Taipei in Taiwan rivals Japan for cherry blossom viewing, with its stunning mountain scenes and accessibility. Another plus: fewer crowds.
Japan’s cherry blossoms might be better known, but for blooms off the beaten path—and with fewer crowds—try Taiwan, where the flowers are just as beautiful and come early because of its unseasonably warm weather.
Cherry trees start to blossom around Taipei, the capital, in mid-January. While tourists have been avoiding travel because of the coronavirus, local crowds still formed around the trees, where the flowers radiated photogenic pinks, reds, and whites.
But what makes the cherry blossoms here truly stand out is their breathtaking mountain setting.
While the scenes in Japan are normally cityscapes, the cherry blossoms in Taiwan are pasted against forested mountain backdrops. They’re also easily within reach from the city center by bus and train.
“The advantage here in the northern parts is convenience,” says Tina Lee, a university student who went to see the blossoms for the first time at Yangming Park, which is about 1,300 feet above sea level and 45 minutes by bus from downtown Taipei.
The Taipei area has about 150,000 cherry trees blossoming around this time of year, according to the regional government. They are planted in groves among the city’s mountains at elevations of 300 to 980 feet.
The most popular are the hot springs village of Wulai an hour south of central Taipei, and the Tian Yuen Temple, about 20 minutes east from the coastal district of Tamsui.
Cherry blossoms at the temple and the track north of it tend to peak in mid-March and are visible until the end of the month, according to the New Taipei City Landscaping Office.
The breed, Yoshino cherry, blooms later than the other three types most often found around Taipei, according to a spokesman from the office.
This month, the more serious photographers are gathering at Yangmingshan National Park. Some have tripods under 10 white flowering trees in front of Zhongshan Lou.
“It’s a bit warmer this year, but the key thing is fewer rainy days,” says blossom shooter Key Yang, 33. “I’m not sure if it’s the best year ever, but it counts as not too bad.”
Scores more ride the bus another five minutes or walk for another 20 minutes to Yangming Park.
Trees in the largely landscaped park grow in orchard-like rows and have boughs of pink flowers that dip low enough to offer a hassle-free background for photos.
One bonus: It’s lit after dark, keeping scores of people shooting sunset poses for the gram.
Where to see cherry blossoms around Taipei
- Lohas Park: Trees bloom in white, pink and red, mainly in February. The park on Kangle Street Lane 61 is a nine-minute walk from Donghu metro station.
- Yangming Park and Yangmingshan National Park: Bus 125 reaches the park, which never closes.
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: No. 21 Chungshan South Road, just off the Chiang Kai Memorial metro station.
- Tian Yuen Temple: Tamsui District No. 36 Beixin Road. Take bus 875 from the Tamsui metro station and watch for a 7-Eleven near the temple entrance. Temple hours are 6:30 am to 9:30 pm daily.
- San Sheng Trail: Sanchih District. Take bus 862 or 863 from the Danshui metro station and ask the driver to stop at Jiu Tai Er Xian Bridge 17.
Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.