Eastern Taiwan is the home of some the island's most beautiful and accessible scenery, and is famous for its breathtaking roads, which are carved through mountains and coastal cliffs, and pass by unspoiled emerald seas and aboriginal villages. The East Coast Precipice Highway is a spectacular 120-kilometer (75-mile) -long road between Suao and Huanlien. Situated on the southeast coast of Taiwan, it features dramatic views, stretches of road along cliffs 100 meter above the sea and spectacular tunnels. After a large number of accidents, it now only has one way traffic.
The East Coast Range consists chiefly of Miocene and Pliocene sandstones and shales. Although the highest peak reaches 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), the range seems like a collection of hills. Small streams have developed on the flanks, but there is only one large river. Badlands topography has developed at the western foot of the range, where the ground water level is lowest and the rock formations the least resistant to weathering. The evidence of raised coral reefs along the east coast and frequent earthquakes in the rift valley indicate that the bloc is still rising. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
East Coast National Scenic Area
East Coast National Scenic Area is an isolated, pollution-free region with lonely beaches, mountainside shrines and caves, amazing natural rock formations, coral reefs, ancient banyan trees, picturesque fishing villages and aboriginal villages. White water rafting trips are offered on the Hsiukuluan River.
The East Coast National Scenic Area, known as "Taiwan's last unspoiled land", stretches 170 kilometers down the east coast of the island from the mouth of the Hualien River in the north to Shiauyeliou (Little Yeliou) in the south. To the east it is bounded by the Pacific Ocean; to the west rises the Coastal Mountain Range. The land here consists of volcanic rock, classic rock from deep beneath the sea, and shale that has been pushed upward- and is still being pushed upward- by tectonic action. Weathering, erosion, and accumulation have produced a wide range of landforms here, including coastal terraces, sand and pebble beaches, shoreline reefs, inshore islands, and capes along with sea-eroded platforms, trenches, and caves. This varied topography provides habitat for a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
The East Coast is the primary homeland of the Amis aboriginal tribe. Amis villages' dot the coastline and the harvest festivals that they hold in July and August every year offer visitors an opportunity to gain insights into the culture of this unique people. Before the Amis settled here there were prehistoric peoples who came and went, leaving a rich store of artifacts and ancient sites that can still be seen today. Among the more modern cultural features of the coastline are enchanting temples, churches, and quaint fishing villages. This rich store of natural and cultural assets prompted the Tourism Bureau to establish the East Coast National Scenic Area in 1988, and to engage in the active development of the leisure resources here.
Getting There by Public Transport: Air: From Taipei International Airport fly to Hualien on TransAsia Airways or Mandarin Airlines. From Hualien Airport, take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (toward Taitung and Jingpu) to Ocean Park stop. By Road: Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 11; Address: No. 5, Dakeng, Yanliao Village, Shoufeng Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-867-1326.
Yilan County and Ylin City
Yilan (southeast of Taipei) looks out to the sea on Taiwan's Northeast Coast, with mountains on the three. The county is home to Asia's second longest highway tunnel, the Hsuehshan Tunnel, which has reduced the driving time between Yilan and Taipei to less than 50 minutes. From natural environments and cold and hot springs to a wealth of ocean recreation resources and verdant country scenes, Yilan offers the perfect setting to slow down and enjoy nature at its best.
Yilan City (east coast of Taiwan) is located in the central and most favored part of the Lanyang Plain. Streams and rivers provide a constant source of replenishment for the nutrients in the soil here, making the area around Yilan City, one of the breadbaskets of Taiwan.
Popular snacks such as soy-marinated foods, stuffed starch ball desserts, oyster omelets and Chinese angelica mutton soup and more are available at the Luodong Night Market and Yilan Night Market. There are also plenty of shops here selling inexpensive clothes and shoes. Dongmen Night Market, under Donggang Bridge near Yilan Train Station, is the place to go for a taste of local Yilan flavor, with plenty of choices for late-night snacking and shopping,
Luodong Night Market, at the center of Luodong Township around Zhongshan Park in Yilan County features salty rice macaroni, smoked ducks, meat thick soups ,longfeng legs, tofu rolls, thick rice noodles, seafood, sausage stuffed pork and sweet potato powder and sausage stuffed tofu.
Tourist Offices: 1) Yilan Railway Station, Tel: -3-931-2152, No. 252, Sec. 1, Yixing Rd, Yilan City, Yilan County; Jiaoxi Hot Springs Visitor Center; 2) No.16, Gongyuan Rd, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County; 3) Tel: -3-987-2403; 4) Dongshan River Park Visitor Center, No.2, Sec. 2, Qinhe Rd, Wujie Township, Yilan County, Tel: -3-950-2097; 5) Wushi Harbor Visitor Center, No.15-30, Gangkou Rd, Toucheng Township, Yilan County, Tel: -3-978-9078; 6) Wulaokeng Visitor Center, No.75, Wulaokeng Rd, Su’ao Township, Yilan County, Tel: -3-995-2852; and 7) Yilan Visitor Information Center, No.525, Yixing Rd, Yilan City, Yilan County, Tel: -3-931-2152
Sights in Yilan County
There are some many interesting things to see and do in Yilan County. The Catholic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Wufongci sits 1,028 meters above sea level, providing excellent views of the Lanyang Plain and Guishan Island. The area is also notable for its lush forests and dramatic weather fluctuations. Longtan Lake is a scenic mountain-ringed lake area situated in area of pristine natural beauty. The area is also home to several temples, whose drums and bells can be heard in the morning and evening.
