6 Awesome Things to Do at Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake, nestled in the heart of Taiwan, is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and mountainous scenery. This lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan and offers a variety of recreational activities, making it a popular destination for both relaxation and adventure.

Riding a bicycle around Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Nestled inside Taiwan’s mountains, Sun Moon Lake attracts travelers from all over Taiwan with its serene waters and picturesque surroundings.

With activities like cycling through scenic landscapes, exploring temples around the lake, and eating some of the best street food in Taiwan, it offers a diverse range of memorable experiences.

In this guide, we’ll share our favorite things that we did at Sun Moon Lake to help you plan an inspiring trip there.

Wen Wu Temple

We always enjoy visiting the different temples around Asia, every country has its unique spin and Taiwan is no different. The Wen Wu Temple is gorgeous; there is so much to see here! It’s an absolute visual overload but in a good way.

The temple is a perfect example of traditional Chinese architecture – sweeping roofs, statues of dragons, and detailed carvings adorn the temple’s buildings.

Wen Wu Temple is not only popular for its gorgeous design but also for its views. At the top of the temple and from its many balconies you’ll find amazing views of Sun Moon Lake and the surrounding mountainous area.

Guang Míng Deng (光明燈) or blessing lights

wen wu temple guang ming deng

Something that captivated us at Wen Wu Temple was this room where the walls were lined with red and yellow lights. These are called the Guang Míng Deng or blessing lights.

When you check out the lights closely, you’ll notice inside each square are figures of the temple’s main deity – Wenchang Dijun, the God of Literature.

Each figure represents someone’s loved one, placed there by worshippers through donations. These lights bring good fortune to those they represent.

Wen Wu Temple blessing lights

Ci’en Pagoda

Rising to a height of 46 meters, the octagonal Ci’en Pagoda is a classic example of Chinese pagoda design. The pagoda has a total of 12 floors.

It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the parking to the pagoda itself. The pagoda sits atop a hill and there’s a small hike up stairs to get to the pagoda.

When we visited the pagoda, we nearly ran out of daylight and almost missed visiting it since it closes at 4:30 PM. With time running against us, we weren’t sure if we would make it, but we arrived 20 minutes before closing time.

So we rushed up the stairs to get to the pagoda and I can honestly say – this is the best view of Sun Moon Lake! The Pagoda itself is beautiful. And sunset is one of the best times to visit to witness the scenery of the entire lake!

As you walk up the spiral staircase inside the pagoda, the views get better and better.

The pagoda is very tall, the tallest in Taiwan actually, so the best views of Sun Moon Lake are from the top of the pagoda.

Ride a Bicycle Around the Lake

One of the most popular activities to do at Sun Moon Lake is to rent a bike and ride around the lake.

We rented bikes in Ita Thao and rode to Shuishe on the other side of Sun Moon Lake.

At first, we rented a tandem bicycle, thinking that it would be cute for both of us to ride around the lake on the same bicycle.

We quickly learned that a tandem bicycle is a terrible option for biking around Sun Moon Lake. The roads are narrow and the bicycle paths wind around the lake, making it difficult to steer a tandem bicycle.

After about 10 minutes, we returned the tandem bicycle and rented two electric bicycles.

We highly recommend renting electric bicycles to explore Sun Moon Lake, since the roads around the lake are quite hilly. We saw other people who opted for normal bicycles, and they looked exhausted after riding around the lake.

The most important thing you should know before renting a bicycle at Sun Moon Lake is that the bicycle paths do not go all the way around the lake.

There is a large portion of the ride where you’ll be riding on the road, sharing the road with cars.

We rented our bikes at Ita Thao on the south side of the lake and we had to ride on the road for quite some time before reaching an actual bike path.

You can rent bicycles at both Shuishe and Ita Thao, but Shuishe has many more options for bicycle rentals. Also, there is much better bike path coverage near Shuishe, so if you’re going to ride a bicycle around Sun Moon Lake, we recommend renting your bike and starting at Shuishe.

Eat Street Food at Ita Tao Market

Street food at Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao

Visiting the street food market at Ita Thao is in our opinion one of the must-do activities at Sun Moon Lake, and it flies under the radar.

This market offers a variety of local Taiwanese street foods, each with its own distinct taste and preparation style.

🍢 Read more about Sun Moon Lake Street Food

Some must-try dishes include the fried cabbage buns (our personal favorite), the President Fish Roll, and the millet donuts. Or if you’re looking for a whole meal in one dish, go for the Chinese hamburger.

Each stall at the market has a unique twist on these local delicacies, making Ita Thao a perfect place to explore Taiwanese street cuisine.

