Changhua is one of Taiwan’s less visited cities and counties (Changhua City is the capital of Changhua County). It is on the central west coast of Taiwan, between Taichung and Yunlin, with mountainous Nantou to the east.
Changhua city is in the north of the county, bordering Taichung, and is even sometimes considered part of Greater Taichung. The city’s most famous sight is the huge Great Buddha on Baguashan – most people only catch glimpses of it as they whizz through the city on the train or National Freeway 1.
But the reason you are most likely to pay a visit to Changhua is the port town of Lukang, one of the most traditional towns in Taiwan. Its well-preserved temples and Old Street are the perfect place to experience authentic Taiwanese culture. It’s easiest to visit as a day-trip or overnight trip from Taichung.
Long home to coastal plains aboriginals, Changhua later became a base for Han Chinese as they took over the island. The Chinese built a bamboo fort there, hence it came to be known as “bamboo town” (半線城).
Over time, Changhua’s port town Lukang grew to become one of the most important settlements in Taiwan, second only to Tainan in the south (the capital at the time).
It is unique because it was decidedly never connected to the train line, so it remained very traditional. It has some of the oldest and best preserved temples in Central Taiwan, not to mention one of the country’s most traditional old streets.
Changhua city today is practically a suburb of Taichung city. It is home to 226,500 people, while Lukang’s population is around 85,000.
In total, 1.2 million are spread across the county. It’s actually the most populous county in Taiwan, ever since former counties like Taipei county, Taichung county, and Kaohsiung county were elevated to city status.
Getting to Changhua
If you want to visit the Great Buddha at Baguashan, it’s best to take the TRA (regular train) to Changhua Station. The Great Buddha is a 25-minute walk or short taxi ride from the station.
The traveling time from Taichung to Changhua station is only 15 to 25 minutes, so this could be an easy half-day trip. A direct train from Taipei could take anywhere from 2 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours, depending on which one you take (see my Taipei guide and Taiwan trains ticket buying guide).
By HSR, don’t make the mistake of going to Changhua HSR Station – it’s nowhere near the temple. Instead, ride the HSR from Taipei to Taichung (1 hour), then transfer to a local train from Xinwuri (connected to the HSR station) to Changhua Station (10 minutes). See my HSR guide for more info.
There’s also a direct bus from Taipei Bus Station to Lukang, Ubus 1652 (2.5 to 3 hrs, 6-10 departures daily).
Yet another option is to take the regular train to Changhua station, then rent a bicycle or scooter and ride to Lukang. Either can be rented just in front of the station. A local scooter license or IDP is needed for renting a scooter.
Where to Stay in Changhua
It’s pretty rare for international visitors to stay overnight in Changhua city. There isn’t much to see and do there besides Baguashan Temple and Great Buddha. If you do need to spend the night for whatever reason, try Hotel Taiwan Changhua (see on Booking / Agoda) near the train station or H. 1967 Guesthouse (see on Booking / Agoda) near Baguashan.
In Lukang, I had a great stay in one of the private rooms at Deer Park Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda). It was super clean, quiet, close to the Old Street, and had self-check in. And – you can’t miss it – there was a Totoro statue out front.
Top Things to Do in Changhua
Here are the main things to see and do in Changhua City, Lukang, and other places in Changhua county.
In Changhua city, the Great Buddha at Baguashan (八卦山大佛) is the top attraction. The 24-meter Buddha sits in meditation pose atop a hill overlooking the city. You can even climb up to rooms inside the statue for better views of the city.
There’s more to it than just the Buddha – there’s also a large temple behind him, giant stone lion, treetop skywalk, two tall pagodas, fountains, pavilions, and more. The temple combines elements and beliefs from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Only five minutes away from Baguashan Temple on foot, Changhua Confucius Temple is one of the oldest Confucius Temples in Taiwan.
It is far less visited or known than the famous Confucius Temples in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, or Kaohsiung and is worth a quick peek.
Lukang is Changhua’s biggest reason to visit. The township has over 200 historic temples, narrow ancient lanes, and the chance to try several traditional foods.
