Taiwan’s Cycling Route 1 is the country’s most famous cycling route. It circumnavigates the island in a massive 960km loop.
Cycling route 1 runs along the island’s coastline, taking riders through bustling cities, rural villages, and stunning natural landscapes. It’s been named one of the best bike routes in the world, attracting thousands of cyclists each year.
In this article, we speak to Frank Hou from GIANT Taiwan. We explore the reasons why you should consider cycling Taiwan’s Cycling Route 1 and what you can expect along the way.
All metrics in this article are approximate. As ever, check current travel information and advice. For visitors from the UK, the UK government travel information pages are here. You should also read and follow Taiwan’s highway code (more information below).
All metrics in this article are approximate.
As ever, check current travel information and advice. For visitors from the UK, the UK government travel information pages are here.
You should also read and follow Taiwan’s highway code (more information below).
1. Overview of Taiwan’s Cycling Route 1
Cycling Route 1 is a 960.8-kilometre route that circles the entire island of Taiwan. Depending on the weather and season, the route can be done clockwise or anticlockwise (there’s more on that below).
The most popular starting and ending point of the route is Taipei Songshan Station. Songshan Station is very well-connected to everywhere in Taipei (and to most parts of Taiwan) by train.
Taiwan’s Cycling Route 1 was launched on 30 December 2015 with the aim of increasing recreational cycling in Taiwan. The route is made up of a mixture of dedicated bicycle paths, quiet country roads, and busier roads with cycle lanes.
Taiwan boasts diverse scenery, from major cities to countryside villages, coastal views and mountain terrain. Cycling Route 1 is one of the most popular and famous routes in Taiwan. It makes a great formula for a Taiwan cycling holiday because it showcases the country’s beauty and unique scenery along the way, allowing cyclists to explore the vibrant cities, ancient temples, night markets, hot springs, aboriginal tribes, beaches, and a lot more attractions in Taiwan.
Here’s a map of Taiwan’s route 1:
2. Highlights of Taiwan Cycle Route 1
To give you an idea of some of what makes Cycling Route 1 so special, here are a few highlights:
Huadong Valley (East Rift Valley)
Huadong Valley is a long and narrow valley that stretches along the eastern coast of Taiwan for around 180 kilometres. It is a remarkable natural wonder, and one of Taiwan’s most scenic spots. The valley is home to several protected national parks.
In addition to its natural beauty, the Huadong Valley is also renowned for its cultural significance. The valley is home to several indigenous tribes, such as the Amis and Bunun people, who have a rich history and cultural heritage. Visitors to the valley can experience traditional tribal customs, such as dance performances, weaving, and handicrafts. Moreover, the valley is dotted with charming old towns, each with its unique character and charm. These towns offer visitors a glimpse of traditional Taiwanese life, with their narrow alleys, bustling markets, and ancient temples.
If you don’t have time to ride the whole of Route 1, this is certainly one of the most spectacular stretches of it. In general, it’s worth bearing in mind that the eastern side of Taiwan is much quieter than the west (which is where all the main cities are).
Cycling Route 1 runs across Tainan City, which is one of my favourite parts of the route.
Tainan City is the old capital of Taiwan and so it has an abundance of historical sites, such as Confucius Temple, Fort Provintia which was built by the Dutch, and the National Museum of Taiwan history.
Tainan also has the name of “Taiwan’s food capital”, as it offers a range of mouth-watering Taiwanese cuisines from seafood congee, beef noodle soup, to Taiwanese shaved ice.
Riding within Tainan City is relaxing, giving the cyclists a chance to rest and get to know about Taiwan and its history and culture.
Shouka mountain pass
Situated between Pingtung County and Taitung County, the 21 kilometre climb to the top of the Shouka pass is also one of the most challenging parts of the entire route. It’s a true test of endurance and perseverance.
Shouka has an altitude of 436 metres and is the highest area of the southern part of Route 1. However, the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the summit make it all worth it.
The climb is especially popular among experienced cyclists who are seeking a challenge and wanting to push their limits.
3. How many days does it take to cycle Route 1?
There are various ways to cycle around Route 1, depending on personal preference, interests, and the cyclist’s level and experience.
