A Maokong Gondola Guide: Best Teahouses, Hikes, and Taipei Views

A Taiwanese mother and her two young kids sitting inside a gondola with glass floor and sides and view of Taipei 101 in distance

Makong Gondola (貓空纜車) is the only gondola/cable car in Taipei City and one of Taiwan’s most popular attractions. Located at the southeastern edge of the city, it whisks passengers up from Taipei Zoo to a region of hilltop oolong tea plantations.

Maokong feels like a world away from Taipei, with its laid back teahouses and network of hiking trails, including one to a small temple buried in the jungle. The area has some of the best views of Taipei 101 and the Taipei city far below.

There’s no doubt that Maokong is one of the most touristy attractions in Taipei, but with this guide, you can still get off-the-beaten track there.

Below I’ll introduce the four on Maokong Gondola, normal cars vs Crystal Cabins, the easiest way to combine your visit with Taipei Zoo, the best teahouses, restaurants with tea-infused foods, and hikes at the top!

Maokong Gondola Introduction

An aerial view of Maokong Gondola, with several cable cars crossing over a forested mountain and a double lane highway visible far below
Maokong Gondola rises above Highway 3

Maokong (貓空) literally means “cat holes”, which most likely refers to the presence of civets in the past (the animal family group which civets belong to has the cat character in its name) as well as potholes. Because mao means “cat”, you’ll see some cat statues and cat-shaped cookies at Maokong.

Taiwan is known for its high quality tea, and Maokong is one of the few places where tea grows right in the capital city (another spit not too far from it is Pinglin in New Taipei City).

Looking down at a terraced tea farm, with some workers harvesting the leaves on the top right, and forested mountain slopes on the top left
Workers on a tea plantation at Maokong

The main teas produced in Maokong area are baozhong tea (包種茶, also spelled Baochung or Paochung), which is a lighter oolong with subtle melon fragrance, and tieguanyin tea (鐵觀音茶 or Iron Goddess), which is a slightly darker oolong with a roasted flavor.

Learn more about either in my guide to Taiwanese teas.

For tea lovers, read my guide to Shizhuo, the best place in Taiwan to sleep on a tea plantation, or find other tea plantations around Taiwan here.

Two shelves inside of white fridge, with the top one holding about a dozen plastic bottles of light green iced tea, and the bottom containing a similar number of brown iced tea, with a tea bag visible inside each bottle
Iced baozhong (top) and tieguayin (bottom), the two oolong teas produced in Maokong

While there have long been roads up to the tea growing area, Maokong Gondola wasn’t built until 2007. This was well after Taipei Zoo was moved from the Taipei city center to this location (1986) and the Taipei Zoo MRT station opened (1996).

The Maokong Gondola line has 4 stations: Taipei Zoo, Taipei Zoo South, Zhinan Temple, and Maokong.

A diagram showing the four stations of Maokong Gondola, the elevation of each one, and price to ride the cable car between them.
The four stations of Maokong Gondola

The majority of passengers board the gondola at Taipei Zoo, which is not right in the zoo but 350 meters (5 min walk) from Taipei Zoo MRT station and the zoo entrance.

Taipei Zoo South is a less-used stop which provides access to the upper end of the zoo (Taipei Zoo is built on a hill). Zhinan Temple, the third stop, has a cool temple complex.

Most people ride directly to Maokong, which has dozens of traditional teahouses (茶館 or cha guan), restaurants, and hiking trails.

A red gondola car rising up the mountain, with green hills and Taipei 101 skyscraper visible in the distance
Taipei 101 viewed from Maokong Gondola

You’ll enjoy some amazing views of Taipei while riding the gondola. Once you arrive at Maokong, the city views are partially obstructed, with only the tip of Taipei 101 visible, and only from certain spots.

You also won’t see that many actual tea farms while riding the gondola, and only a few of the teahouses there actually overlook tea farms. You’ can see more by hiking’ll need to explore the area on foot to see more tea farms.

For even better tea plantation views, I suggest heading to Pinglin or to other tea-growing regions in Taiwan, like Shizhuo in Alishan region.

Maokong Gondola Essential Info

A wide city view, with mountain in the background, and a cable car line at the bottom
The gondola rises above the outskirts of Taipei City

To avoid disappointment, there are a few key things to note about Maokong Gondola.

