8 Best Things to Do in Sun Moon Lake (Day Tour Itinerary)

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Mountain lakes are my favorite destinations. They instill a sense of peace in me and fill me with awe. When I visit them, I feel as if I’m living out a fantasy. This is why, during a trip to Taiwan with my sister, we made sure to visit Sun Moon Lake.

However, prior to our journey, I was largely unaware of Sun Moon Lake’s existence. In fact, my knowledge of Taiwan was quite limited at the time. Like, years ago, whenever someone say “Taiwan,” the only thing that came to mind was Taipei 101! LOL. My introduction to Sun Moon Lake came when my sister showed me posts of photogenic locations in Taiwan. I skimmed through most of the images, but the photo of Sun Moon Lake caught my attention. “We must visit Sun Moon Lake!” I told her emphatically.

Weeks later, we finally arrived at Sun Moon Lake. My first glimpse of the serene lake and the stunning mountain range brought a smile to my face. It was even more beautiful than I had anticipated from the pictures. I hadn’t realized that Sun Moon Lake would be more than just a destination for us. It’s an ideal spot for those seeking quality time with loved ones in a setting that blends nature and culture.

Nestled in the heart of Taiwan’s mountainous region, in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, you’ll find Sun Moon Lake. This is the largest lake in Taiwan, and it has a unique characteristic. The east side of the lake resembles the sun, while the west side mirrors the moon, hence the name, Sun Moon Lake.

Perched at an elevation of 748 meters (or 2,454 feet) above sea level, the lake offers visitors a breathtaking alpine view. Imagine clouds so close they almost touch the lake’s horizon. The aboriginal tribes residing around the lake are fortunate to witness this spectacular scenery every day!

Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan (3)

Is Sun Moon Lake Worth Visiting?

Sun Moon Lake is one of the premier destinations in Taiwan. Every year, millions of tourists visit Sun Moon Lake. The beautiful sceneries that you can see make it easy to understand why. If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a lovely place that you should not miss.

More importantly, Sun Moon Lake is an excellent place to immerse yourself in nature and learn about a different culture. You can indulge in relaxation by spending time around the soothing and calm lake or circle it with a bike or scooter. Around Sun Moon Lake, there are temples where you can meditate, explore, and learn about their history. There are also parks for amusement and hiking trails with incredible sights awaiting you.

Best Season to visit Sun Moon Lake? Spring, from March to May, is an ideal time to explore Sun Moon Lake. During this season, the temperature hovers between a comfortable 20-25°C. This period also coincides with the blooming of cherry and plum blossoms across the country. Visitors are treated to stunning floral displays, which are so picture-perfect!

Helpful links for your visit to Sun Moon Lake:

Sun Moon Lake Itinerary: Things to Do for One Day

Sure, here’s the revised paragraph:

Before my trip to Sun Moon Lake, I was unsure about which locations to visit. The lake is surrounded by numerous picturesque and enchanting spots, but it’s impossible to see them all in a day. However, based on my experience, you can still experience the highlights of Sun Moon Lake in a single day.

The attractions listed below are my top recommendations for a one-day visit to Sun Moon Lake. I’ve arranged these in the most efficient order to minimize travel time and maximize the quality of views at each location. Please note that the visibility of most sights here is dependent on the weather and climate.

If you plan to follow my itinerary and stay overnight at Sun Moon Lake, I suggest booking a hotel near Shuishe. This northern part of Sun Moon Lake is the main hub for tourists, with bus drop-off and pick-up points.

The tourist Information Center is also located in Shuishe. Here, you can obtain tickets and passes, inquire about the bus schedule, and rent a bicycle. If you prefer a guided experience, consider joining a tour. This option can make navigating the area more convenient and effortless.

1. Hanbi Trail

Let’s start the list with an activity that will begin your day at Sun Moon Lake – a morning walk along the Hanbi trail. This trail is a kilometer and a half long path, paved with red bricks, accessible from Shuishe Wharf.

As you stroll along this path, you can breathe in the fresh morning air and watch waterfowl frolicking along the lakeshore. The trail offers a captivating view of Ci’en Pagoda and Lalu Island, which is a sight to remember.

The Hanbi trail also leads you to historical sites such as Meihe Garden, Church of Christ, Xingtan Theater, Chiang Kai Shek, and Yule Pavilions. Along the Hanbi trail, you’ll find numerous spots that are worth capturing in photos.

You must check out and see Chiang Kai Shek PierShuishe Pier, and the boat dock!