Stroll Around the Lake’s Many Lakeside Trails

Sun Moon Lake is full of lakeside boardwalks that welcome both pedestrians and cyclists.

We biked on some of these trails but saw more people walking along them. In our opinion, walking along these trails is a better way to enjoy them since they can be narrow in some areas and hard to ride a bike on. Plus, you’ll be able to relax and soak in the views of the lake.

Here are some lakeside trails that start near Shuishe and Ita Thao:

Old Papa Black Tea

Old Papa Black Tea is one of the “must-visit” spots at Sun Moon Lake for black tea. So much so, that people wait outside in a long line to get a taste of this famous tea.

The tea comes in a bunch of different styles, including plain black tea, black tea lattes, and sweet bubble tea.

We ordered Papa’s Black Tea No. 18 and sat down for a meal. We ordered their braised pork rice, cold cucumbers, rice noodle soup, and fried tofu.

The braised pork rice is another thing that Old Papa is known for. It’s a simple dish consisting of braised pork and pickled vegetables over a bed of white rice. It was without a doubt the best braised pork we had in Taiwan!

How to Get Around Sun Moon Lake

Now that we’ve given you a bunch of cool things to do around Sun Moon Lake, I bet you’re wondering how you’ll get around the lake to all of these places?

Sun Moon Lake is a bit too big to walk around, but there are a bunch of different transportation options available to get around the lake.

Bus

Bus routes 6669 and 6669A go around Sun Moon Lake. These buses run every hour in both directions:

  • Route 6669 goes clockwise around the lake
  • Route 6669A goes counterclockwise around the lake

These buses stop at all of the main attractions at Sun Moon Lake, so you can get off the bus at a sightseeing location, and then get back on the bus an hour later to go to your next sightseeing location.

You don’t need a special bus pass to use the round-the-lake buses, just scan your EasyCard when boarding the bus like you would when riding any other bus or metro in Taiwan.

The Sun Moon Lake round-the-lake bus schedules are available on the Nantou Bus website.

Boat

The most unique way to get around Sun Moon Lake is by boat. The ferries go around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction between the lake’s three main piers:

  1. Shuishe Pier
  2. Xuanguang Pier
  3. Ita Thao Pier

The ferries start running at 9:00 AM and stop at 5:00 PM. The price is $150 NT for a one-way ticket or $300 NT for an all-day pass that allows you to hop on and off of the ferry at your leisure.

You don’t need to purchase ferry tickets in advance, you can purchase them in person at any of the lake’s piers before you ride the ferry.

Bicycle

Riding a bicycle is our preferred method of getting around Sun Moon Lake. If you ride a bicycle around Sun Moon Lake, you can sightsee at your leisure without having to wait around for buses or pay exorbitant taxi fees.

I covered riding a bicycle at Sun Moon Lake in the section above, but here are two main points that you should keep in mind:

  1. Sun Moon Lake does not have a single bike path that goes around the entire lake. You’ll be riding on the road with cars for some portions of the ride. If you’re not comfortable riding a bicycle on the road, then we don’t recommend renting a bicycle at Sun Moon Lake.
  2. The roads around Sun Moon Lake are very hilly, so we recommend renting an electric bicycle to ride around the lake (unless you’re looking to get a workout 😉). If you ride an e-bike, you won’t tire yourself out going up and down all of the hills.

To give you an idea of bicycle rental costs, we paid $350 NT to rent an electric bicycle at Ita Thao (a total of $700 NT for two electric bicycles).

Taxi

We don’t recommend using a taxi to get around Sun Moon Lake, but they are available as a last resort.

When we first got to Sun Moon Lake from Taichung, the bus dropped us off at Shuishe at 7:30 PM. Unfortunately, the bus that goes around the lake stops running after 6:30 PM, so our only option was to hail a taxi to take us to our accommodation at Ita Thao.

We negotiated a price of $600 NT for the taxi to take us to Ita Thao. Looking back, we probably should have just had him turn on the meter! I think that $600 NT is a steep price for a 20-minute ride, but we weren’t thinking clearly after the long bus ride to the lake and just wanted to get to our accommodation to rest.

Walking

Of course, walking is an option to get around the lake. But we don’t recommend walking to go sightseeing around Sun Moon Lake unless you stay on the lakeside trails near Shuishe or Ita Thao.

If you want to visit some of the lake’s famous landmarks, such as Wen Wu Temple, or Ci’en Pagoda for example, then it will be a long walk from the nearest towns.

Instead, we recommend riding the bus to these landmarks, then exploring them, then catching the next bus around the lake to the next landmark. It’s a much more efficient way to explore the lake and will save your time and your legs.

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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