If you’re looking for things to do in Yilan, you won’t need to look too far. With mountains, hot and cold springs, waterfalls, and gorgeous beaches all within easy reach, Yilan County is the kind of place where you can have your cake and eat it too!
To make your trip to Yilan even more enjoyable, I’ve summed up the top things to do in Yilan for you here – some more touristy and some totally off the beaten track. Whether you’re into food, history, culture, or nature, this list covers a good mix of Yilan attractions, no matter your interests.
Read along to find out what to do in Yilan!
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Before you Go to Yilan
Yilan County is located in northeast Taiwan and covers a whopping 2,143 km2. While the county is home to several smaller townships, the main tourist spots are in and near Yilan City, Luodong, Toucheng, Su’ao, and Jiaoxi.
Here are a few important tips to help make your trip all the easier.
- Book accommodation at least two weeks in advance as hotels in Yilan fill up quickly. Yilan City and Luodong offer the best selection of hotels, shops and eateries. Find the best hotel deals here.
- Rent a scooter. While good public transport connects you to all of Yilan County’s corners, the buses aren’t that frequent, and Google Maps doesn’t have the most accurate schedules. Pre-book a scooter for pickup at Luodong Station here. Alternatively, there is also a car/scooter rental company opposite Yilan Train Station.
- Get an Easy Card – Taiwan’s rechargeable transport card that you can easily use to tap and go on buses and local trains. You can buy (and top up) your Easy Card at any convenience store islandwide.
- If you want to visit Turtle Island, book a tour in advance. A special permit is required to visit the island, and daily visitors are limited to 1800 people.
- Don’t forget to grab a tourist map of Yilan County at the Visitor’s Center next to Yilan Station.
- Book this Ancient Yilan tour if you’d like to see some of Yilan’s top attractions without the hassle of planning a thing.
How to Get to Yilan
Yilan is easily accessible by rail or bus from most major cities in Taiwan.
If you’re coming from Taipei, the easiest way to get to Yilan is by train from Taipei Main Station. Snag a seat on one of the faster trains like Puyuma, TZE-Chiang, or Taroko for the quickest journey. While these trains are a bit more pricey (TWD218) than the local trains (TWD140), they are much faster. This means you’ll have more time to enjoy all the cool things to do in Yilan!
However, you should know that standing is not allowed, and you must have a seat. Since these trains fill up quickly, buying tickets a few days in advance would be wise. You can buy tickets directly at any train station or on the Taiwan Railways website. Downloading the Taiwan Railways App on your phone will also be a game changer. The app is super easy to use, and I love how it shows all the trains going to your selected destination with their timings, costs and routes.
Getting around Yilan
Yilan is huge, and most of the attractions are quite spread out. Therefore the easiest way to get around is by car or scooter. You can rent a scooter here via Klook for pickup in Luodong, but there’s also a vehicle rental company opposite the Yilan Station, right next to the Formosa gas station. Remember to bring your IDP or local scooter license, as you won’t be able to rent a scooter without it.
If that’s not an option, you can still get around pretty easily by train, bus or taxi. Download the Taiwan Railways App to check train schedules and prices easily. You can use Google Maps to check bus schedules and routes, but it might be a hit and miss. There’s no Uber in Yilan, but you’ll find yellow taxis near all the touristy places.
Where to Stay in Yilan
Yilan City is a great base to explore the rest of the county. There’s a good selection of hotels and guesthouses, but if you don’t have your own wheels, it’s important to stay somewhere convenient. Here are my top choices for where to stay in Yilan City:
- Luxe: Silks Place Yilan is a luxurious 5-star hotel with a pool perfect for anyone looking for an upscale stay in Yilan. The hotel features spacious rooms with beautiful interiors and all the mod cons you’d expect from a 5-star property. Check rates and availability here.
- Mid-range: Hangkhau Hotel is a beautiful modern hotel conveniently located mere steps from Yilan Station. It features both dorm and double rooms for travelers who value their privacy. Check rates and availability here.
- Budget: If you don’t mind the 15-minute walk from the train station, Late Hours is a beautiful guesthouse with surprisingly affordable rates. The rooms feature simple yet modern interiors and are clean and spacious. Check rates and availability here.
