Would it be possible a country that is 11 times smaller than Japan has over 100 mountains, lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, islands?  Yes, Taiwan is that country.  In fact, it only has 106 lakes, 121 islands, 128 hot springs, 230 waterfalls, and 286 mountains over 3000 meters!!!  Not to mention the 37 beaches to go for a picnic.   It is amazing such a small island has so much to offer.  I will attempt to talk about the most popular and well-known by locals.

Most famous of the 106 lakes – Sun Moon Lake

Of the 106 lakes, the most famous lake is the Sun Moon Lake also the only natural big lake in Taiwan that stores water.  Crowned as one of the Eight Wonders of Taiwan.  The Sun Moon Lake scenic area got its name from the unique terrain that looked like a sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other, divided by Lalu Island.  You can cycle, drive, walk, row a boat, a cruise ride around the lake.  Or take a gondola ride for the panoramic view.  To get there take the high-speed railway then transfer to bus from Taichung train stop.  This journey is about 2 hours.

Sun Moon Lake - Taiwan
8 wonders of Taiwan

One of the most popular of the 121 islands – Penghu cluster of Islands

The Penghu cluster of islands alone has 64 islands.    The Qimei Islands that belongs to Penghu cluster of islands is famous for double heart stone weir which is a large stone traditional fishing trap made in the shape of two hearts.  The most impressive sight in Penghu is Tongpan Island, the hexagonal shaped vertical basalt columns that are twenty meters high.  The best time to visit Penghu cluster of islands is from May to Sep, when the winds don’t blow that strongly and it tends to rain less.  To get there during summers you can take a ferry from Putai (90mins) or Kaoshiung (3.5hours).  Alternatively, you can fly from Taipei.

Double-heart shape stone weir - Taiwan
Double-heart shape stone weir, photo credits to 由padai@wikipedia
Tongpan Island
Tongpan Island, nicknamed The Yellowstone Park of Penghu Island

Two most famous of the 128 hots springs –  Guanziling and  Green Island  hot springs

It is no wonder that Taiwanese maintains their skin complexion so well, with over 128 hot springs to choose from.  And a mud like hot spring fame for its beautification properties that is found only in 3 places in the world, Guanziling hot spring in Taiwan, the other 2 in Kagoshima Japan and Sicily Italy.  To get to Guanziling hot spring, take the high-speed railway from Taipei to Chiayi station.  Then hop on to the free shuttle from Chiayi station.

Salt water hot spring, 3 in the world - Taiwan
Saltwater hot spring in Green Island, photo credits to Flickr@權鋒 葉

Besides, the mud like hot spring, Taiwan also has one of the 3 saltwater hot springs in the world, found in Green Island.  Well-known for its therapeutic effects.  The hot spring is open 24 hours from March to October, and from 6 am to 10 pm between November and February. To get to Green Island you can fly from Taipei.  Alternatively, you can take a 1-hour boat ride from Taitung Fugang Harbour.  To move around the island you can either rent a scooter or flag down the public buses that run around the island a few times each day.

One of the 230 waterfalls  – Shifen  Waterfall

Add in another 230 waterfalls, the Taiwanese favourite waterfall is 1.5 hours away from Taipei, Shifen waterfall.  Nicknamed the Little Niagara even though it is much smaller.   Shifen is a very popular stop along the historic and stunning Pingxi Railroad.  Some people hike the longer Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail, which takes about 4 hours.  To get there, take to the MRT Muzha Station then take number 15 Taipei Bus to Shifen.

Shifen waterfalls - Taiwan
Shifen waterfall at Taipei, photo credits to wikipedia@Weihao.chiu

One of the hundreds of mountains – Yushan Mountain

What about 286 mountains over 3000 meters?   The highest mountain Yushan standing 3952 meter which is higher than Mountain Fuji and less than 1 hour away from the famous Alishan.  To get there, take the high-speed train to Chiayi, then take a bus to Alishan.  However, you will need 2 permits to climb the mountains, always plan months ahead as the authorities give out limited permits every day.  Read here to find out how to apply for the permit.

Yushan Mountains - Taiwan
Yushan Mountain

I won’t be surprised that Taiwan will soon overtake Japan to be the hiking paradise of East Asia.  If you dedicate every weekend to trek the 286 mountains, you will need to spend over 5 years to conquer them all.  It is amazing how much outdoors and adventure you can do in Taiwan.   We will be climbing Shei-Pa Mountain, the 2nd highest mountain in Taiwan standing at 3886m and trekking Zhuilu Old Trail of Taroko National Park too, join us for this outing.

Amazing Alishan sunrise - Taiwan
Amazing Alishan sunrise

It is no wonder that Portuguese named it “Illa Formosa” which means beautiful Island when they discovered it on 1590 and first saw Hualien.  Hualien has maintained its beauty and charm and has been continuously voted by locals as the most beautiful county.

East Rift Valley of Hualien
East Rift Valley of Hualien

This small island that has so much to offer.   It is more than just good food.   You probably will need multiple trips to appreciate it fully.  It has never been a better time to visit Taiwan.

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