Shipan Trail is an ecologically-rich and gently sloped trail that passes streams, waterfalls and canyon terrain. Shichao Waterbird Refuge is a resting point for large numbers of migratory birds. The Erlong River Boat Race is held annually during the Dragon Boat Festival. The race has a history of over 200 years and features the most locally-distinctive dragon boats in Taiwan. Fo Guang University is situated on a highland areawith an expansive view looking out to Guishan Island and the magnificent Lanyang Plain. This is also a good spot to enjoy the night lights of Yilan. Wufengqi Waterfall cascades down five linked peaks, giving the water a triangular, banner-like shape. The falls are located in a beautiful mountain setting and offer a number of recreational opportunities
Surrounded by submarine hot springs that emit steam all year round, Guishan Island is a rare sight in the Pacific. The sea area here is a favorite haunt for whales and dolphins. The dolphins can often be seen jumping and spinning above the water in groups. For a relaxing hot spring soak, visitors to Yilan County can choose between the lowland hot springs of Jiaoxi Township and the carbonic acid cold springs in Su'ao Township, one of only two cold springs in Southeast Asia.
Guishan Island (10 kilometers off the coast of Toucheng in Yilan) is a small, solitary island that has a volcanic terrain that, from certain angles, looks like a turtle floating in the sea. Among the features of the island are high cliffs, steaming fumaroles, welling underwater hot springs, mountain peaks, sea-eroded caves, a lake, and unique cliff vegetation, as well as rich marine ecological resources. It is a perfect place to study volcanic terrain and the natural ecology.
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest (50 kilometers west of Yilan City) covers 450 square kilometers in Snow Mountain Range and is known for its giant cypress trees, some of which are hundreds of years old, and rare fauna and flora. Comprised of steep peaks and deep valleys at an elevation of roughly 1,200 meters above ground, the isolated region contains birds, beasts, reptiles, insects and trees that have evolved independently from the rest of the world, including 14 vascular plants that have survived the ice age. An average rainfall of 500 centimeters a year produces a year-round mist that shrouds the forest's peaks, adding to their mystery and isolation.
Cilan's most ancient residents, 62 of which are more than 400 years old, are a group of primordial cypress trees revered as "Sacred Woods.” The forest contains two indigenous evergreen species - the Taiwan Red Cypress (Chamaecyparis formosensis) and the Taiwan Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis taiwanensis) - and a protected thistle plant (Cirsium albescens) whose effusive white flower head graces the left bottom corner of all NT$1,000 bills.
In a tribute to their divine status, the cypress trees are named after famous Chinese dignitaries, each chosen for a tree whose age corresponds to the time period when the historic figure lived. There's Sima Qian the historian, Chu Hsi the philosopher, Bao Zheng the judge and Yang Guifei the imperial consort, but the highest honor belongs to the oldest cypress of them all - the 2,560-year-old Confucius, named after the most venerated scholar and educator in Chinese history.
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest straddles the Taiwanese counties of Yilan, Hsinchu, Taoyuan and New Taipei and remains a stronghold of the Atayal aborigines. The region's namesake is derived from an ancient Atayal legend about two ill-fated lovers, from whose burial place sprung a giant cypress tree decorated with beautiful orchids. Their tribesmen were so touched by their love that they named the region "Cilan” ("Resting Place of the Orchids”), denoting a place where the bond between trees and orchids are as tight as those among Atayal people. A log cabin that once belonged to Chiang Kai-shek still stands in the Cilan Forest Recreation Area today.
Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area
The Northeast Coast National Scenic Area is located in the northeast corner of Taiwan, stretching 102.5 kilometers from Nanya District in New Taipei City to the south cape of Neibi Beach in Su-ao Township. It encompasses 17,421 hectares of land and sea.
This scenic area is noted for its numerous capes and bays backed by green mountains. Its attractions include spectacular rock formations, unique sea-eroded landforms, beaches of fine golden sand, a rich diversity of marine life, and an unspoiled cultural heritage. It is a multipurpose tourist destination that serves the dual functions of a fascinating natural classroom and an enchanting coastal playground.
The Tourism Bureau established the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area Administration in 1984, charging it with the development and management of the area's tourism resources as well as the preservation of its environment. In addition to developing areas of outstanding scenic beauty as tourist items, the Tourism Bureau has also established nature preserves here, both on land and at sea, in order to sustain forever the ecological vitality of the Northeast Coast.
The Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, which runs from Juifang south to Beigangkou in Yilan County, is noted for its natural beauty: reefs, rivers, terraced rice paddies, rolling green hills, lighthouses, and two of Taiwan's best beaches. Recreational opportunities include camping, rock climbing, hiking along a 200-year-old footpath, and water sports, such as swimming, surfing, wind surfing, jet skiing, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Kuo-kuang Bus (bound for Yilan, Luodong) to Fulong stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 5 Exit at the Toucheng Interchange Prov. Hwy 2G Prov. Hwy 2; Address: No. 11, Sec. 7, Binhai Rd, Toucheng Township, Yilan County, Tel: -3-978-0727. Tourist Office: Beigang Visitor Center, No.6, Zhongshan Rd, Beigang Township, Yunlin County, Tel: -5-783-7427.
Jiaoxi Hot Springs
Jiaoxi (eight kilometers north of Yilin City) is home to the only flatland hot springs in Taiwan. In addition to its convenient transportation links and abundant natural charms, the township offers a visitor-friendly environment with high-quality tourism attractions, services and facilities.
The Jiaoxi Hot Springs are fed by clear, clean water rich in sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, carbonate ion and other elements. Centrally located in the Jiaoxi Hot Spring area, Tangwei Hot Spring Park has Japanese-style cypress baths and semi-outdoor foot baths where you can soak in the comforting embrace of nature. The Forest Bath is in a scenic spot surrounded by the greenery and trees.
