Though better known for its shopping and urban skyline, Taiwan has a lot more to offer than just the night lights of Taipei. Whether an active adventurer, or laidback lounger, Taiwan has natural landscapes to suit every traveller’s itinerary. Here’s a guide for the best activities all around Taiwan that take place outside of it’s big cities.
Getting there is easy – China Airlines flies twice a day direct to Taipei from Singapore, and twice weekly to Kaohsiung, where you can easily move on to whatever adventure you chose to take.
If you’re looking for hotels in Taipei, do check out our Top 3 most value for money hotels in Taipei:
Yodel atop Yushan
Yushan is a confounding place. Not only does it go by several names – Mt. Morrison, Jade Mountain, and Mount Yu for short – but it is also just one mountain in the Yushan mountain range, in Yushan National Park. Some online sources have even gone so far as to name it “Taiwan’s largest, highest and least accessible national park”.
So if right about now you’re wondering why anyone would ever go to such an intimidating spot, here’s a couple of reasons.
Yushan’s peak is 3,952 metres above sea level, making it the highest Taiwanese mountain, and the fourth tallest island mountain. It is not an easy holiday, or hike for that matter, but the view at the top is well worth the effort. The range includes 5 peaks – the main peak, and then North, South, East and West .
Unless you are an unusually skilled and fit hiker (i.e. Katniss Everdeen), it is recommended that Yushan’s main peak be conquered over two days. The first day will be the hike up to the base camp of sorts, Paiyun Lodge, which alone requires around an 8.5km walk uphill from the trailhead. The Paiyun trail is a well maintained track and quite doable, but as it is a constant ascent to the lodge, never underestimate the harm altitude sickness can cause. Take it slow, and grab a break halfway at the White Wood forest shelter, which sits at about 3000m altitude. Don’t expect there to be any food or water sold along the trail either – make sure to bring plenty of hiking-appropriate snacks, and lot of water.
Take the night to recuperate in Paiyun Lodge, which costs NT$480/pax. If you want to catch the sunrise the next morning, be prepared to leave the lodge at about 3am to hike the remaining two and a half kilometres to the summit.
It might be wise to spend the extra money to hire an experienced guide, who not only could help you organize accommodation, meals, and transport to and from Yushan for your trip, but also help you apply for both the Yushan National Park permit, and a mountain climbing permit. Unlike its neighbour Alishan, Yushan is not a huge tourist destination and can be challenging to navigate alone.
Paddling in Penghu
When travellers want to do water sports and laze on beautiful beaches, usually South-east Asian destinations like Indonesia and Thailand. But a little known paradise exists off the coast of Chiayi County – Penghu islands.
If befriending fishes is your thing, head to Jiang Jun island beside Wangan. If you have your own goggles and fins, head out to the reef which about a 10 minute walk from the harbour. If not the one main guesthouse at the edge of the harbour, Shell House B&B, operates the only snorkeling & fishing trips on Jiang Jun. For just NTD400-500 per person, the trips include gear, guide and lunch. They will probably also rent out the necessary equipment alone if you ask nicely. As very few people on the island speak English, you may need to look up words of persuasion beforehand.
There are also many beautiful beaches on the islands of Penghu, including Shanshui at the southern tip of the Magong, and the famous Double Heart Stone Weir on Qimei island, which is quite popular with tourists and romantics alike.
A great way to see any of the Penghu islands is to rent a bicycle for NT$150 a day,or a scooter for NT$300, and just ride from beach to beach.
As a beach spot, ideal travel months to Penghu are during summer, from May to July. During the winter, it can get cold and very windy.
Wading through Wulai
Confession: you cannot literally wade through Wulai, but this northern province is known for its stunning water features like hot springs and waterfalls. In fact, the name Wulai is said to derive from the indigenous Atayal tribe’s word for hot spring.
The Wulai hot springs are one of the most popular in the country as they are colourless, and more importantly, odourless. There are several hotels and spas in the area which have their own private baths for you to enjoy if you’re planning to stay the night, which is recommended as there is quite a lot to see and do. If you’re on a budget, or have a tight schedule, perhaps just stroll along the river to the public baths built along its banks. On the other side of the Nanshih river from the main town, these public baths have a nice view of the little aboriginal town, emerald river, and surrounding forest-covered mountains. Unlike the private baths, please do wear a swimsuit or the like when enjoying the hot springs, and be prepared to share the pools with other visitors of Wulai.
Once done steaming yourself like Taiwanese dim sum, stretch your legs and take one of the many hiking trails that wind around Wulai’s mountains. The most popular trail is probably the one that leads to Wulai Waterfall, an 80m-high cascade of white water. An easy walk, the path to the Wulai Waterfall is just under 2km, and follows the tram line that also leads to the base of the waterfall. If walking is not your forte, the tram costs NT$50 each way.
China Airlines flies twice a day direct to Taipei from Singapore and twice a week to Kaohsiung from Singapore, also a direct flight. You can search your flight and book directly only at www.china-airlines.com. If you prefer a package deal, you can also take a look at China Airlines’ Dynasty Packages for free & easy tours to Taiwan.
This article is supported by China Airlines and the Taiwan Tourism Board.