Lukang Old Street is a long, narrow lane with restored old shop fronts and red lanterns. There are many shops selling traditional crafts and snacks (see the “what to eat” section below).
The old street leads to Lukang Tianhou Temple, one of the most important Matsu temples in the country. There are several other delicious foods for sale around the temple.
Elsewhere in Lukang, it’s worth exploring Jiuqu Lane (九曲巷, or Lane of Nine Turns) and Breast Touching Lane (摸乳巷) – the name comes from the fact that it is so narrow, they considered that you couldn’t help but brush up against someone’s chest when passing by them.
Lukang Lungshan Temple and Wenwu Temple are two other especially significant historical temples.
The newer Lukang Glass Temple (Husheng Temple) on an island off the coast of Lukang (with bridge access) is built almost entirely of glass. It was built by a glass manufacturer on the island. The image on the main altar is Yushan, Taiwan’s tallest mountain, but made of glass.
Just outside of Lukang, there’s also a unique, or you might say bizarre, coral and shell temple called Changhua Seashell Temple (彰化貝殼廟) or Sanqing Sanyuan Shell Temple (三清三元宮貝殼廟). It’s reminiscent of Fufudingshan Shell and Coral Temple in New Taipei City.
Here’s my detailed guide to Lukang.
Other Places to Visit in Changhua
If you’ve got kids who love dinosaurs, Baiguoshan Theme Park is focused on dinos. The park is near Yuanlin, another town in Changhua.
Also near Yuanlin, Cheng Mei Cultural Park (成美文化園) is a beautiful manicured park with influences of Japanese, Hakka, Confucian, and Fujian culture.
Best Changhua Tours
I’m not aware of any tours in Changhua specifically or tours of Lukang. There are traditional bicycle rickshaws in Lukang, which you can hire to take you around.
How to Plan Your Changhua Itinerary
Visiting the Great Buddha in Changhua City can easily be done in a few hours from Taichung, so consider including this if you have a little extra time in Taichung and enjoy temples.
Lukang could easily be done as a day trip from Taichung. If you’re coming from Taipei, a day trip would be possible but quite long due to the travel time (6 hours return), so spending one night in Lukang like I did would be better.
What to Eat in Changhua
The most famous night market in Changhua City is Jincheng Night Market (精誠夜市). Read more about night markets in Taiwan here.
One traditional Taiwanese food that was invented in Changhua is ba-wan (肉圓), sometimes translated as “Taiwanese meatball”. In Changhua, locals also call it ba-hoe (肉回). The dish is now famous across Taiwan.
The dish consists of a ball of pork, sometimes with mushrooms and bamboo shoots, steamed inside a gelatinous pouch, and usually served with sauce and cilantro.
To find ba-wan anywhere in Changhua, just type “肉圓” into GoogleMaps and many spots will pop up. 彰化阿璋肉圓 near Changhua train station is especially popular. You won’t see them quite as much in Lukang, but you can find them here near Tianhou Temple.
On Lukang Old Street, one specialty you can’t miss is miancha (麵茶 or “flour tea”) – think of it as a hot cereal, but there are also shaved iced or slushy versions. You can find it here or here on the old street.
Another famous Lukang snack is phoenix eye cakes (鳳眼糕), which are small powdery cakes that melt in your mouth. This shop on the old street is a good spot to try them. Yu Zhen Zai Bakery on the main street in town is a name recognized across Taiwan. They also have phoenix eye cakes and other baked items, but are a little pricier.
Around Tianhou Temple, popular street foods include oyster omelets, ox tongue cookies (牛舌餅), and monkey shrimp (蝦猴), which are little mud shrimps deep fried and served with basil.
Lukang is the best place in Taiwan to watch dragon boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival (5th day of the 5th lunar month). Usually the festival results in a three-day long weekend, with races throughout the weekend.
While most cities in Taiwan just have races and maybe a few food stalls, Lukang’s Dragon Boat Festival comes with a plethora of traditional activities, like Taiwanese puppet performances, drumming, street carnivals, and more. Read about the history of the dragon boat festival in Lukang here.