Cycling Sun Moon Lake Taiwan (All you need to know + bike map!)

June 7, 2024

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Remember that CNN’s list of 10 Best Cycling Routes in the world included the Sun Moon Lake bike path? Well, we recently biked this very path around Sun Moon Lake national scenic area in Taiwan, and let us tell you, it’s an absolute must-do for any cycling enthusiast.

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a casual bike rider looking for a scenic adventure, Sun Moon Lake has something for everyone. You can choose a leisurely 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) out-and-back section, perfect for soaking in Sun Moon Lake views at your own pace. Or, for the more ambitious, conquer the entire 29-kilometer (18-mile) loop around the lake – which is what we did). It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t forget!

This world-class route offers a combination of scenic beauty and cultural immersion. You’ll cycle over modern bridges that resemble abstract art installations, witness the local life unfold with street food vendors, fishing activities, incredible temples, and peaceful Sun Moon lake ropeway by the water. Plus, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered along the way. Check out the Xiangshan Visitor Center, Longfeng Temple (known for matchmaking!), Xuanzang temple, and the impressive Shuihe Dam – all perfect pit stops to explore as you cycle.

But to truly get the most out of your Sun Moon Lake cycling trip, we need to plan! We’ll cover everything you need to know. This bike path is renowned for both its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

If you’re visiting Taiwan, check out our travel guide on Kenting Taiwan to find out is Kenting worth visiting, and our ultimate Taiwan itinerary for 7 days. You’ll also love our list of apps for Taiwan travel.

Sun Moon Lake Quick Intro

Although Sun Moon Lake in Nantou county is now Taiwan’s largest alphine lake, it was originally home to two distinct bodies of water. Back in the 1930s, when Taiwan was a Japanese colony, the Japanese built a dam on one of the lakes to create hydroelectric power. The operation gradually raised the water level, resulting in Sun Moon Lake’s current shape: spherical like the sun at the eastern end and curved like the crescent moon at the western end.

Sun Moon Lake was originally inhabited by the Thao people, one of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes. Today, Sun Moon Lake is a major tourist destination, famous for its natural beauty and cultural significance.

The lake region can be visited by boat or cable car, but cycling is the best way to enjoy the serene surroundings. The beautifully designed bikeways surround the lake’s coast, with vistas of misty mountains, lush greenery, and floating islands.

Lastly, Sun Moon Lake is famous for its black teas‭, ‬which are mostly produced north of the lake in Yuchi township‭. You can try their famous tea at Ita Thao Pier and surrounding tea shops, where there are shops to buy Taiwan souvenirs. Check out our favorite 30+ Taiwan must buy things!

Sun Moon Lake Address: 555, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 555

Sun Moon Lake Bike Trail

The Sun Moon Lake bike trail offers offers a mostly gentle ride with some rolling hills with varying elevations. The elevation ranges from around 616 meters (2,021 feet) at its lowest point to 822 meters (2,700 feet). Don’t worry, these climbs are manageable, and the incredible views are more than worth the effort!

Best deals for Sun Moon Lake activities:

Here’s a video on biking the Sun Moon lake bike route

Sun Moon Lake Bike Route Options

The cycling route provides both leisurely paths and more challenging sections – we’ll go over the two options below as well as whether to cycle clockwise or counterclockwise around the lake.

Most people start off in the Shuishe Pier area because there is a bus station, gas station and parking lot there. From there, you have two main options:

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Option 1 – Xiangshan Bikeway: If you just want a short and easy flat bike ride with scenic views, the best option will be to rent a bike at Shuishe Pier, go counter clockwise, and cycle from Shuishe Dam to Xiang shan Visitor Center then circle back. This way you can ride the most accessible, easiest, flat section of Shuishe Dam to Xiang shan Visitor Center. The bike path is very nice, easy, and completely made of wood.