Here I’ll introduce the opening hours, best tours, how to get there, ticket prices, pass options, regular cars vs Crystal Cabins, riding times, and accessibility of Maokong Gondola.

Opening Times

A cable car tower, with about a dozen cable cars in motion and green forest in the background
Crossing a valley between Zhinan Temple and Maokong station

Maokong Gondola operates from 9 AM to 9 PM (or till 10 PM on national holidays). This means you can even ride up/down in the dark, and the nighttime views of the city are very cool!

The gondola is closed every Monday (unless the Monday is a national holiday or the first Monday of the month). Note that the zoo is still open on Mondays.  

The gondola also closes anytime the weather gets too windy or rainy (especially during summer typhoons or periods of heavy rain).

Around once per year, Maokong Gondola closes for 1-2 weeks for maintenance. For example, in 2022, it was closed from Nov. 27 to Dec 10. In 2023 it was closed from June 8 to 21. In 2024, it was closed from January 15 to 22.

Check for updates about possible closures here before you visit. Also note, even if the gondola is closed, you can still visit Maokong area by bus or private tour.

Best Maokong Tours

Looking down at the terraces of a tea farm with some palm trees and turquoise water below
Bagua Tea Plantation in Pinglin, which you can see on a Maokong & Pinglin tour

Most people visit Maokong on their own, since it is very easy to ride the MRT there and take the gondola by yourself.

However, anyone interested in tea should consider this Maokong & Pinglin day tour. Pinglin’s tea plantations are more beautiful than those in Maokong, but harder to get to on your own. Pinglin also has an excellent tea museum.

There’s also this private tour combining Maokong & Shenkeng Old Street. The street is famous for stinky tofu – see my Shenkeng Old Street guide for the details.

Getting There on Your Own

Looking out the rectangular front window of an MRT line, with the tracks going forward then curving at the end, and station platform visible on left side
Looking out the front of the driverless MRT Brown Line

The easiest way to get to Maokong Gondola is by riding the Taipei MRT Brown Line (the above-ground driverless one!) to Taipei Zoo station, the terminal stop.

The riding time from Da’an Station (Red Line) is 19 minutes or from Zhongxiao Fuxing (Blue Line) is 21 minutes.

Insider tip: Since you’ll be riding the Brown Line to get there, consider stopping at Da’an Station on the way to eat at Yonghe Soymilk King, one of the best traditional breakfast shops in Taipei. It’s open almost all day!

A raised MRT line, with MRT crossing it, and mountainous background with blue sky above
The MRT Brown Line arriving at Taipei Zoo station, shot from Maokong Gondola Statation

Arriving at Taipei Zoo station, when you exit the MRT station, the Taipei Zoo entrance will be just to the right. For Maokong Gondola, turn left and walk five minutes. There are no convenience stores on the way but there are sometimes a few vendors selling souvenirs or snacks/drinks.

Arriving at the large gondola station, there may be a line outside on busy days. There are also machines for buying Maokong Gondola tickets or passes (more info on those below).

All four stations have such machines, and machines can also be used to top up your EasyCard if needed.

The front entrance to Taipei Zoo Station of Maokong Gondola, with the doors at the bottom, sign at the top, and cute cartoonish pictures of the gondola above
Entrance to Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station

If you plan to swipe your EasyCard to ride the Gondola, you don’t need to do anything here. Just enter the station and go up!

You’ll swipe your card on the top floor. There are often people standing around the entrance, confused about what to do. If that’s the case, just walk past them!

Inside, there are stairs, escalators, and elevators going up to the 4th floor gondola boarding area. You can swipe your EasyCard or pass on the 4th floor just before boarding.

There’s also a ticket booth and help desk on the fourth floor, in case you have any issues. See my EasyCard guide for more information about using this smartcard.

A group of about 10 people waiting to board gondolas in a gondola station
You’ll swipe in here before boarding the gondola.

There are also buses from Taipei Zoo to Maokong and back. These are faster and cheaper than taking the gondola, but of course not as scenic. One option to save a little money and time is to ride the gondola up and then take a bus back down.

Bus BR15 goes from this bus stop in the middle of the main road in front of Taipei Zoo entrance and Taipei Zoo MRT station to Maokong Gondola Station bus stop (located across the road from Maokong Station). The ride takes 18 minutes (almost twice as fast as the gondola) and costs TWD 15. To ride the same bus back down, catch it at the exact same stop.