The springs are fed by rainwater that has seeped down into subterranean rock, where it is heated by magma remaining from a volcanic eruption on Guishan (Turtle) Island thousands of years ago. The hot spring industry in Jiaoxi dates back to the Japanese colonial era (1895~1945), during which time this area was known as the "Tangwei Hot Springs. Nakashi music and bathhouses characterized the local scene back then, earning the area a nickname of "Little Beitou." In recent years, the hot spring spas here have preserved Jiaoxi's traditional ambiance but with a more modern emphasis on health and fitness. The spring water and facilities are both of excellent quality.
The hot springs of Jiaoxi are fed by pure and clean water at a temperature range of 22 to 33 degrees centigrade. The water is rich in iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium and other trace elements making it perfect for the irrigation usage. Vegetables raised on the water grow quickly and are unusually crisp, tender and sweet. With support from the Jiaoxi Township Farmers' Association, the local farmers have made hot spring vegetables one of the specialty items of Jiaoxi . The locally grown water spinach, tomatoes, sponge gourd, and water bamboo, collectively known as the "four treasures," are particularly well known.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1.THSR: From Taipei Main Station and then take the Yilan-bound North-Link Line to Jiaoxi Station; 2. Taiwan Railway: Take the North-Link Line train (southbound from Taipei or northbound from Hualien) to Jiaoxi Station; 3. Bus: From Taipei Bus Station or Taipei City Hall Bus Station take the Kamalan Bus or Capital Bus to Jiaoxi via Nat'l Hwy 5.
East West Cross island Highway
East West Cross island Highway is a mountain highway that connects Taroko Gorge on the eastern side of the island with Taichung in the west. Blasted through solid rock in less that four years at a cost of US$11 million and 450 lives, it is a is a vital link between the eastern and western parts of Taiwan. The road crosses high passes, flowing mountains streams and skirts deep gorges. There are stunning views of mountains and forest along almost its entire length.
At Lishan, the road splits: the northeast branch heads to the northeast coast; the other branch leads past Shihmen Reservoir to Taipei. The east branch leads to Taroko Gorge. It takes about a day of driving and sightseeing to traverse the highway. Many travelers take three days to complete the journey, enjoying side trips to Wuling Farm and Hohuanshan.
The East-West Cross-Island Highway starts from the Taichung plain in western Taiwan and reaches the international port of Hualien in eastern Taiwan. It is 185 kilometers (115 miles) long and has two branches totaling 250 kilometers (155 miles). Construction began in 1956 and was completed in 1960. The highway is accelerating economic development of eastern Taiwan, advancing the cultural interflow between eastern and western Taiwan, and promoting tourism. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
The road winds around, climbs over, and bores through the Central and East Coast Ranges of mountains. Scenery is spectacular. Temperatures, flora, and fauna change rapidly as the highway rises to within the shadow of the peaks, then plunges back toward sea level. Most of the soils in the high mountain area traversed by the highway are shallow and infertile. Few of them would support cultivated crops and they carry only a scant cover of native vegetation. On the other hand, there are a few areas here and there that are suitable for cultivation or for grazing. Most of these already have been found and settled.
The East-West Highway also is traveled by many tourists. The most breathtaking spot is Taroko Gorge at the eastern end of the highway and therefore easily accessible by plane to Hualien and a short drive from there. Taroko has 32 tunnels, a number of suspension bridges, skyscraping vertical cliffs, and a whitecapped stream in the gorge below. Waterfalls and bubbling springs are everywhere. Only a little more than an hour from Taipei by plane and bus or car, this is another world—and an integral part of Taiwan's mountain system.
Lishan is a small town in the middle of the Central Cross-Island Highway. Located almost 2000 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level, it is known for its cool climate, fruit orchards, and beautiful mountain scenery. Sights include the Lishan Cultural Museum, Lucky Life Mountain Farm and Heaven's Pool, a summer villa used by Chiang Kai-shek located next to a stunningly beautiful 2,650-meter-high (8,000-foot-high) alpine lake.
Wuiling Farm is a picturesque fruit growing area and the jumping off point for hikes to 3,884-meter-high Hsuehshan (Snow Mountain), Taiwan's second highest peak. According to Lonely Planet you are supposed to have a permit but no one is around to collect it. The climb takes between 10 and 12 hours and there are a couple of huts to stay in.
Hualien County (central-eastern Taiwan) is home to several world-class scenic attractions and is the meeting point of the Central Cross-Island Highway, Suao-Hualien Highway, and east coast highways leading south to Taitung and north to Taipei. Hualien is Taiwan's biggest county, with an area of about 4,628 square kilometers and a population of 350,000. The county borders the Pacific Ocean to the east and is hemmed in by the Central Range to the west. With its towering peaks, azure skies, vast seas, scenic valleys, cultural diversity, and friendly kindhearted people, Hualien has become one of Taiwan's popular travel destinations for local and international visitors alike.
Formerly known as Qilai, Hualien's current name derives from the phrase "huilan"(eddying water), a reference to the swirling currents of the Hualien River where it meets the sea. In 1590, Portuguese sailors passed by the eastern coast of Taiwan — presumably Hualien — and were so moved by the grandeur of what they saw that they named this land "Formosa," the beautiful island. Since that time, the majestic views of Hualien have come to represent Taiwan.
With all of its natural beauty, most of Hualien is a national scenic area. Visitors to the county can enjoy the impressive gorges at Taroko National Park, the magnificence of Yushan National Park, the stunning natural landscapes of the East Coast National Scenic Area, and the rustic charms of the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area. Wherever you go in Hualien, nature is there to greet you. Also popular with visitors are the Suao-Hualien Highway, carved out of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific,
National Parks, Trails and Scenic Areas: Lianhua Pond Trail, Meiyuan Zhucun Trail, Suao-Hualien Highway, Lushui Trail, Baiyang Trail, Qingshui Cliff, Changchun Temple Trail Yu Mountain(Yushan) National Park, Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou), Tunnel of Nine Turns, Shakadang (Mystery Valley), Trail Batongguan Historic Trail, Tianxiang Taroko National Park, Buluowan, East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, Changhong Bridge, Liyu (Carp) Lake, East Coast National Scenic Area, Nanbin Park Qixing Lake (Qixingtan), Fanshuliao Shitiping, Rafting on the Xiuguluan River, Wuhe Tourist Tea Plantations, Saoba Stone Pillars, Tropic of Cancer, Liushidan Mountain, Fuyuan National Forest Recreation Area Chinan National Forest Recreation Area.
