Business meets beauty in this dynamic and fun-loving Asian metropolis.
Yushan National Park & Western Taiwan
If you want contrasts, head to western Taiwan and start at the coastline, continue through rich farmland and end in the high mountains of the central range. In fact, for a study in contrasts, just head to the Alishan National Scenic Area.
In the south, people’s ties to rural folk culture are strongest. Local gods are more fervently worshipped, traditions more respected, and a clannish regard for kith and kin more obvious. And in a land of hospitable people, southerners shine as the most hospitable of all. Outside of Taipei, the only cities really worth visiting are in the south: ie Tainan and Kaohsiung.
If you don’t have the time, or perhaps resources, to travel all over Taiwan, you can see much of the best it has to offer within a few hours of Taipei. The north has one of the best networks of hiking trails, an abundance of hot springs, a strong aboriginal presence and three towns devoted to traditional industries.
Beautiful, well off the beaten path for most Western travellers and as chock-full of culture and history per square kilometre as you’re likely to find in East Asia, Taiwan’s outer islands abound with opportunities for those intrepid enough to make the trip. Kinmen and Matsu, both in the Taiwan Strait, have remained out of the travel spotlight until very recently.
Taroko National Park & The East Coast
For many travellers, a love affair with the east coast begins with a journey to Taroko Gorge. Wandering this bedazzling marble canyon, visitors often find a private paradise in the form of a deep waterfall-fed pool or rocky lookout. Such delight does this discovery give that most people fear losing the spot to the masses and try to keep it secret.
Southwest Coast of Southern Taiwan
The southern city of Kaohsiung (Gāoxióng) is Taiwan's largest port, its second-largest city and centre of the country's heavy and petrochemical industries.
Highway 2: The North & Northeast Coast
The 166km coastal Provincial Hwy 2 winds along the top of the island from the mouth of the Danshui River to the alluvial plains of Ilan. It's a stunning route with a wide range of coastal landscapes: rolling grass hills, high rugged cliffs, sand beaches, pebble beaches, rocky terraces and windswept peninsulas.
Penghu (澎湖, Pénghú), also known as the Pescadores, is famous for its great beaches, glorious temples and the traditional Chinese-style homes surrounded by coral walls. In the summer months Penghu is hot and beautiful, while in winter and spring the archipelago is possibly the windiest place in the northern hemisphere.
Kinmen (金門, Jīnmén), lying only 2km off the coast of mainland China, is an odd remnant from the bitter civil war between communist and Nationalist forces. Along with Matsu, Kinmen is a small chunk of Fujian province occupied by Republic of China (ROC) forces and administered from Taiwan.
You’ll almost certainly receive looks of jealousy from any Taiwanese person if you mention you’re going to Tainan (台南市), and it’s not hard to see why. Traditional culture continues to thrive in Tainan, the oldest city in the country.
Hsinchu & Miaoli Counties
The Hsinchu Science Park is by far the most famous site in this region, but most travellers come for the spectacular mountain scenery in the foothills of the Snow Mountain Range, the hot springs, and a small mist-shrouded mountain dotted with temples.
Yangmingshan National Park
How fortunate Taipei is to have this diverse park at its doorstep, complete with forested mountains, hot springs, rolling grass hills, and some handsome lodgings and restaurants. The park covers 114.55 sq km, with a top elevation of 1120m, and is easily accessible from the downtown area by frequent buses.