Wulai is an aboriginal village in Northern Taipei about an hour outside of Taipei. It is best known for its natural hot springs and Atayal aboriginal culture, and I consider it to be among the most picturesque towns in Taiwan. The town is named after an Atayal phrase that translates to boiling water or hot and poisonous. This is the Atayal’s term for hot springs, and the natural hot spring water that bubbles up along the riverbanks of the river that divides this gorgeous little area are clear and odorless. The hot spring waters here nourish the skin, assist with muscle pain, promote circulation, and they whiten the skin.
Home to the second largest indigenous tribe in Taiwan, Wulai boasts various religious and harvesting events throughout the year. Festivals on cultuvating, sowing, harvesting, and memorizing the ancestors are held each year.
Wuai was once a prime hunting ground for the Atayals. It is now touted as one of Taiwan’s most beloved hot spring villages. It is the only aboriginal village in New Taipei City.
Wulai Hot Springs
Spend your day hiking, swimming, and visiting waterfalls or sit back and relax in Wulai’s hot springs while taking in the gorgeous river, mountains and dense green jungle. It truly is a gorgeous place to visit any time of year.
I like Wulai best in December through February, when the real chill of winter has set in, but you also can’t beat relaxing in a hot spring bath while looking at the cherry blossoms that spring into bloom during late January through early March. Most of the cherry blossom trees that bloom in Wulai are Taiwan cherry trees. You can recognize them by their hot pink cherry blossoms.
The town of Wulai is easily traversable on foot and there are lots of hiking trails in and around the area. There is a good resource center that offers literature in the area in a number of different languages. From there, you can wander along Wulai Old Street and follow Lover’s Path out to the Wulai Waterfall Park
Wulai’s waterfalls were named as one of the eight most beautiful attractions in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period. This 80-meter waterfall is a spectacular view from afar. For a different view of the waterfalls, ride the gondola up to the top of a nearby mountain . The 10-minute ride extends across Nanshi River and costs around NT$220.
Neidong Forest Recreation Area, also known as Xinxian Waterfall, has a three-tiered waterfall that is a must-see. Tonghou also offers a number of waterfalls and recreational activities that include hiking, biking, and kayaking.
While you’re in Wulai, be sure to sample some of the many Aboriginal dishes that are from this area.
My personal favorite is a dish that consists of bird’s nest fern, known here as shanshu, This delectable green mountain green is quick fried in garlic and bean sauce. Other favorites include wild boar sausage and bamboo rice tubes, which consists of rice and seasoning that has been steamed in a bamboo stalk.
Sticky rice cake is a favorite here as well. It’s handmade from millet and comes in a variety of flavors. Millet wine is also a local delicacy. The sweet and smooth richness of this wine is complimented by the aboriginal delicacies in the area.
There is a wild boar sausage stand on the right just before you cross over the bridge on Old Wulai Street. (see photo) Try it! It’s pretty yummy.
Public Hot Spring Etiquette
Nothing much can beat a long, hot soak in the public hot springs, unless you opt for your own private hot spring experience. I’ll get to that in a minute though. If you choose to bathe at the public hot springs in Taiwan, make sure you thoroughly wash and rinse your body before entering the water.
Swimwear and clothing is not needed as the pools are segregated by gender. Don’t forget to tie up your hair. Finally, if you’ve got heart disease, high blood pressure, or open wounds or sores, don’t enter the baths. I find the waters in Wulai quite good for my rheumatic issues.
Riverside hot springs
The Nanshih River in Wulai offers several free hot springs along the riverside. Cross the bridge in downtown Wulai, turn right and walk up the road until you see a stairway that takes you down to the river. You’ll see arrive at an outdoor public hot springs area with a changing rooms and several hot spring pools. You can also enter the natural hot springs that are built right into the riverbank when the water is low.
If you turn left after crossing the bridge, you can wander down the road and find yourself at a riverbank flanked by a parking lot. There are a number of riverside pools available for free in this area as well. You can even make your own hot spring rock pool on the banks of the river.
Hot Spring Rooms and Hotels
There are plenty of hot spring hotels and private hot spring rooms to rent in Wulai. We try a different place each time we visit. Private rooms go from as little as NT$200 to NT$1,200 for a two-hour soak. A stay overnight will set you back for as little as NT$2,300 per night.
Pause Landis is one of the more famous hotels in the area. Their public open air baths offer a gorgeous view of the river and jungle. It is known for its zen decor and modern design.
The Full Moon Spa is a favorite of mine. This beautiful hot spring hotel is decorated in gorgeous natural colors and cypress. Even the hot spring bathtubs are made of cypress! You can sit in the very lap of Mother Nature and relax while looking out at the gorgeous mountain scenery and river. Guests may also make full use of the sauna and steam room, as well as the separate hot springs that are divided by sex.
How to get there
Wulai is accessible from the Taipei MRT Station. Take the MRT to Xindian Station on the red line. From there, it’s a short 40-minute busy ride on Bus 849. Wulai is the last stop on the line and it costs around NT$15 to get there from Xindian Station. You can also get there by taxi from Xindian MRT Station. The trip takes about 30 minutes and it will set you back NT$600.
My Several Worlds Hot Spring Guides
Beitou Hot Springs, Taipei
Wulai Hot Springs, New Taipei
Yangmingshan Hot Springs, New Taipei
Baolai Hot Springs, Kaohsiung