Spend Christmas amid Wulai’s hotsprings and Atayal Aboriginal cuisines

Tired of eating the same traditional Christmas meal such as roast turkey or goose, and want to enjoy a different kind of “heart-warming” vacation amid the cold fronts hitting Taipei? Go to Wulai to enjoy a hotspring and aboriginal cuisine tour for a change this year!

Wulai, a rural township surrounded by mountains that is equally famous for its hotsprings and its aboriginal Atayal culture, is the best choice for foreigners in Taiwan who are not only looking for a place to experience the instant feeling of warmth and coziness brought on by bathing in heated groundwater, but also a getaway from the urban landscape and buzzing, busy routine of metropolitan life.

Offering a very different feel from the sulfur springs of Beitou, another more famous hotspring destination; Wulai’s spring water is famous for its odorless bicarbonate makeup and is even safe to drink. The springs are said to have a therapeutic effect on the skin and for gastrointestinal diseases.

Getting to Wulai

Wulai sits at the southern end of Taipei County and at 321 square kilometers is the largest township in the county. The township is surrounded by towering mountains, with a stunning geography of ravines, cliffs, and waterfalls dotting the landscape.

Legend has it that a long time ago an Atayal aborigine was hunting by a stream and saw a mist coming from the water. The stream was warm and hot, and he called out “Wulai,” which in the Atayal language means “smoking hot water,” warning his companions and giving this area its present name.

You can get there by taking the mass transportation system to Xindian station (新店站) and then hopping a Xindian bus to Wulai for NT$40.
If you go there by car, get off at Xindian Interchange and drive along Chongxin Road, Beiyi Road, and then 9 Jia Road to reach your destination Wulai.

On the way, the road climbs gently up into the mountains and you soon leave all signs of the city behind.
Wulai hot springs

On the road up to Wulai you will spot all kinds of hot spring hotels. You may find a few high-end hot spring resorts, such as Wulai Pause Landis Resort and the Spring Park Urai Spa & Resort.

All these modern day resorts are equipped with Japanese or western style hot spring villas which allow you to enjoy a more private experience in your own indoor spa.

These five-star spa resorts also provide different versions of outdoor or indoor spa pools, along with plenty of delicious dishes and medicinal cuisine in Japanese, Taiwanese or even Western styles.

If you don’t mind the simple decor and want to experience an old-style hot springs bathhouse, you can visit one of these hot spring hotels in the township that are privately owned and family run operations, to enjoy quality time in the hot mineral bath for about NT$300 to NT$500.

If you want to save money to buy better Christmas presents, you have another option: Wulai’s ‘wild’ hot springs. Instead of enjoying hot springs indoors, many tourists choose to take a dip in the hot springs located right alongside Nanshih Creek which runs through the Wulai area.

Not only are the outdoor spring free of charge, you can also enjoy beautiful natural scenery while taking a bath. For first timers, it is advisable to go with someone familiar with the area to avoid getting lost in the woods or suffering burns in the hot spring water.
What to do and what to eat in Wulai

In addition to its hot springs, Wulai also has a rich aboriginal culture, with the Atayal as its main focus.
Walking along famous Wulai Old Street, you can easily sense the Atayal culture in a variety of souvenir shops which sell aboriginal handicrafts of the Atayal tribe as well as traditional Atayal clothes and hats.

You can even find a “Wulai Atayal Museum in Taipei County.” The content of its exhibition includes traditional Atayal history culture and living material culture, as well as the whole natural ecology and cultural resources in Wulai area.

Another thing one should not miss when you visit Wulai is, make sure not to miss the Atayal cuisines and specialties such as aborigine-brewed millet liquor in various flavors.

There are also dozens of small restaurants serving aboriginal specialties such as sticky rice served in bamboo tubes, Atayal-style stone-grilled pork from the mountain boar, betel nut flower soup, hot spring eggs and of course baked machi, a favorite aboriginal desert made from millet flour and filled with red bean, peanut, or sesame paste.

Apart from the old streets and great foods, you can also take your time to visit beautiful Wulai Waterfall to check on the beautiful greenery, or you can take the Wulai cable car, which was the first of its kind in Taiwan and has been operating for more than 40 years, to visit the Yun Hsien Holiday Resort.

And if you are willing to walk a few more steps or drive a few more minutes, there is a whole world of brooks, waterfalls, and forests waiting in Wulai for visitors to discover, allowing you to enjoy a very different Christmas, one like you never felt before.

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