This cycle path section indeed has the best photo spots for Sun Moon Lake, a couple of restaurants, and a cafe ending at Xiangshan visitor center where you can get matcha ice cream.

Sun Moon Lake Full Cycle Loop

Option 2 is the Full Circle Loop including Xiangshan and Yuetan Bikeway, around Sun Moon Lake‘s entire lake which is 18 miles (this is what we did)! To be honest, we didn’t know it was 18 miles til weeks after we completed it haha!! Jade just loves biking so much that we decided to commit to biking the whole path, which turned out to be one of best things we’ve done in Taiwan.

We started by renting a bicyle at Shuishe Pier near the Bus Station, and biked counter clock wise around Sun Moon Lake. We choose this path so we could complete the Shuishe Dam area, which is said to have the best views of the lake (it’s mostly true).

We recommend to cycle counterclock wise around Sun Moon Lake because of several reasons:

  • 1) We got to enjoy the Shuishe Dam area and take pictures in the early morning before it gets crowded.
  • 2) Most cars and tourbuses usually travel clockwise, which meant there were less cars on the road when we were going counter clockwise. This made the biking experience much more enjoyable in the sections where you have to bike on the road (with no bike path).
  • 3) Most tour buses stop at Wenwu temple as their first stop which means its most crowded in the mornings. When we go there in the afternoon, the crowd was much less.

The Sun Moon Lake area is very safe, and so is the bike route. There are parts of the routes.

You also might be wondering is Taiwan safe to visit? The answer is yes! Read our guide on how Taiwan is safe for female, solo, and foreign travelers!

Sun Moon Lake Cycling Map

Sun Moon Lake Cycling Map

Having a cycling map is crucial. You can find a detailed bike trail map at local visitor centers or download a bike trail map PDF online to plan your journey around Sun Moon Lake.

To navigate the route with ease, grab a cycling map or download a bike trail map (some are even available as PDFs!). This will help you plan your route, identify rest stops, and pinpoint those must-see viewpoints.

You’ll also find many shops with their own versions of maps such as this one below:

Sun Moon Lake Bike Trail Map from vendors

Sun Moon Lake Bike Rental and Prices

Bike rentals are widely available around Sun Moon Lake, with the most convenient being near the bus station at Shuishe Pier. Prices typically range from NT$200 to NT$500 ($7-17 USD) for a 1/2 day to full day rental. That’s a really good deal considering for bike rentals. Look for bike rental shops in Shuishe and Ita Thao for the best options.

Be sure to inquire about different bike types (mountain, hybrid, tandem, electric bikes, scooters, etc) to find the perfect fit for your ride. We upgrated ours to electric bikes and were offered NT$400 for a full day rental per person. We biked from 9:30AM til 4:30PM, making multiple stops at Shuishe Dam for photos, Xiangshan Visitor Center, Ci’en Pagoda, Ita Thao Pier, Wenwu temple, Xuanzang temple, meditation breaks, and getting lost in between.

It is truly one of the best bike rides in the world, and we loved it! It was not a cycle ride not about the destination, but about the journey. Along the way, we found mimosa pudica plant that moved when we touched it, 2 Phasmids (known as walking stick bugs), and a pair of yin and yang dogs that guarded the Wenwu temple – that made the trip truly special with deep spiritual insights.

Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Best Viewpoints to Cycle to

Wenwu Temple at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

As you cycle around Sun Moon Lake, keep your eyes peeled for these breathtaking spots along the Sun Moon Lake bikeway:

Shuishe Visitor Center and Dam: Start your exploration at the Shuishe Visitor Center, where you can gather information about Sun Moon Lake and its attractions. Nearby, the Shuishe Dam offers stunning views of the lake and is an ideal spot for photography.

Xiangshan Visitor Center: Visit the Xiangshan Visitor Center, an architectural marvel designed by the renowned Japanese architect Norihiko Dan. The center provides panoramic views of Sun Moon Lake and serves as a gateway to other popular spots like the Ci En Pagoda and Wenwu Temple.

