It’s no secret that Taiwan is known for its scenic nature spots. The Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge immediately come to mind for most travellers when choosing a nature spot to visit. But beyond these popular spots and Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, not many travellers have ventured to other parts of Taiwan.
On my recent trip to Central Taiwan, I decided to go off the beaten path and explored the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area. With stunning views, yummy local treats and the friendliest locals, I was really blown away by the hidden gems that the area had to offer!
What is the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area?
The Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area (Sanshan) is a huge area in Central Taiwan consisting of 3 mountains - Lion’s Head Mountain, Baguashan and Lishan. In case you’re wondering, it’s located near Taichung City and the iconic Sun Moon Lake. What’s great about this area is that it’s only about 2-3 hours away from Taipei (by car or public transport), making it very accessible for a 2D1N trip out of the city! In this article, I’ll be focusing on the things to do in the Lion's Head Mountain and Baguashan areas.
Apart from the scenic views that you’re bound to admire while you’re here, the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area is also the perfect chance for you to meet the locals and learn more about their culture. Not to mention that tourism in this area is not fully developed yet so you won’t have to worry about the place being too crowded! The local government has also provided a lot of Muslim-friendly amenities in terms of food and prayer spaces, so rest assured Muslim travellers can travel around with ease ?
What to see, eat and do:
Lion’s Head Mountain1. Soak in the local atmosphere at Nanzhuang Old Street
Located on the way to the top of Lion's Head Mountain, Nanzhuang is very popular with the Taiwanese on weekends. It’s the best place to soak in the local culture and get a glimpse of local life!
One of the things that Nanzhuang is most known for is its Hakka culture. The Hakkas are a group of Chinese who originated from Southern China and they have been in Taiwan since the 17th century. Their culture, especially their cuisine, is distinct from most Taiwanese Chinese, who are of Hokkien descent. On top of that, Nanzhuang also has a mix of other races like the Aboriginal Atayal and Saisiyat tribes and it’s interesting to see how the 3 cultures interact with each other.
Just by walking around Nanzhuang Old Street, you’d be able to see both the Hakkas and Aboriginal tribes selling their items side by side. Besides Hakka snacks and local produce (more on that later), you’d also be able to see the amazing handicraft done by the Aboriginal tribes.
2. Enjoy fresh local fruits and Muslim-friendly snacks
Miaoli county (where Nanzhuang is located) is well-known for its delicious fruits which are also the main produce of the region (you can look forward to different fruits in different seasons). When I was making my way to Nanzhuang, I spotted many farmers along the way selling all kinds of fruits like papaya, oranges and so on, and it was an amazing sight since I don’t get much of that back home in Singapore. If you’re driving up to Nanzhuang, be sure to stop by any of these stalls to get some fruits. The best part is, it’s sweeter and fresher than what you would find in supermarkets in the city!
I was lucky enough to have gone to Nanzhuang in November as it’s the season when the fruits are really sweet. One of the fruits that you have to try during this season is persimmon. It’s not a fruit I would usually eat, but I was totally blown away by the ones here as they were really sweet and juicy. What’s even better is that stall vendors are very willing to let you taste the fruit before you decide to buy them ? If you want to try other fruits, September to November is good for citrus while April to June is great for peaches!
Your visit to Nanzhuang Old Street will not be complete without trying some authentic Hakka treats. As many of their savoury dishes use pork or lard, I recommend trying out their sweet treats instead, like this iced sweet dumpling (rice cake) from Osmanthus Alley. Served with shaved ice, osmanthus malt and your choice of toppings, it’s a really refreshing treat! As the Hakkas love rice, it’s no surprise that they have even incorporated it to their desserts. Besides this, you can also spot many other shops selling muah chee (rice cake with peanuts).
While you’re here, don’t miss out on vegetarian snacks too, like these taro and turnip cakes. The tantalising smell of these mouthwatering treats will definitely entice you to get one! Other Muslim-friendly snacks you can find at Nanzhuang Old Street are egg rolls, soy products and herbal tea.