Other buses also go down from this stop on the same side of the street as the station, or opposite the above stop (visible in picture below). Use GoogleMaps directions to decide which stop will have a bus coming next. Taxis also usually wait in the latter spot.

A grassy hill which says the word "Maokong" in purple flowers, a gondola station behind it, and a bus stop in front on the left side.
Maokong Station, with the bus stop on the left

Ticket Prices and Pass Options

Two ticket machines side by side, with instructions and diagrams for purchasing Maokong Gondola tickets
Only use the Maokong ticket machine if you aren’t swiping with EasyCard

The easiest way to ride Maokong Gondola is to swipe your EasyCard (see my EasyCard guide). The one-way ride from Taipei Zoo to Maokong Station costs TWD 120.

If you only ride one stop (for example Taipei Zoo to Taipei Zoo South), that will cost TWD 70, and two stops (for example Taipei Zoo to Zhinan Temple) will cost TWD 100.

If you swipe with EasyCard, there is a TWD 20 discount per ride on weekdays (non-holidays). If you used your EasyCard to enter Taipei Zoo earlier on the same day, you’ll also get a TWD 20 discount on the gondola.

A young boy kneeling ojn the glass floor of a gondola with trees visible below
Kids under 6 ride free

Children aged 0-6 ride Maokong Gondola free, just like the MRT.

Children aged 6-12, seniors, and the disabled get a discounted rate of TWD 50 per ride, but you’ll need to show valid ID at the ticket window to get this rate. You won’t get it if you swipe your Concessionaire EasyCard – concessionaire fares for the MRT and gondola are the same as adult EasyCards.

At the machine, ticket window, or here on Klook, you can buy a one-day unlimited Maokong Gondola Pass for TWD 260. This is only worth the money if you plan to make more than two stops, and only on weekends or holidays.

A car of the Maokong Gondola passing by a tall pole

For example, Taipei Zoo to Zhinan Temple (100), Zhinan Temple to Maokong (70), and Maokong back to Taipei Zoo (120) would cost 290 if you swiped EasyCard on the weekend. On weekdays, the fares are lower, so the pass isn’t even worth the money.

You can also get one day of unlimited rides on the Taipei MRT and Maokong gondola for TWD 350 with the Taipei Transport Fun Pass (Maokong add-on option) or for 1-3 days with the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass (see my fun pass guide for all the details).

See more info about Maokong Gondola ticket prices and passes here.

Normal Cars vs Crystal Cabin

Three cable cars (one yellow, one red, and one blue) curving around inside a gondola station boarding area, with cute cartoon illustrations on their sides
From the outside, regular and crystal cabins look the same.

When you reach the fourth floor of Taipei Zoo gondola station, you’ll notice there are two queues: the one on the left is for regular cars while the one on the right is for Crystal Cabins.

Crystal Cabin refers to cars with a glass floor, which you can watch the scenery through. I recommend trying this at least once, unless you have children who might scared. I’ve taken my kids as toddlers – while my son was OK with it, my daughter was terrified.

Looking into a Maokong cable car with its doors open and a glass floor at the bottom
Crystal Cabins have a glass floor.

Only about every third or fourth car is a Crystal Cabin. This means that even if the Crystal Cabin line seems shorter, it will move much slower. The same thing goes for riding from Maokong back to Taipei Zoo.

The price for either car type is the same. You swipe your EasyCard just before boarding. If your card doesn’t have enough balance, you can reload it at the desk next to the line, but you may lose your spot in line.

Both car types can seat up to 8 people. However, unless it’s super busy, they usually space it out. Most of the times I’ve got, my companions and I got our our car. When alone, I’ve usually been put with only 2 or 3 other people.

Riding Time

Looking down at two feet in black shoes, on a glass floor, with the rows of a tea planation visible under it
Looking down from a Crystal Cabin at a tea farm

The total riding time of Maokong Gondola varies quite a bit because it doesn’t always run at the same speed. The full journey from Taipei Zoo station to Maokong station can take anywhere from 17 to 37 minutes, but around 25-30 minutes is normal.

It only takes a few minutes from Taipei Zoo station to Taipei Zoo South station. Then Zhinan Temple is roughly halfway between Taipei Zoo South and Maokong station.

Accessibility

All four stations of Maokong Gondola are wheelchair and stroller friendly, with elevators. The cable car doors open wide enough to allow a wheelchair or large stroller to enter.

