Full travel guide to Eastern Taiwan

The eastern part of Taiwan is the most pristine area with minimal development. Nestled amidst mountains and facing the Pacific Ocean and high peaks, it offers a sustainable, close-to-nature experience…

Team Wanderlust
11 August 2023
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Discover Taiwan

Taiwan’s east coast and Hualien County contain some of the country’s most unforgettable scenery. The coastal mountains plunge into the sea in a series of sheer cliffs; further inland these are slashed by stunning marble gorges and the rushing rivers of Taroko National Park. Between the coastal mountains and the central ranges, the East Rift Valley lies along the boundary of two tectonic plates and is famed for its rice cultivation.

Taiwan’s East has thriving indigenous communities (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)

The East is also home to various indigenous tribes, adding rich cultural diversity to the island. The indigenous communities like the Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Rukai and Bunun have preserved their unique customs, languages and traditional practices for generations and it’s this deep connection with nature and sustainable lifestyle which make them an integral part of Taiwan’s cultural heritage and an essential authentic experience for visitors…


Taroko National Park (Shutterstock)

As Taiwan’s largest county, Hualien contains a wealth of places to see and experience, all underpinned by wonderfully rich traditional culture. But the jewel of Hualien, and one of the absolute highlights of any visit to Taiwan, is Taroko National Park; its astonishingly deep gorges are lined by sheer marble walls that have been carved into the landscape by the Liwa River. The national park is huge, encompassing a vast range of scenery that ranges from soaring peaks well over 3,000m to subtropical forest and river gorges, as well as the rocky coast itself. It’s an amazing area for hiking, and local buses run up the gorge, making it surprisingly accessible.

One of the best-known walks is the short but spectacular Swallow Grotto Trail, where the gorge is at its narrowest, while the Baiyang Trail leads through a succession of tunnels to the Baiyang waterfall and its suspension bridge. Alternatively, hike upriver on the Shakadang Trail, following the Shakadang River, which is a tributary of the Liwa. This beautiful path passes through galleries cut into the rock walls, with the river rushing beside you and waterfalls pouring down the luxuriant green slopes of the surrounding mountains and hillsides.

Further up the Liwa, don’t miss the amazing Buluowan Suspension Bridge, stretching nearly 200m at a height of over 150m above the river. On the hillsides nearby, surrounded by mountains and great lungfuls of fresh air, the Taroko Village Hotel has a wonderful restaurant serving delicious traditional dishes; it is also run by the local Truku people.

East Coast

Qingshui Cliffs (Shutterstock)

Travelling down Taiwan’s east coast on Highway 9 and Highway 11 takes you through some of the country’s most beautiful coastal scenery.

The Qingshui Cliffs are a breathtaking sight and can reach around 800m high in places before falling away into the vast blue of the Pacific Ocean. They run for some 20km along the coast; and for some of the best views, turn off Highway 9, just a few kilometres north of Chongde, and gaze off the edge of the world.

Further south, the Xiuguluan River cuts through the coastal mountains between the East Rift Valley and the sea, by way of broad bends and steep-sided gorges. It contains more than 20 sets of rapids, making this a fantastic place for whitewater rafting. The Xiuguluan River is remarkably clean, with more than 30 species of freshwater fish, and it sweeps past patches of tropical rainforest where you can see macaques at play.

Turn inland from Changbin, along the stretch of road known as King Kong Avenue, for beautiful views between a sprawling patchwork of rice terraces. For sandy beaches, head instead to the Jiqi Beach Recreation Area.

Rice fields line King Kong Avenue (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)

Taiwan’s rocky east coast is also incredibly good for snorkelling. Shitiping in particular has beautiful coral reefs, which are set beyond a stretch of rocky coastline that looks like a geology textbook sprung to life. Green Island is another snorkelling hotspot.

Taitung Rift Valley

Taitung Rift Valley (Shutterstock)

Taiwan’s position on the boundary between two tectonic plates led to the formation of the Taitung Rift Valley, also known as the Hualien-Taitung Valley. Its position between the coastal and central mountain ranges gives the Taitung Rift Valley its own microclimate, which is exceptionally well suited to rice growing; a constant feature of the landscape here is the lush green mosaic of rice paddies. For a bird’s eye view of these, take to the sky in a hot air balloon ride, or if you like your views packaged with a good rush of adrenaline, there’s some epic paragliding adventures on offer.

In the hills above Haiduan Township, the Kamcing people grow millet and red quinoa. Their Guyana Workroom offers a window into their carefully preserved traditional culture, including the making of bark cloth, polyphonic song and delicious cuisine. The Taibalang Tribal Village is another place to learn more about traditional culture.

Next, visit the famous Rui Sui hot springs, which are particularly rich in iron, or try the Yufu Bike Path, which runs the course of a former railway line and takes you across the boundary between the Yangtse and the Philippine Sea tectonic plates. Lastly, the Fuyuan National Forest Recreation Area is a lovely area for walking, and also includes the largest stand of camphor trees in Taiwan, as well as beautiful waterfalls and masses of butterflies.

It’s easy to reach the Taitung Rift Valley by train from either Taipei or Kaohsiung.

Feeling inspired?

For more information, head to the official Taiwan Tourism Bureau website.

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