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Sun Moon Lake is located pretty much in the centre of Taiwan and it’s a popular place to visit on a day trip, but also to stay overnight. After visiting a few cities in Taiwan, a day in nature was what I needed, so I spent one of my days in Taichung walking and sailing around this very special lake.
Related Post: 1-3 Day Itinerary for Taichung & Things to Do.
Sun Moon Lake Taiwan Travel Guide.
Taipei to Sun Moon Lake.
Many blogs and website rate Sun Moon Lakes as a Taipei attraction and day trip from Taipei but after visiting myself I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to visit do Sun Moon Lake on a day trip from Taipei.
It is possible to get to Sun Moon Lake from Taipei by high-speed train. You’ll catch the HSR from Taipei to Taichung which takes just less than 1 hour and the bus that I took which leaves Taichung city to go to Sun Moon Lake has a stop at the HSR station in Taichung so it will pick you up on the way (note that this station is on the outskirts of the city, not in the centre). However, it will be a long day and although Sun Moon Lake is worth visiting as an awesome place to visit in Taiwan, there are so many places to visit near Taipei that would be easier to get to than Sun Moon Lake right in the middle of Taiwan.
If you really want to visit Sun Moon Lake from Taipei, I would recommend a Sun Moon Lake Day Tour from Taipei as this way you do not need to worry about the transport yourself and will get there quicker than getting the train and bus yourself.
Here’s a Sun Moon Lake 1 Day Leisure Trip from Taipei including hotel pick up and drop off, a guide and lunch via Viator.
If you just want the transport organised for you, here’s a Private City Transfer from Taipei City or from Taipei Taoyuan Airport via Klook.
Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.
The best way to get from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake is by bus!
Taichung Bus Terminal is in the centre of the city next to Taichung Rail Station but this is NOT where you get the bus to Sun Moon Lake from. You get it from the bus stop – Nantou Bus Stand which is close to the bus station and on the edge of Taichung Park.
Upon arrival, especially if you leave in the morning which I suggest you do, I left Taichung at about 8:30 am, you’ll see a number of buses lined up opposite the park and a small ticket office. On maps.me which is a map app I use all over the world the ticket shop is detailed as Ybus and the bus stand is noted as Nan Tou Bus (bus to Sun Moon Lake, Xitou, Lakang).
You can just purchase a return bus ticket from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake for 360NTD however the more cost-effective way it seems and an easier way is to get one of the Sun Moon Lake passes.
Related Post: My Taichung Itinerary & Recommended Things To Do!
Sun Moon Lake Passes.
There is a range of passes available for different prices as they include different things which you can see in the below photo:
I went for the 790NTD ticket which included the return bus ticket to Taichung from Sun Moon Lake, the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway / Cable Car ticket both ways, around the lake Bus ticket, a round trip Boat ticket and a bike rental coupon.
Another popular Sun Moon Lake Pass is the pass for 680NTD which includes the same as the above but full bike rental rather than the Sun Moon Lake Cable Car (although I did enjoy the ropeway, more on that below).
With that being said, on arrival to Sun Moon Lake Taiwan, there are plenty of people and shops selling tickets for boats and bike hire rental so you could get the return ticket only and work out what you want to do when you get there and it won’t cost you too much more. In fact, I didn’t even use the round the lake bus ticket that was included in my pass.
You can also buy combo passes like this online in advance too!
The bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lakes takes just under 2 hours, heading directly into the centre of Taiwan into Nantou Country. You’ll be dropped off in a town called Shuishe at the Sun Moon Lake Bus Station.
Shuishe is a popular tourist town and when it comes to where to stay in Sun Moon Lake if you decide to stay overnight this could be a good place as it has lots of Sun Moon Lake Accommodation and restaurants nearby. However, as a day trip, I would suggest you start your Sun Moon itinerary by heading straight to Shuishe Pier to get out on the lake!
To help you plan your trip around Taiwan, have a look at all of my Taiwan Blog Posts here!
Things to do in Sun Moon Lake.
Here are the best things to do at Sun Moon Lake and an idea of how you can plan your one day at Sun Moon Lake. I’ve also included a Sun Moon Lake Map to help you understand what the lake looks like and where the best places to visit in Sun Moon Lake are.
Sun Moon Lake Bike Rental.
If you purchased one of the Sun Moon Lake passes with bike rental or you want to hire a bike when you’re there, picking up a bike in Shuishe is a good idea and biking around Sun Moon Lake is the best way to see Sun Moon Lake because the lake is lined with cycling paths said to be the best cycling tracks in Taiwan. Biking around Sun Moon Lake gives you a close up look at the lake and the surrounding areas.
Sun Moon Lake Boat Tour.
What I decided to do was to get a boat from Shuishe across the lake to the second most visited town in Sun Moon Lake- Ita Thao. On the boat, Ita Thao Pier is the second stop. The boats do offer commentary but it’s all in mandarin!
This hop on hop off bus and boat combo ticket makes it easy for you to take your bike on the eco-friendly boat in an easy way so you can see all of the lake!
Explore Ita Thao.
Itathao is an extremely tourist town. It’s full of souvenir shops but it is nice to see some traditional clothing and items that I hadn’t seen elsewhere in Taiwan before because they are very unique to this area and Nantou County. Part of visiting Sun Moon Lake is to learn and experience a bit about the traditional aboriginal culture of the people who used to live here.
