Wulai: Exploring this hidden gem in a day
Wulai (烏來, Wūlái), is a small aboriginal town located 27km south of Taipei, in Taiwan’s northern region. It’s home to Taiwan’s indigenous Atayal tribe and has roughly 6000 inhabitants. Although many consider Wulai as an untamed slice of Taiwan, the town and outer lying area has plenty to offer day visitors. With outdoor hot springs, scenic hiking trails, beautiful mountain views and delicious street food, there’s no reason not to come to Wulai.
Wulai is renowned throughout Taiwan for its natural hot springs. Visitors can enjoy the steamy water at one of the many outdoor pools along the Nanshih river, or head to a hot spring hotel.
Most hot spring hotels are located in or near the village’s Old Street (tourist street). Choose to soak in either a public pool or private tub, depending on your budget and free time available.
So, what will it cost?
- Outdoor public pools: Free entry
- Hot spring hotels: Generally most hot spring hotels display prices at their entrances. Budget for roughly NT$300-$500 (unlimited time) at the public pools. Private tubs/rooms range from NT$600-$1200 (two hours)
Thinking of spending a night?
Accommodation types vary from budget hotels and inns to more luxurious spa’s and resorts. Prices typically range between NT$1500-$16000. For the most accurate rates, it’s best to check individual websites or booking sites such as Agoda, here and Booking.com, here.
Hot spring tips
- Public pools at hot spring hotels are gender based, so it’s not uncommon to see locals enjoying a soak au naturel.
- Be sure to rinse your body properly before and after using any of the pools.
- If you suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure or have any open wounds, it’s best to skip the hot springs entirely.
- At all times, avoid the water covering your chest, especially your heart.
- Don’t stay in the water longer than 20-30 minutes at a time.
- Give your body some time to cool down, before heading back into the hot water.
- Read all the safety instructions displayed at hot spring hotels carefully.
The Wulai waterfall is 80m high and is easily reached on foot (1,5km from the village) or by mini train. There are plenty of lookout points and selfie opportunities once you get to the base. A number of charming little eateries and coffee shops are also based here. Alternatively, take the gondola up the mountain for beautiful views of the waterfall.
Wulai is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers. The area has a scenic 5km trail running along the river. More serious hikers, can also enjoy the 20km Jia Jia Liao Stream trail, which runs between Wulai and Sanxia.
Grabbing a bite
In recent years, Taiwan has become a food lovers’ paradise. It has gained so much popularity that it was even dubbed the #1 Food Destination by an online CNN poll. Even though some critics are suspicious of this result, Taiwan still has a variety of interesting and tasty street food. With its deep-rooted Atayal culture, Wulai is no different and is sure to delight your street food taste buds.
The easiest place to grab a bite, is in the Old Street where food stalls and restaurants are abundant. Although westerners are often quite skeptical of Taiwanese foods and drinks, don’t worry too much. It usually tastes better than it looks!
Must try snacks
- Barbecued Mochi (烤麻糬, Kǎo máshǔ) – a glutinous rice snack served with condensed milk and peanut crumbs.
- Wild boar sausage (山豬香腸, Shān zhū xiāngcháng). If you prefer not to eat wild boar, opt for the traditional pork sausage (香腸, Xiāngcháng). Take note that Taiwanese sausages are usually a lot sweeter than western style sausages.
- Sticky rice bamboo tubes (竹筒飯, Zhútǒng fàn) – bamboo tubes stuffed with rice, vegetables and often some form of meat.
- ‘Tian bu la’ (甜不辣) – made from fish paste, this delicious snack can either be broiled, deep-fried or barbecued.
- Various eggs – a wide variety of eggs, differing in size, color and even texture are available here.
If you follow a vegetarian diet, fresh fruit is available throughout the Old Street at the fruit stalls. Vegetable dishes are also available at most restaurants, but note that some restaurants might add a pork based sauce to their dishes.
Wulai is easily reached from Taipei City by car, scooter or bus. Some people even cycle here. If you are relying on public transport, catch Bus 849, near Xindian MRT Station. The ride takes about 45 minutes and will cost NT$15 for a single ride.
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