Wondering when to visit the Hanbi Trail? The trail offers its most stunning views during sunrise. This is the moment when the lake presents an almost surreal spectacle.

At this time, the lake is at its calmest, often shrouded in a magical mist. A morning walk along the Hanbi Trail not only benefits your health but also provides an opportunity to capture enchanting images of the lake.

2. Chiang Kai Shek Wharf

Chiang Kai-Shek Pier, Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Chiang Kai Shek Wharf, one of the most photographed attractions around Sun Moon Lake, is a sight to behold. You’ll find it nestled in the middle of the Hanbi trail, close to the Lalu hotel. Despite its small size, it offers an incredible view of the lake, complete with a wooden dock and small boats.

As darkness falls, lanterns light up, enhancing the view and making it even more spectacular. It’s worth noting that some tourists and locals refer to this place as Jianggong Wharf. So, if you hear different names, don’t be confused – they’re referring to the same beautiful spot. This information should come in handy when asking for directions.

3. Shuishe Pier

Exploring the Hanbi trail can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on your walking pace and how much time you spend at the attractions along the way. Once you complete the trail, you’ll find yourself on the other side of the mini peninsula. From there, it’s just a 4-minute walk back to Shuishe Pier.

At Shuishe Pier, you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast while waiting for the ferry to start its lake cruise. The view from the pier is simply breathtaking. Feel free to stroll around, take photos near the boats at the docks, and capture the ferries gliding on the shimmering water against the backdrop of the stunning mountain range.

Shuishe Pier is also home to several tea and coffee shops. With a hot drink in hand, take a moment to relax and soak in the atmosphere before moving on to your next destination. Be ready to catch the first boat ride to the other side of the lake by 9 am.

4. Cruise across Sun Moon Lake

Ferries at Sun Moon Lake follow a counterclockwise route. If you’re journeying from Shuishe Pier to Xuanguang Temple Pier, you’ll need to take two boat trips to return to Shuishe. This involves a stop at Ita Thao Pier and another boat ride back to Shuishe.

Cruising across Sun Moon Lake offers a closer look at Lalu Island. During the boat ride, the ferry’s captain shares interesting facts about the lake’s attractions and history. It’s a great opportunity to learn while enjoying the stunning scenery.

Upon arriving at Xuanguang Temple Pier, you can spend some time exploring the temple. However, during my visit, I didn’t find anything particularly noteworthy. So, I recommend heading straight to the temple’s bus stop and waiting for a bus to Shuishe.

This bus will make a stop next to Cien Pagoda, your next destination. If you catch the 9 am ferry to Xuanguan Temple, you should be able to get the 9:40 am bus. If you miss it, the next one is scheduled for 10:35 am. You can find the bus schedule in the transportation section of this blog post.

5. Cien Pagoda

Cien Pagoda, a 46-meter tall structure, stands atop Mount Shalaban, which is 954 meters above sea level. This beautiful pagoda, designed in Chinese architecture, is octagonal in shape with stunning exteriors. It comprises 12 floors, accessible via a circular staircase inside the structure. The top floor offers visitors a panoramic view of the lake.

On the 12th floor, there are bells believed to bring blessings to anyone who rings them while praying. To reach Cien Pagoda, one must traverse a 900-meter uphill trail. Despite the challenge, the path to Mount Shalaban’s summit is scenic, tree-covered, and paved with bricks, making for a delightful and refreshing hike.

During certain seasons, fireflies can be seen on the Tsen Pagoda Hiking Trail, which leads to Cien Pagoda. Black-Winged Fireflies appear from late April to early May, followed by Mountain Fireflies in October and November. The trailhead to Cien Pagoda is a mere 2-minute ride from the Xuanguang Temple bus stop.

Our experience in visiting Cien Pagoda

Upon our arrival at Cien Pagoda, we found only 3 to 5 other tourists exploring the area. It was a peaceful and quiet place where the sound of our footsteps on the gravel and the whooshing wind through the pine trees were the only noises.

We were happy to find the seats in the compound, which provided my sister and me a moment to cool down from our 20-minute stroll to the site. The trees shielded the benches from the sun, offering an excellent spot to admire the pagoda’s grandeur.

In my excitement to see Sun Moon Lake from the 12th floor of the pagoda, I rushed to the foot of the pagoda and started climbing after a short break. The climb up the circular staircase left me feeling dizzy, likely due to my fear of heights. Fortunately, the presence of nets inside Cien Pagoda eased my anxiety about falling from the stairs.

