Visiting Puli on the Way to Sun Moon Lake or Cingjing Farm

A town viewed from above, with mountains rising above it on the right side and blue sky above

Puli is a township in Nantou, Taiwan’s mountainous central county. In fact, the geographical center of Taiwan is in Puli.

Puli is a stepping stone to Nantou’s most famous attractions. Every bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, Cingjing Farm, or Hehuanshan will make a stop in Puli on the way.

While most travelers just pass right through Puli, the town actually has a handful of worthwhile attractions. It may not be quite enough to entice you to spend the night, but at the very least you may want to stop and visit a few of them on your way to other places.

A friend of mine lived in Puli for a few years. She said she was one of only a few foreigners living in the lovely little town. When another friend and I once visited her, we had a fantastic weekend driving scooters to remote waterfalls around town.

Puli Introduction

A street leading to a large Taiwanese temple entrance gate with 5 arches over the road
Traditional entrance gate to Baohu Temple in Puli

Puli is the third largest town in Nantou county, after Nantou City and Caotun, which are side-by-side.

Puli sits in the Puli Basin, in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range. Passing though Puli, most people either veer south to Sun Moon Lake or ascend Highway 14 to Cingjing Farm, Aowanda, Hehuanshan, or as far as Taroko Gorge on the east coast of Taiwan. The mountains rise steeply just east of Puli town center.

Puli was severely impacted by the 921 Earthquake on September 21, 1999. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Jiji not far away. 846 people died in Puli alone.

A town viewed from a mountain beside it, with some grass in the foreground, with orange cloudy sky at sunset
Puli viewed from Hutoushan at sunset

Puli is home to a handful of diverse attractions, mostly on the edges of town. Because these are attractions are rather spread out, there’s no perfect area to stay in town for visiting all of them.

Rather, it makes more sense to stop in town to visit one or two of them – which one you choose will depend on where you’re going next. One is an easy detour while driving to Cingjing Farm, while others are easy stops when driving or taking the bus to Sun Moon Lake.

Getting to Puli

A bus company ticket desk with two staff members
Nantou Bus Company desk at Taichung HSR station

Most people travel from Taichung to Puli (and onwards to Sun Moon Lake, Cingjing Farm, Aowanda, or Hehuanshan).

Buses to all of these popular Taiwanese destinations will make a stop at Puli bus station here in the town center on the way. Swipe your EasyCard to ride these buses.

Here’s the bus schedule for Taichung to Puli to Sun Moon Lake. There isn’t much to see or do around Puli bus station. But you can ride this same bus 20 minutes past Puli station to a few attractions on the edge of town, which I’ll introduce below (Paper Dome, Cona Chococastle, and some tea places).

Two men sitting on a scooter with a rice paddy behind them
My friends riding a scooter past rice paddies around Puli

Here’s the bus schedule for Taichung to Puli to Cingjing Farm. Note that the bus will take a break for around 10 minutes at Puli station. Sometimes, passengers have to change to a different bus at this point – the driver will let you know.

See more info in my guides to getting to Cingjing Farm, getting to Hehuanshan, and getting to Sun Moon Lake. The bus to Sun Moon Lake is often full, so some people book their seats online. However, you can’t book seats if you’re only going to Puli.

You could also rent a scooter in Taichung or rent a car in Taichung and drive to Puli. Read about my experience renting a car at Taichung HSR station and driving to Puli on the way to Cingjing Farm and Hehuanshan.

Where to Stay in Puli

Looking down at a taiwanese town from a temple, with the temples green and blue tiled roof in the foreground
Baohu Temple on the edge of Puli

As I said before, not so many travelers actually spend the night in Puli. However, some do, either because they are particularly interested in Puli’s attractions, want to get off the beaten track, or want to use it as a base for visiting both Cingjing Farm and Sun Moon Lake.

If you’re arriving by bus, it’s easiest to stay around Puli bus station. Milu Backpacker Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda) is the best option for budget or solo travelers. The friendly owner rents out motorcycles or might even take you for a ride.

Gold House (see on Booking / Agoda) and Puli Station Homestay (see on Booking) are two good guesthouse options near Puli Station.

For a more rustic setting just out of town, you can stay in a cabin at Taomi Diary (see on Booking / Agoda) on the way to Sun Moon Lake or in Spring Land Villa (see on Booking / Agoda), a beautiful, modern minsu (Taiwanese B&B) near Paper Dome and Cona’s Chocolate Factory.