Ci En Pagoda: Climb the Ci En Pagoda, built by Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother. Standing tall at 46 meters, it offers breathtaking views of Sun Moon Lake and its surroundings, making it a must-visit for those seeking tranquility and scenic beauty.

Wenwu Temple: Discover the grandeur of Wenwu Temple, dedicated to Confucius, Guan Yu, and Yue Fei. The temple’s intricate architecture, stunning lake views, and cultural significance make it a top attraction at Sun Moon Lake.

Take a boat ride at Sun Moon Lake: Experience Sun Moon Lake from the water by taking a boat ride. These rides provide a unique perspective of the lake’s beauty and allow you to visit key sights like Xuanguang Temple and Lalu Island.

Paddle board at Sun Moon Lake: For the adventurous, paddle boarding on Sun Moon Lake offers a thrilling way to explore the lake’s crystal-clear waters and enjoy views of surrounding landmarks such as Wenwu Temple and Ci En Pagoda.

Lalu Island: Visit Lalu Island, the sacred island at the heart of Sun Moon Lake. Though access is restricted to preserve its sanctity, you can view it from various vantage points around the lake, including boat rides and nearby temples.

Xuanguang Temple: Located on the edge of Sun Moon Lake, Xuanguang Temple is known for its serene atmosphere and historical significance dedicated to Tang Sanzang who journeyed with the Monkey King.

How to Get to Sun Moon Lake ⤵️

How to Get to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung

Taking the Bus is the easiest way to reach Sun Moon Lake from Taichung. Taichung is the closest major city to Sun Moon Lake (1 hour 30 minutes by driving for 2 hour 30 minutes by bus), making Sun Moon Lake is a popular day trip from Taichung.

  • Take the Nantou Bus at Taichung Gancheng Bus Station, a 10 minute walk from Taichung Railway Station. You can book your roundtrip Sun Moon Lake Bus tickets here, which is cheaper than buying it in person and it comes with a free Sun Moon Lake themed easycard.

    Tip: You just need to arrive 15-20 minutes before your scheduled bus and show your ticket. The staff will give you a card which represents your # in line to get seated on the bus, and your preloaded Sun Moon Lake themed easycard. The Gancheng bus station is the first stop, which means you get first dibs on a good seat. The earliest bus was at 6:30am, which is what we took, and arrived at sun moon lake at 9am. Check the timetable beforehand for a smooth journey.
  • Take a bus (Sun Moon Lake Taiwan Tourist Shuttle) from HSR Taichung Station. After exiting the HSR station, exit at Exit 5 on the first floor, and you will see the pick-up stop.
  • You can rent a car for a more flexible schedule.
  • You also might be asking… Can I use Uber in Taiwan? YES, there is Uber in Taiwan and it’s better than a taxi. BUT you likely won’t be able to get a Uber or taxi from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, as most drivers won’t be willing to be make the 1.5 hour trip and it’ll be very expensive NT$4000 ($125 USD one way). Alternatively, you can take a tour, which we share about below. However, if you take a tour, you’ll be on a set schedule which means you won’t be able to do the entire bike route or explore at your own pace.

How to Get from Sun Moon Lake Back to Taichung

The Sun Moon Lake bus at the bus station in Shuishe Pier, Nantou

Returning to Taichung is easy. Just catch a bus from the same station you arrived at. Most likely you’d be taking the bus from the bus station at Shuishe Pier.

Sun Moon Lake Tour from Taichung

Several tour operators offer day trips from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake. Guided tours are a fantastic option, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. They often take care of transportation, bike rentals.

These tours often include transportation, a short guided cycling tour, boat ride, cable car ride, and visits to key attractions like Wenwu temple and Ita Thao Pier.

