One huge reason I love going to Taiwan is that they are full of hot springs, or Wen Quan. In Singapore, our closest claim to a natural hot spring is a single tap in Sembawang, so I’m just fascinated by the proliferation of them in Taiwan! Not only are hot springs found just about everywhere in Taiwan, but there are even different types of hot spring waters and I’ve happily tried all those I’ve come across.
Bathing in hot springs is so refreshing. In cold weather it’s an absolute joy to be all warm and practically immune to the chill when you emerge from the bath… for awhile at least! And you would think the hot springs would be intolerable in warm weather, but somehow despite the temperature, I always emerge feeling refreshed, relaxed, and… really hungry.
Read on for more about my hot spring experiences in Taiwan! but first, some essential info…
HOT SPRING ETTIQUETTE
There are certain rules to follow when bathing in hot springs in Taiwan
- The public hot springs I visited didn’t require you to strip down like those that I’ve encountered in Japan – but you had to be in proper swimming gear and they were unisex
- People don’t wrap in towels like you see on travel shows which is more for modesty than anything else, but they do normally bring a small towel along with them. What I’ve seen people do is wet the towel and put it on top of their heads, which I was told was supposed to help you stop fainting by lowering the difference in temperature between your body in the hot water and your head at room temperature.
- Don’t bring things into the pool with you to keep it clean – and remember to remove your jewellery so it doesn’t rust!
- Bring a water bottle and drink often – the hot water dehydrates you very quickly.
- Wash yourself before you enter the pools, and wash yourself again when you get out. There are usually showers or taps in plain sight.
- Don’t soak for too long at one go. You can spend the whole afternoon at the hot springs if you like, but pop in and out of the water every few minutes or so you don’t overheat. I usually can soak a little longer for my first bath, but after that it’s a 5-10 minute dip and air rotation.
- Take note of the cleaning time for the pools! Normally they close the hot spring pools for a short period in the middle of the day to clean. It can range from half an hour to a few hours, so find out the times beforehand if possible so you don’t get caught waiting. I missed out on checking out Yang Ming Shan’s hot springs because of this!
Millennium Hot Spring – Bei Tou Public Baths
Location: Xin Bei Tou, Taipei
Easily reached via MRT along the Xin Dian – Dan Shui line, change at Bei Tou station for Xin Bei Tou. The baths are just a quick walk from the Xin Bei Tou MRT station, located near the Hot springs park and down the road after the Hot Spring museum and before Hell Valley
I’ve visited this particular bath several times because it’s very conveniently located and also because it’s really cheap – it costs just NT40 to enter. There are lockers to stash your stuff too for another NT20.
The pools are located outdoors in the open air and surrounded by walls and some greenery for privacy. It’s a charming atmosphere but you are subject to the prevailing weather conditions.
These public baths feel like a public swimming pool complex – you get all sorts of people sharing the baths. Most of the people I saw were older folks though – there doesn’t seem to be that many young people who like hot springs in Taiwan – or perhaps they prefer the private baths – there are a whole slew of private bath/hot spring hotels around the area which give you more privacy and exclusivity. I personally like these public baths as it’s a cheap and easy way to be introduced to the hot spring culture and you get to people watch the mostly local crowd.
There are 4 pools here, with different levels of hotness from the lowest to the highest.
- Level 1 (the lowest pool) is pooh-pooh, lukewarm
- Level 2 (in the middle) is a comfortable sort of warm
- Level 3 (on the top, uncovered) is the hot spring hot – you can feel the heat waves when you move or wiggle your fingers
- Level 4 (covered by the pavilion) is kinda prickly painful! I’ve only ever made it so far as my knees… only the real hardcore hot spring lovers or grizzled tough skin folk stay in here!
There are also 2 cool pools to chill out in between hot dips, these are nice when its a hot summer afternoon. Hopping back and forth between the cool and hot pools is supposed to be excellent for your blood circulation.
Hot Spring Museum – it’s free to enter, and pretty informative. Little old ladies (volunteers I think) act as guides in this 2-storey museum built in a restored building. The top level talks about the history of the Bei Tou area and is styled after old Japanese houses. The bottom level talks about hot springs in general, the science and global history, and is completely different looking for the other level as it is styled after the western baths. Pretty interesting tour if you’re waiting around for the baths to be cleaned…
Hell Valley – further along the river and the closest you can get to the ‘source’ of the hot spring water, it’s a geothermal pool of steaming sulphur water. This is hot spring water you DON’T want to be soaking in as it’s steaming HOT; you’d probably cook alive if you fell in! Oddly, in my head I kept calling this place Hell’s Kitchen. Or Devil’s Valley.
