Sun moon lake is one of the few picturesque and chill natural sights in Taiwan. Located in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, it is geographically situated at elevation near the central of the Taiwan island, it a large enclosed body of water with a 8 square km surface area sitting at a highland area and is the largest body of water in Taiwan. The lake itself is pretty remote and is a drive inland into the mountains from the nearest city of Taichung. Taichung city is also the nearest high speed rail station, where you can catch a local bus (about a slow 2hour journey) into the highlands right into the town of Shueishe.
Shueishe is a small little lazy town secluded from the buzzes of Taipei, the town main comprises of two streets littered with small business hawking provisions, coffee shops and a number of inns, hostels and hotels serving visitors in the area. Strangely despite the quietness of the place, there is also a Starbucks located in the town. The streets are quiet and tranquil, yet safe even at night.
It is recommended to catch the sunrise over the Sun moon lake at about 6am in the morning, there are a couple of lake-side paths, boardwalks and connecting parks which you can use to circle the lake to catch a nice picture. The lake and its surrounding countryside have been designated one of thirteen national scenic areas in Taiwan.
Sun moon lake Panorama at sun rise
The east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon, hence the name “Sun Moon” lake. The Ci En Pagoda, built by late President Chiang Kai-shek in 1971 can be seen through the fog from Shueishe itself.
Shueishe Wharf Panorama
Shueishe is also where you can get ferry tickets to cross the lake. Two main wharfs connect and serve the maritime passageways on the lake, namely between the Shueishe and Ita Thao towns and their respective wharfs.
A number of commercial operators do looping ferry rides across the lake. Ferry ticket prices range from NT$100 to NT$300 (typically) per person depending on demand. Some hotels in the area do tie ups too which offer guests further discounted rates.
The Sun Moon Lake surrounds a tiny island called Lalu. Ferries will usually do a three stop route running between Shueishe and Ita Thao with a stop at Wen Wu Temple along the way. Ita Thao is another micro town on the other end of the lake complete with its own visitor center. The Ita Thao Visitor Centre, houses rubber stamp which you can stamp for memorabilia. These two towns are also accessible via a perimeter road circling the lake, but does not offer the picturesque views from the lake itself.
Ita Thao is another small quiet town, but is busier and more developed given the number of tourist attractions in the area. A coastal broadwalk runs along the edge of the Ita Thao beach line, leading you straight to the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (cable car station). You can see the cable car station right from the Ita Thao wharf. The walk will take about 15 minutes running through stores and residential areas. The Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is a modern cable car station, offering a scenic 15 minute overlooking the lake and regional highlands connecting the wharf area to the inland Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.
Panorama from the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
The area around the Sun Moon Lake is home to one of aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, known as the Thao tribe. The Sun Moon Lake & Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an attraction dedicated to understanding the way of life of the Thao tribe through exhibitions and performances. Besides driving there directly, the cable car is one of the ways you can directly reach the Cultural village entrance right from the lake. There is also a theme park attached to the park, which is accessible via a separate entry fee.
In all, Sun Moon Lake is a nice relaxing, picturesque and calming place to spend a day or two away from cities. A worthy stop if you are at Taichung or along the western side of the island.
View more photos of Sun Moon Lake here.