Sun Moon Lake
Nestled at 760 meters, this lake is famous for its clear, sparkling blue water set against a picturesque mountain backdrop. This is the largest lake in Taiwan and a traditional spot for newlywed couples to take their honeymoon. It has also been a center of aboriginal life for thousands of years, with aborignal people involved in its tourist industry since the 1930s.
No trains go directly to Sun Moon Lake; the closest major station is Taichung, from where you will need to take a bus or taxi. Some direct buses are available from Taichung or Taipei, but often it is more convenient to take a bus from Taichung to Puli, then transfer buses for the half hour ride to Sun Moon Lake.
1. Green Transit Bus (Feng Jung Bus) Running daily from Taipei MRT ZhongXiao FuXing Station (Taipei East Area, near SOGO department store, no 274, Fuxing east rd, ) and Sun Moon Lake. For timetable and other details, please contact + 886 2 27522988 (Taipei), or + 886 49 2990407 (Puli)
2. GuoGuang Bus (國光客運, formerly TaiChi Bus) Four buses run daily from Taipei West Station (near Taipei Train Station) to Sun Moon Lake. +866 2 23119893 (Taipei), or + 886 49 2990407 (Puli). Taipei West Station is accessible underground directly from MRT Taipei Main Station since it is on the other side of a large road.
1. Nan-Tou Bus (南投客運) Running daily from Taichung Kan-Cheng Station (干城站) at Shuangshi Road (雙十路, near the railway station) to High Speed Rail Taichung Station to Puli and then to Sun Moon Lake for NT$200 one way. The whole trip takes about 90mins.
The easiest way to catch this bus is from the Taichung High Speed Rail Station, which is different from taichung station. Exit 5 from the HSR station takes you straight into the bus station. There is a tourist information counter, and a counter selling tickets for the Nan-Tou bus. They speak a little english - enough to get to the right place.
To get to the ticketing store in Taichung, after exiting Taichung Station (台中車站), cross the main road and turn right. Walk along the main road (建國路 Jiàn guó lù)to Section 1 Shuangshi Road (雙十路一段) and continue along Section 1 Shungshi Road. After crossing two traffic lights, the bus company's ticketing store is less than 50m away. Opposite the bus company's ticketing store is a Taiwanese military store called Military City. The whole walk takes about 10-15mins, a total of about 450m away from Taichung Station.
The company sells a Sun Moon Lake coupon set at NT$680 which is worthwhile. It consists of 7 different coupons: a ticket between Taichung to Puli, between Puli to Sun Moon Lake, a round the lake boat tour, a round trip cable car ticket, a round the lake one day bus pass, one way ticket between Shuishe and Xiangshan and of course a direct one way ticket between Taichung to Sun Moon Lake. The bus drops you off outside Shuishe Visitor Centre and hotels are easily found along that street. For timetable and other details, please contact +886 49 2984031 (Puli)
3. GuoGuang buses from Taipei stop over in Chaoma station in Taichung.
There are two buses a day from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake at 13:00 and 14:00. The cost is NT$350 and travels through the mountains. It can take upto 3.5hrs depending on conditions, road works etc. To catch the bus looking at the 7 eleven to the left there is a bench against the bank with a sign with chinese writing on it (you should be able to make out $350 etc). Wait here and look for a white bus with 20 seat capacity that will stop outside the 7 eleven. Buy your tickets on the bus.
There is a company with hourly bus service that stops directly at the Taichung high speed rail station - great if you're in a hurry to get back to Taipei. Tickets for this and most other buses are sold at the Sun Moon Lake Visitor's Center in Yuchich.
The last bus to Puli departs at 7:30pm, from where you can transit to a bus to Taichung. Buses are often very full at the end of the day, so prepare to stand or share a taxi with other travelers.
Those in a hurry can also take a taxi from either Sun Moon Lake or Puli to Taizhong. Cost is around NT$1500 from Puli or NT$2000 from Sun Moon Lake.
NOTE: From October 2012 to November 2013, there were no buses going directly from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan due to typhoon damage to the road. Travelers needed to go back to Taichung, the Chiayi, then bus to Alishan which would take 10 hours, or spend NT$4000 for a taxi to squeeze through the damaged road. From November 2013 on, however, there is a bus directly from Sun Moon Lake to alishan everyday, at 8am and 9am
When to Visit
Tourists descend on Sun Moon Lake over the weekends, and hotel room rates zoom up on Friday and Saturday nights. Visit during a weekday if you want to avoid crowds and get the best deals.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Sun Moon Lake is the site of a massive swim -- more than one hundred swimmers plunge into the lake to swim 3KM across. Join the fun if you wish.
You can get around by bus, car, scooter, bike or boat. A loop road more or less circles around the lake, more or less, although you'll need to get off the road to view the lake. The most direct way from one side of the lake to another is by boat.
Aboriginal Handicrafts - mostly made out of wood or bamboo - are sold. In the Ita Thao village, many shops are aboriginal owned.
The street of Zhōngshān lù (中山路) along the Sun Moon Lake Visitor Centre (日月潭水社游客中心) has lots of budget to mid range hotels. Depending on the time of year that you visit, you will be charged differently. For example, you could get a room for 4 at 2000NT per night during low peak seasons (like in the month of March).
note: during low season and weekdays,in most of the common (small) hotel, you can walk in and bargain for the price (1000NTD or so)
The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is a full out amusement park with rides and shows, all with an aboriginal theme. You can see elaborate cultural shows and enjoy the thrill rides including UFO drop and Caribbean Splash. Located just north of the lake itself, accessible by gondola that starts at 10 AM. Allow a full day to visit. Tickets are approximately $600-750 NT depending on your hotel discount.