Amusement Park, Hot Springs, Temples and Historical Buildings: Hualien Farglory Ocean Park Hongye Hot Springs, Antong Hot Springs, Ruisui Hot Springs, Hualien Sugar Factory, Tzu Chi Headquarters, Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch & Reaort, Shiti Fishing Harbor, Ruisui Township, Hualien County: Fragrant Tea, Dairy and Hot Springs
Hualin City is the largest city on the east coast and the jumping off point for Taroko Gorge. A nice city by Taiwanese standards, it is known for its aboriginal culture and large range of marble products. Visitors can enjoy performances by aborigines of the Ami tribe at the Ami Culture Village and visit a marble plant and show room. Nanbin Night Market, Hualien's biggest night market serves up a tempting array of fresh seafood snacks along with beautiful sunsets over the sea, Nanbin Park.
Situated on the Pacific Coast, Hualin City is linked to the western town of Taichung by the East-West Cross-Island Highway.. Economic activity around Hualien revolves around agriculture, particularly camphor, sugarcane, jute, and rice production. Hualien is located in an area that is prone to severe earthquakes and typhoons. The city was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1951. Hualien City has an estimated population of about 106,000.
Tourist Offices: Hualien Railway Station, Tel: -3-836-0634, No. 106, Guolian 1st Rd, Hualien City, Hualien County, Hualien Airport, Tel: -3-821-0625, Airport No. 1, Jiali Rd, Jiali Village, Xincheng Township, Hualien County
Taroko Gorge (45 kilometers, one hour from Hualien City) is Taiwan's most spectacular natural wonder. Bordered by awe-inspiring marble and granite cliffs and 3,300-meter (10,000-foot) mountains, the gorges features tumbling waterfalls and white water rapids, dark green jungles with wild orchids, black and yellow butterflies, swooping birds and mist-shrouded mountains with precariously placed temples, pagodas and pavilions. The green, red, and black-and-white marble is excellent quality and exported all over the world, even Italy.
Created by the Liwu river which cuts deeply through the mountains, the 12-mile-long gorge contains numerous sights, including Eternal Spring Shrine, Swallow Caves, Nine Turns Tunnel, Marble Bridge and the Taroko Gorge suspension bridge at Tianxiang. A road and numerous hiking trails wind through the gorge. The most popular hike is a four-hour walk from Tianxiang to the Eternal Spring Shrine, a lovely set of pavilions, one with a waterfall passing right through it.
The gorge was caused by geological uplifting and erosion by the Liwu River, which the formed the U-shaped canyon that is one of the largest marble canyons in the world. The name Taroko is derived from the Taroko (Truku) tribe and means "magnificent and beautiful" in the language of the aboriginal tribe.
Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park (off the Central Cross-Island Highway) embraces Taroko Gorge and covers more than 920 square kilometers in the Central Mountain range. Mountains over 2,200 meters (7,000 feet) cover half the park area. They include Nanhutashan Mountain, Hohyan Snow Cap, pyramid-like Central Peak and rugged Chilia Peaks and 27 of Taiwan's One Hundred Peaks. Nearby are several Atayal ethnic group villages. The Central Cross-Island Highway also runs through the park at its east end.
Taroko became a national park in 1986 and is shared by Hualien County, Nantou County and Taichung City. Taroko is famous for its spectacular mountains and marble canyons. Cliffs and canyons stretch along the Liwu River. Four million years ago, the island of Taiwan was formed by the collision of plates. After millions of years of wind erosion, the marble rocks were exposed and cut by the Liwu River, creating impressive grand canyons. From Qingshui to Nanhu Peak, the drop height is 3,742 meters. Such special geography has also bred unique flora and fauna in this area.
Taroko National Park contains over 100 streams, an abundance of plant and animal resources, as well as diverse landscape such as mountains, cliffs and waterfalls. Located at the edge of the Eurasian Plate, the Taroko region has withstood the geological evolutions and crustal movements that took place between the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. The uplifting forces resulted from plate collisions pushed the rock out of the sea-bed to where we see it in Taroko now. In fact, the region is still being uplifted by approximately 0.5 centimeter every year.
Getting There by Public Transport: Air: From Taipei International Airport fly to Hualien on TransAsia Airways or Mandarin Airlines. Train: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Taroko National Park. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Taroko Visitor Center stop. By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). 1) Freeway 1 Zhanghua Interachange Freeway 3 Wufeng Interchange Freeway 6 Puli Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 14A Prov. Hwy 8; 2) Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: No.291, Fushi, Fushi Village, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-862-1100~6.
Sights in Taroko National Park
The most famous waterfalls at Taroko National Park are Baiyang Waterfall, Yindai Waterfall, Changchun Waterfall, and Lushui Waterfall. Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) and the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) are the most impressive natural scenes. The canyons here are the narrowest. Tourists can appreciate the natural beauty along the trails here. Swallows nest on the cliff, chirping and flying back forth. The Taroko monument is designed in Chinese style. Changchun Temple honors those who sacrificed their lives for building the central highway. Jinheng Park, the Bridge of the Kind Mother, Tiansiang, the Jhueilu Precipice, Lioufang Bridge, Hill of Yu the Great and Buluowan are popular tourist attractions.
