Jiaoxi (礁溪, also Jiaosi) is a popular weekend escape from Taipei, famous for its hot springs and its three-tiered waterfall. It's easily accessible from Taipei thanks to the incredible 13km Hsuehshan Tunnel, the fifth longest road tunnel in the world.
Jiaoxi makes a nice stop along the common tourist route between Jiufen and Hualien (for Taroko Gorge). Though the quality of the hot spring water is dubious at bestit's well worth stopping by for a night, to hike the impressive Wufengci Waterfall, have a soak in hotsprings and enjoy one of Taiwan's best bakeries.
|First Things First|
Jiaoxi can be visited any time, but the waterfall is more crowded, and hotels more expensive, during the weekend. If you must spend a weekend somewhere other than Taipei I would suggest, if possible, spending it in or around Jiufen.
Jiaoxi is famous for its ground-level hotspring, which is very rare, as most hotsprings must be drilled down to reach the hot water reservoirs. The water is naturally rich in minerals and is believed to be very good for the skin. Nonetheless many people are distrustful of the water quality, which is generally believed to be between Beitou (better) and Wulai (worse).
Best: Jiaoxi Hotsprings Park (礁溪溫泉公園)
|Public (free) foot bath, Jiaoxi Hotsprings Park|
This charming, wooded park is only a few minutes walk from central Jiaoxi, conveniently located behind the intercity bus station. It's clearly been the focus of the millions of dollars being poured into Jiaoxi to turn it into a world class hot spring resort. Behind the free, public foot spa, towards the back of the park, are the best public hotsprings in Jiaoxi (admission NT150, or more for a towel or if you want to return later hat day). They include indoor and secluded outdoor baths, and are very tastefully decorated. Being Japanese style, swimsuits are not allowed (bathers are separated by gender) so it's essential to shower before entering.
Older & Cheaper: Tangweigou Hotsprings Park (湯圍溝溫泉公園)
|Tanweigou Hotsprings Park|
This older park is south of the train station and closer to the main (older) Jiaoxi centre, including Vegan Heaven and the older hotspring hotels. Its public hotspring is cheaper (NT80) but is older, indoors and not nearly as pleasant as its sister in Jiaoxi Hotsprings Park. Also attached to the park are "fish spas", where small fish nibble at the feet of patrons. It's believed to be good for the skin, but besides concerns over the fish being kept captive in such tiny aquariums, the practice is banned in many countries because the fish can spread diseases from one person to another, much like unsterilised medical equipment can.
Private Hotspring Hotels
|A typical older hot spring hotel bath. The separate tap (top left) is for onsen water.|
The main hotspring street, which runs along Zhongxiao Road (德陽路) and Deyang Road (德陽路), a few minutes walk from the train station, has an "I want to be Japan" feel, with several hotels named after Japanese cities, most of which aren't even famous for hotsprings. The serious onsen enthusiasts from Japan might prefer to skip Jiaoxi's springs, but to the average passing tourist a hot spring will still be a very pleasant experience, especially after a day travelling and a hike up to see the Wufongci waterfalls.
There are large new hotspring hotels under construction around the Jiaoxi Hotsprings Park. These won't be much good until they are all complete, and will no doubt be expensive, but they look to be magnitudes of ten better than the hotspring hotels along Zhongxiao Road.
Wufonci Waterfall (五峰旗瀑布)
|First, second and third tiers of Wufongci Waterfall|
This charming trio of waterfalls is one of Taiwan's best. It takes about an hour to hike up to the third waterfall, allowing for stops at the previous two. Paths are well established, but can be crowded, especially on weekends. It's about one hour's walk (4km) to the falls from the train station, however you may regret the walk after hiking up to the falls; it's easier to take Bus 111 from the train station, or from the hotsprings along Zhongxiao Road (德陽路) and Deyang Road (德陽路).
It's best to reserve a room ahead any time in Jiaoxi, but essential for a weekend or during other busy periods such as Tomb Sweeping Festival or Chinese New Year. Most hotels focus on the hotspring market, and many include access to public hotsprings as part of the package, while other more expensive rooms come with their own private hot spring baths.
|Champagne Hotel, Jiaosi|
I stayed at the Champagne Hotel. Rooms were fairly typical of a cheaper Taiwanese hotel, but quiet, clean and functional. The bed was comfortable and sheets were clean. Rooms come with free access to their hotsprings. Rates start at about NT1000 for mid-week, which is good value for a good, clean room in a tourist hotspot.
Alternatively, search for more hotels in Jiaosi on Agoda.
Since the Hsuehshan Tunnel opened up the Northeast coast in 2006, road has been the most popular way to reach Jiaosi and Yilan. Buses are run by the Kamalan Bus Company, and depart regularly from the fourth floor of the Taipei Bus Station (opposite Taipei Main Station) and also from Taipei City Hall Station (closer to Taipei 101). The journey takes approximately an hour and a half (in good traffic) and costs NT100.
Jiaosi is also perfectly reachable by train, which should be the preferred option if coming from anywhere other than Taipei. Local trains from Taipei take two hours and cost NT128; it's also possible to take a faster train to Yilan, and then take a slower train back to Jiaoxi; this is the best option if coming from Hualien. Please note that most but not all express trains stop at Jiaoxi, so check with staff first. Some trains from Yilan (ten minutes south of Jiaoxi) don't stop until Songshan Station in Taipei, an hour and a half away.
|Rest Site on the Wufongci Waterfall hiking path|
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