When looking for Muslim-friendly snacks in Taiwan, you can ask this phrase to stallowners - “請問這是素食嗎 (Qing wen zhe shi su shi ma)?” In general, vegetarian stalls in Taiwan don’t sell meat products or use alcohol in their cooking.
What I really love about Nanzhuang Old Street (and many other shopping streets in Taiwan) is that stall vendors are so eager to let you try samples of their products and you don’t even have to feel obligated to buy it! The warmth and friendliness of the locals in Nanzhuang is something I really appreciate ?
varies according to shops but most shops close around 6 or 7pm
No. 6, Wenhua Road, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 353
Take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 5805A from Zhunan station and alight at Nanzhuang Visitor Center.
3. See Japanese colonial-style architecture at Nanzhuang Old Post Office
Did you know that Japan ruled Taiwan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945? One way to spot the remnants of Japanese rule in Taiwan is through its architecture.
Nanzhuang Old Post Office is a fine example of Japanese colonial-style architecture in Taiwan. The wooden exterior of the post office makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time! It’s also very popular among locals and you’ll see many of them snapping photos at the post office.
Although it’s no longer a functioning post office but more of a tourist spot, you can still get some unique postcards (like this wooden one above!) and send it to your loved ones back home. You can buy stamps from the post office and do note that you’ll need to pay the standard postal rates of NT$10 per postcard (Note: SGD1 = NT$22.41, MYR1 = NT$7.32, IDR1000 = NT$2.17). There are post boxes outside the Nanzhuang Old Post Office!
Look around the post office and you’ll spot other Japanese-style houses too. There’s a shop opposite the post office which sells Japanese shaved ice with matcha and red bean ?
No. 202號, Zhongzheng Road, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 353
Walk all the way along Nanzhuang Old Street and past Yongchang Temple till you reach Nanzhuang Post Office
4. Collect unique souvenirs from Hakka Goods (好客在一起)
If you’re looking for unique souvenirs to bring home for your friends and family, look no further than Hakka Goods! What’s unique about the designs at Hakka Goods is that they are inspired by Hakka and Aboriginal culture.
One of the interesting items to buy here is this ceramic figurine with a blue dragonfly painted on it. In Hakka culture, it’s believed that a blue dragonfly symbolises happiness and good luck!
Other interesting souvenirs that you can find here are table mats (with cutlery attached), fans, coasters, cups and more. And the best part is, the designs are unique to Nanzhuang!
You can also bring home some lovely postcards to remember your time here in Nanzhuang ? The souvenirs here cost around NT$300.
Address: 353, Taiwan, Miaoli County, Nanzhuang Township, No. 110, Zhongshan Road 苗栗縣南庄鄉中山路110號Contact:
+886 931 505 675
From Nanzhuang Visitor Centre, walk straight along Datong Rd, then turn left into Zhongshan Rd
Website5. Savour fresh spring water fish at Chungu Farm (春谷養鱒農場)
Who knew you could savour fresh fish in the mountains? Perched on the hills of Lion Head's Mountain, Chungu Farm is a one-of-a-kind restaurant which farms their own fish! That’s because the spring water from the mountains is actually a good environment for farming fish and Chungu farms rainbow trouts and baby dragonfish. You can even request to visit the fish farm ? I was definitely intrigued by the interesting concept and couldn’t wait to taste the fish.
Check out the Muslim-friendly lunch set prepared by Chungu Farm! The trout that I had was super fresh and it was baked in soy sauce. What I found interesting was that they served the fish with pepper salt to enhance its taste. On top of that, all the vegetables and fruits - water lotus, bamboo shoots, dragon fruit (which was super sweet!) and papaya - are locally grown in the area.
Apart from a hearty meal, Chungu Farm also has a stunning view of the mountains! Take in the refreshing air while having your meal and rest your tired eyes with the lush greenery. Trust me, it’ll be so hard to leave this place ?
If you need to do your prayers, you can speak to the staff and they will prepare a prayer space for you.
Muslim-friendly menu available (Reservations to be made at least 1 week in advance). Pork and alcohol is served but utensils and kitchenware for Muslim-friendly meals are separated from non-halal food. We recommend that you dine at your own discretion.