Huhuanshan is a beautiful 3,965-meter-high mountain in Taroko National Park. Taiwan's highest road leads to the summit and there are numerous hiking trails and a few hostels and huts along them. Taiwanese like to come here in the winter to see snow. The rest of the year, they come to see the "Sea of Clouds" Huhuanshan and the surrounding area is popular with students during summer vacation.
Tunnel of Nine Turns is located in an area where a tortuous zigzagging course has been cut by the river through the gorge that is followed by a curvaceous highway route that has been carved out of the cliff face. The gorge here is so narrow that the Chinese call it "a thread of sky” because only a very narrow passage is open to the heavens. The marble cliff face opposite the highway varies in color from deep gray to pure white and features a multitude of changing designs. A walk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns takes about 30 minutes and provides access to enchanting scenes of the gorge, the river, stone strata, the tunnel itself, and the surrounding vegetation. This is one of the most scenic parts of the gorge, and the best place to observe the gorge's ecology.
Getting There: 1) . Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong). 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) stop. By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). Nat'l Hwy 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-862-1100~6.
Tianxiang is a large river terrace resort town and recreational area in Taroko National Park situated on the upper part of Taroka Gorge., where the Dasha River and Taci Jili River converge to become Liwu River. There are several hostels, hotels and guesthouses here, but often there are no vacancies because the resort is so popular. The resort grew up at the the site of an old Atayal village Its name commemorates Wen Tianxiang, who lived in the 13th century and was the last prime minister of the Song Dynasty.
Scenic spots at Tianxiang (also spelled Tienhsiang) include Xiangde Temple, Tianfeng Pagoda, a suspension bridge, the Wen Tian-siang Memorial Garden, the Plum Garden, and Tianxiang Church. In winter each year the plum blossoms blooms, forming a sea of white blossoms stretching from the highway to Xiangde Temple. Shanyue Village at Bulowan, another old tribal settlement in the gorge, offers a new and unique type of accommodation for the area. Service Facitilies at Tianxiang include a visitor center, service station, police station, shopping, food and drink, public restrooms, parking lot, exhibition hall and a bus station. Accommodation include everything from five star resorts to hostels.
The Sakuma Samata Shrine was erected here during the Japanese Era (1895-1945). When the Central Cross-Island Highway reached here Wen, Tianxiang Park was built at the top of the terrace. On the north-western side is the Tienhsiang Youth Activity Center (Youth Hostel) and a Catholic Church is next to it. The original lovely Pudu suspension bridge was reconstructed into concrete in 2003 due to the safety reasons. At one end it has a tall White Robed Guanyin Statue. The seven-story Tianfeng Pagoda, Giant Statute of the Bodhisattva, Xiangde Temple and Daxiong Baodian temple are popular spots on the terrace.
Getting There by Public Transport: Air: From Taipei International Airport fly to Hualien on TransAsia Airways or Mandarin Airlines. Train: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Tianxiang. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Tianxiang stop. By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Fushi Village, Xiulin Township, Hualien County (169K of Provincial Highway No.8), Tel: -3-862-1100~6.
Wu She (near Taroko Gorge) is Taiwan's only ski resort. Here the Taiwan Forest Service maintains a hostel for skiers and hikers at an elevation of 11,200 feet. The skiing season is in January and February but snow conditions are unpredictable.
Hikes in Taroko National Park Area
Baiyang Trail, Tunnel Hike begins one kilometer uphill from Tianxiang and continues for several kilometers and passes through many tunnels to a waterfall. Bring a flashlight. The entrance of the Baiyang Trail is located about 300 meters from Tianxiang on the Central Cross-Island Highway. Near Wen Mountain (Wenshan), hikers will come upon the tunnel that is the beginning of the Baiyang Trail. Along the trail there are six tunnels of different lengths that provide a certain frisson as groups feel their way through the semi-darkness. The longer tunnels have solar-powered lights. This trail is particularly popular with locals, for it has an atmosphere of mystery and romance. A turn in the trail at the end of the third tunnel offers an excellent view of Tacijili River, and at the end of the sixth tunnel the truly spectacular goal of the trail, Baiyang Waterfall, comes into view. The water roars as it plunges into the deep pool that it has worn in the rock. The Baiyang Suspension Bridge offers spectacular views of the waterfall and the river valley. A seventh tunnel leads to a cave behind the falls;because of the danger of falling rocks, this area is closed to the public. Although this trail is not physically challenging, additional clothing may be necessary to ward off chilly air in the vicinity of the Baiyang Waterfall and back takes approximately 1.5 hours. Getting There: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Baiyang Trail. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Tianxiang stop. By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-869-1162.
Changchun Temple Trail: The starting point of this trail is the tunnel that leads from the highway to the Changchun Temple. This is definitely a trail for those who don't mind exerting themselves; for although it is not long, it is extremely steep. Those who suffer from vertigo should probably avoid this trail as well, for it has an intimidationg bridge-crossing, and part of the trail also follows a mountain ridge, which falls away steeply on either side. Reaching the highest point of the trail takes about 25 minutes of walking along a path that zigzags up a steep slope. The highest point is marked by a bell tower. Most people make this their resting point, but the very best views can be obtained from a point about five minutes further along, where all the grandeur of the mountain peaks and billowing clouds is revealed. From this point on, the trail leads downhill, a welcome rest for weary legs. About 20 minutes along the trail is the Dongtian Xianfu, a cave shrine carved into the rock. Visitors can dimly see a statue of Buddha and Buddhist murals in the semi-darkness of the cave. To the left is Taroko Tower, half-hidden in the wild grass. The trail then leads on to Changuang Temple. From here there is a road back to the Central Cross-Island Highway from where hikers can return to Changchun Temple. Getting There: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Changchun Temple. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Changchun Temple stop. By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-862-1405.
