Saturday, March 4, 2017

DIY Day Trip to Nantou's Sun Moon Lake

One destination always pops up in my search feed when I was researching for things to do for this trip to Taiwan. All blogs and travel forums that I have browsed recommended going here as well. Of course, my curiosity was piqued. What’s in this place that draws not just local but foreign tourists as well? Since I was already in Taichung, I thought I might as well visit the Sun Moon Lake and see what all the fuss was about.

sun moon lake
Taiwan's Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 pronounced Rìyuètán in Chinese, is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations known for being the largest lake in the country with a surface area spanning almost 8 kilometers. You can find it at the heart of the island, hidden among the mountains of Nantou. I have read that its name was derived from the shapes of the lake, the north looks like a sun while the southern area resembles a moon, I looked at the map however but couldn’t see how it works exactly. Regardless, it was still a fitting name for this beautiful place. The only time where people are allowed to swim is during the Mid Autumn Festival, wherein a 3 kilometer race is held. The region also serves as home to the aboriginal Thao tribe and many of them are highly involved in running the local businesses that you can see around the area.

sun moon lake nantou

sun moon lake blog
wasn't able to take a proper picture with the lake, so this one is my 'evidence' of making it to SML

How to Get to Sun Moon Lake
It’s pretty easy to go back and forth to SML if you are coming from Taichung. There’s a direct bus departing at Gancheng Bus Stop (干城站  just a couple of minutes away from Taichung Railway Station), so no need to take  a separate bus to Puli then another bus to SML, however this bus will make a stop at Puli. Round trip bus ticket from Taichung to the lake costs 340 NTD (as of Nov 2016) so we got this deal since we were only there for an entire day, but there are combo tickets if you are interested to do more activities around the lake. For more information, proceed to the official website of Nantou Bus. You can also see the schedule on the site as well. I suppose the 680 NTD coupon is bang for the buck – round trip bus tickets, boat tour and cable car passes. We were dropped off at Shuishe Village, which is the same pick up point for those going back to Taichung. They will make a stop at Puli, Taichung HSR and Railway Stations.

I have read from some websites that there is a direct bus from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake via the Green Transit Bus (Fengjung Bus) Company which departs from Zhongxia Fuxing Station or the Guoguang Bus from Taipei West Station. I cannot confirm this though since I was not able to check it out when I was in Taipei. I suppose you can also take a guided tour from Taipei which is what a friend did on a separate trip, but this might cost more.


Getting Around
There are lots of convenient ways to explore the surrounding areas of the lake. I chose to take the round-the-lake bus with unlimited rides for 80 NTD since this is the cheapest. You can buy the ticket at Shuishe and the bus stops along some of the scenic spots around Sun Moon Lake.

If taking the bus seems too cramped or boring for you, then you can rent and to save some cash, you can buy the bike coupon that comes with 2 hours bike use. There are also scooter rentals as well but we did not check for the price. You can also take the ferry that goes around Shuishe, Ita thao and Xuanzang pier.

sun moon lake taichung
the perfect place for couples :)

Things to do and see around Sun Moon Lake
Shuishe Village 水社 was our first stop being the main transport hub of the region. We needed to buy our round-the-lake bus tickets here. There’s also a Tourist Information center so we got some maps as well. Lots of restaurants and souvenir shops here as well.

We managed to reach the last bus stop which was Ci’en Pagoda 慈恩塔, but we had to leave asap. There are less bus trips during weekends, and we arrived at around 12:40 and the next bus that will take us back to Shuishe arrived at 2:40PM, so we chose not to spend 2 hours at the pagoda, and decided to move on.

ita thao

ita thao sun moon lake

Another commercialized district in SML is Ita Thao 伊达邵, like Shuishe, it is also one of the ferry stops and attracts TONS of tourists because of its plenty food stalls! Imagine the crowd at Shilin Night Market, that’s how busy Ita Thao was when we went there. We actually expected some museum presenting the rich culture of the Thao tribe but saw none which was a bit disappointing.

we thought this was a museum.. but seems like it wasn't really open for visitors
tribe taiwan
Tribal Costume of the Thao tribe

thao tribe taiwan

The highlight of our visit was Wenwu Temple 文武廟, which was the finest temple I have seen in the country in terms of size and location. Built during 1938 and then revamped again in 1969 to help boost tourism, it boasts of having a Chinese palace style design and the massive guardian lions greeting the temples visitors. Take a quick trip to the top for a majestic panorama of Sun Moon Lake.

wenwu temple

guardian lion
one of the large guardian lions of the temple

wenwu sun moon lake

sun moon lake guardian

wenwu temple sun moon lake
amazing panorama of Sun Moon Lake!

Other Attractions
I hoped to see the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village thinking that there would be a museum, gallery or even an the actual aboriginal village, but I did some research while on the bus and turns out, it was a amusement park. :( If you like the anime One Piece, then you’d probably like it here. There is also a cable car which is pretty pricey, but the views as you go up are pretty amazing.

There are tons of walking trails that you can take while on the lake, but since we had not much time, we decided not to do any of it. In case you want to do an overnight stay though, I later learned that there are cheaper lodging options around the area ranging around the 500-800 NTD such as hostels that are located around Shuishe. If I knew about this, I would probably make it a two-day trip, I think the morning view of the lake would be incredible.

lake taiwan

sun moon lake taiwan

If I had more time around Nantou, I’d probably continue on to Cingjing Farm, Hehuanshan and move to Chiayi for Alishan.. but then again, I only had 16 days. Nevertheless, Sun Moon Lake was still a good daytrip despite the crowded streets and massive tourist queues. You just have to find a perfect serene spot to gaze at its wonderful scenery.

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More of my 16-day exploration of Taiwan here:








New Taipei


  1. Hi may I know if I am able to rent the bike from Shuishe village area too? Do you remember how much it cost? And also, would 2 hours be enough to tour the sun moon lake? Thanks!

    1. Sorry I wasn't able to check the bike rental rates, but do check the bundled tickets I mentioned in this post. Two hours would be a bit tight, maybe try going when its less crowded. I don't think you'd enjoy it with a strict schedule though.


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