Average price of Muslim-friendly meal:
Address:No. 25 Xiaodonghe, Nanjiang Village, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli CountyContact:
+886 3 782 1892
Take a taxi from Nanzhuang Visitor Center to Chungu Farm
| Facebook6. Try your hand at pottery at Yanzitao B&B (燕子陶)
Time to unleash your creativity by making pottery at Yanzitao B&B! Not only is Yanzitao a bed-and-breakfast (called minsu by the Taiwanese), it also doubles up as a place where tourists can learn to make pottery.
Yanzitao is owned by an elderly couple and pottery sessions (costs NT$500) are taught by the wife. It was my first time trying pottery and I was super excited!
Although the class was conducted in Chinese and I only had a basic knowledge of the language, I was in good hands as my teacher was very warm and encouraging ? If you’re a first-timer, there’s nothing to worry about as the steps are fairly easy to follow. Before you start the session, you’d have to decide what you’d like to make. I got my inspiration from the artworks that have already been made and decided on a cup!
If you’d like a translator for the lesson, you can drop them a DM on Instagram in advance @yanzitao1995
What amazed me the most about pottery was the precision needed, especially in gauging the thickness of the clay. And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t achieve what you set out to do. I decided on a cup but look how my pottery turned out ? The good thing about pottery is that you can mould it into something else if your initial idea doesn’t work. Once you’re done crafting your pottery, you’d need to leave it at the studio for a few days. But fret not, you can leave them your address and they can send it to you. Overall, it was a fun experience even though I struggled a little at first!
If you need to do your prayers at Yanzitao, just let the couple know and they will give you a prayer mat and prepare a space for you. They brought me to the balcony on the second floor where I prayed against the backdrop of the stunning mountains ?
Price of pottery session:
Address:No. 6-3, Nanjiang, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli, Taiwan, 353Reservations:
Contact them through Facebook
or call +886 0912-616352.
From Nanzhuang Bus Station
(down the road from Nanzhuang Visitor Center), take bus 5822 and alight at Funan bus stop (福南)
. Then, walk for about 10 minutes to Yanzitao B&B.
Baguashan7. Get a free pineapple cake at Sunny Hills (微熱山丘 南投三合院)
You can’t leave Taiwan without trying some pineapple cakes (shortcrust pastry with pineapple filling) and Sunny Hills is one of the popular brands which sells this tasty treat. If you’re in Baguashan, you have to make a trip to Sunny Hills’ first-ever store in Nantou county.
Baguashan is known for their sweet pineapples and while on the way to Sunny Hills, you’d be able to spot several pineapple farms! There’s actually a very interesting story to the origins of Sunny Hills. Due to the abundance of pineapples in the area, the prices of the fruit were very low and farmers couldn’t get any profit and so the owner decided to start a pineapple cake business so he could buy from them and help them earn more money. Pretty amazing, right?
At this particular Sunny Hills store, it’s not just a place where you can stock up on pineapple cake souvenirs, but it’s all about the experience too. I was a little intrigued as to why there was a long queue outside the store even before it opened and then I learnt that they give out free pineapple cakes and tea every day. So, I knew I had to join in the fun ?
This “free sample” is part of Sunny Hills’ hospitality and they welcome both locals and tourists alike. The best part is, you can sit down at their cafe, enjoy the ambience and stay as long as you like!
The pineapple cake certainly didn’t disappoint! It was served warm and the amount of pineapple filling was really generous and sweet. While the crust for most pineapple cakes are soft and crumbly, Sunny Hills’ crust is harder, and it has a nice crunch when you bite into it. The oolong tea perfectly balanced out the taste of the pineapple cake.
If you buy the treats at their store, you can skip the queue and head straight to their cafe to enjoy the free pineapple cake!
Apart from pineapple cakes, Sunny Hills also sells other items like apple cake, durian roll and tea, so make sure you bring some of these back home ☺️
If you’re here on a weekend, make a stop at the nearby farmers’ market too. The owner of Sunny Hills wanted to help local farmers so he set up an area for them to sell local produce. I got to try fresh passion fruit and it was sweeter than the ones I’m used to back home ?