Lianhua Pond Trail: Between Shibao and Wen Mountain(Wenshan), 165 kilometers along the Central Cross-Island highway, is a point called Huitouwan (Hueitouwan) (return loop). This is the entry point for the Lianhua (Lotus) Pond Trail. To get to the trail proper, follow the narrow path for three or four minutes and go through a small cave which leads to the first of the trail's bridges, the Qingshi Suspension Bridge. The journey to Lianhua Pond ascends through 500 meters of altitude over 6.8 kilometers. A steep zigzag climb begins about 20 minutes into the hike soon after crossing the Jiumei Suspension Bridge.The forest along this trail is full of numerous kinds of birds, butterflies and small animals. By the lake are peach orchards and quite number of people still live in the area. In the nearby forests, you might even be lucky enough to see monkeys. Prospective hikers should prepare water and food for this hike, for the round trip journey will take about six hours at a leisurely pace and there are no kiosks from which to purchase supplies along the way. Getting There by Public Transport: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Lotus Lake Trail. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Li Mountain(Lishan) Lishan Line) to Xibao stop By Road: The Central Cross-Island Highway (Guguan to Deji Section). Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-862-1100~6.
Shakadang (Mystery Valley) Trail
The entrance to this trail is conveniently located only a minute or so from the entrance of Tailuge (Taroko) Gorge, behind the Shakadang Toll Station. To reach the trailhead, follow the path behind the toll station that leads down toward Liwu River. After crossing the stream, follow the bank until the river forks at the Shakedang tributary. The trailhead can be found nearby on the right bank of the tributary.
One of the most notable features of this trail is that it requires numerous river crossings. While this may not appeal to those not wanting to get their feet wet, for those who have no objection to rolling up their trousers, or even getting into their swimming gear, it provides infinite potential. The trail itself is not particularly demanding, although it is wise to avoid it during the typhoon season when flooding can make the river crossings treacherous.
Prospectors seeking the gold sand for which the river was known cut this trail during the Japanese occupation, although the gold has been fully exploited, the sunlight on the clear waters produces a different and perhaps even more beautiful glimmering. After a swim in the cool waters, visitors can sun themselves on the boulders, After walking for about 25 minutes along the trail, hikers reach a platform. This provides an excellent view of the emerald green waters of Shakadang Stream and the folded strata of marble that form its banks. A wooden walkway leads away from the main Mystery Valley Trail and follows the stream. On weekends, this is a very popular spot, and for those looking to enjoy the tranquility of nature, continuing along the main trail probably offers greater potential. A leisurely progress to the top of the trail and back takes approximately 4~5 hours.
Getting There: 1) Take a train to Xincheng Railway Station, continue by rental car to Shakadang (Mystery Valley) Trail. 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (New Hualien Station-Tianxiang Line) to Tailuge (Taroko) Visitor Center stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 8; Address: Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-862-1100~6.
Hot Springs in the Taroko National Park and Hualien Area
Wenshan Hot Springs (three kilometers miles from the Central Cross-island Highway) is a 1,700-foot-high hot spring that can be reached by hiking over a trail with a suspension bridge. It takes about ten minutes to reach the suspension bridge. From there there is a great view. The trail from there the hot spring is officially closed but people ignore the sign and go the spring anyway. One person posted on Trip Advisor in January 2019: “Its like a hidden gem and found out to be the least crowded place along the Taroko Gorge. The steep steps lead to a hanging bridge where the views are breath taking. The entry to the hot spring is blocked but can go down at your own risk. Need to go down on a muddy steep rock passage. There was a rope laid to hold and it wasn't that hard to reach the hot spring. There are small pools of hot water along the river banks and one hot spring pool near the water source with boiling hot water.”
Tai-an Hot Springs are reached by a narrow winding mountain road lined by steep cliffs on one side and the murmuring Wenshui (Wunshui) River on the other. The springs are nestled among three peaks Henglong, Niaozuei and Huzi mountains, creating a peaceful retreat off the beaten track. The hot springs at Tai-an are fed by water from the northwest foothills of Niaozuei Mountain. The Atayal people first discovered the springs in 1909 during a hunting expedition. During the Japanese colonial era, the Japanese built a police sanatorium and guest house here. In addition to the natural allures of the valleys, waterfalls, cliffs, and warm springs, this area is a melting pot of Hakka and Atayal culture—a combination that has produced distinctive mountain cuisine to complement your soak in Tai'an's natural embrace. Spring Type: Slightly alkaline; sodium bicarbonate; Water Qualities: Clear tasteless, smooth and suitable for bathing
Guguan Hot Spring Area is a resort area with hot spring hotels and restaurants clustered along Dongguan Road, following the Dajia River. Most of the hotels provide bathing facilities and specialize in trout cuisines. In recent years, many long-established spas here have been renovated in elegant Japanese style. The Japanese ambiance of Guguan is related to the history of this area. The springs were first developed during the early part of the Japanese occupation period. It is said that when the Japanese Meiji Emperor and his wife came to Guguan they were impressed by the natural beauty and excellent spring water quality. When the empress returned home, she soon gave birth to son. The hot springs here were subsequently known as the "Meiji Onsen" and "Spring of Sons. Spring Type: Slightly alkaline, carbonic acid; Water Qualities: Clear, tasteless and suitable for bathing
Ruisui and Hongye Hot Springs are located in Hongye Village in Wanrong Township, Hualien County, about three kilometers away from each other. The Hongye River winds through a valley and passes by the Hongye Hot Springs upstream. The springs here are therefore known locally as the "Inner Hot Spring." Ruisui, located at the further downstream, is called the "Outer Hot Spring." The Japanese built the first public bathhouse in Ruisui in 1919. Some of the Japanese-style inns from that period are still in business and offer outdoor bathing pools with views of the scenic forest. The Hongye Hot Springs date back even further to pre-Qing times, when they were discovered by Atayal hunters. By the Japanese colonial era, the Hongye springs were already well known. Several Japanese-style hot spring hotels remain from that period. They have undergone several renovations but still preserve a yesteryear bathing ambiance. Several years ago, the residents of Ruisui discovered nearby hot springs similar to those of the Ruisui Hot Springs. This became the site of the townships first hot springs hotel, and since then the area has become a popular hot spring destination. Today, visitors to the Ruisui and Hongye hot spring areas can choose from a wide selection of hot spring B&Bs and hotels, each offering a unique environment for enjoying a spring bath. Spring Type: Carbonate; Water Qualities: Rich in iron and other minerals, muddy yellow, slightly salty, not potable
Antong Hot Spring Area was discovered in 1904 by the Japanese camphor loggers. A guesthouse was later built in the area for Japanese government officials, and it is said that the Japanese crown prince spent the night here when he came to Taiwan. Antong is located deep in a secluded mountain area with plenty of scenic charm. Once known as "Antong Zhuonuan," literally "complete peace and rinsing warmth," this area never attained the same fame as the Zhiben Hot Springs in Taitung, but its long history and excellent water quality have made this a favorite spot for hot spring connoisseurs. The Antong Hot Springs are believed to contain radon gas, which can be used to predict earthquakes. The exceptionally pure spring water has made this area a popular destination for spring lovers over the past century. At sundown, visitors can also look forward to a healthy dinner of melt-in-your-mouth Yuli pork, an espresso under the moonlight, and the sound of the flowing spring water to wrap up the day. Over the past few years, a number of hot spring B&Bs have sprouted up in the Antong Hot Spring Area offering visitors plenty of choices for a soothing bath, embraced by the beauty of the mountains and sea. Spring Type: Slightly alkaline; chloride sulfate; Water Qualities: Clear, suitable for bathing, sulfur smell, and slightly salty.
