Attractions in Taiwan | When is the best time to visit Taiwan?

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Attractions in Taiwan | When is the best time to visit Taiwan?

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to schedule a vacation. Let’s say you have an office job: During the summer, as well as around Christmas and New Year’s, parents with school-age kids usually get preferential treatment when it comes to taking time off—in my opinion rightfully so—and there is a lot of competition for vacation slots. The unfortunate ones, and this might include you, usually end up with no other option but, let’s say, taking time off in November or March.

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Those two months—to many in the northern hemisphere they are synonymous with wanting to hide under your blanket. Summer is long gone, and the better, “wintry” part of winter is either over or not there yet. It’s dark most of the time and it rains for days on end.

Luckily it is the best time to visit Taiwan. Other months are also not too bad though.

The Basics

In general, there are a few things to consider when scheduling your trip. Firstly, Taiwan is at the northern edge of the tropics, with the Tropic of Cancer cutting it roughly in half, so its climate is warmer than, for example, Japan, but it is also not exactly like Bali. 

(Photo・Angela Bailey)

Summers, however, are not for the faint of heart—as is its rainy season. In general, Taiwan’s climate look like this:

  • Winter: December until February or March. Relatively cold in the north, mild in the south.
  • Spring: March and April. Warm and pleasant. Possibly the best time to visit.
  • Spring/plum rain season: May and June.
  • Summer: July until September. hot!
  • Fall: October and November. Warm and pleasant. Another contender for the best time to visit.

Typhoons

Tropical storms might affect Taiwan between May and October, but there is no way of predicting how many of them will affect Taiwan in any given year and what they will look like—whether they will just bring a day or two of heavy rain as they pass by the island, or whether a location in Taiwan will get a direct hit. 

A rainy day in Taipei during the plum rain season.

Determining the best time to visit once and for all, however, gets us into very subjective territory. I would personally say that the spring/plum rain season is the worst choice overall, while every other time of the year should be fine; you just have to know what to expect. And one thing is always to be expected—the weather in Taiwan often swings unexpectedly, for better or worse. 

For example, sunny days at the height of winter in northern Taiwan are the best days ever. The day after such a perfect, sunny day might be humid, cold, and rainy though—nearly half of Taipei’s annual precipitation occurs outside the spring/plum rain and typhoon seasons—and it might chill you to the bone. In this respect, the south is probably a better choice in the winter. It does not get as cold as in the north and only 10 percent of annual precipitation occurs “out of season.”

City tripping

Instead of trying to find the one-size-fits-all season for visiting Taiwan, it makes more sense to ask what your priorities are. For example, if you want to go for a deep dive into the culture of the country’s bustling cities, you will find what you’re looking for at any time of the year. Every season has its perks, with annual holidays and events. Meanwhile, getting safely and happily around the city in the spring/plum rain season is a question of the right gear. The essentials are a sturdy umbrella and the right footwear—which is in my opinion slippers, because they will at least ensure your feet dry quickly after the rain has stopped. They are also better when the sun comes out and it gets hot.

Summer days in Taipei.(Photo・Moralis Tsai )

“Surviving” a 38°C day in August is similarly a question of the right preparation. The early mornings and late afternoons are the best (or rather only) times for outdoor activities, while there is really no shame in spending the rest of the day in an air-conditioned environment. And rest assured, ACs are pretty much everywhere in Taiwan.

The great outdoors

If outdoor sports are your priority though, there is a little bit more to take into account. With nearly 100 peaks over 3,000m, Taiwan is a hidden gem for hikers, and thanks to its warm climate, the season is longer than elsewhere. Rain might be an issue, as is the case in most other mountainous regions in the world. In Taiwan, however, you really don’t want to wait out several days of heavy rain in a cabin in May, or—knock on wood—a typhoon. The latter, however, usually doesn’t come unannounced, and there are a few days to prepare. 

The east face of Nanhudashan, the fifth-highest mountain in Taiwan at 3,742m.

You might also be lucky and have a stretch of dry days in the spring/plum rain season, but if hiking is your priority, September to November is your best friend. After that, the conditions might be more difficult. Taiwan’s mountains also see a lot of precipitation in the winter, some cabins might close for maintenance, and snow might make summit attempts impossible. The name of Taiwan’s second-highest mountain, at 3,886m, is Xueshan (雪山, “Snow Mountain”), and it has its name for a reason.

Snow covers the upper reaches of Xueshan(雪山), the second-highest highest mountain in Taiwan at 3,886m. (Photo・Lo Yinru)

Needless to say, an island at the edge of the tropics is also a great place for water sports. What is true for air temperatures though is even truer for water temperatures. Snorkeling in northern Taiwan, for example in Longdong (龍洞, “Dragon Cave,” which is also a great spot for rock climbing), is limited to the summer, while the season in the south, for example on Xiaoliuqiu (小琉球, also known as Liuqiu or Lambai Island), is longer, but not exactly year-round. 

The sun sets over the rugged northeast coast.

Surfers, especially experienced ones looking for larger waves, should bring a thicker wetsuit and visit between November and March, when the east coast has the best conditions, even though the water is pretty cold as far south as Taitung(台東). If you want to step onto a surfboard for the first time during your Taiwan trip though, the summer might be a good time. The waves are less intimidating, and in the sweltering heat of places like Kenting, near Taiwan’s southern tip, in the water is where you want to be anyway.

The winter sun shines in the Eastern Rift Valley.

The verdict

Overall, making the best of a Taiwan trip requires flexibility—but isn’t that the case everywhere else in the world as well? 

The good thing is that Taiwan offers many opportunities to have fun, even if you have to change your plans. There is always something to do, even on a day that is either too cold, too hot, too wet, or too dry. Actually “too dry” rarely happens in Taiwan.

The sun sets over Taipei, as seen from Elephant Mountain

Original content can be found on the website of Taiwan Scene 

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