The most common and beginner-friendly schedule is to complete the route in 9 to 14 days, which provides cyclists ample opportunities to explore and ride for a day while allowing enough time to rest and recover for the following day’s journey.
If you want to take in extra sights, then you can add on some extra days. There are 25 extra officially-planned branches extending from Route 1, which lead you to destinations like Taipei Fugui Cape Lighthouse (Branch-1), Sun Moon Lake (Branch-3), Guandu Nature Park (Branch-13), Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum (Branch-16), and many other places to visit.
4. What are Route 1’s surfaces like?
The good news for anyone wanting to road bike Taiwan is that the road surfaces of Route 1 are very well-maintained and in good condition, as it is a major highway that connects many cities and tourist attractions.
Much of the road is made of concrete and is smooth and safe to ride on. Some parts of the road, especially in the mountain areas, are at its natural state with pebbles and mud, which can be a bit bumpy and slippery.
5. Is Route 1 sign posted?
Route 1’s signpost is very easy to recognise, with a brown background and a Taiwan logo at the top (as below).
Route 1 is well-marked; the signposts are usually placed at main intersections, cross roads wider than 15 metre, fork roads, and the beginning and ending of bridges. Every 2 kilometres there should be a signpost (every 500 metres in the city).
However, it is possible to accidentally get off the cycling route at times, particularly in urban areas. As such, it’s definitely a good idea to download a GPX file before you start you go cycle touring in Taiwan.
6. Can you provide an example Route 1 cycling itinerary?
Cycling Route No.1 is also known as the Round-Island Route. The route circles around the entire island of Taiwan for about 960 kilometres. It is a challenging but rewarding journey that showcases Taiwan’s natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and friendly hospitality.
Route 1 passes through several big cities and towns including Taipei – the capital of Taiwan, Yilan, Hualien, Taitung, Kenting, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Lukang, and Taoyuan. It also passes through many smaller towns and villages.
There is no set way to ride Cycling Route 1. The Tourist Board have produced this itinerary – my example anticlockwise itinerary below is based riding Route 1 in nine days.
However, this can easily be broken up to create a Taiwan itinerary for 10+ days; bear in mind that the nine day route requires you to cover considerable distance each day. With that in mind, consider allowing extra days if you don’t think you’re fit enough – or bear in mind that you might need to pack your bike on the train and skip ahead.
Alternatively, acknowledge from the start that you don’t want to ride the whole thing and just pick a section (remember my comments above in the highlights section).
Day 1 – Taipei to Hsinchu (91 km)
Starting from Taipei Songshan Station, the route goes southwest to New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, and arrives at Hsinchu City. On the way, you will pass through Pingxi District, which is known for its sky lantern festival, and along the Jiji Railway Line.
Day 2 – Hsinchu to Changhua (102 km)
Riding along Taiwan Highway No.1 and No.61, you go all the way from Hsinchu City to Changhua City. This part is relatively flat and has the Taiwan Strait ocean view on the right hand side.
Day 3 – Changhua to Chiayi (83.2 km)
Day three rides from Changhua to Chiayi and passes through a few southern townships, including Yuanlin, Xiluo, and Dounan, giving you a chance to explore traditional Taiwanese fishing and farming towns.
Day 4 – Chiayi to Kaohsiung (103.5 km)
From Chiayi to Kaohsiung is a smooth ride with more downhills and concrete roads. Sicao Green tunnel (pictured below) is located in Tainan, which is roughly midway between Chiayi and Kaohsiung.
Day 5 – Kaohsiung to Pingtung (95.4 km)
The way from Kaohsiung to Pingtung is relatively flat. However, because of the geolocation, there can be strong wind coming down from the mountains throughout the way.
Day 6 – Pingtung to Taitung (115.5 km)
This might be the hardest part of Route 1, as it involves a 450m ascent to Shouka, followed by a long downhill. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the route is incredibly challenging but ultimately rewarding upon completion.
Day 7 – Taitung to Hualien (86.4 km)
One of the most scenic parts of Route 1 is from Taitung to Hualien where you will be surrounded by amazing mountain and rice field sceneries.