Reaching the 12th floor of Cien Pagoda, I found that Sun Moon Lake is a destination worth visiting. The view was breathtaking! I could have stayed up there for a day, meditating, relaxing, and soaking in the magnificent sights.

Remember to finish your exploration of Cien Pagoda and return to the bus stop before 10:37 am / 11:22 am. This ensures you have enough time for your next destination in Sun Moon Lake, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

Don’t forget to board a Shuishe bound bus for a shorter trip to your next stop. Lunch options are available at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village or at Sun Moon Lake Ropeway Station. Alternatively, you can stop at Ita Thao for more affordable meals.

6. Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

Immerse yourself in the culture of indigenous tribal groups, stroll around European-style gardens, and hop on thrilling amusement rides at Taiwan’s largest amusement park.

The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village spans 62 hectares of land, offering a blend of fun, discovery, and relaxation. If you’re traveling with kids, they will enjoy the fantastic rides the park offers. Don’t miss out on the UFO Gyro Drop, Mayan Adventure Roller Coaster, The Spanish Coast, Caribbean Splash, The Gold Mine Adventure, and Space Mountain VR.

There’s something for adults too. Explore the aboriginal villages to learn about the indigenous people of Taiwan. Outdoor theatres and performances around the park enhance your encounter with the aboriginal culture.

On your day trip to Sun Moon Lake, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an excellent place to visit after Cien Pagoda. After viewing the lake from above, delve deeper into the history of the area.

Who were the first inhabitants? What is their culture like? What do they look like? The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village provides answers through engaging encounters, not through a typical museum experience.

If you’re heading to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village from Cien Pagoda, catch a bus passing the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (Shuishe-bound). The travel time is about 10 minutes.

If you’re coming from Ita Thao, take a 15-minute walk to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway via Yidashao Lakeside. Alternatively, you can hop on a bus that’s only a minute away from the ropeway. Finally, ride the Gondola to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Station.

7. Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (Sunset viewing)

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is another place in Sun Moon Lake that offers an exceptional vantage point for viewing the lake. Unlike Cien Pagoda, it provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains with no effort or footwork required. This activity is a must for any day trip around Sun Moon Lake.

Inside the air-conditioned gondola, you’ll find stable and comfortable seats. As you traverse the scenic mountains, you can watch the stunning lake unfold before your eyes. But when is the ideal time to ride the Gondola at Sun Moon Lake Ropeway?

A late afternoon ride offers the most spectacular view of Sun Moon Lake from the ropeway. This is when the lake transforms into a pool of molten gold, shimmering brilliantly as the sun sets behind the mountains. This could be the most memorable seven-minute ropeway ride you’ll ever experience.

My sister and I couldn’t stop smiling during our ride on the Gondola at Sun Moon Lake. It was the highlight of our trip to the lake. The view was absolutely breathtaking, just as I’ve described. It was my sister’s second time on the ropeway, and she confirmed that sunset is indeed the best time to ride the gondolas at Sun Moon Lake.

I suggest taking the gondola ride from Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village Station to Sun Moon Lake Station by 4:30 pm. Make sure to arrive at Sun Moon Lake early and catch the 5:01 pm bus to Wenwu Temple, which is a 10-minute ride away.

8. Wen Wu Temple

Wen Wu Temple, situated on the steep slopes of Sun Moon Lake’s northern portion, is a remarkable temple with beautiful gardens and three halls. The skill and talent of the master craftsmen who built this temple will leave you in awe.

The halls of Wen Wu Temple are dedicated to various deities and historical figures from Chinese history. The first hall is a shrine devoted to the God of Literature and the First Ancestor Kaiji. Visitors can also explore the central hall, which is dedicated to Yue and Guan Gong, a warrior god and the God of War.

The final hall, located at the rear end of the temple, is dedicated to Confucius. Wen Wu Temple is an excellent place to appreciate Chinese architecture and culture. It also offers a fantastic spot to watch the setting sun over Sun Moon Lake.

As the sunlight thins and meets the horizon, the details of the temple’s roof are highlighted, creating a breathtaking view. The temple is always open, but you might want to catch the last bus at 6:20 pm to return to your hotel.

Enjoy your trip to Sun Moon Lake! That’s all for now. 😀

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Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake

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    1. engr.eljonrdeocampo says:

      Thanks! Let’s keep safe always and have more travels soon. ??

  1. luv2runfun2eat says:

    such a great review of sun moon lake trip, we are following your suggestion. Thanks so much.

  2. Thank you for your review and suggestion on Sun Moon Lake Trip. It will save me a lot of time when I visit this place in coming April. Thanks again.

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