Sunny Hills Nantou Store
All Sunny Hills products are suitable for vegetarians and contain no alcohol.
Open daily; 10AM-6PM
Address: No. 2號, Lane 1100, Bagua Road, Nantou City, Nantou County, Taiwan 540Contact:
+886 4 9229 2767
Take the TRA West Coast Line to Yuanlin Station
. Then transfer to Changhua Bus 6925 (take from Yuanlin Bus Station
) and alight at Aogeliao (凹楇寮)
. Then walk for about 5 minutes to Sunny Hills.
| Facebook8. Admire the view from Houtanjing Sky Bridge (猴探井天空之橋)
While you’re already at Sunny Hills, don’t miss out on a visit to Houtanjing Sky Bridge! This 204-metre suspension bridge offers you a panoramic view of Baguashan and the towns around it.
Fun fact: Houtanjing literally means “monkey looking into a well”. It actually refers to the landscape of the area where a small mountain overlooks a valley, resembling a monkey looking into a well ?
Once you walk on the bridge, you’ll be greeted with this awesome view of the valley and town below. Not to mention that you can enjoy the cool and refreshing breeze while on the bridge too ?
Open daily; 8.30AM-5.30PM
Address: No.300, Houtanjing St., Nantou City, Nantou County 540, TaiwanContact:
Take the TRA West Coast Line to Yuanlin Station
. Then transfer to Changhua Bus 6925 (take from Yuanlin Bus Station
) and alight at Xiaping (下坪)
. Then walk for about 15 minutes to the sky bridge.
BONUS:Magical Mushroom Tribe (魔菇部落)
This one’s for all you mushroom lovers! Magical Mushroom Tribe is a leisure park where you can find all-things mushroom - it’s perfect if you’re looking for an activity to do with kids ? While the park is not located in the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area, it’s located very near to Baguashan.
One thing you must do here is to visit the lab where they grow several kinds of mushrooms - like black beauty (above), silver ear, King oyster mushrooms and more! These mushrooms are grown in an environmental control cultivation warehouse (different kinds of mushrooms are grown in different temperatures). It was such an eye-opening experience to learn about how mushrooms grow ?
Apart from learning about mushrooms, you can also make your own mushroom pack! How this works is that you’ll be given a pack of sawdust and you can plant the mushroom strains into it. Unfortunately, if you’re from Malaysia
, the customs regulations don’t allow you to bring home the mushroom pack. If you’re from Singapore, you can but do refer to this guideline
. Good news for those of you staying in Taiwan for more than a week - you can carry the pack around with you till the mushrooms grow ?
What’s a visit to a mushroom park without savouring some mushrooms? Head over to the park’s restaurant where you can indulge in a mushroom and vegetable hotpot. Here’s your chance to try the fresh mushrooms which were grown in the park! I really enjoyed the different varieties of mushrooms and my favourite was definitely the black beauty as I could cut them from the mushroom pack and put it straight into the soup. It was super fresh ? As part of the hotpot, I also got mushroom noodles (there’s an option for either pumpkin, beetroot or spinach noodles) which were really chewy and went well with the soup. The mushroom sauce which was served on the side was very yummy too ?
Don’t leave the Magical Mushroom Tribe without getting some souvenirs or food items for yourself! I was blown away with the variety of mushroom products that I found here - such as mushroom drinks, sauce, tea, coffee and even beauty products like mushroom face masks, toners, whitening cream, moisturiser and more! The mushroom drinks took me by surprise as they were sweet and refreshing, and tasted like a jelly dessert.
Halal status of meal:
Only mushrooms and vegetables served. Do note that pork is served in the restaurant but separate utensils are used for the Muslim-friendly meal. We recommend that you dine at your own discretion. Do reserve your Muslim-friendly meal at least a week in advance!
