As winter descends on northern Asia, Taiwan’s hundreds of mineral-rich hot springs welcome long-distance travellers and day trippers alike into cosy and relaxing retreats from the cold.
Aside from great food, shopping and nightlife, Taiwan offers a hot spring culture that is one of the best developed in Asia, with escapes for every price range and timeframe.
The island, at the confluence of two major tectonic zones, is a geological marvel where frequent earthquakes rearrange the stunning mountain scenery and unearth new hot spring sources with every rumble. Here are tips for getting the most out of a hot spring adventure in Taiwan.
For the budget traveller on the go, a visit to public outdoor hot springs in the capital Taipei is the best way to squeeze in a few hours of soaking without breaking the bank.
With towel and bathing suit in hand, hop on the clean and efficient metro at Taipei Main Station and ride the train north for about 25 minutes to Beitou. From there, a short branch line goes to the Xin Beitou area, the undisputed hot spring capital of Taiwan.
One step off the train is all it takes to sense the difference. Instead of the ubiquitous car exhaust and motorbike fumes of the city centre, the rich scent of sulphur from the area’s hundreds of hot pools fills the air.
From the metro exit, walk east on Zhongshan Road for about 10 minutes, past the tranquil Beitou Park, to the entrance of the Beitou Park Open-Air Hot Springs.
This no-frills public place, founded in 1999, is a bargain at only T$40 for unlimited soaking and sloshing in warm pools on four levels and two cold pools. Half the fun of this relatively downmarket spot is the community feel. Retirees and blue-collar types, likely to be chit-chatting in the local Taiwanese dialect rather than in Mandarin Chinese, make up the majority of attendees.
Overweening lifeguards exhort against standing in the water or dipping only the feet – which in Taiwan hot springs lore is bad for the circulation – but the overall atmosphere is relaxed and foreign visitors are welcome.
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