If there’s one thing you must do in Taipei, it’s hike up Elephant Mountain for sunset. The views up here are not just the best in the city, but also one of our favourites in the whole of Taiwan. The view of Taipei 101 towering over the skyline is magical, especially when it is framed by the forest that covers Elephant Mountain. It is undeniably one of the most instagrammable places in Taiwan
If you can make it here for sunset you are in for even more of a treat. We saved it until our last night and realised we’d definitely saved the best until last. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Taipei.
Elephant Mountain Steps and Difficulty
Distance: 1.9km from the train station to the top of the mountain
In total there are 500 steps to the rock viewpoints (the Instagram favourite) and 600 to the top. This doesn’t sound that bad, but when you mix in the heat and humidity of Taipei, it makes for a sweaty walk!
Make sure you bring a bottle of water and take your time as there are no flat sections. There are stops along the way to take in the view and get your breath back.
It is 1.9km long and should take about 20-30 minutes to get to the top with stops. The path is paved and in perfect condition, meaning most people should be able to do the walk with no problems.
Getting to Elephant Mountain
The easiest way to get to Elephant Mountain is to take the red line to Xiangshan MTR Station (it took us 15 minutes from Taipei Main Station).
From here, the start of the walk is just five minutes away straight through a park. You’ll see some stairs with elephant murals on the side that show the start of the walk (marked on the map below).
The first viewpoint
The first 10 minutes of stairs is virtually all enclosed, offering no views. There are a couple of little openings to the side of the track, but otherwise it’s almost entirely covered by trees.
Then you’ll come up to the first viewpoint - the platform. This is the lowest of the three lookouts but still offers a really good view of Taipei 101 and the city.
The instagram viewpoint
After the platform, continue up the stairs. The path eventually comes up to some huge rocks, where it curves to the left. It’s around here that you’ll see a queue and the instagrammer’s favourite view. This is 500 steps from the start.
The rocks offer the best place to take a shot of someone with that view and no crowds. The other two platforms are busy and you won’t have the space to get a photo without other people in it. It’s also the most natural looking viewpoint and by far our favourite for that reason. The rock has a few foot holds to climb up on to it which will be easy for most people, although it had me a little nervous as I knew a queue of people were watching and I didn’t want to slip!
The queue was very friendly with everyone offering to help each other out and giving each other plenty of time. Even when some people took forever no one said a word.
The place for the photographer is on the opposite rock and also requires climbing but the foot holds are worn smoother here so it’s a little trickier to get high - although everyone seemed to manage fine! The views and the shots are well worth the effort.
Once you finished taking shots here you can continue on to the top of the mountain via the final view point. After you’ve finished you can head back down to the rocks as there are some great perches away from the Instagrammable area where you can sit and watch the sunset.
It will be busy but we didn’t struggle to find a little room to relax and take it in. The actual sunset is partially obstructed by trees but no one seemed to mind.
Read next: Taroko Gorge - A natural wonder of Taiwan
The final viewpoint
The final viewpoint is another excellent one, offering an amazing expansive view of the city from higher up. The platform is a very short distance from the rocks and is just as popular. This platform can get very crowded, but people seem to come and go quickly, so you can squeeze to the front with a bit of patience.
The top platform is the best place for sunset photos as you can take in the whole view and see the city bathed in that beautiful golden light. We were very lucky to have the perfect conditions too - very different from the majority of weather we had in Taipei!
From this platform it is another 100 steps to the top, but there’s not much to see there, just stairs back downhill to other mountains.
Elephant Mountain at night
Elephant Mountain is also a great place to get night shots of Taipei. If you hang around after sunset (when the majority of people leave), you’ll be able to get the city skyline glowing as well as the twinkling lights.
You’ll need a tripod for this to get a nice clear shot and some patience as people seemed to love standing in the very front row and then spending the whole time on Facebook! Why?!
It is a very well lit path and really easy to walk down, so you won’t have to worry about the dark. We still recommend bringing a torch (or using your phone) but you won’t be walking in a forest in the pitch black!
Where to stay in Taipei
Budget - Purple Garden
Anywhere else in the world, Purple Garden would have been classified as a mediocre place, even if it charged $15 USD per night. In Taipei it’s a secret gem and charges $55 USD per night.
The rooms are a normal size and have windows, but you’ll have a glass partition for a bathroom inside the room (a relatively standard fix in Taipei). It’s a little dated and basic, but not too bad. It is quiet and set in a great location.
The downside is the musty/slightly cheesy smell that must have been created by the ancient air con system. If you can put up with that, then you’ll be fine. You can try and air the rooms, it doesn’t go, sigh.
Mid-Range: Orange Hotel - Kaifong
To get a reasonable hotel in Taipei, you’ll need to spend about $70 USD a night and book at least two weeks in advance (even in low season) otherwise forget it.
Whilst Orange Hotels outside Taipei are much much better, the one in Kaifong is a decent choice. The rooms are nicely furnished and really quiet.
They are a little dark and for $70 USD you’d normally expect more, but its a comfortable place in a great location.
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Are you planning to visit Taipei? Do you know any other epic views of Taipei like Elephant Mountain? Let us know in the comments below!