around Sun Moon Lake
- Bus Schedule To and From Sun Moon Lake
Here are the other passes in case you want to check:
Where to buy Sun Moon Lake Passes?
- In Nantou Bus Window at Gancheng Railway Station in Taichung. (All passes available)
- On the first floor of Taichung HSR Station, exit 5. (All passes available)
- Sun Moon Lake Nantou bus window. (Only NT460 Sun Moon Lake pass available)
- Puli Transfer Station (NT240 and NT460 Sun Moon Lake passes available)
- Availability for each pass may change. Check the table at the bottom of this webpage to see updates.
- Sun Moon Lake passes are only valid 15 days after the purchase.
How to go to Sun Moon Lake From Taipei/Taichung?
- If you are coming from Taipei, hop on a train going to Taichung.
- Buy Sun Moon Lake passes with bus round trips from Taichung train stations.
- Board on the Tourist Shuttle Bus A on Gancheng Station, Taichung Station, or Taichung HSR Station.
- You should arrive at Sun Moon Lake after 90 minutes of travel time.
- Check the bus schedule to and from Sun Moon Lake for your guidance.
Best Season to visit Sun Moon Lake
Spring (March to May) is the best time to go to Sun Moon Lake. It is when the temperature plays around 20-25°C. At the same time, it is the time when visitors see beautiful displays of cherry and plum blossoms around the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I store my luggage for free?
You can leave your luggage for free in the Visitor or Tourist Information Center in Shuishe if you plan not to get accommodation around Sun Moon Lake. Know the bus schedule too, so you can go back to the Tourist Information Center at 5 in the afternoon to claim your stuff.
What time is the ferry operation in Sun Moon Lake?
There are three primary piers in Sun Moon Lake: Shuishe Pier, Xuanguang Temple Pier, and Ita Thao Pier. The first and last cruise is at 9am and 5pm. Ferries leave the piers in at 15 to 20-minute intervals.
What time are the open hours of Cien Pagoda?
Cien Pagoda is open from Mondays to Sundays from 9 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon.
What are the opening hours of Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village?
It is open from 9:30am to 5:00pm during weekdays and from 9:30am to 5:30pm during weekends.
What are the Opening Hours of Sun Moon Lake Ropeway?
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway has two stations (1) Sun Moon Lake and (2) Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. Here is the opening hours and ticketing hours for each station:
|Sun Moon Lake station|
|Opening Hours||Ticketing Hours|
|Opening Hours||Ticketing Hours|
That’s all! Thanks for reading. Have a lovely trip to Sun Moon Lake!
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