Some Sun Moon Lake history is that it’s said that the ancestors of the Thao people found Sun Moon Lake as they were chasing a white deer, it ran to the lake and after they’d seen it they moved all the tribes to live beside the lake!
Ita Thao Shopping District is very popular and famous with Taiwanese so be sure to have a wander of Ita Thao Shopping Street even if you don’t plan to buy anything.
Street Food in Ita Thao.
The best thing about Itathao I think is its street food! When I arrived there at about 11:00 am the stalls were just opening up but by 1:00 pm everything was fully open. From Mochi to Meat there’s street food to suit everyone, there are even local aboriginal foods that you can try.
Sun Moon Lake Tea is very popular so many of the snacks are made with black tea like black tea ice cream, black tea egg rolls.
Sun Moon Lake is most popular with Taiwanese people, after all, it is the largest lake in Taiwan and an extremely special place however I noticed that many of the food signs were in English to help out foreign visitors to Sun Moon Lake.
Related Post: Taichung also has a few night markets, have a read of this post to see which night markets in Taichung to visit!
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.
A short walk from Ita Thao is the base of the Sun Moon Lake cable car station and you really can’t miss it. The Cable Cars take you up and over the mountains in either a crystal clear bottom car or a normal car. I opted for the normal car as that what was included in my Sun Moon Lake pass. I actually really enjoyed the cable car. It was amazing to see a full view of the lake from the top and swing over the mountains below. I was just a little surprised and disappointed when I reached the end and ending up turning straight back because at the end is the Aboriginal Culture village.
Purchase a combo ropeway ticket here to include boat and bike rental to save you money!
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.
Initially, I liked the sound of this and it was on my Sun Moon Lake itinerary however upon arrival I realised that a ticket was 550NTD which is pretty expensive after already paying for the ticket pass for Sun Moon Lake. In addition to this, from what I saw from the signs and from the ropeway, it’s more of a theme park, and a huge group of school children had just gone inside. From what I can tell, if you’re visiting Sun Moon Lake with children, it could be a fun place to visit, but as adults and as a solo adult, it didn’t seem appealing or worth my money, therefore I got back on the ropeway straight away and went back to Ita Thao Sun Moon Lake.
If you are interested in the Aboriginal Culture and want to visit the Sun Moon Lake Theme Park, this Aboriginal Culture Day Tour ticket combines both so you’ll be able to learn about the culture as well as have some fun!
To help you plan your trip around Taiwan, have a look at all of my Taiwan Blog Posts here!
Sun Moon Lake Activities.
Aside from going on the tourist boats on the lake to get you from A to B, you can pedalo boats to take yourself and you can even go stand up paddleboarding on Sun Moon Lake too! The way to do this is by joining a SUP trip with a professional guide.
Sun Moon Lake Temples.
There are a number of temples in Sun Moon Lake that surround the lake.
The closest temple to Shuishe is Wenwu Temple which is a huge temple built-in 1938. From Shuishe you can walk to Wenwu Temple, it’s about 3-4km but the walk is along the Sun Moon Lake trail which keeps you slightly away from the road and right on the lake. This trail is also part of the bike trail so it would be easier and faster to bike to Wenwu Temple from Shuishe.
Close to Ita Thao but not in walking distance are Xuanzang Temple and Cien Pagoda. Xuanzang Temple has the remains of monk Xuanzang inside it who was the holy monk in the Tang dynasty.
Ci En Pagoda is the pagoda you’ll see peeking out from the top of the mountain from the lake because its 46 metres high and is a landmark of Sun Moon Lake.
Both of these temples are accessible by foot from Xuanzang Temple Pier which is the first stop after the boat leaves Shuishe and before it gets to Ita Thao. Alternatively, you can get the round-the-lake bus from Ita Thao Pier to both of these temples which will reduce the amount of walking you need to do as the bus stops by the temples whereas from the pier you need to walk up to them.
Sun Moon Lake Tours.
If you would like the planning of your visit to Sun Moon Lake taken out of your hands then consider a Sun Moon Lake Tour, there are many tours you can purchase online in advance that leave from Taichung and Taipei. There are also tours that combine the Sun Moon Lake Alishan Pass as this is a popular place in Taiwan to visit that is close to Sun Moon Lake.
The best tours of Sun Moon Lake that I found online are:
A Day at Sun Moon Lake including Taiching transfers, including a boat cruise, walking and seeing the Temples via Klook.
Sun Moon Lake Adventure One Day Tour including a bike tour, boat cruise, cable car and visiting the Temples via Klook.
If you’re happy to see Sun Moon Lake yourself but would like to get transfers from Taichung instead of the bus, which would work great if you are a family or there are a few of you, here are some options:
Private Transfers from Taichung Rail Station to Sun Moon Lake.
Although a day trip to Sun Moon Lake is very possible from Taichung it’s also a popular place to stay overnight. From what I saw I would say that Ita Thao is the best place to stay on Sun Moon Lake as it has more to offer in terms of food and accommodation and is an overall nicer town than Shuishe.
Sun Moon Lake Accommodation.
For Sun Moon Lake Hotels, these are hotels that are popular and well-rated:
The lalu Sun Moon Lake Resort is the most popular hotel in Sun Moon Lake with a spa and infinity pool!
See Moon Lake Homestay is a cute looking homestay for a good price, perfect for couples.
Hu An The Lakeside House is perfect if you want to be right on the lake and to relax!
For more accommodation on Sun Moon Lake, have a look on Booking.com here!
You can read more of my Taiwan blog posts here to help you plan your trip further: