Discovering Taiwan: My Top 5 Outdoor Travel & Adventure Guide

By: Constance

At first glance, Taiwan may appear to be a highly populated small island with a nation of hard-working, career-driven people. But once you escape the hustle and bustle of the cities and begin peeling away the layers, you will come to realize that there is more to Taiwan than high-tech factories and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

When you stand on the peak of one of Taiwan's mountains for the first time and witness the clouds hovering below you, when you explore the beautiful white sandy beaches on the island of Penghu, when you gaze at the dramatic, visually stunning Qing Shui Cliff as it extends into the aqua blue water, or when you find yourself surrounded by the vast marble rock faces of Taroko Gorge, that is when you will truly realize and appreciate the true beauty of this tiny island.

I, too, am guilty of previously judging Taiwan. I secretly doubted Taiwanese when they claimed that Taiwan is a beautiful place and when they told me all I had to do is escape the cities. I internally rolled my eyes when they described the picturesque places and the unique natural landscapes.

Little did I know that I was the one who was wrong. All my previous misconceptions and preconceived notions made me feel highly embarrassed. All I had to do was hop on a train, a bus, a scooter, or in a car to explore the prized natural possessions that comprises this magnificent island that I currently call home.

Come explore Taiwan, through my eyes, as I uncover some truly amazing places. It is a place where you can sometimes get physically lost but internally found.

Here are my top five outdoor travel and adventure activities. They range from lazy days, gentle strolls, to more challenging adventures. There is sure to be something for everyone!! All you have to do is put on your comfortable shoes (or flip-flops) and get out there and explore!!

~1~ Ji Bei, Penghu: I was in awe when the boat docked! Not a car to be seen! Small, narrow roads outlined the rim of the island with only a scooter or two exploring the area! Beautiful white sandy beaches, one with a sand bar as far as the eye can see! It was the perfect place to get lost in time, to watch the waves roll in, and to stroll on the early morning deserted beaches!

If you are looking for the perfect island paradise, then Ji Bei is your best option. My trip to Ji Bei was one of the most relaxing weekend get-aways I've ever had. It was the perfect place to escape reality for awhile. The cool evening breeze and the sound of the waves crashing could be heard all over the island. It was the ideal atmosphere to enjoy an evening barbeque after a day of water activities and fun in the sun.

Ji Bei is a short boat ride from Makong, Penghu's Main Island. It takes a little effort to get there, but this island get-away is definitely worth it.

~2~ Taroko Gorge: I was speechless the first time I visited! What an amazing feeling to be immersed between the marble rock faces, to hear the rushing sound of water between the cliffs, to walk through the tunnels, and to gaze at the pure, natural beauty of Taroko Gorge! Plus, it was the place where I felt my heart beating, my legs shaking, and my knees going weak when I crossed my very first suspension bridge.

A trip to Taiwan wouldn't be complete without a visit to Taroko Gorge. I have been there several times and it is always a different experience. I have seen the gorge from the back of a scooter, from the inside of a car, and I have gotten up, close, and personal with the gorge. Yes, my most memorable journey was when I pounded every inch of the 18 kilometer pavement from the entrance gate to Tiensheng.

Taroko Gorge is located on the east coast of Taiwan, not far from Hualien. It is NOT one of Taiwan's best kept secrets, so be prepared to face crowds, tour buses, and traffic jams on holidays! You have been warned!

~3~ Hehuan Mountain (Hehuanshan): I was excited to breathe in the fresh mountain air, to feel the wind in my hair, to challenge myself. Located at an elevation of 3275 meters, it feels like you are on top of the world. It is the ideal location to see the clouds sitting on the mountain peaks and the perfect spot, actually one of the few spots in Taiwan, to play with snow when temps fall below freezing. The hiking trails here are quite strenuous, especially with the air so thin, but the views are spectacular and the accomplishment of completing such a huge challenge is really rewarding.

I love Hehuan Mountain. It is the place where I felt the coldest in Taiwan. It is where I witnessed the most amazing sunrise but where I felt the most frustrated when I realized that there was another higher peak hidden behind what I thought was the summit. I challenged myself to complete several seriously strenuous hikes there and it is where I conquered what I thought was impossible, both physically and mentally.

HeHuan Mountain is located in Nantou and it is the highest peak accessible by car in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese make the journey there to get their first glimpse of snow.

~4~ Qing Shui Cliff: I was immediately drawn to the beauty of Qing Shui Cliff. The way the cliff plunges into the aqua blue water! The view of the cliff from the rocky beach! The peaceful and serene atmosphere of the place in general. It is another place to kick off your shoes and slow down for awhile. Most people just stop for a photo opp and keep on trucking. But if you stay for awhile, the place will be yours most of the time.

I was drawn to this place because of the small town girl in me. I grew up close to the water and it reminds me of home, of Canada. It brought back memories of when I was younger: the salt water spray, the wind from the water, and the peaceful serenity of the place. When I am there, I truly appreciate nature and all it has to offer.

Qing Shui Cliff is also located in Eastern Taiwan and it is not far from Hualien as well. You may require your own means of transportation to get there.

~5~ Sun Moon Lake: I was so happy that I didn't write this place off. It has someone for everyone. You can cycle around the lake on the beautiful bike route and enjoy the view of the lake from several vantage points. You can use your own muscle power and row a boat or opt to take a 1 hour cruise with others. You can sit and have a picnic on the green grass beside the lake. You can challenge your legs and hike to the pagoda or make use of the other hiking trails varying in difficulty. You can see the lake from high in the sky via the ropeway (cable car). And if that is not enough, you can sample some aboriginal food and enjoy a visit to one of the temples situated around the lake.

