With Taiwan being a volcanic island, it should be no surprise it’s also home to some excellent hot springs, which are ideal for relaxing after a busy few days of sightseeing.
Searching what to do during my time in Taipei, I came across oodles of recommendations to visit Beitou hot springs.
North of the city, they’re considered to be within city limits, and thus, reachable by public transit.
No need to take an expensive day tour or hail a taxi- just hop on the MRT. The metro system in Taiwan is one of the best I’ve seen in the world- clean, orderly, timely and cheap.
You’ll have to transfer at least once (pending which line you get on first), but the stop is well marked in English, and easy to figure out. If you’re not sure, just ask one the help desks in the station- the attendants usually speak at least conversational English.
From city centre, it takes 25-40 minutes usually to reach the Beitou area.
Once there, walk out of the metro station, and head toward the park in town. You can’t miss it- there’s a huge steaming circle, which people are often huddled around. This is a good starting point, regardless of what your next activity is.
And, good news, there’s plenty to do in Beitou. Many visitors actually spend a night or two to take full advantage of what the hot springs have to offer.
Since I had decided to base myself in Taipei, I chose activities in Beitou that would be easy enough to accomplish in a single afternoon.
Really, there were only two things on the agenda- visit the thermal valley and unwind at one of the public bath houses. I also wanted to wander the town a bit, but saw that as more of an informal activity.
If I was staying longer in Beitou longer, I would have booked myself in one of the hotels that uses the spring water in its bathtubs for the ultimate indulgence.
Once I had a good sense of how the town was laid out, I walked uphill to the thermal valley.
When locals first discovered the valley, they were afraid of it. I’m told the name ‘Beitou’ roughly translates to witch, reflecting the belief the valley was a mystical place.
It actually wasn’t until the Japanese were introduced to the area that it became a popular place for holiday goers.
The Japanese recognised the blue sulphur springs because they’re also present in Japan. There, the springs are celebrated for their therapeutic properties.
In Beitou, the hot springs contain the rare element radium. In all of Asia, hot springs like these only exist in Beitou and one place in Japan.
During Japanese rule, they built bath houses, which were a holiday retreat for wealthy men to be entertained by geishas.
Some of these bath houses are still present today, but most of them are more modern.
Swimming isn’t possible in the thermal valley itself. The water is between 80-100 degrees Celsius, which is why the aquamarine water appears to be shrouded in steam at all times.
When I visited the thermal valley, it was mid-afternoon on a Friday and only a few other people were around.
This meant an exceptionally serene experience.
Sitting on a bench, and watching the steam rise and twist off the water, evaporating in the air felt purifying.
There’s a small waterfall nearby, which lends the sound of trickling water. Calming in every sense.
I sat at the thermal valley for close to an hour, just relaxing in nature. Before heading back to the city, I stopped at one of the area’s public bath houses.
I chose to visit the Millennium hot springs because they were on my walking path, and I was interested in the four levels of varying temperature.
The bath houses are open to both genders, so everyone wears a swimsuit at all times. Taiwanese tend to be conservative, so you won’t find small bikinis here- many wear long sleeves or even pants to lounge in the pools.
Here, I spent just over an hour, trying out a few of the different pools- one was extremely hot, others were tamer and more suitable to relaxing.
No photos are allowed in the springs, which I actually liked because I felt it added to the chill vibe of the experience.
With evening nearing, I walked back to the station, meandering through a forest, stopping at the old train station and the fountain outside of it, which spring water pulls through and many people stop at to soak their hands and wish for good fortune.
I didn’t eat while in the Beitou area because my next stop was the Shilin night market, which is a stop on the metro line up to Beitou.
If you are hungry while visiting, there are plenty of restaurants- even a Starbucks. And, you’ll see a lot of locals selling food they claim was boiled in spring water- corn and eggs are especially popular.
Interesting to note that between Japanese rule and today’s tourism, locals actually boiled eggs in the thermal valley. This practice stopped though after the area became contaminated.
All in all, a dreamy way to spend an afternoon after sightseeing in morning showers. Whether you go for a few hours or a few days, don’t miss seeing Beitou when you’re in Taipei.
Have you ever visited hot springs? What did you enjoy about your visit?