As I settled into the warm waters of the Millennium Hot Spring, the chilly winter air blowing across my face, I felt my worries roll away. Having spent the last few days traipsing around Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, I had come up to the northern edges of the city to the beautiful district of Beitou for a relaxing afternoon.
Those who have never been to Taiwan might be surprised to find out that Taiwan has over 100 hot springs scattered around the country. The first to open commercially was in the Taipei suburb of Beitou (or Peitou) in 1893. Since then, Beitou has been a popular place for locals and tourists to unwind.
After a quick subway ride, the train deposits you in the center of the town’s hot springs area. Upon exiting the train, you will notice two things: lush vegetation and the unmistakable smell of sulfur. Located in the shadow of Taiwan’s only active volcano, Beitou, has revived itself in the last few years, making it a fantastic option for a relaxing afternoon away from central Taipei.
When you arrive in Beitou your first destination should be the Geothermal Valley. The main area of the Valley consists of a lake of water and sulfuric acid that reaches temperatures of 212° Fahrenheit (100° Celcius). The boiling water below is made even stranger by the wafting sulfuric smoke dancing around the top of the lake and floating off into the clouds above. As you watch the bubbling, green liquid below, don’t get any funny ideas, as a dip in boiling sulfuric acid would put a damper on the rest of your day to say the least.
To get there from the train station, head up the hill to the left of Qinshui Park, and keep walking for approximately ten minutes. A small entrance on your left near the end of the park will lead you to the Geothermal Valley. The picture at the top of the article is of the Valley, a unique site not to be missed while visiting Taipei.
After seeing the source of the area’s hot springs, it’s time to venture into a hot spring bath. There are two main options that you have : a hotel or the public hot springs.
The saunas available at hotels will be your nicer, but much pricier option: starting at 300 Taiwanese Dollars and rising quickly, especially if you want a private room in the sauna. For those on a larger budget, this will give you a more authentic experience. However, be prepared as many of these bath houses separate the sexes and don’t allow clothing to be worn.
For those on a tighter budget, in a mixed-gender group, or those uncomfortable with letting it all hang out, there is another option: the outdoor Millennium Hot Spring located in Qinshui Park between the train station and the Geothermal Valley. At a budget friendly 40 Taiwanese Dollars ($1.33 USD) for your entrance fee and only 20 Taiwanese Dollars for a locker, you can soak in three pools of varying hotness for less than $2.00.
The pools range from hot to “Oh my gosh!”, so there is a pleasant soaking opportunity for everyone. For those who go in the summer or who want to cool down a bit, there is also a pool with cool water.
While swimsuits and towels are available for purchase at the hot springs, the selection is limited and the cost is somewhat high, so bring your own if you can. Also, make sure to follow the posted rules, including showering before entering the pools, to help keep the area safe and clean for everyone.
If you have time after soaking in the pool, there is also a free hot springs museumnlocated near the Millennium Hot Springs in Qinshui Park.
Getting to the Beitou Hot Springs
The Beitou hot springs area is located in the northern part of Taipei and is well serviced by the city’s subway system.
From Taipei Station, take the red line towards Tamsui and get off at Beitou. From there, transfer to the single-stop, and very colorful, Xinbeitou line that will drop you off a short walk from the hot springs and Geothermal Valley.