The cabins get quite hot in summer – a small window is usually open at the top to provide some air flow but there’s no AC inside.

Thing to Do at the 4 Maokong Gondola Stations

Now I’ll cover the main things to see and do at each of the four stations on Maokong Gondola. Of course you’ll find the most info for the last one, Maokong station.

Taipei Zoo Station

Looking down the wire of a cable car at the bottom station, with city and hill behind
Riding up from Taipei Zoo Station

There’s nothing more to say about Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station (貓空動物園站) than I’ve already introduced above. I shot the above photo looking back at the station just after taking off.

Taipei Zoo South Station

A tiger walking past some bushes towards the camera
Access the top of the zoo from Taipei Zoo South Station

The only reason to get on or off the gondola at Taipei Zoo South Station (動物園南站) is to access the upper entrance to Taipei Zoo.

There are two ways you can do this, but my recommended way is to ride the Gondola to Maokong first, then ride it back down to Taipei Zoo South Station and get off there to access the top of Taipei Zoo.

Taipei Zoo is built on a hill, so it’s easier to start at the top and work your way downhill through the zoo to the main entrance at the bottom, which is near Taipei Zoo MRT.

When you get off at Taipei Zoo South, there will be a small train car which will take you from the gondola station to the Taipei Zoo Bird World Station here at the top of the zoo. From there, you can work your way down through the zoo, finishing at the bottom.

Looking down on the upper half of a Formosan black bear as it lies on its back against a wall, with eyes closed, taking a nap, and white V shape visible on its neck
Snoozing Formosan black bear at Taipei Zoo

If you visit the zoo first, it’s going to be a little more troublesome and tiring to connect to the gondola. Here’s why:

After entering the zoo’s main entrance next to Taipei Zoo MRT station, visit the Children’s Area (left), Taiwanese animal area (right), and Giant Panda House.

From there, you’ll need to walk uphill through the zoo, which will be more tiring. Once you reach the top, you can connect to Taipei Zoo South station on the gondola.

There’s also a train car that goes from Giant Panda House the top of the zoo (TWD 5 per ride), but then you miss all the animal areas in the middle. You’ll need to walk part way down to see the different animal areas, then back up to the top to connect to Taipei Zoo south station.

Note that this train car gets crazy long lines at busy times.

Zhinan Temple Station

An orange and red Taoist shrine in a pond in the foreground, with tall gondola station tower in background and one gondola car arriving at it
Zhinan Temple station

Zhinan Temple Station (貓空纜車指南宮站) is named after Zhinan Temple (指南宮, also spelled Chih Nan Temple), the large temple complex beside it.

To the left (east side) when you get off, there’s a small Taoist shrine and pond (仙山靝龍, see above photo).

On the right (west side) lies the main temple complex, which actually consists of three large temples in different spots on the mountain slope.

A path beside a tree that's covered in red hanging banners, leading to the square in front of a temple with view of the city
The path from gondola station to Linxiao Temple

From the station, walk towards the main temple complex, keeping to the right. In two minutes, you’ll reach the first of the three temple buildings, called Linxiao Temple (指南宮凌霄寶殿), here.

A connected trail, which is partially covered, leads further (5 min) to another large hall called Chunyang Temple (純陽寶殿, here), with some smaller shrines between the two.

Finally, if you keep following the trail around the mountain, you reach the third one, Daxiong Temple (大雄寶殿, here).

A large, milti-story temple building with orange, red, and blue components, and some palm trees in front of it
Linxiao temple

From the last temple, there’s a walking path directly back to the station. In total, budget about 45 minutes to visit all three temples, or just 15 minutes to visit only the first one.

A large Taiwanese temple hugging the side of a mountain with view of buildings of Taipei city beyond
Daxiaong Temple shot from afar

If you decide to stop at this station, you’ll need to pay TWD 50 more for your gondola ride (TWD 100 from Taipei Zoo to Zhinan Temple + 70 from Zhinan Temple to Maokong = 170) instead of 120 for the direct ride from Taipei Zoo to Maokong.

That’s only USD 1.50 difference.

A view of Taipei 101 in the distance, with a green tree frame it on the left side
Taipei 101 view from Zhinan Temple

Is it worth the money and time? In my opinion, if you’re already templed out, or if you’ve got a busy day, you don’t really need to bother.

