The landlocked county of Nantou in central Taiwan has 41 mountains, including the country’s highest, Mt Yu (or Yushan) at 3,952 meters. At the heart of the county, (and even the country) is the largest, natural lake in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake. Located approximately at elevation of 748 meters above sea level, the area is a popular weekend destination from Taichung due to its serene environment, picturesque lake and cool surroundings.
Sun Moon Lake Ropeway
Coming from the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, we went back to the gondola station for the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway. This gondola cable car service was built in 2001 by Austrian firm Dopelmayr utilizing both solar and hydro-power to help power operations. Originating from the theme park entrance, the gondola length spans 1,877 meters up to the Terminal Station at the Sun Moon Lake near Ita Thao. There are 16 towers and 86 cars that can carry up to 8 passengers each. Ropeway cars are painted in red, yellow and blue representing the aboriginal colors.
From the upper level station where the amusement park is located, there is an additional green colored car with a transparent floor. It adds to the excitement of seeing what’s below but not recommended for people with fear of heights or prone to vertigo. Just when I thought that gondola ride was already great from sea level, the ride further up the mountains and beyond was more breathtaking. As soon as the Sun Moon Lake appeared on the horizon the scenery became more dramatic. Mountain gradients surround the calm bluish lake. It got me more excited. Soon we were descending towards the Terminal Station.
Our next activity that afternoon was a cruise around Sun Moon Lake. We also managed to do a quick walk around the neighborhood of Ita Thao, Nantou towards the Ita Thao Pier where our boat awaits. Place is quite developed and clearly touristy. There were many groups of tourist there also waiting to take their turn for a cruise. Good thing we had a private small cruise boat.
The lakes was named as such since the northern portion of the lake looks like a crescent moon and the southern part a sun. The light may be unflattering that afternoon but it was nice to see the surrounding mountains and area. We sailed by Lalu Island, a very small, uninhabited island which is considered a holy ground for the Thao Tribe. Visitors are not allowed to step on the island. A statue of a white deer can be found on the island which legend says that a white deer lead the Thao tribe to this lake which eventually became their home.
The Sun Moon Lake also became a favorite venue for open water swim. Every mid-autumn each year, the Sun Moon Lake host the Swimming Carnival where thousands from different nationalities swim across the 27 meter deep lake across its 3km length of the lake. A much awaited annual event since it was launched in 1983.Book KKDay Discounted 1-Day Cruise Tickets
Our cruise ended at Shuishe Pier on the other side of the lake. We had a luxury of free time here to roam around the area. There are souvenir shops, tea shops and plenty of quaint cafe along the streets. Some of the group settled at a nearby milk tea shop where I had warm milk tea. Decided to walk around after and find a nice place for a sunset. I ended up at a scenic circular walk which seemed to be popular with bikers. I loved the autumn colors of the trees here and soon the purple sky bursted as the sun sets down. Went back to rejoin the others for a traditional Ita Thao platter dinner at one of the restaurants in the area. As soon as we’re satiated, we head of for our home for the night.
There are no direct access train access to Sun Moon Lake but there are several bus options from Taipei and Taichung
From Taipei Bus Station, ride a Kuo-Kuang Bus 1883 which goes directly to Sun Moon Lake. Travel time is 4 hours and 30 minutes. Fare is NTD 470 per way. Buses roll of from 7am to 5pm. Make sure to book in advance.
One of the most convenient way to tour Sun Moon Lake is booking an adventure day tour via KKDay which includes: Transportation, tour guide, lunch, cable car tickets, bike rental, ferry tickets and insurance.Book KKDay Sun Moon Lake Adventure Day Tour
- Take the THSR to Taichung Station, then ride a Nantou Bus (bound for Puli) to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village stop. Travel time is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Fare is around NTD 200.
- From the Taichung Railway Station, ride a Renyou Bus (bound for Sun Moon Lake) to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village stop. Travel time is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Fare is around NTD 200.
Getting Around the Lake
The most popular way to go around Sun Moon Lake is by boat. There are three main piers in the lake: Shuishe, Xuanguang and Ita Thao. There are public ferry boats that go from pier-to-pier for NTD 100 per way.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.