For many travellers, heading outside Taipei into the north gives them their first taste of how big this little island is. It's not just that there are mountains reaching up to 3886m. It's that those mountains – and their valleys and meadows – seem near endless, and that around every corner is a new hot-spring village, forest reserve or indigenous hamlet.
There's generally good transport across the north, but for those who can manage it, the cycling is world class, with routes along coastlines, through rural townships, and over cross-island highways. But remember: the north is a big place. While the blue magpie can fly those few kilometres in no time, the winding road takes a bit longer.