NT$100 and retail sales discount, NT$50. Check out the price of other activities on their website.Opening hours:
Thu-Fri; 10AM-5PM, Sat-Sun; 10AM-6PM (closed on Mon-Wed; only available for appointment)
Address: No. 829, Liuqiao E. Rd., Puxin Township, Changhua County 513, TaiwanContact:
Take the TRA West Coast Line to Yuanlin Station
. Then transfer to Changhua Bus 6704 (take from Yuanlin Bus Station
) and alight at Dalun (大崙)
. Then, walk for 20 minutes to the park.
There has been a lot of effort to welcome Muslim travellers to the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area. Thanks to this, you’ll be able to find several Muslim-friendly accommodations across the region.
1. Nanzhuang Manchen B&B (南庄漫晨旅店)
Located within walking distance from Nanzhuang Old Street, Manchen B&B has been refurbished from an old Taiwanese house. In case you’re wondering a B&B (bed and breakfast) or minsu as it’s locally called, is very common in Taiwan. It’s one of the best ways to experience Taiwanese hospitality as it’s usually owned by a family which stays in the same compound.
Manchen B&B is a great option, whether you’re travelling as a couple, in a small group or with family. Besides the standard double room, the B&B has quadruple and family rooms which can accommodate up to 6 people!
What’s great is that the toilet in each room is equipped with bidet sprays and you can request for prayer mats. There’s also a qibla direction in each room! Just remember to bring your own prayer garments. Although the restaurant currently does not have its own kitchen, there are plans to provide Muslim-friendly meals in future. In the meantime, there’s an area in the lobby where the B&B can provide Muslim-friendly snacks for guests.
Starts from NT$1714 on AgodaAddress: No. 40, Zhongshan Road, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli, Taiwan, 353Contact:
+886 910 433 853
| Facebook2. Mountain Lodge
Looking to stay in a hostel instead? Then Mountain Lodge will be perfect for you!
Located by the river about a 10-minute walk from Nanzhuang Old Street, this cozy and eco-friendly hostel used to be an old house but it has since been refurbished! Apart from dorm rooms, the hostel also has family rooms which can fit 4 adults.
From the hostel, you’d also be able to get a panoramic view of mountains which will definitely make your stay even better. Mountain Lodge is run by young locals and they organise activities like tea-tasting and excursions, so it’ll be a great way for you to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Starts from NT$447 on AgodaAddress:No. 50, Nanjiang Street, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County, Taiwan 353Contact:
+886 963 937 030
| Instagram 3. Yanzitao B&B (燕子陶)
Earlier in the article, we mentioned that you can do pottery at Yanzitao B&B but why not stay a night or two here to experience what it’s like to live in the mountains?
With only 3 rooms available for guests, you’ll definitely experience the warmth and hospitality of the elderly couple running the B&B. Plus, Yanzitao has been highly rated on hotel booking websites like Booking.com and Agoda, so you can expect a memorable time here. Take your pick from their double, quadruple or family room and the best part is that they all have mountain views ? Besides prayer mats and Muslim-friendly toilets, you can also enjoy a Muslim-friendly homemade breakfast here (1 week advance reservation needed).
Even though I only spent an afternoon with the couple doing pottery, they treated me to coffee and the juiciest oranges! Not to mention that both the coffee beans and oranges are grown in their own backyard.
The lady even brought me around the backyard which was beautifully landscaped - there were various kinds of flowers and fruits. The couple even has a number of chickens, ducks and cats! I can only imagine that it would be a dream to stay here ?
Yanzitao B&B has been recognised as an “Information Station” so you can get maps and other travel information here!
Starts from NT$2870 on AgodaAddress: No. 6-3, Nanjiang, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli, Taiwan, 353Contact:
| Instagram4. West Lake Resortopia (西湖渡假村)
Prefer staying in a hotel instead? Then, West Lake Resortopia will be perfect for you! It’s located in between the two areas of Lion's Head Mountain and Baguashan which makes it a great base to start your adventures of the region. The rooms at West Lake Resortopia are really spacious with a kitchen sink area and not to mention that there’s a bidet spray in the toilets too.
Though there are no halal restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel, their breakfast buffet uses this “Halal OK” pictograms for dishes which are Muslim-friendly such as hashbrowns, steamed sesame buns, vegetables, bread and so on. But do note that pork is served in the restaurant, so we strongly recommend that you dine at your own discretion. You can request for separate utensils and sit in a separate dining area.