I have been there several times and I have to admit the time I camped there was by far my favorite. There is something relaxing about sitting by the lake and barbequing with friends. It was also the time I rowed a boat and envisioned the boat capsizing every single time a larger motor boat zoomed by. After using my arm power, I used my legs to power my bike around the lake, stopping way too often for pictures. What can I say? I love the place!!

Sun Moon Lake is in Nantou County. It can be easily reached by bus but if you have your own transportation, it is more convenient!

Taiwan is a beautiful place...the people, the views, the scenery, the food, the overall friendly atmosphere! It is not surprising that it was once called Formosa, meaning 'beautiful place.' Be sure to explore the magic of the place and appreciate all it has to offer. Living in Taiwan has been a very rewarding experience for me, both personally and professionally. I hope that this article has inspired you to come and explore the place that I currently called 'home.'

About the author

Expat Blog ListingConstance is a Canadian expat living in Taiwan. Blog description: Walking the World & Mapping My Journey as I live & work in a foreign country (Taiwan). Thinking out loud, documenting my thoughts, & creating my life blueprint.
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Contest Comments » There are 20 comments

SJ Begonja wrote 10 years ago:

Okay, so now I feel I have to head to visit you. It all sounds so lovely. Good Luck.

Greg Seymour wrote 10 years ago:

It's a shame this contest did not allow photos, but great job describing these gems. I too had a misconception of Taiwan…thanks for setting me straight.

Kim wrote 10 years ago:

Wow Constance! Great article....Taiwan is certainly on our bucket list and now after reading this it has moved up a few spots. We can't wait to explore some of these places you spoke of!

Emma K. wrote 10 years ago:

Constance made the places come alive through her words and descriptions. First-class writing all the way.

Frankaboutcroatia wrote 10 years ago:

I wouldn't imagine Taiwan the way you described it in this post. I would agree with Greg that it's shame you were not allowed to add photos. I would love to see scenes from Ji Bei.

Sharon wrote 10 years ago:

We visited Taiwan earlier in this year and just loved it!! Mostly we just saw Taipei though and had a fabulous time with our kids. We were meant to go to Sun Moon Lake but ended up cancelling because of a bad weather forecast. I wish we hadn't now!

Adelina wrote 10 years ago:

I've always wanted to go to Taiwan, but never thought of it having that much nature seeing as how small it is and how many people there are! Lovely to hear about all the beautiful places on this island!

Lunaguava wrote 10 years ago:

I second Greg and Frank's comments: shame no photos were allowed. Still, your description makes me want to check them all out, so congrats! I've always been curious about Taiwan (everything I know about it comes from the world of cinema), and your post made it all the more enticing. Good luck!

Samantha wrote 10 years ago:

Yay Taiwan! Great write up, I can't wait to revisit all these places next time I go. Good to see other people discovering and realizing the true beauty of Taiwan and what an amazing country it is! Because it really is :)

Cleo wrote 10 years ago:

This one is by far my favorite...I am in awe with your ability to make Taiwan come alive through your use of words. Very informative with great advice...Super job! Good luck my friend!

Jamie wrote 10 years ago:

This entry rocks...seriously, it does! Love your passion for Taiwan. I read your blog post first with pictures of these are a really skilled photographer girl! Too bad you couldn't include the photos. Rock on and good luck!

Katie wrote 10 years ago:

A must read! It provides unique info about Taiwan and Taiwan travel. I have read many of her posts and I find them so interesting that I keep coming back for more. Constance for the win!

Frank wrote 10 years ago:

Great post Constance! I'm a nature lover, especially love any place with great views - I think I'd love hiking in Taiwan. It's not a place we hear much about, I think someone should write a guide on Taiwan (hint, hint) :) Good job, you've got my vote! Frank (bbqboy)

Norah wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for introducing me to another side of Taiwan. I live in Taipei and seldom get out of the city. From reading your post, I think I should.

Nicki Chen wrote 10 years ago:

I enjoyed reading this well-written article and imagining visiting these five sites. Like Constance, I enjoy getting out in the countryside to experience the beauty of nature.

Sammy wrote 10 years ago:

Ji Bei and Sun Moon Lake sound incredible. I am game for anything that has to do with adventure and the outdoors. I don't know very much about Taiwan but this article has made me aware of diversity of the place.

N. House wrote 10 years ago:

I have always dreamed of travelling to Asia and far away places. Your article and words are making me dream of Taiwan. You have a special skill of creating a visual presentation through words.

September wrote 10 years ago:

This write-up is brilliant, just fantastic. You show a different side of Taiwan that not many people know about. Your sense of adventure and love of nature scream though loud and clear. I taught in Taiwan before and it is a place that I hold near and dear to my heart and you do the place justice. This entry for the win! (Constance, your blog is a delight to read.)

T. Marie wrote 10 years ago:

What a tremendous opportunity to showcase Taiwan and you have done it perfectly. You provide a great endorsement for your adopted country. I love how you have included your thoughts about the places in your article. Good luck with the contest and as a regular reader of your blog, you got my vote!

C.R. wrote 10 years ago:

Beaches, mountains, gorges, cliffs, lakes...seems like Taiwan has it all! Great insight, enjoyable commentary, with a dash of adventure. Happy holidays & I look forward to following your 2014 adventures.

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