Taiwan has outdoor adventures aplenty, with hiking one of the best ways to take in the country's soul-stirring natural beauty...
These five hikes 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 11 more outdoor adventures, as well as need-to-know travel tips, top foodie experiences and more…
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.
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.
Location: Central Taiwan
In this nation of mighty mountains, Yushan is the loftiest: 3,952m of cloud-piercing, thigh-burning, adrenaline-pumping rock. For the Taiwanese, it's a rite of passage to climb Yushan – also known as Jade Mountain – at least once in your lifetime. They're no fools: this is sheer hiking heaven.
The route weaves through wildflower meadows, tangled forests, and up, up, into the lonely fossil-strewn peaks of the national park. It takes two days to reach the summit, with a night in a mountain hut. There are two routes to the top: from Tatajia (suitable for novice hikers) and from Dongpu (a quieter, more challenging trail). Aim to summit at sunrise, when the sun turns the clouds at your feet into a sea of crimson and gold.
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.
Location: Eastern Taiwan
As you hike to the start of the Zhuilu Old Trail, you'll pass a small Buddhist shrine carved into the rock: a sweet touch, you'll probably surmise, before walking on – but its significance soon becomes clear. Clinging to the face of a sheer-sided cliff, this trail is terrific and terrifying in equal measure – no more than 50cm wide in some places, and with an eye-popping drop 1,100 metres to the gorge floor below.
The route was carved entirely by hand into the marble by local tribal people – a feat that must have required nerves (and biceps) of steel. This is Taroko National Park's most thrilling walk by far, crossing two lofty suspension bridges before you even reach the trailhead, and no handrails or barrier between you and that plummet.
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