With kids, a member of my Facebook group highly recommended Mushroom Forest (see on Booking / Agoda). It has a pool, sand pit, and very cute bungalows. It’s just east of Puli on the way to Cingjing Farm.

It’s also possible to go glamping in Puli.

Things to Do in Puli

Here are the top sights in Puli, which you’ll find are mostly on the edges of town in different directions. There isn’t much to do in the town center.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery

A very tall, modern Buddhist monastery with golden dome and spire at top
World’s tallest Buddhist monastery

Puli’s top attraction and a major landmark in Taiwan, Chung Tai Chan Monastery (中台禪寺 or Zhong Tai Chan Si) is the world’s tallest Buddhist monastery. It belongs to the chan (禪) branch of Buddhism, which is the origin of Japanese zen.

It is the headquarters of Chung Tai Shan, one of the four great Buddhist organizations in Taiwan. You may have heard of the other three – Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung, Tzu Chi in Hualien, and Dharma Drum in New Taipei City.

A gold laighing Buddha statue on the right and a huge stone column with god faces on each of its sides on the left, supporting the roof inside a monaster
Statue and carved column inside Chung Tai Chan

The monastery was designed by Chu-yuan Lee (C.Y. Lee), the same architect who designed Taipei 101.

The monastery’s main spire pokes 136 meters into the sky and is visible from many places in Puli. Visitors can enter the main building, where free tours are provided on weekends and holidays. The interior is modern, shiny, and impressive, with lavish decorations and towering statues. It feels like you’re in the private residence of a wealthy Buddhist monarch.

Don’t miss the Chung Tai World Museum Wood Sculpture Gallery in another building on site. Entrance is TWD 200.

You aren’t supposed to take photos in either one (the two interior photos I’ve included here are stock photos, but they look exactly how I remember it from my visit).

A bright red Chinese lion statue on the right foreground and golden laughing Buddha statue on the left background
More statues inside the monastery

The monastery is located north of Puli town. It would be an easy detour for anyone driving from Taichung to Cingjing Farm or Hehuanshan.

From Puli town center, you can hop in a taxi (15 minutes, TWD 250) or take bus 6650, 6651, or 6652 – use GoogleMaps directions to find the bus stop and times, and swipe your EasyCard to ride the bus.

Cona’s Chococastle (Nina’s Chocolate Dream Castle)

Exterior of a castle-like building with the word "Cona's" on the side
A chocolate-themed castle

A popular stop for those taking the bus to Sun Moon Lake is Cona’s Chococastle, also called Nina’s Chocolate Dream Castle (妮娜巧克力).

More of a tourist trap than a real castle or serious chocolate producer, the castle tends to attract selfie seekers rather than chocolate aficionados.

Inside, you can dress up in medieval outfits for taking photos and watch chocolate being made (or try making it yourself). There’s also a small playground for kids.

A Taiwanese chef in white chef uniform and tall white chef hat making some chocolates on a dark counter
Chocolate maker in Cona’s

I didn’t love their chocolates. The flavors are adventurous – examples I saw or tried included Alishan wasabi and pineapple chocolate with raisins. They definitely LOOK nice, but the taste is not high end (the same thing can be said about many desserts in Taiwan.

The best part of my visit was the gelato. An over-the-top serving (reminiscent of Miyahara Ice Cream in Taichung) includes several scoops of your choice plus chocolate garnishes and decorations. It set me back TWD 399 – share it with at least one friend.

A hand holding up an waffle up filled with three scoop of ice cream and various chocolates and edible decorations on it
Wild ice cream at Cona’s

Entrance (TWD 220) is a little cheaper if you pre-pay on Klook. DIY chocolate making costs extra. TWD 50 from your ticket can be used towards anything you buy.

Parking is free. Park and enter first. When leaving, go to the machine, enter the last 3 or 4 digits of your license plate, the scan your castle ticket. Then when you drive out, the bar will open automatically.

For better chocolate in Puli, visit the popular but high quality Feeling 18 (18度C巧克力工房) here in Puli town or the cafe they run here on the way to Sun Moon Lake. Both have ice cream and other desserts, too.

Paper Dome

View inside of a paper structure looking up at the dome shaped roof of it, with some hanging decorations
Former church made of paper

Paper Dome (紙教堂) is a former church made mostly of paper. It was originally a temporary building of a church complex in Japan. After the 921 Earthquake in Taiwan, Japan donated it to Puli in 2008, where it has been a small tourist attraction to this day.

If you’re wondering what happens when it rains, the building’s paper is covered in a waterproof coating.

The structure is in a park not far from Cona’s Chococastle, so it’s easy to visit both sights in one go. There’s a small admission fee to enter Paper Dome, which you can pre-pay online.

To visit Cona’s Chococastle and Paper Dome, take any Sun Moon Lake-bound bus from Taichung or Puli Station and get off at Taomikeng bus stop here. It’s a 20-minute bus ride from Puli station or 1 hour 20 minute ride from Taichung.

Paragliding in Puli

A person paragliding with some farms and a city far below, paraglide is yellow
Paragliding over Puli

Puli is a hot spot for paragliding in Taiwan. Mostly this is done from Hutoushan (虎頭山), a mountain here just east of town.

The paragliding experience can be booked here. This will include pick-up from downtown Puli, 8-12 minutes of gliding, insurance, and the option to record your experience with GoPro.

Like with any adventure activities, or traveling in general, I recommend getting your own travel insurance for Taiwan, too.

Tea Attractions South of Puli

Looking up at a tea processing factory with Chinese words on the side
Former tea processing facility and Antique Assam Farm

While they are closer to Sun Moon Lake than to Puli, I still want to mention a couple tea-related attractions. The region around Sun Moon Lake produces a rare but very delicious black tea called Ruby Red #18.

The best place to learn about tea culture in the area is at Antique Assam Farm (日月老茶廠). The museum and shop are in an old tea processing plant and you can still see some tea growing around it.

A hand holding up a white bag of Sun Moon Lake black tea
Sun Moon Lake’s rare black tea

Another popular spot is Hohocha Tea Center (喝喝茶). The center is housed in a lovely building and has displays about tea, tea sampling, tea ice cream, and tea eggs.

Get off the Sun Moon Lake bus at Yu Chi Junior High School stop for Hohocha or Antique Assam Farm stop of Antique Assam Far.

In the hills west of Hohocha, there’s a beautiful sunrise lookout point called Jinglongshan (金龍山三亭), where it’s possible to see sea of clouds in the morning. You’ll need to drive to get there.

Waterfalls East of Puli

Two men standing in the water below a large waterfall
My friends under a secret waterfall near Puli

There are several waterfalls along Highway 14 as it ventures east of town up towards Cingjing Farm.

In order from Puli, these include Guanyin Falls (南投觀音瀑布, inaccessible at the time of writing), Caidie Falls (彩蝶瀑布 short hike required), and Menggu Falls (夢谷瀑布, swimming possible, TWD 100 entrance fee).

North of town, there’s also the rushing Nenggao Falls (能高瀑布).

There are even more waterfalls which are buried in the jungle around Puli and not marked on GoogleMaps. My friend who lived in Puli once took us to a few secret ones, whose locations I have long since forgotten!

Puli Winery

Four stacked rows of old pots used for storing liquor in a dark storage facility
Old liquor storage jars at Puli Winery

Don’t get too excited – Puli Winery is not a winery as in red/white grape wine. Rather, it is a producer of Shaoxing, a glutinous rice-based liquor originating in China. While you can drink it, it’s has an intense flavor and is mainly used for cooking.

The Puli Shaoxing Winery provides glimpses into the production facility. There’s a free tasting of three different types. The facility was recently renovated, so it’s nicer than before, but I would say this isn’t a must-visit unless you specifically interested in it.

Geographical Center of Taiwan

While it’s really not a must-see, there’s a stele (臺灣地理中心碑) marking the geographical center of Taiwan. It’s in a park on the northeast side of town. The park also has some stairs up a hill which provides a decent view of town.

If you’ve got the energy or wheels, you can continue on to Hutoushan for fine views of town and Carp Lake (鯉魚潭 or Liyutan).

Where to Eat in Puli

A few food options around Puli station include ramen, local noodles and stinky tofu, oyster omelets, and traditional bawan (meatballs). For Taiwanese breakfast, try the unique varieties of rice ball (fan tuan) here.

For vegetarians, Snowflake Vegetarian has both meals and desserts. Here’s how to ask for vegetarian food in Taiwan.

At night, there’s a small night market here, while the larger and better Puli Weekend Night Market is on Friday and Saturday nights only.

Leave a Comment