However, if you’re in no major rush, then it’s worth the time. Few tourists stop at the temple, so it’s never busy, and there’s a commanding view of the city.

Maokong Station

A stylized, multicolor statue of a cat in front of a gondola station with the words "Maokong Station" at the top
Maokong Station

Now we’ve come to the final and most important station, Maokong Station (貓空站, here on GoogleMaps). The station includes a Visitor’s Information Center offering maps of the all the teahouse locations, a HiLife convenience store, and restrooms.

The station exit leads to a main road (Zhinan Rd. Sect. 3 Lane 138). Most of the area’s teahouses and shops can be accessed by walking 10-15 minutes to the right or left along this road – I’ll cover each direction in separate sections below.

How to Have Tea or Tea Infused Foods at Maokong

A white plate with a heaping mound of thin white noodles surrounded by greenish-yellow sauce
Tea oil noodles

Most teahouses at Maokong also serve food. The main specialty here a variety of tea-infused foods, like tea ice cream (especially right outside Maokong station), tea oil noodles, tea oil chicken, deep fried tealeaves, chicken with tea oil, fried rice with tealeaves, tea roasted eggs, tea essence tofu, and more.

You can just have tea at any of them, but there will usually be a minimum charge of around TWD 200 or one drink per person.

A hand holding up a soft serve ice cream that is green and brown swirl, with a green cat shaped cookie on it
Maokong’s famous baozhong and tieguanyin oolong tea-flavored ice cream

Many teahouses are aimed at groups – locals consider drinking tea a social affair. The tea menu might seem expensive (TWD 350 to 1000 per tea, depending on the tea type) – that’s because you’re paying for a small bag of tea (usually 50 or 75 grams).

This is enough to make many rounds of tea for a group of people. Locals will spend hours doing it. Any tealeaves you don’t use can be taken home after.

On top of the charge for the tea itself, there will be a “water fee” of TWD 50 to 100 per person. This is essentially a service fee for all the tea brewing and water boiling equipment they provide. You can even bring your own preferred tea and just pay the water fee, but the fee will be a little higher.

A small tea cup and tea press full of green-colored tea on a wooden ledge, with a natural view beyond
Having tea with a Taipei view is the quintessential Maokong experience (shot at Shiao Mu teahouse)

Only some teahouses have a cheaper individual drink menu – if the price is around 150 to 250, that’s probably going to be for just one person.

They’ll usually give you more simple teaware and a hot water kettle so you can refill your pot or tea press several times. There usually isn’t a water fee for this.

If you’d like to have individual tea like this, then I recommend Shiao Mu Teahouse (貓空小木屋, here). Their menu has a price for an individual (單人, TWD 190 to 290) or a couple (雙人, TWD 260 to 360).

Another good option is Ice Climber (雪敲, here), which has extremely good cakes, pastries, and shaved ice desserts, as well as individual and couple pots of tea. I’ll give more details below on how to find these two shops.

There are others, but it’s best to find out before you commit to a place – always ask to see the menu before you sit –often its posted out front – or check menu pictures in the reviews on GoogleMaps.

Three wooden shelves holding colorful tins and bags of Maokong tea
Locally produced teas in a Maokong shop

Taiwanese oolongs are meant to have several short brews. Stick to 30 seconds for the first brew, then increase to 45 seconds on the second, 1 minute on the third, and so on. Don’t let your tealeaves soak for crazy long right off the bat (like 3-5 minutes), as Western people do. The tea will be bitter.

I recommend ordering one of the two main teas grown in this area, baozhong or tieguanyin. Other teas from around Taiwan, like Alishan High Mountain tea or Oriental Beauty, or Pu-er tea from China, will also be available.

You can also buy tealeaves to take away from the shops by Maokong station (see above pic) or from most teahouses.

Shops Around the Station

A shop front with signs for soft serve ice cream and a tall ice cream statue with cat shaped holder
There’s a row of shops selling the famous tea ice cream.

Some visitors don’t even make it more than a few steps away from Maokong Station. That’s because there are several shops right around the station.

Opposite the station and a few steps to the right, there are three connected shops selling tea, tea-related snacks, and tea-flavored soft serve ice cream.

The three shops are Guanding Tea Garden (貓空觀鼎茶園), Maokong Yangtai (貓空暘臺), and Maokong Tea House (貓空茶屋). You can’t miss them right across the street when you come out of the station.