Day 8 – Hualien to Yilan (train alternative) (96.8 km or 111 km if you ride the Suhua Highway)
From Hualien to Yilan, you pass through Suhua Highway, which is infamous for its continuous heavy traffic and large trucks. The road is narrow and on one side is the ocean and the other a sheer cliff face (the East Coast Highway is the first photo in this article – it forms part of the Suhua Highway). There are also occasional falling rocks…
You’re allowed to ride your bike on the highway but many people will take the train from Xincheng Station to Su’Ao Station to avoid the highway.
Day 9 – Yilan back to Taipei (115.4 km)
The last day of the journey takes cyclists from Yilan back to the start at Taipei Songshan station. Though it’s the last day, there are still many hills and climbs to be tackled. So don’t use up all your energy beforehand!
7. Is it best to ride Route 1 clockwise or anticlockwise?
In general, if you’re going to ride the whole of Route 1 and you aren’t an experienced or overly fit cyclist, it’s best to ride anti-clockwise. That’s because on this side of the island, the terrain is easier and there are more bike shops and rest points. The first big test is then the Shouka climb. After that, it’s onto the rolling hills and headwind of the East Rift Valley. Bear in mind the “if you’re going to ride the whole of Route 1” caveat… the coastal roads on the west are also very urban; so if you’re considering skipping part of the route, this may be the part to skip…)
I recommend riding Route 1 at the end of October, or in November, March, or April. The weather during these times of the year is most pleasant, with less rain, making for a more enjoyable experience.
In the summer months of June, July and August, it can get very hot and humid in Taiwan.
In the winter months of December to March, it can be quite rainy in Taiwan, especially in the northern part. At these times of year, cycling in the anticlockwise direction would be a better choice. This is because you will be riding downwind of the northeast Monsoon, making the cycling experience more comfortable.
There’s more on the weather in Taiwan below.
8. What are the best places for cyclists to stay on Route 1?
If you’re looking for a place to stay on Taiwan’s Cycling Route 1, this registered accommodation website has a variety of options, including hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels. You can easily search for the perfect spot by using the filters on the left-hand side.
Even if you’re not staying at an official Taiwan bike hotel as such, most accommodation is cyclist-friendly and offers early check-out and breakfast services. Just keep in mind that many places don’t have bike parking or maintenance services, so it’s best to check with the accommodation before booking.
9. Is it possible to hire a bike to ride Route 1?
It’s easier to find bike hire and bike rental in big cities but, even there, shops usually require pre-booking.
If you are considering riding the whole of Route 1, make sure to plan ahead and get in touch with bike shops to organise the trip.
You should also bear in mind that if you’re planning a long Taiwan cycling tour, it is important to have a bike customised to your height and physique. Bikes for hire in Taiwan tend to be smaller than European bikes. Taiwan road bikes might also be more difficult to source.
In light of this, you might want to consider bringing your own bike to Taiwan.
10. Practicalities for planning a Route 1 cycling tour in Taiwan
What kind of bike is suitable for riding Route 1?
Assuming you have a support vehicle or luggage transfer, a road bike is a good option for Route 1.
Alternatively, a gravel or touring bike with slick tyres would work well.
Is mechanical assistance available?
Bike repair and maintenance can usually be found in/near bike shops. Scooter shops should also be able to help you patch your tube if you get a puncture you’re struggling to repair. Police stations can even be a good port of call if you are really in need with help with your bike issues.
Be aware, there won’t be much mechanical assistance in the countryside or rural areas.
There are regular signs for bicycle service and facilities along the route; here you will also find bike aid stations if you need them.
You can find bicycle supply stations such as police stations and convenience stores, where they provide drinking water and simple bicycle repair tools, offering the most convenient and thoughtful services for cyclists
Are luggage transfer services available?
You can hire a local bike tour operator or bike shop to arrange the luggage and also bike transfer for you. This will need to be booked 2-4 weeks in advance.
What kit/food do you suggest cyclists bring?
Your general bike kit should suffice for a bike tour of Taiwan, but make sure you include bike lights and a rain jacket in your kit, as it might get a bit dark in the countryside during the night and there is the possibility for rain throughout the island. Other good ideas include some thinner jackets for when it gets colder in the morning and at night, as well as swimsuits if you want a dip in the hotel.
Also remember your sunglasses, sunscreen and gloves.
Worst case, if you forget your jacket, you can pick up a rain poncho in a convenience store very cheaply!
