While it’s tempting to want to visit during well-known Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year, Taiwan’s rich, diverse blend of cultures means the island has many of its own unique festivals.
Here are five amazing festivals in Taiwan that are not to be missed.
1. Taiwan Cycling Festival
Taiwan hasn’t earned its nicknames of the ‘Bicycle Kingdom’, ‘Cycling Capital of Asia’ and ‘Cycling Island’ for no reason. With a long history of manufacturing bikes on the island and a lot of money invested into cycling infrastructure over time, cycling is virtually a national recreation.
The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has organised the Taiwan Cycling Festival since 2010. Rather than being a singular event, it consists of various races and celebrations at many different locations running throughout the year. Both locals and visitors are encouraged to take part in. As well as a few relaxing and scenic routes for participants to enjoy, there are more challenging events for serious cyclists, such as the KOM (King of the Mountains) races.
2. Song Jiang Battle Array
Held in Neiman, a small town in Kaohsiung City, the Song Jiang Battle Array is an annual event organised by the city’s government and three temples in Neiman. The event itself often lasts for several days and coincides with 19th day of the second month on the lunar calendar, which is the Buddhist deity, Guanyin’s birthday. Originally an occasion to display Neiman’s deadly-efficient military skills since the 17th century, the event has since evolved into a spectacular display of traditional martial and performing arts, rituals and indigenous religion.
3. Ear-Shooting Festival
One of many indigenous festivals held in Taiwan, the Mala-Ta-Ngia (‘Ear-Shooting Festival’) is celebrated by the Bunun – one of the island’s aboriginal peoples. Traditionally a male rite-of-passage archery festival, young men would journey to the mountains to hunt animals with a bow and arrows. Those who could shoot the ear of a deer were considered the most skilled.
Nowadays, the festival is more geared towards tradition, and animal-shaped targets are used instead – although hunting sometimes still occurs. Spanning throughout April and May to coincide with the millet harvest, tourists are often welcome to the festivities in Taitung, and are invited to watch the rituals.
4. Taichung Mazu International Festival
The Taichung Mazu International Festival celebrates Mazu’s birthday – Taiwan’s goddess of the sea. Occurring on the third month of the lunar calendar, the event includes a nine-day-long pilgrimage from Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia Taichung to Fengtian Temple in Chiayi.
The ritual is around 300 years old, and a statue of Mazu is carried around from temple to temple. Free vegetarian snacks are given out to pilgrims along the way. And with hundreds of millions of Mazu followers across both Taiwan and South China, it’s guaranteed to be a bustling event every year.
5. Taipei Beef Noodle Soup Festival
Last but not least, foodies will love this tasty festival. Beef noodle soup is Taiwan’s national dish, and is so loved that it has its own annual celebration – usually in September or October. Held in the capital, Taipei, the festival sees restaurants across the world cooking up their signature versions of the dish in the hopes of being crowned with the title ‘best beef noodle soup’. Members of the public can visit the event and taste lots of different kinds of noodles at various stalls – in 2022, the event was held at Taipei Expo Park Yuanshan Area.
The competition is often split into several categories, for example by the type of broth (tomato, red-braised, stewed, tomato, and creative).
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