A young boy holding a tea-flavored soft ice cream cone with a cat-shaped cookie on top
My son debating whether he should eat the tea-flavored cat

The soft serve ice cream is a must. It’s honestly one of my main reasons to go to Maokong.

The green one is not green tea but baozhong oolong while the brown one is tieguanyin. While it’s tempting to get the mixed option, I tried, and this messes up the two flavors – I recommend sticking to just one flavor or the other. You wouldn’t mix red and white wine, would you?

Although you can sit and have tea in these shops, it’s better to walk further for a teahouse with a view. I usually buy some bottled iced tea from one of these shops before going back down to Taipei Zoo.

A couple dozen eggs sitting in a bed of tealeaves in a basket with a sign saying "tea roasted eggs" in Mandarin
Tea roasted eggs

As for the cute, tea-flavored, cat-shaped cookie they put on top of the ice cream, you can buy packs of them in the shops, which makes for a fun snack souvenir from Taiwan.

The last shop (Maokong Teahouse) also sells eggs roasted in tealeaves – an interesting variation of tea eggs, which are usually boiled in tea and other spices.

If you walk one minute in the other direction (east), there’s a small collection of food vendors here, selling simple street foods like deep fried sweet potato balls, green onion cakes, stinky tofu, sausages, fried noodles, and braised pork rice – perfect for a cheap and quick lunch.

A couple of food vendors preparing foods, with a sign on the front of the stall showing their menus
Food vendors a few steps to the left of the station

For a sit-down meal in a traditional setting, Maokong Siye (貓空四爺, here) is a Chinese food restaurant and teahouse. It’s just a few steps down the road which some buses take back to Taipei Zoo.

The classical interior is oozing with atmosphere, with fountains and glass floors with koi fish swimming in a pond below. Try the colorful steamed buns, fried rice shaped like a pyramid, and several dishes infused with tea flavor. Seating is in private rooms.

A classical Chinese teahouse setting, with fountains, traditional decorations, flowers, and private rooms
Traditional setting in Siye Restaurant

Just a few more steps down the same road, Sunyang Teahouse (上暘茶莊, here) has one of the best views in Maokong.

If you’ve come too Maokong mainly for hiking, then you can access the network of trail as soon as you get off the gondola. Follow the staircase with cat statues going up directly opposite the station here.

Two stone cat statues in front of a blue and gray staircase
Take this stairs across from the gondola station to start hiking.

The trail will take you uphill to a high ridge here, right on the border between Taipei and New Taipei City, from where it’s possible to connect to Yinhe Cave & Waterfall Trail.

However, if your main goal is to hike to Yinhe Cave, it will be faster to walk walk right along the car road and access the trail system further down (I’ll provide more details for both ways below).

Teahouses and Hikes to the Right (West)

A wide city view with hills, buildings, Taipei 101 on the right, and mountains behind
Typical view from the teashops I’ll recommend below

If you only go one way from Maokong Station, choose right (west) for the closest teashops with views and to access the best hike in the area (Yinhe Cave & Waterfall).

Going right from the station, after you pass the three ice cream shops I described in the last section, the road will curve and then pass the remains of a traditional kiln here. Across from the kiln, there’s a shaved ice shop here in a traditional home but with limited opening hours.

A cat statue and sign that indicates a hiking trail in Mandarin
Hiking trail sign

Just after the above, if you’d like to actually see a tea farm up close, follow a small scooter road down to the right, with a sign saying Camphor Tree Trail in Mandarin (樟樹步道, here). It’s directly opposite a cat statue (see picture above), which points the way to Yinhe Cave Trail (see next section).

Camphor Tree Trail goes down to a small pond and tea plantation. It’s only a few minutes down, but don’t forget you will have to walk back up! The trail does continue further past the pond – if you’re interested, here’s a map of the trail.

An expansive view with a trail and railing past tea fields at the bottom and distant view of Taipei city and Taipei 101 in the distance
Camphor Trail viewed from the main road

Note that the tea plantations here and elsewhere at Maokong will look very different by season – between harvests, the fields may be empty or all brown.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when will look the best, because oolong tea can be harvested more than once per year and the exact times depend on the weather, exact location of the farm plot, tea varietal, etc.

According to a local I asked there, the tea fields look their nicest in January and February. But it’s it’s still possible to sea nice tea fields in many other months – all my pics here were shot in October.

