5 of the best outdoor adventures in Taiwan

Taiwan has outdoor adventures aplenty, with hiking and diving some of the best ways to see this beautiful country — both above and below the water…

Hazel Plush
23 January 2019

These five outdoor adventures will take you from Taipei’s mountains to the nation’s remote national parks – revealing wild and wonderful landscapes at every turn.

Plus, read to the end to download your complimentary complete guide to Taiwan, with more outdoor adventures, as well as need-to-know travel tips, top foodie experiences, must-visit cities and more…

1: Climb Teapot Mountain

Teapot mountain at sunset (Shutterstock)

Location: North Taiwan

Most travellers venture south from Taipei, leaving the north of the island woefully overlooked but blissfully quiet. Teapot Mountain is just one of the excellent hiking spots in this quiet countryside – a 580m ascent from pretty Cyuanji Temple to a summit so beautiful it’ll steal your breath away.

Up here, with peaks and valleys in all directions, in greens of every imaginable hue, you’ll wonder why this path isn’t more heavily trodden. Stay a few nights to discover the other hiking routes, which lead to waterfalls, forests, and rivers that run with gold: the area has a rich mining heritage, best explored at the Gold Ecological Park in nearby Jinguashi.

2: Scuba on Green Island

Scuba diving on Green Island (Shutterstock)

Location: Off the southeast coast

An hour’s ferry crossing or short flight from Taitung, Green Island (also known as Lyudao) is one of Asia’s best-kept diving secrets. The reef surrounds almost the entire island, and is remarkably well-preserved – thanks, perhaps, to the Taiwanese wariness of deep water, which keeps tourism to a minimum. The local dive operators have well-equipped boats, but if you have the right qualifications you can hire your own kit and dive (or snorkel) from the shore: the villages of Shihlang, Dabaisha and Caikou all have excellent coral within easy reach of the beach, teeming with tropical fish. From January to March, hammerhead sharks can be spotted off the island’s southernmost tip, with many local dive schools offering boat trips out to see them.

3: Tackle the Holy Ridge Trail

The Holy Ridge Trail (Shutterstock)

Location: Central Taiwan

Standing on top of Snow Mountain, the razor-sharp ridges of Shei-pa National Park beckon: just when you thought you’d used up all of your energy to reach the top of this tall peak, suddenly carrying on seems like a great idea. That’s the magic of the Holy Ridge Trail, which looks so magnificent you’ll want to cancel your plans and roam the hills for days – to hike over mighty mountain passes, catch sunrise above the clouds, and wild camp on windswept plateaux beneath a velvety blanket of stars.

But while this is Taiwan’s most spectacular of hikes, it’s also the most challenging: you’ll need a head for heights (most of the trek is above 3,400m), and enough energy to carry your packs, tents, water and food for five days. Your reward? A connection to one of the island’s most invigorating landscapes, where few tourists – or even Taiwanese – ever tread.

4: Scale Elephant Mountain

The view from Elephant Mountain (Shutterstock)

Location: Taipei

While Taipei 101 – the country’s tallest skyscraper – has cracking views of the capital, to see the skyline in all its glory you’ll want to climb Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan). In the east of the city, it’s where in-the-know visitors go for spectacular night hikes: at the top of the lantern-lit trail (about a 30-minute climb up steps and pathways), the whole city is spread out before you – a forest of twinkling towers and neon billboards.

From here, you can see Taipei 101 standing head and shoulders above the rest, the gently-curving ‘petals’ of its unique architecture adorning every eighth floor – a number that, fittingly for a financial hub, represents prosperity. Many other short trails criss-cross through these hills, all well signposted and easily accessible from Taipei.

5: Trace the Liwu River

The Liwu River (Shutterstock)

Location: West Taiwan

The Liwu River roars through Taroko Gorge, but its tributaries are much more peaceful, with secluded waterfalls and tranquil pools of turquoise water – so-coloured because of its high mineral content. It’s like a naturally-hewn aquapark, with smooth ‘waterslides’ carved into the marble, big rocks to jump off, and plenty of cooling cascades. All around, the forest teems with life: monkeys hoot and honk in the trees, while you may find yourself bathing alongside a bemused cormorant. On a hot day – or even a rainy one – it’s a treat to splash your way up the mini rapids, wallow in the shallows, and keep an eye out for Muntjac deer as you float through the jungle.

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