When you think of the great destinations for tea lovers, Taiwan might not always be the first country that comes to your mind. Places like China and Japan might have more international renown, but any true lover of good tea sipped while relaxing and gazing at magnificent views of nature hasn’t really lived until they’ve visited the Bagua tea plantations in southern Taipei.
If you’ve never visited Taiwan’s capital, you might not know that it’s southern section is surrounded by mountains covered in lush, green forests. These make for some of the best hiking in the country but also, nestled in the sides of the mountains are Taiwan’s most prestigious tea plantations, the Bagua plantations. The tea on these plantations is grown up on the mountains because the altitude must be perfect to get the right flavor in the tea. This has the added benefit of offering some of the most beautiful scenery that looks like it was ripped straight out of a postcard. I mean just look at this!
Fortunately, these plantations have remained a mostly hidden gem, and you’ll never see the huge obnoxious crowds you get at many similar tourist sites. You’ll be able to walk around and feel like you have the whole world to yourself.
How to get there
The Bagua plantations aren’t swamped with tourists, partially because they aren’t well known, and partially because they’re a little difficult to get to, being nestled in the rolling mountains of the quiet Taiwanese countryside. It’s possible to get out there by buses, but it’s not terribly convenient. The most efficient way to get there is by car or scooter. If you’re able to, you can rent a car to drive there. If you don’t feel confident driving in a foreign country or are afraid you might get lost, then there are some inexpensive tours vans that can take you there. These have the added benefit of letting someone who really knows the area show you around.
Once you’re there
When you’ve arrived, you can wander freely around. You can make the trip as adventurous, or as relaxed as you like. If you want to stroll down the terraces and see every nook and cranny of the mountainside, you can do that. Conversely, if you want to find a quiet tea shop with a nice view and relax, you can do that too. Frankly, once you’re up there, it doesn’t matter where you go. In every direction is amazing scenery. Just check out this video.
Antony Liao>One of the main attractions are the ‘old streets.’ These are historic streets with old buildings constructed in the classical Chinese style. Along these streets are stands and shops that sell all kinds of food, from traditional snacks from hundreds of years ago, to things like ice cream (because who doesn’t love ice cream?), to, of course, tea.
While you’re exploring the old streets and plantations, you can see the ‘Thousand Island Lake.” Ironically, Thousand Island Lake doesn’t have any islands, nor is it a lake. It’s a twisting river that snakes through the mountains. It adds to the beauty of the scenery. You’ll see the tropical green of the forests meet the deep, pure blue of the river.
If you’re feeling really adventurous (and of course you are!) you’ll want to go down the mountainside. To get to the base of the mountain where the river is, just follow the main road that leads down the summit. However, this is another instance where we recommend having transportation. Walking down to the riverbank can be arduous, and you might become winded when you’re returning back uphill. If possible, rent a car, have a friend drive you, or just hire someone to drive you around. If you have a local friend or tour guide, you might be able to go down some of the side roads and see some of the more obscure temples tucked away in the forest.
All in all this is a little slice of heaven nestled away in Taiwan. Anyone who has some time in Taipei should stop by. For lovers of tea, it’s simply not an option to miss it. You can sip tea while looking out over some of the most gorgeous vistas in the world, a luscious mix of rolling mountains, rows of tea, ancient temples and idyllic shops, and a turquoise winding river cutting through the middle. What more could you ask for in life?
If you’re interested in hiring a driver to see this place, as well as getting a ride on the Maokong Gondola then click here.