East Rift Valley National Scenic Area
East Rift Valley National Scenic Area (between Hualien and Taitung Cities) has been called Taiwan’s "land of milk honey". Traveling down Provincial Highway No.9, all you see on both sides of the road are green farm fields stretching to the mountains. The national scenic area stretches from Mugua River in Hualien to the north to Taitung City and covers a total of 1,383.86 square kilometers, encompasses mountains, valleys, and hot springs, together with fields of rice, daylilies, pomelos, tea, and sugar apples in rich abundance.
Berms crisscross the land, dividing it into fields; waves of rice billow as cows graze in pastures and fish and shrimp cavort in the streams. The valley is home to four of Taiwan's indigenous tribes: the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, and Puyuma. Aboriginal culture is among the most important and most representative of the East Rift Valley's precious resources.
Getting There by Public Transport: Air: From Taipei International Airport fly to Hualien on TransAsia Airways or Mandarin Airlines. Train: 1) Take a train to Ruisui Railway Station; 2) Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus to Ruisui stop. By Road: Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 County Hwy 193; Address: No.168, Sec. 2, Xinghe Rd, Neighborhood 17, Hegang Village, Ruisui Township, Hualien County, Tel: -3-887-5306.
Chinan National Forest Recreation Area
Chinan National Forest Recreation Area (20 kilometers southwest of Hualien City) is located on the mountain slopes to the east of Liyu Lake Its attractions include verdant forests, enchanting mountain vistas, and a pavilion area which provides excellent views of the lake. Facilities include a visitor center, forest paths, a grass-skiing slope, and a children's playground.
A cableway, railway engine, and other old equipment are preserved and provided with explanatory plaques to illustrate how this area once operated as a logging camp. In addition, there is a small forestry museum with exhibits, multimedia shows, and old photographs that illuminate the development of the forestry industry in Taiwan.
Chinan (Jinan) National Forest Recreation Area lies in Shoufeng, Hualien County. Established in 1981, it is south of Liyu Lake and covers five hectares in area. It was a transportation center for the logging industry in the past. The rails, carts and tools for the logging industry are still preserved in the forest. The timber museum is located in the center of the park and it has a complete collection of historic documents, introducing the development of the logging industry in Taiwan. The cable car used for transportation of timber in the past is now used to transport tourists. Tourists can camp, barbeque and fish in the park.
Getting There by Public Transport: ; Train: Take a train to Hualien Railway Station, continue by Hualien Bus (toward Shoufeng) to Liyu Pond. By Road: Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 9C; Address: Jinan(Chinan) Village, Shoufeng Township, Hualien County, Tel: -38-641-594.
Taitung County (southeast coast of Taiwan) is located on the delta of the Beinan River, at the southern tip of the rift valley. From coastal areas to mountain highs, Taitung greets visitors to a land of ecological richness and scenic beauty. The county is also known for its distinctive local products such as premium rice, day lilies, hibiscus, sugar apples, sailfish, bonito (skipjack tuna), and other specialty seafood items.
Cyclists are also well served in Taitung. Taiwan's oldest bikeway—the Guanshan Bicycle Trail—is located here, and other cycling routes can be enjoyed in Longtian Village (Luye Township), Chishang, Taitung City, and coastal areas.
Taitung is small city on the southern part of the east coast. Worth visiting are the Dragon Phoenix Temple and several beaches (some of them dangerous) and coastal scenery with rocks and crashing waves. It also a jumping off point to Lanyu Island. Taitung City is situated on the Peinan River. The city lies in a fertile agricultural region that produces rice, peanuts and sugarcane. Industries include milled sugar, processed timber and jute. The city has good road, rail, and air connection with Kaohsiung and Taipei. Taitung has a population of around 106,000.
