Something any travellers to Taiwan must try is bathing in a hot spring. The tradition has been part of Taiwanese culture for more than a century. The practice was made popular during the 50-year Japanese rule over the island, when the Japanese onsen (hot spring) culture was imported. Now Taiwan has over 150 hotsprings, mostly in the northern part of the island, but here are a few you should check out. China Airlines makes a dip in a Taiwanese hot spring easy, with daily flights to Taipei and twice-weekly flights to Kaohsiung.
If you’re looking for hotels in Taipei, do check out our Top 3 most value for money hotels in Taipei:
Tips for starters
So if you’re a self-proclaimed hot spring-er, go right ahead and skip this section, we won’t tell. But for those of you who have never dipped into the joys of hot springs, take a couple minutes to read these tips.
First off, beware that you may have to go nude at gender-separate baths. This varies from bathhouse to bathhouse, and usually in public pools it’s fine to don a swimsuit, but in some of the more authentic or fancy establishments, you will be separated by gender and be expected to bathe nude. Now don’t worry, it is a fairly mundane and respectful affair. But still, for us conservative Singaporeans, it’s something we might have to get used to.
Second piece of advice, bring a shower cap. Again, this varies among bathhouses but usually the nicer places will require you to cover your luscious locks with an unglam shower cap. Nobody wants pools full of hairballs, so be thankful for this restriction, no matter how bad your selfies will turn out. Some places do provide shower caps, but still you might want to find yourself your own glamorous one (if that is even possible) just in case.
Lastly, check out the baths before you pay for entry. Now, there are some places with free public baths, like Wulai and Beitou, but they are usually pretty crowded for obvious reasons. However, even paying for a bath does not guarantee you a great experience, so better be safe than sorry and ask the staff if you can take a look at their springs. Of course some of the more high-end places can be trusted, but if you’re on a tight budget, just take a peek at what you’re paying for so you aren’t disappointed.
Now onto the hot springs!
Beitou for Convenience
Beitou is easily the most popular hotspring destination in Taiwan because it’s a short train ride away from Taipei. Hop on the Danshui MRT line and hop off at Xinbeitou about 45 minutes later, and there you go: a weekend away from city stresses awaits.
The good thing about Beitou is that the area is one of the first developed hot spring districts in Taiwan, and therefore has plenty of hotels and bathhouses to chose from. It’s proximity to Taipei also means that Beitou is perfect for a quick refresher in its pools in between a tight itinerary. Beitou’s hot springs are mostly sulphur based, which is said to be great for skin diseases like acne or eczema. Try Millenium Hot Springs for just NT$40!
The downside of wallowing in sulphur springs is that they aren’t the best-smelling or cleanest looking pools. Sulphur is often said to smell like rotten eggs, and often makes the water a white cloudy colour, so if you’re thinking of your heated jacuzzi back home, be warned.
Considering that Beitou is a prime attraction among Taiwanese and tourists alike, the public baths can lead to an unpleasant experience. These baths are often over-crowded and run-down. Therefore, it might be a good idea to spend a little more for a private bath in one of the many hotels in the area.
Green Island for a seaview
The name of the hot spring on Green Island has many spellings: Chaojih, Jhaorih, Jaori, and Chaori. But don’t worry, the spelling doesn’t really matter because Chaojih is a very special hot spring and not one easily forgotten. It’s one of three saltwater hot springs in the world, the other two being in Japan and Venice, Italy, and it is right on the ocean so you have a fantastic view of breaking waves as you recline in its warm waters.
Now Chaojih is not nearly as convenient as Beitou. First, you’ll need to make your way to Taitung county on the southeast coast of Taiwan, about a three hour drive from Kaohsiung through the mountains. From Taitung, take a Daily Air plane to Green Island (called Ludao) which flies the half hour trip three times a day there and back. If you aren’t a fan of flying, ride the waves on the 50 minute ferry journey from Taitung Fugang Fish Harbor.
However, Chaojih spring is the more picturesque of the two hot spring sites. Aside from the ocean view, the pools themselves are clear and odourless, and the water temperature varies from 53°C to 83°C. Under an evening sky in autumn or winter, a soak in the hot pools and watch as the sun sets and the stars come out.
Chaojih has two pools to choose from: the older circular stone hot-spring pits down by the beach and the modern tile pools in the better-lit part of the complex. The complex pools boast pools of different temperatures, from above freezing to below scalding, designed to look like private little ponds and grottos. The complex also has a good number of massage showers for after your soak.
Guanziling for a mud bath
The Guanziling hot springs are a favourite among Taiwanese because of their healing properties. The springs are sulphur-based located in mud rock formations. Though these may not be the best looking springs around, the sulphur springs like in Beitou are supposed to be great for skin diseases and arthritis, while the mud will leave your skin soft and smooth, better than any Taiwanese cosmetics.
If, however, you’re picturing a thick mud bath, you’re wrong because the waters are Guanziling are still thin, though a dark brown/grey in colour. But, as they are rich in minerals, a long slow soak will do wonders for your complexion.
If you’re making the trek to Guanziling, it is advised that you stay the night. There’s plenty to see in the Guanziling area, such as the Fire and Water Hegemony and numerous buddhist temples. Plus, many of the hotels in Guanziling have hot springs as part of their facilities, which guests have free access too. What could be better after a day of temple-touring than some time to erase those wrinkles in a hot mud bath.
Yangmingshan for volcanic baths
No, we don’t mean bathing in lava. That would be dangerous, and not the least bit relaxing. Yangmingshan, just a half hour drive out of Taipei, has four major volcanic hot spring areas: just outside Yangmingshan National Park, Lengshuikeng, Macao and Huogengziping. Each hot spring has slightly different features and temperatures, but largely, the Yangmingshan hot springs are mild alkaline sulfuric hot springs with a milky color and a temperate about 70 degrees Celsius.
The volcanic landscape is the most special part of Yangmingshan Hot Spring. Yangmingshan is actually a dormant volcano, and there is no danger of the volcano erupting anytime soon, according to the Yangmingshan National Park website.
Macao is the most popular hot spring spot within the Yangmingshan area, and there are several bathhouses and hotels. Unlike some of the other hot spring areas on this list, many of the baths in Yangmingshan actually provide a few of the surrounding nature, which is a mix of lush greenery thanks to the fertile volcanic soil, or volcanic rocks and vents where hot steam billows out. This dramatic sight make Yangmingshan a must if you’re a hot spring aficionado.
China Airlines flies twice a day direct to Taipei from Singapore and twice a week to Kaohsiung from Singapore, also a direct flight. You can search your flight and book directly only at www.china-airlines.com. If you prefer a package deal, you can also take a look at China Airlines’ Dynasty Packages for free & easy tours to Taiwan.
This article is supported by China Airlines and the Taiwan Tourism Board.