Rui Sui Yong Quan
Location: Somewhere in the countryside, Rui Sui, Hua Lien County
This particular hot spring experience was arranged by the hostel we stayed at as part of a package deal including accommodation and a rather unsuccessful attempt to white water raft. (My advice? rafting in May is NOT a good idea) We were all tired out from the ‘rafting’ and were looking forward to a nice soak. We took a chartered mini van out to a more rural part of Rui Sui (though it’s not that far from the town center, which is really just 1 main street).
The place looked a little dubious at first – there was a dingy looking outdoor pool which needed cleaning so we opted for the indoor baths. Each of us took our own private cubicle which contained a little changing area and a stone lined bath. The bath isn’t very big – I can sit in it, but I can’t stretch my legs out fully. There’s a hot and cold water tap to adjust the temperature to your liking.
The special thing about these hot springs is that the water is carbonated, not the more common sulphuric sort like the ones in Bei Tou. The water is clearer and doesn’t smell. Not a big difference to me though, I just enjoy being able to soak in comfortingly hot water.
LYUDAO / GREEN ISLAND
Zhao Ri Hot Springs
Location: Southeastern end on the island of Lyudao, which is an hour’s ferry ride from Taiwan’s east coast Taitung. Most people get around Lyudao by scooter or you can rent a car if you really have to. There’s only one road around the island so it’s hard to get lost, but the roads are pretty dark in the pre-dawn hours.
Lyudao is one of my all time favourite places and I have an extensive guide based on my own experiences for the indie traveller looking to explore this little island! More this way>>
This would be my FAVOURITE hot spring, in Taiwan and ever. It’s apparently 1 of just 3 saltwater hot springs in the world (the other 2 are in Japan and Italy) and it’s right by the sea, so most people go early to catch the sunrise while soaking. We went really early – like 3am or something, it was still dark, I was still groggy and the buses of tourists hadn’t arrived yet, so we managed to get the best spot in the warm pool facing the ocean.
The sun rise was magnificent. It was marred only by the onset of tourists who talked really loudly. Argh. The crowds are mostly there just before and after sunrise though, so the rest of the time we had the place mostly to ourselves.
It’s a pretty nice place – there are indoor pools, but the ones to catch the sunrise in are outdoors with 3 temperatures – lukewarm, comfy warm and hot. A little further out there are these pools of perfect temperature water – they’re neither hot not cold and you feel like you could swim in them all day. After the sun rose I spent most of my time in these lovely pools instead. Unfortunately when I last visited in 2016, these pools have been closed because of injuries, so you can’t swim in them anymore… boo!
There are also troughs where they pipe up the boiling hot water and allow you to cook stuff! We bought raw eggs the day before to cook. Stupidly we didn’t bring any thing to cook it with, but we found some discarded nettings which were very useful. Hot spring eggs are a lot springier than hard boiled eggs, very yummy!
I’ll go back to this place any day.
Secret local hot spring
Location: Somewhere in Lu Ye, Tai Tung.
The whole Taitung portion of the trip was pretty unexpected overall. We hadn’t made any plans before then and only booked our accommodation in Lu Ye at the recommendation of our guesthouse owner in Lyudao. It turned out to be one of the most interesting bits of the entire trip though, when our guide treated us to a whole range of activities, from making Lei Cha and catching crabs in the river, to paragliding over tea plantations for a bird’s eye view of the area.
In addition, we were also introduced to this secret local hangout – a hot spring bathing area along the river that was dug out and created by the locals which is definitely not on any guidebook! It was pretty dark out and we only had the light of torches to see by, picking our way along the pebbly river bank until we reached the river.
Unlike your usual hot spring baths, the temperature of the water is caused by the mixing of the boiling spring water and the cool river waters, so you had to continuously wave your arms in the water to get the optimal temperature for yourself!
After we were done, we just switched off the torches and changed in the dark of night, before our guide navigated us skillfully back to the guesthouse.
Qing Quan, Che Cheng
We stayed in a Hot Spring Hotel in Che Cheng, Ping Tung recommended by our lady guide who brought us around Kenting (there’s a great backstory about how we met this lady completely randomly and how she ended up taking us around Kenting). It’s called Qing Quan (check out their website here), and is pretty famous in Taiwan for both its location over the Si Zhong spring, and that some Japanese Emperor once frequented and loved this place.
It’s a pretty nice hotel, you have use of the internal hot spring facilities till 11pm and the attached bathroom in the room comes with your own personal hot spring bath. The hot springs within the hotel were pretty nice, 4 outdoor pools of varying temperatures with nice rock garden features. The only problem about the outdoor pools in the evening… flying cockroaches! OMG
Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to spend in the hot springs but it was pretty nice overall! It’s not the most conveniently located as it’s not near the town centre and we needed a car ride to get to the Kenting Express bus so we could find our way to Kaohsiung train station.
I’ll love to hear if you have any awesome hot spring spots in Taiwan to share! Drop a note in the comments if you do!