Sun Moon Lake from Taipei

Here is a great Sun Moon Lake One Day Tour from Taipei with 5 star reviews that we recommend.
While doable, a day trip from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake will be VERY rushed. From Taipei, you can take a high-speed train to Taichung and then a bus to Sun Moon Lake. The total travel time is around 4-5 hours per way including transfer time.

We recommend consider spending at least one in Taichung or one night in Sun Moon Lake to fully experience its beauty. If you do have Taipei as your base, also check our guides on Houtong Taiwan, Longshan Temple Taipei, Pingxi Taiwan where the annual lantern festival is held (plus our Pingxi food tips), and what to eat in Jiufen Old Street.

Sun Moon Lake Cycling Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is it worth visiting Sun Moon Lake?

Absolutely! Sun Moon Lake offers stunning scenery, cultural experiences, and a world-class cycling route. It’s a must-visit for any traveler to Taiwan.

What is the best way to explore Sun Moon Lake?

In our opnion, cycling around Sun Moon Lake scenic area is the best way to explore the lake! Biking around Sun Moon Lake was the one of the best things we did in Taiwan, and indeed one of the best bike trails we’ve done around the world.

Why is it called Sun Moon Lake?

Sun Moon Lake gets its name from its unique shape, with the eastern part resembling a sun and the western part resembling a moon.

How long does it take to bike Sun Moon Lake?

Cycling around Sun Moon Lake bike route around the entire lake (18 miles) takes roughly three hours with zero stops at full speed. But its best done at a slow pace so you can enjoy the views and cultural attractions.

We took the whole day from 9:30am-4:30pm, making multiple stops. Some say the most beautiful portion is along the western shore, which is divided into two segments, the Yuetan and Xiangshan bikeways. We loved the entire pathway and found hidden gems in so many corners!

How can I get a bike trail map?

You can get a bike trail map from local visitor centers or download a bike trail map PDF online from the photos we’ve included in the map section of this guide. Most bike vendors will also provide you with a free trail map in printed form.

What is the elevation of Sun Moon Lake?

Sun Moon Lake sits at an elevation of 748 meters (2,454 feet) above sea level. It’s Taiwan’s largest alpine lake and one of Taiwan’s most famous nature attractions.

If you want to explore Taiwan’s nature, also check out our other favorite Taiwan hikes, such as Elephant Hike in Taipei, Mt Keelung and Teapot Mountain Taiwan.

Which direction should you cycle Sun Moon Lake – clock wise or counterclock wise?

Either way works, and it just depends if you want to do the entire route, or only part of it and what you want to see. We recommend going counterclock wise if you only want to to do the Shuishe Dam area (easiest section with the best views), and the same direction if you want to do the enstire loop to see the Ci’en Pagoda, Wenwu Temple, and Ita Thao Pier.

Are there places to rent bikes at Sun Moon Lake?

Yes, bike rentals are available in Shuishe and Ita Thao, with prices ranging from NT$200 to NT$500.

How long does it take to cycle around Sun Moon Lake?

It takes about 3-4 hours to cycle the full 29-kilometer (18-mile) loop, depending on your pace and stops.

Can I make a day trip from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake?

Yes, a day trip from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake is very feasible via bus or tour with multiple routes daily.

What are the transportation options from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake?

You can take a direct bus, hire a driver, or rent a car. Buses are the most common. We took the Nantou Bus at Taichung Gancheng Bus Station but we shared multiple routes above in this guide.

Should I stay in Sun Moon Lake in Nantou? Or go from Taichung?

Both options are great. We stayed in Taichung and made a day trip to Sun Moon Lake via bus. If you choose to stay overnight in Sun Moon Lake or Taichung, consider staying in a Taiwan Minsu 民宿 with a local host family. Learn more about how to book a Minsu in Taiwan.

We hope you found this guide on cycling Sun Moon Lake helpful, and that you love cycling it as much as we do!

Have you visited Taiwan yet? Tell us what was your favorite nature spot below, or where you would like to visit below.

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