Hot springs have long been treasured for their therapeutic benefits. Emerging from deep below the earth’s surface, hot springs offer a variety of healthful minerals. Some of the best hot springs in the world can be found on the island nation of Taiwan, thanks to its location at the confluence of two major tectonic zones.
With more than 100 hot springs, cold springs, mud springs, and seabed hot springs, Taiwan is the perfect place for a rejuvenating, therapeutic soak.
In 1896, the island’s first hot spring hotel was opened in Beitou, Taipei City. Since then, hot springs have grown into a flourishing industry and become a central part of Taiwanese culture.
Taiwan’s Hot Springs
Taiwan has a wide range of offerings, from outdoor public baths (some are free of charge!) to exquisite, private retreats. Some hot springs have largely been preserved in their natural state, while others have been tapped into by resort-style hotels to create luxury spa and health centers with hot spring hydrotherapy.
Most hot springs in Taiwan are located among beautiful landscapes in Taiwan—from stunning mountains to enchanting valleys. You can enjoy not only a rejuvenating soak, but also breathtaking views. And, of course, such a trip wouldn’t be complete without some nourishing local cuisine—all within arm’s reach at Taiwan’s many hot spring destinations.
On the northeastern coast, Jiaoxi is one of the few lowland hot spring sites in Taiwan. The hot springs are rich in minerals like magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, and carbon.
In Jiaoxi, local cuisine is made with vegetables irrigated with nutrient-rich hot-spring water. Vegetables raised with this water grow quickly and become unusually crisp, tender, and sweet. Especially well-known are locally grown water spinach, tomatoes, sponge gourd, and water bamboo, which are collectively known as the “four treasures.”
Zhiben’s hot springs, odorless and colorless, are located in a breathtaking valley in the southeastern part of Taiwan, with views of canyons and waterfalls. The area is home to a variety of five-star resorts, as well as small to mid-size inns. In recent years, many hotels here have added hydrotherapy and spa facilities, massage pools, and herbal baths.
Visitors to Zhiben can also relish the delicious cuisine. Local specialties feature sailfish as well as roselle and sugar apples.
Beitou, the hot-spring capital of Taiwan, is just a 30-minute metro ride away from the center of Taipei City, Taiwan’s bustling capital. When you first arrive, you’ll be struck by the smell of sulfur, but if you can get past the odor, you’ll be able to revel in Beitou’s wonderful thermal pools. The springs boil up from the volcanic core of Mount Datun and come in three types: one yellowish-white, one slightly green, and one filled with iron that makes it reddish-brown.
The bathing facilities here vary widely from traditional Japanese-style bath houses to more modern spas, catered to both day-trip and overnight visitors.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of this town, head to the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, which was once the largest public bath house in northeast Asia.
Guanziling is about three hours’ drive from Taipei City, but the trip is worth it. Its rare mud springs—one of only three in the world—rejuvenate the skin and boost health. Back in the early 20th century, Japanese nobility frequented the site.
The area is also home to the Water and Fire Cave, where a fire seems to dance on top of a natural spring. This captivating natural wonder results from a fissure that releases both spring water and natural gas. According to legend, the fire has been burning for centuries.
For dinner, make sure you get a taste of the region’s exquisite lotus flower cuisine. In midsummer, lotus flowers blanket the area, blossoming in white, yellow, blue, purple, and pink. Every part of the lotus can be eaten—including the root, leaves, flowers, seeds, and even the white membrane and husks of the seeds. The local restaurants use these delicious and nutritious ingredients to make a variety of dishes, like lotus seed congee, lotus seed sticky rice tamales, lotus chicken, lotus leaf ribs, and lotus root tea.
About an hour south of central Taipei is the town of Wulai. The baths in Wulai are right along the river, so you can go for a swim to cool off after a soak in the hot spring. Unlike sulfur hot springs, the hot springs here are odorless and clear. They’ve been dubbed “beauty springs” for their beauty-enhancing properties, naturally exfoliating and moisturizing the skin.
After a luxurious soak, you can savor the local delicacies of the indigenous Atayal people, who use ingredients from the nearby mountains. The flavorful sausages here are a must-try, as well as the local eggs cooked in the water of the hot springs.
Close to the sea, the hot springs at Jinshan, or Jin Mountain, emerged after an earthquake in the mid-19th century. At Jinshan’s Governor-General Hot Spring, one of the oldest hot springs in Taiwan, visitors can soak while enjoying beautiful mountain and ocean views.
Besides the hot springs, the area is known for its duck meat. The ducks are raised for 130 days, almost twice the typical breeding period, and fed wheat, corn, and lard. While visiting Jinshan, make sure you also try other local specialties, which feature sweet potato, taro, and white bamboo shoots.
At Guguan, many spas are designed in elegant Japanese style. It is said that the Japanese Meiji Emperor came to Guguan with his wife in the early 20th century. After a soak at the hot springs here, the Meiji Emperor and his wife conceived; since then, these springs have been known as the “male child springs” or the “Meiji hot springs.”
The area is also known for its trout, a freshwater fish that lives only in exceptionally clean water.
To reach the hot springs at Tai’an, in the northwestern region of Taiwan, you have to drive up a winding mountain road. The waters here are clear, tasteless, and odorless. Nestled among mountain peaks, it’s the perfect spot for a quiet retreat. Besides the allure of the beautiful valleys and waterfalls, the area is also home to the cultures of the Hakka and Atayal people, who have contributed to the distinctive local cuisine.
At Ruisui, on the eastern coast of Taiwan, the waters have a murky brownish tint, which often misleads visitors into thinking the water is unclean. The color is actually the result of the water’s rich iron content. The iron oxidizes when it comes in contact with the air, leaving a layer of crystallized minerals on the surface of the water. It leaves bathers’ skin feeling smooth.
Baolai and Bulao
Fed by clear water from the Baolai and Bulao Valley, the hot springs here are colorless and odorless. They contain carbonic acid and thus, are great for nourishing the skin and alleviating fatigue. The name Bulao means “forever young” in Chinese. Most of the hotels here have hot spring pools as well as spa and hydrotherapy facilities. Visitors can also enjoy the local barbecue and camping areas.
Taro is a local specialty, so make sure you try the local taro shaved ice, taro biscuits, and taro rice cake.