Though Taiwan is brimming with natural attractions, few captivate the masses like Sun Moon Lake. A beautiful gem created by mountains and water, this lake seems like a world unto itself.
Nestled in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range, Sun Moon Lake (日月潭 ) is Taiwan’s largest body of water. It’s renowned for its natural beauty, in which misty mountains and lush green forest embrace a vast calm lake. The lake’s eastern end has a round shape like the sun, while its western end is curved like the crescent moon. Hence, it’s named Sun Moon Lake.
Interestingly, the lake is actually man-made. It was formed as the result of a hydroelectric power project in the 1930s. Over time, the dam operation had raised the water level and merged two smaller reservoirs into present-day Sun Moon Lake. Now, the lake is one of Taiwan’s most famous scenery, attracting over six million visitors each year.
1. The Lake
The first time I stood on the shore of Sun Moon Lake, I couldn’t understand what the hype was all about. The lake is undoubtedly beautiful, yet it lacked the extraordinary. It wasn’t until I admired the lake from a higher vantage point that I finally saw its true magic. During the early morning hours, Sun Moon Lake is cloaked in a dreamy veil of haze. The water is so calm, mirroring the deep blue shade of the sky.
As the sun rises above the mountain, the lake slowly reveals the profiles of surrounding mountains and trees, turning it into the forest’s color. At dusk, Sun Moon Lake is painted in a golden hue, transforming the serene landscape into a mystical wonderland. Each hour casts the lake in a different light, and every so often, it evokes poetic and romantic scenes from Chinese landscape paintings.
2. Wenwu Temple
There is no better place to admire the lake’s beauty than the terrace of the Wenwu Temple ( 日月潭文武廟). Reclined on a verdant hill on the lake’s northern side, this Confucian temple boasts a sweeping vista of the landscape. Previously, there were two temples on the coast of Sun Moon Lake. But due to the dam construction, they were destroyed and consolidated into Wenwu Temple in 1938. Later, when Sun Moon Lake became a tourist attraction, the temple was renovated and expanded.
Similar to Taipei National Concert Hall, Wenwu Temple appears like an imposing Chinese palace. It consists of three separate halls and is devoted to a variety of deities, including the First Ancestor Kaiji, the warrior-god Yue Fei, and obviously Confucius. As I ascended to these halls, I noticed wind chimes inscribed with blessings dangle from the guardrails. They glisten under the sunlight, making the stairway somewhat heaven-like.
Sun Moon Lake is indeed breathtaking. Yet it’s wise to get off the beaten track and explore the nearby area. After doing some research, I ended up in Jinlongshan (日月潭文武廟), a small mountain located about 10-15 kilometers from the lake. This mountain is known as a good place to watch the sunrise on the Central Mountain Range. It’s also famous for the sea of clouds, but unfortunately, I couldn’t see it this time.
After passing some twisted roads and a short walking trail, I finally reached the viewpoint before dawn. The sky was still dark and the mountain villages were still in slumber. The beauty of the landscape started to reveal when the sun comes up. Misty clouds gently swirled around the prominent mountains, turning them into islands among a sea of fog. Beneath the hazy veil, the street lights went off and the profile of the tranquil villages became visible. Though the sun was clouded on that day, the view is no less spectacular.
Tips for visiting Sun Moon Lake
- Taiwan Tourist Shuttle departed frequently from Taichung High-Speed Railway Station to Sun Moon Lake. Exit through Gate 5 on the first floor and go to Platform 3.
- The time and fare table is available on the bus service’s official website. There are also ticket packages and combo tickets which make your visit to the lake easier and more enjoyable.