By Jules Tan
Did you know that two-thirds of Taiwan is blanketed by forest landscapes? That makes Taiwan a great choice for outdoor exploration. It has hundreds of well-maintained natural trails for hiking, mountain streams for river tracking, and over 1700 campgrounds available for camping.
If you are looking for an amazing retreat, there are many hot springs scattered all over the island.
The best weather to go outdoors is from September to December and March to May. This is when the weather is pleasant and with lesser crowds as it is not the peak of the tourist season.
Taiwan is still an undiscovered gem in terms of travel. If you are looking for your next travel destination, I would recommend these top 5 beautiful places to explore in Taiwan.
Also known as “Silver Stream Cave”, this hidden treasure is conveniently located not far from Taipei City.
It starts with a hike through the forest with trail markings leading up to the caves. You may find certain sections of the stairs a little steep. You will then arrive at an unusual ancient temple, embedded into the stone right above your head behind a gorgeous waterfall curtain.
Just like a movie set, be amazed by the stunning views of the waterfalls flowing out from the cracks of the cave. If you are lucky, you might even catch the sight of a rainbow above the waterfall.
It was said that the cave used to be a hideout for a guerrilla who famously led a rebellion in the early years of the Japanese colonial era.
You will see a series of small chambers built against the natural rock of the cave, while passing the temple. The trail continues under the waterfall to the edge of a sheer cliff, and extends until Maokong Gondola station. Many would opt to then take the gondola back down.
As you walk, you get a commanding view over the surrounding tea plantations of Maokong. If you are looking for something off the beaten trail, Yinhedong is a great place for a day visit while you explore in Taiwan. It is recommended that you pack a picnic lunch before you tackle the climb.
This charming mountainous countryside is an hour’s drive from Taipei City, making it an awesome escape from the capital. Wulai is famous for its trail hiking, glowing blue azure hot springs, and beautiful waterfalls. It is home to the third-largest aboriginal group in Taiwan, the Atayal tribe.
“Wulai” literally means hot springs in the Atayal tribal language. The hot springs here contain pH-neutral sodium bicarbonate water, which is great for skin hydration. You can see the locals have arranged little pools with large stones at the side of the river. Natural cool water from the river is then channeled to these little pools to cater for different bathing temperatures.
After a while, the geothermal earth will heat up your pool, sometimes even to a boil if you’re not attentive. So, if the locals warn you that the pool is hot, they are not joking! It feels great soaking in the natural hot tub, especially in December, when it is really cold.
If you visit between January to April, you will be drawn to beautiful cherry blossom trees (also known as Sakura) lining up the county. For the adventurous, try hiking up the nearby Wulai Waterfalls, which is pretty impressive as the mountains are very pretty.
Another popular activity here is river tracing, which is similar to canyoning, at the Jiajiuliao Stream. It involves walking upstream, jumping into pools of water or sliding down a rock slide.
Bitou Cape is a natural geological classroom, filled with sea-eroded platform marine fossils, mushroom-shaped rocks, or honeycomb rocks. You will witness first-hand intriguing landforms of undercut bluffs and sea cliffs, which overlooks the scenic views of Taiwan’s northeast coast.
Bitou Cape is one of the Three Capes of North Taiwan. Bitou which literally translates to “Nose tip” in Chinese, named for its nose-shaped cape that extends out into the ocean.
It is recommended to drive there, as getting public transportation may be inconvenient. Its 2 km paved footpath runs up to the top of the cape giving access to a rugged coastline of the East Sea.
From here you are rewarded with views of Hoping Island, Keelung Island, and Keelung Mountain. Don’t miss the Wangyue Slope, which is located on top of a high cliff at the side of the trail. This is where you can laze in the meadow and soak in the views of the expansive ocean.
Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park is a UNESCO site and is the best national park in Taiwan. If you want to go there, the best options are either to hire a driver or to rent a scooter. The busses are not very reliable as the schedules are limited.
When you arrive there, you will be in awe by the gorgeous rock formations of Taroko Gorge which spans for 20km in length. It is carved out of solid marble by the erosive force of the Liwu River which began over 200 million years ago.
This is the area around the Swallow Grotto Trail and the Tunnel of Nine Turns, where the cliffs on each side rise several hundred meters almost vertically. You can see the sedimentation on the surface by recognising its black and white layers, which is evidence that this used to be under the ocean.
As there are often falling rocks on this part of the trail, you would be required to wear a safety helmet. It is provided for free at the roadside before going to the entrance.
If you are in for excitement, check out the Baiyang waterfall trail, which brings you through several waterfalls and tunnels. You will need to prepare a flashlight as the trails in the tunnels are long enough to get pitch black in the middle. At the end of this tunnel, you will reach the Water Curtain Cave.
This is where waterfalls pour down from the cracks of the rock to form curtains of water deep inside. So, it is best you wear a raincoat when you enter, else you will find yourself soaking wet when you come out.
If you have the time, do plan to stay for more days, as there are so many trails to explore in Taiwan.
Yehliu Geopark is a place that makes you feel that you have just landed on an alien planet or even Mars. This is a 1.7km long cape, formed by Datun Mountain extending into the sea.
Famous for its hoodoo stones, these rocks are carved over time by the wind, rain, and sun. You can even find exposed fossils that are a million years old.
These geological forms are given interesting names signifying certain profiles and characters, like The Queens Head or the Fairy’s shoe. It’s fun trying to identify shapes to its name, like a sort of game.
If you are lucky, you might catch some formations which are only visible for 2 weeks in a year, when the tides are low enough.
Certain things to remember when you are there is to layer your wear, as it can get cold as it is located facing the North Coast and the Pacific Ocean. But it can also get scorching hot if you arrive in the middle of the day. So bring sunscreen and a hat.
In order to preserve nature’s creations, it is important not to touch any rock formations and to stay behind the red lines drawn on the ground.
Within the birding community, this area is also renowned as a ‘Migration Hotspot’. Its ideal wet and windy conditions attract migrant birds like the Red-flanked Bluetail and Siberian Rubythroat.
So remember to bring along your camera, as there are many opportunities for photography in this area!
Are you keen to explore in Taiwan?
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