A patio with two tables with white seats and large white umbrellas with view of forested hills and city beyond
View from Shiao Mu Teahouse

Returning the main road and continuing to the right, the road passes four teashops which I believe have the best views at Maokong. These are my go-to spots whenever I go to Maokong.

In the order that you’ll pass them, the shops are: Daguanyuan (貓空大觀園, here), Longmen Restaurant (貓空龍門客棧, here), Shiao Mu Teahouse (貓空小木屋, here), and Spring Tea County (春茶鄉, here).

If you’re just doing tea, and especially if you are only 1 or 2 people, I recommend Shiao Mu Teahouse, which has individual tea sets. The other three are more focused on meals and tea for groups.

Yinhe Cave & Waterfall Trail

A small temple built into a cliff with all kinds of vegetation hanging from it and small stream pouring down
Yinhe (Silver Stream) Cave

My favorite hike at Maokong is to Silver Stream Cave (銀河洞 Yinhe Cave or Yinghe Dong, here).

The trail includes a fair bit of stairs, both up and down, some tea farm views and rural scenery, and leads to a small but impressive temple built into a cliff buried in the jungle.

The temple definitely has spiritual or magical aura and feels semi-abandoned. A trail leads up through it to some caves with statues and a small waterfall pouring down between them.

This is definitely a hidden gem and worth the trek! Even though it’s so close to Maokong, it’s very much off-the-beaten track (see other off-the-beaten-track places in Taipei here).

Looking down at a temple built into a cliff wall
View from inside the cave (note the water spilling down)

Because there are a few different ways to reach it, and a few important turns on the trail, I suggest using a map for this hike. This AllTrails map shows how to hike there from the gondola (the staircase opposite the station which I mentioned in the last section), which is a longer route taking 2 to 2.5 hours return.

However, I usually take a shorter/more direct route which only takes about 1.5 hours return. The trail starts at a driveway (marked by cat statue – see picture in the last section) directly opposite Daguanyuan Teahouse and Camphor Tea Trail.

You can see the dotted lines of this trail on the AllTrails map, just a few steps down the white road from the starting point.

Teahouses and Hikes to the Left (East)  

Looking across a sea of greenery at Maokong gondola station on the top left and down at Taipei city on the top right
View of Maokong station as you venture east

Turning left once you exit Maokong Station will also provide access to several more teahouses (arguably with the best city views), restaurants, tea plantations, hiking trails, and the Tea Promotion Center (15 min walk one-way).

Just out of the station, you’ll pass the small collection of food vendors I already described above. A few minutes after that, you’ll start getting your first city views.

View of Taipei city with gondolas passing by across the scene at the bottom
Going left will provide views of the gondola rising above Taipei

After a few more minutes, the road curves and you’ll see a sign pointing left down a trail into the forest to Lazy Day Café (小日子lazyday, here).

This simple café and teahouse is buried in the forest. You won’t get Taipei views, but it does have a peaceful, natural setting and very friendly owners.

Just past the sign for Lazy Day, there’s another great café: Ice Climber (雪敲, here) – this one’s more modern in design, with super tasty cakes, pastries, shaved ice desserts, individual or couple teas, and a large window with excellent Taipei view.

A statue of a whoite cat with black Xs for eyes, wearing a silver jacket, and holding a green soft serve ice cream cone
The cat tea ice cream is also available here.

Across the street from Ice Climber, there’s similarly good choice: Maokong Café Alley (貓空CAFE巷, here). Besides tea for 1 or 2 people, they serve Western food and the same tea-flavored soft serve ice cream that you can find at Maokong station.

Continuing along, there are several more teahouse/restaurant choices, with the picks of the bunch being Qing Quan Villa (貓空清泉山莊, here, focused on food), Cats Got Nothing to Do Café (貓空閒咖啡, here, coffee, creamy/herbal teas, slushy drinks, and desserts), and Big Tea Pot (阿義師的大茶壺茶餐廳, here, excellent tea-infused meals).

A trail with red railings to a teahouse surrounded by trees with Taipei 101 visible far in the background
One of several teahouses in this section

The three above restaurant-teahouses feature some of the best Taipei views in the whole Maokong area.

If you continue walking around a big bend in the road, you’ll pass a temple and finally reach the Taipei Tea Promotion Center (台北市鐵觀音包種茶研發推廣中心, here, about 15 minutes’ walk from Maokong Station.

