A brief trip to Taipei’s mountainous suburb of Beitou revealed qualities I was growing to appreciate about Taiwan – scenic wonders, preservation of national gifts, inexpensive or non-existent admission prices, volunteerism, and a people-friendly transportation system. During the morning spent at Beitou, I experienced them all. Visiting Beitou Hot Springs was the focal point, but there’s so much more to enjoy in this gem of Taipei. However, after cycling Taroko Gorge and hiking Taroko’s Old Jhuilu Trail, my body was crying out for the soothing waters of the hot springs. That became our first stop on an early Sunday morning in March.
Beitou is a short 30-minute trip on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) from the centre of Taipei. Take the red line to Beitou in the direction of Tamsui, then the one-stop pink branch line to Xinbeitou. The brightly decorated car on the branch line primed my expectations of what was to come. Inside were informative wall screens complemented by interactive screens on tables in the shape of wooden hot tub baths.
After exiting the Xinbeitou MRT station, you’ll see a long narrow green space across the street. This is Qinshui Park. Walk up Zhongshan Road, along the left side of the park. On the way, you’ll pass the Ketagalan Culture Centre and the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. Just after the museum is the entrance to the outdoor hot springs.
Beitou Outdoor Public Hot Springs
In Beitou, there are plenty of luxurious spas and resorts from nude baths segregated by gender, to facilities in costly private rooms in upscale hotels. For a culturally “immersive” experience with a local flavour, the public hot springs is a great choice for the budget-minded traveller. At NT$40 (1.25 USD), it’s a cheap but rich experience (and only NT$20 for seniors, children, students, and military personnel).
Opened in 1999 on the eve of the new millennium, it’s also known as the Millennium Hot Spring.
There are three hot pools and two cold pools. The idea is to start at the coolest hot pool at the bottom and work your way up. Temperatures in the hot pools on the day of our visit ranged from 42 to 46 degrees Celsius. The water was relatively clear, and the slightly pungent smell of minerals wasn’t unpleasant. The presence of sulphur wasn’t overpowering, with no hint of the rotten-egg smell prevalent at some hot springs.
Taking photographs is against the rules, but we were so anxious to hit the pool that the board posting the list of do’s and don’ts escaped our attention. Locals pointed out our transgression, but only after we’d snapped a few pictures.
What to bring
Bring your swimsuit and a towel. You can change and shower in a private stall. You’ll need a $NT20 coin, or two $NT10 coins for stowing your stuff in a locker. Pack bottled water to stay hydrated. If you have long hair, it needs to be up and out of the hot spring. Don’t forget a bag for your wet swimsuit and towel for the trip home.
Plan the timing of your visit
The public hot springs operate on a schedule consisting of roughly two-hour segments, with a half hour between each one when the springs close for cleaning. When each session is up, everyone must vacate the premises. At the time of our visit, the schedule was from 05:30 to 07:30, 08:00 to 10:00, 10:30 to 13:00, 13:30 to 16:00, 16:30 to 19:00 and 19:30 to 22:00.
There’s so much more to enjoy in Beitou. Our list included the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, Thermal Valley…
…and the Ketagalan Culture Centre.
Admission was free at all four locations, and the volunteers at the museum and the culture centre were friendly and informative. All attractions are well posted and within walking distance of each other and the station.
Afterwards, we headed back to the MRT with fond memories of the succulent selection of street food awaiting us in Tamsui.
For more information on Beitou, Wikitravel offers a succinct and helpful resource.
Might you be interested in other posts on Taiwan? If so, check out:
- Include Taiwan in your travel plans
- Cycling Taiwan’s Taroko Gorge
- Hiking Taroko’s Old Jhuilu Trail
- Yehliu Geopark – bizarre rocks and succulent seafood
- Taipei walking food tour
- Space Inn, Taipei