Day 1: Taipei – Yilan (L, D)After morning pickup by minivan from your hotel, your private guide transports you to Yilan, located less than one hour south of Taipei in the central Lanyang Plain. Relax during the drive along the lengthy Hsuehshan Tunnel, and then take in the mountainous landscape and verdant countryside of Taiwan's northeast coast.
Your first stop in this enchanting agricultural region is a bee farm. Learn about the relationship between these important insects and the plants they pollinate as farmers show what it’s like to raise bees. You even get to sample the delicious local honey!
Enjoy an entirely different taste at Kavalan distillery, the first whiskey producer in Taiwan and the three-time winner of a world-class competition. Tour the farm, which grows wheat used in the whiskey, stopping along the way for some lovely photo ops. As you sample whiskey, learn about the distillation process, which draws water from fresh mountain springs, imparting a smooth and silky texture to the drink.
For lunch, head to the BaJia Fish Farm, where natural spring water cultivates flavorful sweetfish (or, ayu). This tender salmonlike fish — typically salt-roasted or fried along with caviar — is a must-try local delicacy for seafood fans. Dine in style inside a beautiful garden complex with outstanding views. Around 2,000 egrets and night herons, in addition to teals and common cranes, inhabit the region throughout the year, making this a spectacular spot for bird watching.
Once you’ve had your fill of food and scenery, your guide outfits you with a bike to ride around Plum Blossom Lake (Meihua Lake). Follow the trail that circles the tranquil 49-acre (20-hectare) lake, bordered by green mountains on three sides. The path is flanked by cherry and willow trees. Ride past fellow cyclists and pedestrians to reach a suspension bridge that connects to a small island in the lake’s center.
Work up your appetite for another meal since dinner at Luodong Night Market is next! Your guide introduces you to tasty local dishes that may include salty rice macaroni, smoked duck, meat soups, tofu rolls, thick rice noodles, sausage-stuffed pork or tofu, and oyster omelets, among other cuisine.
Following dinner, you have the option to soak your weary muscles in a relaxing hot spring (available during autumn and winter only; own expense), or hop on a complimentary bike and cycle past nearby rice fields before retiring for the night at your comfortable guesthouse.
Overnight: double-bed room at a local family
Day 2: Yilan – Taipei (B, L)Around midmorning, after breakfast, your guide takes you to the Luodong Forest District, which comprises nine percent of the total forest area of Taiwan. Enjoy a laid-back hike along the circular Limen Shipan forest trail, passing the refreshing cascade of Shipan Waterfall as your guide points out riverside ferns and birds that inhabit the area.
A traditional kiln-roasted chicken is for lunch; if you'd like, receive a lesson on preparing this scrumptious Taiwanese dish. First, season the whole chicken with Oolong tea, Chinese pepper and fresh spring onion. Next, cool the chicken in cold water to preserve its texture. After placing the chicken into a kiln pre-heated with firewood, giving the chicken its delicate aroma, you’ll dress the chicken with the final touches. Sit back as your chicken cooks and enjoy some more Oolong tea while you’re waiting to eat.
In the late afternoon, your guide takes you to the National Center for Traditional Arts, which showcases how a traditional Taiwanese village operates and integrates into modern life. Bring your attention to examples of traditional grocery stores, folk arts, merchants, and eateries, all located in the Folk Arts Street shopping area. You’ll also see a traditional Chinese puppet show, spinning tops, how to make a ceramic glaze, fabric-dyeing demos, and a host of other traditional arts that offer insight into Taiwan’s past.
Your 2-day tour ends with private transport back to Taipei and drop-off at your hotel.