26 Jun Views Over Taipei: Hiking Elephant Mountain and Visiting Taipei 101
Taipei is a stunning city filled with nature, history and modern skyscrapers. One of our favorite things to do when exploring a city is to visit an observation tower to get a view from above, and another is to find a hiking trail within city limits. So, when we were in Taipei, we decided to combine the two activities and have a day full of epic views of the city skyline: Elephant Mountain and Taipei 101.
First, we made our way to Elephant Mountain for some of the best city views you can find in Taipei. Then, we moseyed over to Taipei 101 to take in the city from one of the tallest buildings in the world. We had such a fun day looking at Taipei from a new angle, and the two adventures were the perfect complement to one another.
We wanted to soak up these adventures on a clear, sunny day, but unfortunately, we didn’t have many options for nice days during our week in Taiwan. Instead, we picked the day with the best weather forecast, and it turned out pretty decent…minus the dreary photos! The skies were gloomy, but we still had expansive views of the city in every direction.
Hiking Elephant Mountain
Any time we can go on a hike within city limits, we are on board. We love finding nature anywhere and everywhere and the juxtaposition of seeing skyscrapers but still feeling engulfed in nature is fun when you don’t have time to actually leave the city. Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan Trail) in Taipei, Taiwan, fits this bill exactly.
The hike up Elephant Mountain is short, only 15-20 minutes without stops, but there are a lot of stairs! We set out bright and early and took the Red Line to Xiangshan MRT Station in the Xinyi District. From there, we walked to the start of the trail through a quiet part of town. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the correct trail when you see a staircase marked with elephant signs. If you want more specific directions to the trailhead, here is a great guideto follow.
Basically, from start of the trail to the end, you will be scaling a massive staircase mostly engulfed by trees. We walked up the steep staircase with our calves burning, and we passed a few viewpoints with a peek of the city along the way.
It takes roughly 600 stairs to reach the final viewpoint on Elephant Mountain—it doesn’t sound like a lot, but with the heat and humidity (even on a cloudy day!) it can certainly wear you out. We were surprised to find we were the only ones at the top when we arrived. There’s nothing quite like peace and quiet on a usually busy trail.
We had a clear view of the city and Taipei 101 right in front of us. It was fascinating to see how tall Taipei 101 is compared to the rest of the buildings throughout the city. The gigantic building literally towers over the city with an imposing force.
To get back down the trail, you can go the way you came, and that’s exactly what we did. We had another adventure on our agenda for the day and we were getting excited!
Observation Tower at Taipei 101
After looking at Taipei 101 from afar, it was impossible not to visit the observation deck. We decided to walk from the Elephant Mountain trail to Taipei 101, and it took us around 20 minutes to get between the two.
We marveled at how colossal Taipei 101 appeared from the base. It seemed to disappear in the sky above us, and we couldn’t wait to get to the observation deck. Luckily for us, we arrived shortly after the observation deck’s 9 a.m. opening time, and there were absolutely no lines.
Micah and I bought our tickets and walked right onto one of the world’s fastest elevators. The elevator shoots from the 5thfloor to the 89thfloor in 37 seconds flat. With our ears popping, we watched the floors flick by on the monitor. In less than a minute, we were at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world.
When it opened in 2004, Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world. It held that record until 2010 when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed. Taipei 101 is (not surprisingly) 101 floors above ground, and it also has five basement levels. The building is 508 meters or 1,667 feet tall. In 2011, Taipei 101 received a platinum rating for LEED certification—it is now the tallest and largest green building in the world. Even though it is no longer the tallest building in the world, it is still a stunner and quite impressive.
In addition to the indoor observation floor, there is also an outside observation deck. We popped out onto the outside observation deck and came in moments before it closed due to high winds. Good timing, indeed!
Then, we spent the rest of our time exploring the displays around the 89thfloor and soaking in the views over the city. The observation floor was practically empty, perhaps due to our midweek visit and less than ideal weather. It was a relief that we didn’t have to push through any crowds to get a view out the window.
I loved how many of the skyscrapers around Taipei looked as though they were built right into the mountains. The city and nature mesh in such an intricate pattern when observed from the height of Taipei 101. Many of the buildings looked miniature from our height, and the traffic zoomed through the street like matchbox cars on a tiny track.
After an hour and a half with our faces glued to the windows, we decided it was time to head out and grab some lunch. It was excellent timing. Right after we made the decision to leave, the clouds rolled in and engulfed the building on all sides. The expansive views we had moments before were gone.
But first, to finish up our visit, we learned a bit about the design of the building and how it was built to withstand earthquakes and tropical storms, both of which are common in the region. In the middle of the building, you will find one more observation deck. This deck gives visitors a view of one of the many features that keeps the building stable: a giant “tuned mass damper” that counteracts the sway of the building. And giant is not an exaggeration…the damper is a 728 ton ball that is 18 feet across. The damper is suspended in the middle of the building, hangs from the 92ndto the 87thfloor, and it can sway up to 5 feet in all directions.
After learning about how the building stays standing, (and imagining what would happen if it didn’t work!) we were happy to head back down to earth. We jumpedf into the supersonic elevators and made our way to the ground floor of the building. In addition to the observation deck, Taipei 101 is home to offices, restaurants and even an adjoining shopping mall. It had been a busy morning for us, and we were starving. So, it was convenient that one of our favorite restaurants in Taipei also had a location at Taipei 101. We couldn’t resist heading back to Din Tai Fun for more xiaolongbao.
We arrived around 10:45, about 15 minutes prior to opening, and a line was slowly starting to form. We hopped in line and wrote down our order on the provided form. Soon, we were noshing on steamy hot xiaolongbao, fragrant beef noodle soup, and a pile of spicy cucumbers.
It was a wonderful way to close out a morning full of stunning city views!