Postcards from Sun Moon Lake - A Mini Weekend Guide
Even though I spent the first part of my life in Taiwan, it wasn't until this year when I returned with my kids that I visited Sun Moon Lake for the very first time. Better late than never, this mountain lake has since become one of my favorite places in Asia. Sun Moon Lake has jade-green waters surrounded by layers of mountains and emerald forests, add a mysterious veil of mist, then we have a place that's truly revitalizing.
If you're craving some fresh air and looking for a weekend escape from Taipei or Taichung, Sun Moon Lake is just the right destination. At 2-3 hours from Taipei (by car or train+car) and 1 hour from Taichung, a weekend by the lake will surely calm your senses and recharge your batteries. Here are some "postcards" from our trip to inspire you to pack your bags for the weekend.
To get a first impression of the lake, start with a leisure stroll at Shui She Lakeside Trail (水社親水步道) or rent a bike and cycle along Xiang Shan Cycling Trail (向山自行車道). If you fancy, try the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (日月潭纜車, a 7-minute aerial tram ride) or board a boat at Chao Wu Pier (朝霧碼頭) to see the lake from different perspectives.
One of our favorite spots around the lake is Shui She Dam (水社壩). You can have a panoramic view of the lake when you cross the wooden-planked walkway. It turns out to be a popular wedding photo spot.
For cultural exploration, stop by Wen Wu Temple (文武廟) and the 46-meter high Ci En Pagoda (慈恩塔). These are fine examples of traditional Chinese architecture, and you'll get a fantastic view atop the hill at Ci En Pagoda.
After taking in the views of Sun Moon Lake from different angles, take some time to enjoy gourmet afternoon tea. You can read about our visit of the Lalu Hotel for tea and our stay at Fleur de Chine (which I highly recommend for families with young kids), both have generous and elegant afternoon tea buffets.
My absolute favorite place for views of Sun Moon Lake has to be Xiang Shan Visitor Center (向山遊客中心). This Tadao Ando-esque raw concrete complex was designed by Japanese architect Norihiko Dan as a critical regionalism tribute to Tadao Ando. The structures embrace the surrounding lake and forest perfectly, with green roof ramps that rise toward the lake, infinity mirror ponds that reflect the bright forests in the vicinity, and rhythmic lines that sing with nature. It's a dream for budding photographers, and also for active toddlers that need to run around and test out the echo/acoustics of the structure.
A trip to Sun Moon Lake with the family is invigorating and relaxing at the same time. It's easy to lose yourself in many shades and hues of green.
It's not difficult to understand that this lake used to be a mystical, sacred place for the Thao tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines. The clouds and mists perform an intricate dance above the waters, and after a visit to this lake in the mountains, all your worries will subside.
Here's my Sun Moon Lake map with the places mentioned in this post:
Pin for future reference: