Epic Journey: Round Taiwan

From the north to the south, every traveller is bound to find something unique in Taiwan – from the lush green landscape and mountains that spread for miles, to its heritage-rich architecture and traditional festivals. The best is that everything is easily accessible even if you have less than a week.

TAIPEI

Most travellers fly direct to Taipei thanks to its numerous flight options, and while it is a major city, there’s no shortage of wilderness at its doorstep. Venture towards the outskirts in any direction and you’ll find a patch of green where you can hike or mountain bike, or take a leisurely train ride through a slice of history.

Ride a Bike: Fuzhoushan Trail

As there aren’t many official MTB trails, local riders are your best bet at finding obscure tracks, like the Black Diamond-graded route from Zhongbushan to Fuzhoushan Park along with dirt and gravel, and several heart-thumping descents. The trail passes plenty of scenic lookouts, and thanks to its elevation, you’ll get sweeping views of Taipei 101 and the city from various vantage points along the way. As this is a hiking route, bikes will have to be carried down certain parts where there are stairs.

 

Take a Scenic Train: Pingxi Line

Known for its annual Lantern Festival, Pingxi is located along the scenic 12.9km-long Pingxi Line at an hour from Taipei. The Pingxi Line ends at Jingtong, passing Shifen and Pingxi along the way. At Jingtong and Pingxi, you’ll find unique retro architecture along the old streets, while Shifen is known for its 20+ waterfalls and hiking trails.

Birdwatching & Hiking: Yangmingshan

While Yangmingshan is better known for its hot springs and hiking trails, it’s also a popular birding site. About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the area, and while it’s a fairly busy with hikers, you can easily find 2 notable endemic birds: the Taiwan Blue Magpie and the Formosan Whistling Thrush. You can spot birds year-round; in spring, eagles and buzzards soar overhead. There are numerous walking trails in the park.

KAOHSIUNG AND THE SOUTH

Expore Scenery: Tianliao Moon World

Tianliao is a natural landscape that literally looks like the mountainous surface of the moon. The area has boardwalks from where you can have a bird’s eye view over the dramatic moonscape, which is also dotted with small lakes. Visit in the evening to see it in multi-colour lights.

Bathe in Waterfalls: Maolin Valley

Maolin is famous for its waterfalls; there are 3 easily accessible falls close to Maolin village, including Lover’s Gorge, Maolin Waterfall, and Dajin Waterfall. All of them are multi-tiered and feature crystal-clear swimming pools. The easiest to access on foot is Lover’s Gorge, across the suspension bridge from Maolin.

WEST COAST

Much of the west coast is flat, making it ideal for agriculture. In addition, getting around is easy, with numerous highways and rail access that connect you to major cities along the coast.

Road Cycling: Houbi

Known as the ‘granary of Taiwan’, Houbi’s flat landscape is home to huge swathes of paddy fields. A number of narrow country lanes dissect the plots and are great to explore on bicycle.

Forest Bathing: Xitou Forest

Situated high in a valley at 1,150m, Xitou boasts plenty of preserved broadleaf forests. Myriad hiking trails lead you through thick bamboo groves or towering cedar forests, with trails ranging from easy to challenging.

EAST COAST

The East Coast of Taiwan incorporates some of the country’s most spectacular coastal scenery, which includes surreal rock formations, dramatic coastal cliffs and a string of white sand beaches. The East Coast is also the only area in Taiwan offering whale watching tours.

Go Rock Climbing: Longdong Bay

On winter days, the cool climate makes it a perfect time to head to Longdong Bay for some rock climbing. Longdong is dotted with spectacular eroded cliffs and in recent years has become a magnet for world-class climbers. The vertical rock face has literally thousands of routes of varying difficulty.

Go Paragliding: Luye, Taitung

Taitung is home to the Highland Paragliding Training Center, with several launch sites. Luye Gaotai is the most popular, where tandem paragliders operate from at least 2 easy sloping launch sites near the area’s famous tea plantations at 150m above the plains; from the air, you’ll get to see the fertile Beinan valley and the rolling mountains before landing on the beautiful east coast. The best season is from April to September.

Drive Through Taroko Gorge

Taroko National Park is a marble-walled limestone gorge sluiced with crystal-clear waters and plenty of picturesque hand-carved tunnels that allow vehicular access. Popular spots include Swallow Grotto with its unique swallow nesting sites, as well as the Tunnel of Nine Turns which follows a dramatic series of tight turns along the very narrow gorge.

Only one road (highway) cuts through this mountainous landscape. Most people do this journey by car, although there are plenty who tackle the road on a bicycle. Upwards. From Hualien, the 128km cycle itinerary takes you through Taroko Gorge towards Cingjing Farm (1,750m) and Wuling Peak at 3,275m.

CENTRAL MOUNTAIN

Taiwan’s central mountain spine is home to peaks that soar to over 3,000m high, with notable ones being Hehuanshan and Yushan, both regularly climbed. This region is also home to many of Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes.

Experience Europe: Cingjing Farm

Cingjing Farm is unlike any other place in the country – it’s reminiscent of Europe, with its hotels resembling predominantly English manors and castles. Located at 1,700m above sea level, the cooler climate here makes it a great base for hiking the nearby mountains.

Experience Aboriginal Culture: Miaoli

The mountains near the Hakka stronghold of Nanzhuang are inhabited mostly by Taiwan’s aboriginal people, including the Atayal and the Saisiyat tribes. A majority of the Saisiyat tribe still live up in the mountains at Baguali and Xiangtian Lake. The area is dotted with small mountain villages, connected traditionally by suspension bridges. Tribes usually hold colourful festivals every year, which are open to visitors.

Ride an MTB: Nenggao West Line

Accessible from Puli, the Nenggao West Line in Nantou, Taiwan is one of the best high-altitude singletracks in the world. An Atayal tribal trail, the route starts at 2,000m and climbs steadily to a 3,080m viewpoint with a 360o panorama. Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, suspension bridges and breathtaking mixed-surface trails that hug precariously to mountainsides. You’ll also find historic remnants, including old Japanese police huts and charcoal kiln, remains.

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