When biking around Taiwan you should find that there are convenience stores, such as 7-11, Family Mart, or Hi-Life, everywhere. Here you can pick up fresh fruit, snacks, microwave food (microwaves are in the store as well).
Regarding water, technically it’s drinkable but most people drink bottled or filtered water; it’s probably best to stick to that if you’re here on a short-ish bike trip.
There’s more information on food in Taiwan below.
How do you get to the start of Route 1?
Getting to the start of Route 1 is easy. Every international flight coming to Taiwan will land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. There is Airport Metro which will take you from the airport to Taipei Train Station. From there, you can easily get to the starting point of Route 1 – Songshan Train Station.
Can you take your bikes on public transport?
Bikes are allowed in and out of some stations of the city metros (the MRT). You can find the stations that allow bikes at the sign in every station. Bikes are also allowed on all the metro trains in the first and last carriages.
For people who are taking the train, you can visit the Taiwan Railways website, where you can find information about trains that allow bicycles at the Bicycle Train Schedule section. Be warned though, it is not straightforward… certain trains allow bikes on them but not all.
The rule of thumb is that you can take your bike on the standard rail system (the TRA) but not the high speed rail network.
Buses usually do not allow bikes you’ve taken the bike apart and put it in a bag, although the driver does have some discretion on this.
How much does it cost to cycle in Taiwan?
Taiwan is a fairly affordable travel destination. Hotels are usually around £50 pounds to £100 per night. There are also plenty of cheaper hostels to choose from.
Food and transportation are very affordable and will cost you less than £30 per day.
More information on Taiwan bike tours on Route 1
Taiwan Tourism Bureau have created the Tour Taiwan app to help those cycling around Taiwan. It includes a National Cycle Route 1 map, information about food, where to stay, things to do and local businesses. You can download it here for Android and here for iOS. (Note that it is in Chinese.)
11. What are the tourist highlights of Route 1
Cities and towns
One of the most interesting and special aspects of cycling through Route 1 is that you are riding through cities and towns throughout the whole way.
By way of example, cycling Route 1 will take cyclists through all the big cities and towns in Taiwan, passing many major destinations, such as Tamsui, Sun Moon Lake, and Guan Mountain.
Arts and culture
There are also various museums and art galleries on the island, such as the National Palace Museum in Taipei and Fo Guang Shan Buddha Temple in Kaohsiung. If you are interested in history and culture, you can plan a visit to Tainan Confucius Temple, Chaotian Palace, and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
For nature lovers, you will get to see different kinds of natural scenery, including beaches, mountains, forests and wetlands throughout the route.
The best way to enjoy your time in Taiwan while finishing the route is to plan 1 or 2 extra days in the towns or destinations you wish to visit and explore on the way. (Plus, you can do city tours on the bikes!)
For all the foodies, Taiwan is the perfect place to try mouth-watering cuisines. Taiwanese food is a combination of multiple eras and cultures, such as Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, and aboriginal cultures, creating a wide variety of dishes with rich flavours.
Staples of Taiwanese people’s dining table include rice, noodles, dumplings, and Bings (similar to flatbread). You can find dishes with them everywhere along Route 1 – on the street, in restaurants, and in night markets. Some popular dishes are Taiwanese beef noodles, scallion pancakes, and braised pork bao. Dessert and tea are also a huge part of Taiwanese culture. Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan; as it can get quite hot and sunny in Taiwan, people cool themselves down with a big cup of icy bubble tea or a bowl of shaved-ice with fresh mangoes.
It is very easy to find a place for food in Taiwan. There are plenty of restaurants, street stands, and night markets in the cities and bigger towns. Only when riding in the rural areas or in the mountain ranges will you need to pack food supplies. However, there are quite a lot of convenience stores where you can grab something quick and easy to go with you.
12. What’s the best time to cycle in Taiwan on Route 1?
Taiwan can get very hot in the summer (June to August), reaching temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius. Additionally, typhoons may occur during this time of year. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid cycling during this period.
Spring (March to April) and autumn (end of September to November) are ideal seasons for biking. The weather is still warm but not as scorching, and there is less rainfall. My personal favourite within this is the end of October to the end of November.
Mid May to June and winter time (December to February) is usually quite rainy, especially in the northern part of the island because of the East Asia Monsoon. The weather and road conditions can be a bit wet for cycling.
