The Maokong Gondola is a cable car that takes you over the trees to the top of Taipei’s Maokong Mountain. Rated as one of the top activities to do in Taipei I decided to give it a try. Besides knowing that it was a highly rated activity, I didn’t do much research- I just went with the flow.
The gondola proved to be a lot bigger and take more time than I thought it would. I guessed it would only be a couple of hours long (inclusive of getting off and looking around). But there is a lot more to see than I thought and in retrospect we were going up a whole mountain. With this in mind you should get an early start to your day for this activity.
To get onto the gondola I recommend using your EASYCARD as payment. You can just tap your card at the entrance and enter- just like you were getting onto the subway. The price depends how far up you go. Bonus- EASYCARD holders receive a NT $20 discount on weekdays.
Once you scan your EASYCARD there will be two different lines. One line will be for a regular gondola and the second will be for a glass bottom one- so you can see the view below you. Since there are only a few glass bottom ones, you will be waiting in this line a lot longer. I recommend just going in the regular line.
I went in the regular line and on the way back down we ended up getting a glass bottom one anyway. I didn’t find it that exciting. But that’s coming from a girl who has jumped 134m down into a valley.
Once you get on the Gondola there will be three stops on the way up. You can chose to get off at any stop or just stay on the gondola to skip it. The following are the stops:
Stop 1: Taipei Zoo South Station
You can get to the zoo from the subway station so I think that this gondola stop exists more for experience than for actual convenience. I didn’t visit the zoo so I can’t speak much about this stop.
Stop 2: Zhinan Temple
A lot of people skipped this stop but I don’t understand why. This was my favourite stop and my main reason for riding the gondola.
Once you get off of the gondola you will see a beautiful structure on a pond with a dragon in front of it. There is a small trail leading up behind the structure. We ventured up hoping to come across something cool, but other than a small lookout there wasn’t anything.
Then we headed through a gate and started walking down a road that we thought would lead us to the temple. About twenty minutes- and a bunch of giant spiders later- we came to the decision that we must be going the wrong way. So we turned around.
The second we turned around and saw temple! It was in the complete opposite direction that we had walked.
We headed back the way we came and it turns out that Zhinan Temple was just below where we got off of the gondola. Duh.
The Zhinan Temple was stunning with elaborate artwork painted on the walls and ceilings. It surprised me to find that there was no one else around besides a few locals praying.
I stepped inside and the Taoist temple and was in awe of the interior. There were traditional round doorways (I’m a sucker for round doorways) and the walls were covered in gold. I felt a calmness come over me as I walked through the temple in a relaxed state.
I saw a staircase and wanted to go up to explore more but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed up it. I saw a man and I tried to ask him if I was allowed up but he didn’t speak any English. So I decided to just go anyway. He didn’t stop me so I assumed that it was okay.
When I reached the second level I heard a graceful chanting. I peeked in and saw taoist monks dressed in beautiful clothing performing a ceremony. It was an incredible sight to witness.
Once I left the building I continued down the pathway to the next part of the temple. It wasn’t as elaborate but it was still neat to check out. My favourite part was the view of the mountains from the stone doorway.
It might have taken us a couple of wrong turns but I am happy that we made it to the temple because it was gorgeous to explore. And don’t worry- it is actually super obvious to find the temple is if you are running on more than just a couple of hours of sleep.
Stop 3: Maokong Gondola
This is the most popular stop and the main reason that most people take the gondola. When we stepped off the gondola the area was packed with people. Quite the contrast to the emptiness of the temple station.
The top of the mountain had some food stall but is mainly popular for it’s nice restaurants and tea houses. We were starving so we ate at the street vendors the second that we got off of the gondola. I wish my hangriness hadn’t gotten the best of me- right after we finished eating we realized that there were a lot of great restaurant options.
There was a windy road that seemed to lead towards the tea fields. We were pretty tired from walking the wrong way at the last stop that we didn’t do too much exploring here. I did notice that there was a small tent/shop renting out bicycles. This would be a great way to explore the area. Learn from my mistakes people.
From here you can head back down and you will likely need a nap.
Sunday & Tuesday-Thursday: 9 a.m.- 9p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 9a.m.-10p.m.
How to get there:
Take the Taipei Metro to the Taipei Zoo Station and then walk to the Maokong Gondola (you will see it from the train station- it is the opposite way of the zoo).