Still need more choice? Find the best hotel deals in Yilan here on Agoda.
The Best Things to do in Yilan
Snap Photos at Jimmy Square Park
Scan any list of things to do in Yilan, and Jimmy Square Park is bound to be in the mix.
Jimmy Square is an interactive park full of colorful murals and whimsical props depicting scenes from acclaimed illustrator Jimmy Liao’s picture books. Among the scenes and characters to spot here include works from ‘Turn Left, Turn Right,’ ‘Starry Starry Night,’ and ‘Sound of Colors.’
The park is just a three-minute walk south of the Yilan Station. There are many photo ops here, so don’t forget your camera!
Visit Diu Diu Dang Forest Park
Another highlight on any Yilan tour is the Diu Diu Dang Forest Park.
Diu Diu Dang Forest Park is one of the first things you spot upon exiting Yilan Station. While the park is not very big, its centerpiece – a huge colorful train dangling from a metal-frame tree forest – draws the crowds.
Like Jimmy Park, the characters and scenes are from Jimmy Liao’s books, with this scene adapted from ‘Starry Starry Night.’
After adoring the flying train, pop into Baiguo Tree Red Brick House for a drink.
Relax at Yilan Crossing
Right next to the Yilan Station, you’ll find an old Taiwan Railways warehouse dating back to 1919, which has been converted into a cute bookstore/coffee shop.
Inside you’ll find stacks of books, all kinds of interesting knick-knacks, cute souvenirs, and a cozy cafe where you can sit back and enjoy a cuppa. Definitely try the brownies while you’re at it, too!
There are also some fun props to take photos with right in front of the building.
Eat at Dongmen Night Market
Like any other city in Taiwan, Yilan has its very own night market. Dongmen Night Market might not be the biggest or best night market in Taiwan, but it’s got all of Yilan’s local specialty food to fill your belly.
The market is located under the Donggang Bridge and it’s jam-packed with vendors selling various snacks. Try the dried tofu wrapped around a sausage, the scallion pancakes, and the fried donuts stuffed with taro and red beans.
Browse the Yilan Cultural and Creative Park
Few people know about the Yilan Cultural and Creative Park, making it a great place to visit with minimal crowds.
The park is basically an exhibition space showcasing aboriginal culture. It’s filled with cute cafes, souvenir shops, and art installations. It’s a cool place to learn a little more about the local tribes of Yilan, try aboriginal cuisine, or buy locally made crafts and souvenirs.
For more details on upcoming exhibitions, check out the Yilan Style website.
Eat Japanese Shaved Ice
I don’t usually dedicate an entire section to food in my guides, but you’ll miss out if you don’t try the snow ice at 小亀有 Kakigori Ice Cream.
Kakigori is a famous Japanese shaved ice dessert flavored with syrup and a sweetener. And that’s exactly what you’ll get at this tiny Japanese-style ice cream parlor a few minutes’ walk from the train station.
The menu is on the small side, but the shaved ice here is nothing but melt-in-the-mouth goodness. Definitely among the best I’ve ever tried in Taiwan! Try the matcha ice tower – it’s delicious!
If shaved ice is not your thing, they also have baked rice cake, Japanese fern cake, caramel pudding, burnt cheesecake, and a small selection of drinks.
Just a heads up, it’s super popular, especially during summer in Taiwan, so you might need to wait for a table.
Join a Boat Tour to Turtle Island
If there is one thing you must do in Yilan, it is visit Turtle Island.
Turtle Island or Guishandao is a tiny island floating in the Pacific Ocean just 10km off the coast of Yilan County in Toucheng and Taiwan’s only active volcano. Don’t worry; the last eruption was in 1785, so it’s pretty safe to visit.
Turtle Island is an interesting place to visit, full of history and natural beauty. Once home to a few hundred people and later declared a military zone, the island is today better known as a nature lover’s hot spot. Since the island only has a coastline of about 10km, it’s pretty small and easy to explore on a half-day trip from Wushi Harbor in Toucheng.
Some of the highlights include learning about its unique history, wandering along its stunning hiking trails, spotting whales and dolphins offshore, and getting a close-up look at steamy hot spring water spouting up to the surface of its Milky Sea.