In general, if you are cycling in Taiwan, packing some sunscreen and a rain jacket with you will always be a good idea.
13. Tips for getting the most from your trip to Taiwan
Do you need cash?
Yes. Many shops and stands in Taiwan still only take cash. Make sure to change some cash at the airport or at local banks before you start the trip.
Bike etiquette in Taiwan
Always wear a cycling helmet.
There are designated bike lanes across big cities such as Taipei and Kaohsiung. Signs for cyclists are also to be seen on major roads and urban expressways. Please make sure you follow the signs.
There are many motorbikes in Taiwan. It is common courtesy that cyclists ride furthest to the right side on the road (it is also safer).
Traffic in the cities, especially the big ones such as Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung can be quite hectic. If you are riding in the cities on weekdays, it is better to avoid peak hours.
Do you need a tour?
I would recommend people who haven’t been to Taiwan to hire a local tour or guide. It can be a lot of work and research to plan a trip for Route 1 on your own, especially if you don’t speak Mandarin.
There are many experienced bike tour operators that have packaged tours for Cycling Route 1. They arrange everything from providing the bikes, bike and luggage transfer, bike maintenance, accommodation and meals to medical support.
Luggage transfer options?
There are many delivery companies that provide luggage transfer services from the airport to your accommodation. However, moving your luggage on between stops on Route 1 can be quite challenging to organise, hence the suggestion of an organised tour.
Are there any films to watch before I go?
2004 film Island Étude about a musician riding his bike around Taiwan helped inspire the Taiwanese government to build its $36 million trail system.
Riding the Breeze is another option about a Taiwanese teenager that gives a great insight into the Taiwanese landscape.
Taiwan lifted Covid restrictions in October 2022 and so international cyclists are welcome to come and cycle around Taiwan and experience its beauty for themselves. Face masks are not required while cycling or doing sports, though they are currently required in other settings; check before you travel.
The green plum flower sign is for highways and a shield shape sign with red background colour and a white number is for express highways. In Taiwan, cycling is not allowed on either of these. This resource sets out information on bike regulations in Taiwan.
14. Things to be aware of when considering a trip to Taiwan to ride Route 1
Do you need to be able to speak Taiwanese?
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin/Chinese, but in the larger cities most people speak English and most signs should be marked in English and Mandarin. People in smaller towns or in the countryside will most likely talk to you in Chinese or Taiwanese. Some practice of Chinese greetings and simple conversations will definitely come in handy but Taiwanese people are very friendly and will always try their best to help.
In Taiwan, people drive on the right, so make sure you always ride on the right side of the roads. Bikes are allowed on most roads beside highways, and will need to stay on the bicycle lanes on the expressways.
There are public toilets at every train station, metro station and most scenic sites. You can also find toilets in some convenience stores.
Public transport along Route 1
There is a round-island railway system in Taiwan, which is very useful when you are doing Route 1. You can hop onto the train to the next town if you are feeling tired. Taxis (yellow ones on the street) are also very easy to find.
Taiwan is a very safe country where you can travel at ease – there’s a low crime rate, it’s clean and there’s internet everywhere. But paying attention to motorbikes, buses, trucks, and tractor-trailers while cycling is very important for road safety. When riding in the mountains and rural areas, be careful of muddy and slippery roads.
15. How to get to Taiwan?
There are many airlines that have flights to Taiwan.
If you want to fly directly to Taiwan, you can take the China Airlines from Heathrow to Taipei, which takes about 13 hours. Or you can always go with the ones that have a stopover on the way, such as EVA Airs, Emirates, KLM, and Singapore Airlines. They also fly from other cities in the UK like Manchester and Edinburgh.
This website shares flight routes to Taiwan from around the world.
Final thoughts on Cycle Route 1
Taiwan’s route 1 really is an incredible thing. Even if you don’t ride the whole loop, it provides an easy to understand way of accessing this amazing country’s cycling opportunities and getting beneath its skin.
Have you ridden Taiwan’s Cycling Route No 1? If so, share your comments and thoughts below.
Want more Taiwan cycling routes and information to help plan cycling trip in Taiwan? Don’t miss our overview guide to Taiwan.
Looking for info on Taiwan’s KOM route? Read this.
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