Some tea drying baskets and harvesting equipment on display in a small museum
Tea Promotion Center

Inside the free museum, there’s some tea drying equipment and a few displays on tea, but it’s really not much and barely worth entering. The Tea Museum in Pinglin is far better.

Just past the tea promotion center, I was lucky enough to see some workers harvesting tea on a small tea farm beside the road.

A group of workers harvesting tea, with some sitting at the top of the field (closest to camera and shot from behind) and some down the hill picking the leaves in baskets
Workers harvesting tea
A worker amidst tea bushes, picking the tealeaves and putting them in a basket on her back
Surrounded by tea

Just past where I took the above photos, Healthy Trail (茶展中心步道) starts beside a parking lot here. This mainly forested trail follows a creek with several small waterfalls and some cool potholes (貓空壺穴, here) on the creek bed.

Curious explorers will find several other trails around or connected to Healthy Trail – there are trail maps posted in the area to find your way. From the end of Healthy Trail, it’s also possible to walk all the way to Zhinan Temple for catching the gondola there.

A young boy in shorts and orange tank top, standing at the bottom of a tall staircase going up into the forest, stretching his arms up in the air
My son doing a little stretch on Healthy Trail

Past the Healthy Trail trailhead, the road reaches Maokong Skywalk, which sounds cool but is nothing more than a short boardwalk beside the road, overlooking another tea plantation.

Another minute down the road, watch for the turnoff to Yaoyue Teahouse (邀月茶坊, here) which, rather uniquely, is the only 24-hour teahouse at Maokong (find more 24-hour restaurants in Taipei here)!

Looking down on a terraced tea plantation
Tea plantation viewed from Maokong Skywalk

11 thoughts on “A Maokong Gondola Guide: Best Teahouses, Hikes, and Taipei Views”

  1. I am going to Taipei in a few days and planning a day for Maokong. This guide is an absolute godsend. Thank you so much for putting together all the details and making it easy as I have never been. So excited!!!

  2. Hi!! Thanks for the guide.
    If I go to the Maokong first then the zoo, will I get the discount for the gondola?

  3. The discount for the gondola is only if you go to the zoo first and then swipe the same EasyCard to ride the gondola. And the same discount is also offered on the gondola if you swipe EasyCard on a weekday (even if you didn’t go to the zoo).

  4. I am staying near Ximen Station and going to Maokong from morning to 3pm. We would like to cover Yinhe cave falls. Please advise whether to start from Yinhe cave trailhead OR from Maokong station treks down to Yinhe cave, is a shorter route, without the extra miles? Apologies that I am little confused with the Hike to the right (West) route that you mentioned.
    Hope to hear from you.
    Thanks!

  5. If you start the hike by taking the stairs/trail opposite Maokong station, that will be a longer hike. If you want the shorter way, then you will exit the station, turn right and walk west down 指南路三段28巷 for only 3 minutes. When you reach Daguanyuan Restaurant, walk up the opposite driveway here: https://maps.app.goo.gl/xjokrpHNvvunsGuFA This trail will lead you to Silver Stream, but you probably still need to use a map because there will be a few places to turn. I suggest this map. https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/taiwan/new-taipei-city/yinhe-cave-waterfall-trail This map is the longer way, starting from Maokong station (black circle). But if you want to see the shortcut I am describing, you can see the little “0.2 km” in red near the toilet symbol. You walk from the main road / toilet symbol up the small 0.2 km path, then connect to the green line (main trail) to Yinhe.

  6. Hi , thks for the insightful and detailed guide of Maokong.
    By any chance you know if we can book for tea plucking experience at maokong?

  7. Unfortunately I have not heard of any farms there (or anywhere in Taiwan) offering DIY tea plucking.

  8. Thanks for the detailed information – I visited Maokong today and this was really useful.

  9. Just here to say huge thank you! Im flying to Europe (from NZ) next week and we have 19hours layover in Taipei. I decided to do the Gondola and Zoo with my 3 yr old and 6 yr old and this guide is just an absolute lifesaver!!! Thank you so much

  10. Hi, does the Taiwan Fun Pass cover all gondola rides even if you drop off at a certain station?

  11. If you purchase a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass, that should include unlimited rides on the gondola for 1 day only. So for example, even if you get the 3-day pass, you’ll have unlimited rides for only 1 of those days.

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