Turtle Island is only open to the public from May to November. Only 1800 people can visit the island daily, so booking well in advance is highly encouraged. For hikers who want to tackle the 1706 steps to the island’s summit, booking a tour at least 20 days in advance is recommended. Only 100 people can do this hike daily, so it fills up quickly! You can book a tour through KK Day online.
If you still have energy after your boat trip, you can learn a little more about Yilan at the spectacular Lanyang Museum or take a gentle stroll along Waiao Beach – a popular surfing spot in Taiwan.
Stroll Along Neipi Beach
Another awesome thing to do in Yilan is visit Neipi Beach.
Neipi Beach, also called Lover’s Bay, is a dreamy 1km long black sand beach just past the Nanfang’ao Harbor in Su’Ao.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good idea to swim here as the beach has some pretty dangerous undercurrents, but it’s still a nice place to stroll around, have a picnic on the beach, work on your tan, or kick back at one of the cute cafes overlooking the bay.
We Cafe has quirky interiors, but if you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, check out Poseidon Cafe. And if you’re up to it, you can follow the walkway that extends all along the bay’s northern cape.
Afterward, make a pit stop at the bustling Nanfang’ao Harbor, where you can eat fresh seafood and buy all kinds of local snacks. Or tackle the hiking trail to the Nanfang’ao Lookout, which offers panoramic views of the entire harbor and beach below.
Marvel at Dongao Bay
Okay, I’m not going to lie; Dongao Bay is totally off the beaten path and a bit of a mission to get to if you don’t have your own transport. But it will be so worth the effort!
Located in the southern corners of Su’ao Township, just outside the tiny village of Dong’ao, Dongao Bay is a stunning 3km beach fringed by lush mountains and azure-colored water. The setting here is really tranquil, and since it’s quite a hidden beach in Taiwan, you’re likely to have it all to yourself!
The beach is free to visit, but you should know there are no bathrooms or shops here. Stock up on snacks and drinks at the OK Mart in town before heading to the beach. You can also walk along the beach (about 30 minutes) to Fenniaolin Fishing Harbor, where you’ll find food and cleanish bathrooms.
Visit Fenniaolin Fishing Harbor & Fenniaolin Beach
If you’ve tackled the arduous journey to Dongao Bay, you should definitely add Fenniaolin to your Yilan to-do list.
Fenniaolin is a tiny fishing harbor at Dongao Bay’s southern edge. Here you’ll find a local eatery frying up fresh seafood, a couple of vendors selling snacks, and a little shop where you can buy drinks, snacks, or ice cream.
After filling your tummy, walk to the end of the harbor, where you’ll spot the staircase leading to Fenniaolin Beach – a tiny pebble cove with clear water and interesting rock formations jutting out of the sea. Swimming is not allowed here, but it’s a cool place to snap photos and marvel at the scenery.
Other Places to Visit in Yilan
If you still have some spare time on your Yilan itinerary, here are a few more Yilan attractions not to miss:
- Luodong Night Market is the most famous night market in Yilan County. It has a good selection of classic Yilan street food such as Sanxing spring onion pancake, thick pork soup with garlic, and deep-fried meat cakes. It gets crowded quickly, so go early.
- Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area is a magical forest filled with giant cypress trees and stunning hiking trails. It’s also one of the best spots for leaf peeping during autumn in Taiwan. Don’t miss the Bong Bong train!
- Jiaoxi: Like Beitou Hot Springs, Jiaoxi is a mecca for hot spring lovers. There are several public hot springs here but for the ultimate experience, book yourself into one of the fancy hot spring resorts.
- Wufengqi Waterfall: A gorgeous 100m tall waterfall and one of the top tourist spots in Yilan.
- The Center for Traditional Arts: Step back in time as you wander through streets filled with red brick buildings. Perfect for shoppers and culture vultures. Skip the lines and grab an entry ticket online here.
- Kavalan Distillery is Taiwan’s only whiskey distillery and famous for its award-winning single malt whiskeys. If you’re into whiskey, you can tour the distillery to learn a little more about whiskey-making and even do some whiskey tasting.
What to do in Yilan in Conclusion
If you were wondering what to do in Yilan, then hopefully, this guide has given you a decent mix of things to do in and near the city. Have a great trip!
Did I miss your favorite Yilan attraction? Let me know in the comments below!
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