What’s great about staying at West Lake Resortopia is that you’re just a short walk away from a European-themed park with beautifully landscaped gardens, structures and cottages. Some rooms (like the one I stayed in) even come with a view of this stunning garden. Not to mention that you can walk around the park and snap those Instagram-worthy shots!
Another highlight of the park is a garden dedicated to fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen. This is definitely a place you’d want to bring your kids and don’t forget to strike a pose with your favourite childhood characters!
Starts from NT$3117
Address:No.11, Xihu, Sanyi Township, Sanyi Township, Miaoli, Taiwan, 367Contact:
+886 3 787 6699
Take the TRA to Fengyuan Station
then transfer to bus 6606
(from Fengyuan Bus Terminal
) which will bring you all the way to West Lake Resortopia.
| Facebook5. Grand View Hotel, Yuanlin
If you’re exploring the Baguashan area, then Yuanlin City will be a great place to stay at as most of the attractions are easily accessible from the city via public transport. Look no further than Grand View Hotel as it is equipped with Muslim-friendly amenities such as washlets in toilets.
Credit: Grand View Hotel Yuanlin
What’s great about the hotel is its variety of rooms. If you’re travelling in a big group or with family, then their De Luxe Family Room is just what you need ? Rest assured, the hotel’s 5-star amenities and services will ensure that you have a restful night.
Starts from NT$2286 on AgodaAddress: No. 395號, Section 2, Zhongshan Road, Yuanlin City, Changhua County, Taiwan 510Contact:
+886 4 833 3999
Getting to and around Tri-Mountain National Scenic AreaHiring a private driver or renting a car:
The best way to get around the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area is by hiring a private driver or renting a car as most of the spots are spaced out from each other and having your own vehicle will be more convenient and give you more flexibility. Driways
is one of the most popular apps to hire a private driver. For those of you who are interested in a self-drive trip, you can rent a car through these platforms: Klook
. The rates for car rentals usually start from around NT$2200 per day.
Getting to Lion's Head Mountain via public transport:From Taipei:
Take the TRA West Coast line and alight at Zhunan Station or take the HSR to Miaoli Station and take bus 5803/THSR Shuttle Bus 1 to Zhunan Station. From Zhunan, take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 5805A and alight at Nanzhuang Visitor Center. The bus runs almost every hourly and cost $NT92. Check out the timetable here. From Kaohsiung:
Take the HSR to Miaoli Station then take bus 5803/THSR Shuttle Bus 1 to Zhunan Station. From Zhunan, take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 5805A and alight at Nanzhuang Visitor Center. The bus runs almost every hourly and costs $NT92. Check out the timetable here. Find out more about public transportation around Shetoushan here. Getting to Baguashan via public transport:From Taipei:
Take the TRA West Coast line to either Changhua, Yuanlin, Tianzhong or Ershui stations.
Take the HSR to Taichung Station and transfer to the TRA West Coast LIne to either Changhua, Yuanlin, Tianzhong or Ershui stations.
From either of these stations, transfer to a bus managed by Changhua Bus
(in Chinese but you can use Google Translate). Use Google Maps to find out which route to take from the train stations as it’s pretty reliable.
Visitor centres in the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area
If you’re looking for recommendations on what to do in this area as well as tips on how to get around, look out for Visitor Centers and they will be able to help you out. Check out the locations of the Visitor Centers here.
What’s more, if you need a place to pray, you can just inform any staff at any of the visitor centres and they will lead you to a room (equipped with prayer mats) to do your prayers. Do remember to bring your own prayer garments. If you need any information on Muslim-friendly eateries and prayer spaces around the area, they will be able to advise you as well.
With this guide, you’re now more than ready to go off the beaten path and explore Taiwan’s Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area! Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, try interesting new activities or savour Muslim-friendly treats, we’ve got you covered ? What’s more, it’s only about 2-3 hours away from Taipei! Time to add this underrated Taiwanese destination to your list!
This article is brought to you by the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area Administration, Taiwan Tourism Bureau.