The Unique Natural Beauty of Taiwan
Taiwan has a truly unique natural beauty. The subtropical volcanic island is more than 70% towering, jagged mountains that in some places rise nearly straight out of the Pacific Ocean. Volcanic activity has created numerous hot springs and cavernous lava rock coastlines on Taiwan. Sandstone protrusions on the northern and southern tips have been whipped by the wind into beautiful and surreal landscapes. Taiwan is home to many natural spectacles that can’t be found together anywhere else.
Alishan is likely the most famous, and most visited, mountain because of the incomparable tea grown there, its relatively easy access from major cities, and its association with the historic Taiwan Railroad. The best way to see Alishan is to hike the many trails that wrap around it, but the easiest way to see all of the best parts is to the the Train Tour, which offers views unlike any I’ve seen from a train in my life. Think about those mystical (kind of cheesy) Chinese paintings of mountains shrouded in mist that seem too scenic and serene to be true. A view from high on Alishan early in the morning will prove to you that those paintings are not only realistic, but understated.
Yushan, Xinyi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan 556
Often said to be the tallest mountain in East Asia, at 3952 m climbing Taiwan‘s Jade Mountain (or Yushan 玉山) is an epic undertaking, even for experienced hikers. The trip takes most hikers two days, although some people do manage to rush to the summit and back in one long (12-14 hour) day. Jade Mountain is a very popular hike and the number of people on the trail is limited, so it’s recommended that you apply for a permit far in advance.
929, Taiwan, Pingtung County, Liuqiu Township, 屏東縣琉球鄉
Black Dwarf Cave (also known as Black Ghost Cave) is located on Xiao Liuchiu’s west coast. It’s more of a walkway through a maze of precipitous lava rock formations than a tunnel into a cliff like one normally expects of a cave. The cave has a morbid history; more than three hundred aboriginals were burned alive here by the Dutch during their occupation of Taiwan. The cave, however, is beautiful, with several vistas like the one pictured here overlooking the Taiwan Strait.
Liuqiu Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan 929
Xiao Liuchiu is a beautiful island, but the best spot has to be the iconic Vase Rock. This spot is located near the downtown area and ferry dock. There’s a wooden walkway where you can walk along the coast and watch the sun set over the Taiwan Strait. There is also a beautiful coral reef filled with sea life, which makes for spectacular snorkelling. I thoroughly enjoyed both.
No. 18, Zhongbu Cross-island highway, Xiulin Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 972
These beautiful hot springs are located several kilometres into the gorge. To get there you must drive or cycle to the parking lot and then walk down a long wooden staircase built into the cliffside. At the bottom you’ll find a quaint Japanese-style changing room. From there you cross the river on a suspension bridge and then walk down to an open marble basin filled with flowing hot water. The view from the bottom of the gorge is spectacular, the water is blisteringly hot, and the river is near enough to jump in to cool off. And the best part: it’s free.
No. 259之2, Hengdong Road, Hengchun Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan 946
The ChuHuo Eternal Flame (恆春出火) just outside of Hengchun in the far south of Taiwan is definitely worth a stop. Natural gas seeps up from the earth and ignites on this otherwise dead area of rock and sand ground. There are several areas of fire to see and, on at busy times, there are vendors in the parking lot who will sell you popcorn to pop over the eternal flames.
732, Taiwan, Tainan City, Baihe District, 關仔嶺風景區
The flames on top of this pool of water are said to have been burning for more than 300 years, and were started by and earthquake that opened a fissure in the earth releasing natural gas into the bottom of the pool. The phenomenon is definitely worth stopping by, especially if you are interested in visiting the nearby Guanziling Hot Springs -- another of the area’s natural wonders.
946, Taiwan, Pingtung County, Hengchun Township, 白砂路
My photo does not do this beach justice. Flanked by coral, Baisha (which means “white sand” in Chinese) Beach is possibly the most beautiful beach on the island. Just outside of Kenting, this beach is popular with visitors year-round. There are several hotels nearby as well as two campgrounds. It is rare to hear that somebody has traveled to the south of Taiwan without stopping by this gorgeous place.