Getting There by Public Transport: Air: From Taipei International Airport fly to Taitung Airport on UNI AIR or Mandarin Airlines; Train: Take the train to Taitung Railway Station. By Road: Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 County Hwy 194; Tourist Offices: 1) Taitung Railway Station (New Station), Tel: -89-238-231, No. 598, Lane 101, Yanwan Rd, Taitung City, Taitung County. 2) Taitung Railway Station (Old Station), Tel: -89-357131, No. 369, Tiehua Rd, Taitung City, Taitung County. 3) Taitung Airport, Tel: -89-362-476, No. 1100, Minhang Rd, Taitung City, Taitung County
Water Running Up and Other Sights in the Taitung Area
Water Running Up is a place where water seems defy gravity. The water in the 1.8 kilometer-long irrigation channel from Dulan appears to flow upwards. Beside the channel is a stone tablet inscribed with the word "Miracle". The water for the most part actually runs downhill but the landscape creates an illusion that it is going uphill. One person posted on Trip Advisor: “This is a funny little place - a tourist stop where all the buses pull in. It is maybe underwhelming, but there is the interesting optical illusion of the water running uphill (and indeed running uphill in some spots).” Getting There by Public Transport: Take the train to Taitung Railway Station, continue by Dingdong Bus (bound for Taiyuan, Chenggong, Changbin, Jingpu, Hualien) to Dulan stop. By Road: Freeway 5 Exit at the Su-ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 11. Address: Dulan, Donghe Township, Taitung County, Contact: Tel: -89-841-520,
Xiaoyeliu (at the 162-kilometer mark near the southern end of the East Coast National Scenic Area) is home to a variety of rock formations similar to those found at Yeliu on Taiwan's North Shore. Unlike the rest of the Philippine Plate that determines the geology of this area, the rock of Xiaoyeliu (Little Yeliu) is sandstone. This prompts geologists to believe that it originated somewhere else. You should first study the detailed explanations of the geological displays in the Visitor Center before going to the seashore and examining the tofu rock, honeycomb rock, fungus rock, and other strange shapes there. On clear days, you can easily see Green Island from the shore at Xiaoyeliu. Situated at the main entrance to the Xiaoyeliu Scenic Area, the Xiaoyeliu Visitor Center features a geology exhibition hall with many carefully-designed models and rock samples introducing the geological features of Siaoyeliou and the Coastal Range. This is a good place to get orientated before heading out on tours of this area. Getting There by Public Transport: TRA Taitung Station Dingdong Bus (bound for Jingpu,Chenggong, Taiyuan) to Xiaoyeliu stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 5 Exit at the Su'ao Interchange Prov. Hwy 9 Prov. Hwy 11; Address: No. 500, Songjiang Rd, Taitung City, Taitung County (Xiaoyeliu Visitor Center), Tel: -89-281-136.
Zhiben Hot Springs (five kilometers southwest of Taitung City) is an area where hot springs originally emerged from riverbeds. There are carbonic acid springs that are colorless, odorless and their temperature reaches more than 100 degrees C. Zhiben is divided into the inner hot spring area and the outer hot spring area by the Zhiben Creek. Due to presence of five-star resorts, the inner area has become a largest business district. It attracts many foreign tourists who demand services of higher quality. The "Zhiben Hot Springs" generally known by the public is located in outer hot spring area. There are many middle-size and small hot spring inns. It is convenient to get accommodation or enjoy hot spring spa. Spring Type: Alkaline; sodium bicarbonate; Water Qualities: Clear, with white "spring flowers" (dissolved minerals), rich in minerals, known as "beauty baths"
The township of Chenggong in Taitung County is known for sailfish cuisine. The region has an especially productive fishery industry thanks to the confluence of the warm Kuroshio Current and cold Oyashio Current in its coastal waters. A major species caught here is sailfish, which swim close of the ocean surface during the northeast monsoon season. Five major species of sailfish and marlin frequent the waters off eastern Taiwan, including swordfish, black marlin, blue marlin, striped marlin and Indo-Pacific sailfish. The sailfish fishing season extends from September to February, and the peak catch months are October and November. During the Sailfish Festival, visitors can feast on sailfish cuisine at major restaurants in Chenggong as well as at the Taitung Hotel Royal Chihpen, Hoya Spring Resort Hotel and other Zhiben area hotels.
Beinan Archaeological Site
Beinan Archaeological Site (two kilometers north of Taitung City) is renowned for having the best-preserved stone coffin burial site in the Pacific Rim Evidence uncovered from the Beinan archeological site has linked Taiwan's prehistoric people to the larger Austronesian group that went on to settle in a significant portion of the world. Hawaiians, the Maori in New Zealand and even people in Madagascar and Easter Island have Austronesian roots.
Situated on the banks of the Beinan River near Taitung's Nanwang village and first discovered by Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryuzo in 1896, the Beinan archeological site has since proved to be a treasure trove of prehistoric relics. The ancient burial ground contains artifacts from three distinct time periods - the Neolithic Corded Ware Culture (roughly 4,500 years ago), the Beinan Culture (roughly 3,500 years ago) and the early Iron Age of Sanhe (roughly 2,300 years ago).
The 80-hectare site is best known for being the resting place of over 200 stone coffins that belonged to the Beinan Culture. These so-called "mosaic stone sarcophagi” were made with stone slates and lined with a variety of burial gifts and ornaments such as jade jewelry and stone spears. Moreover, the coffins varied in shape and size, with over 77 samples measuring less than 50 centimeters long, leading archeologists to conclude that the prehistoric tribe buried their decreased newborns out of their belief in the human soul.
This is further supported by the fact that most of the graves' occupants were aligned to be facing Dulan Mountain, a sacred peak revered by the Beinan people as the home of their ancestral spirits. Today, the protected site is home to the Beinan Cultural Park and the National Museum of Prehistory, two establishments dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Taiwan's prehistoric heritage. Visitors can marvel over the craftsmanship of these ancient jewelers, potters and stone masons and behold the cluster of giant Beinan moon-shaped stone pillars, a designated national treasure and symbol of the site's standing as a worthy contender for World Heritage status.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Taiwan (Republic of China) tourism and government websites, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020