Taiwan’s (Underrated) National Parks

Pimsleur Approach • November 12, 2012 • Travel tipsComments (0)

Rough Guide was onto something when it described Taiwan as “the most underrated tourist destination in Asia.” While the capital Taipei is a hotbed of sizzling nightlife, it’s only when you venture out into its hinterlands that Taiwan really begins to flaunt what it’s got. Here’s our selection of the country’s finest national parks.

Taiwan Parks - Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan – Image via Wikipedia

Yangmingshan

Few cities in the world can claim to have such an impressive swathe of national park right on its doorstep. A piddling bus journey from Taipei’s center takes you to the northernmost point of Taiwan, and the gorgeous Yangmingshan National Park. Amongst the park’s diverse attractions is the pavilion-dotted Yangming Park, Xiaoyoukeng’s sulfuric fumaroles (a reminder of how this area was once cluttered with active volcanoes), and vistas of the East Chinese Sea visible through swaying slopes of silvergrass. If you’re feeling dog tired after a day of yomping, you can always ease your bones at the free public springs at Lengshuikeng, although beware – you’ll have to do so in your birthday suit.

Kenting
Kenting – Image via Wikipedia

Kenting

Positioned on the furthermost tip of Taiwan from Yanmingshan, Kenting was the first rural area in the country to earn status as a national park, and is the only one with a tropical climate. Its botanical gardens adeptly boast this fact, playing host to various species of migratory birds every winter. Kenting’s coastal location also makes it an ideal visit for fans of diving and water sports, while for those with less energy, glass-bottomed boats depart from Houbihu Yacht Harbor, allowing effortless views of the submarine flora and fauna. If you’re not easily touched by guilt, tuck into some of the fresh seafood afterward.

Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park – Image via Wikipedia

Taroko

The granddaddy of Taiwan’s national parks, Taroko has running through its center, a 20 kilometer-long marble gorge, thought be around 100 million years old. Alongside Taroko Gorge that are to be had the Park’s best walks, allowing visitors to ogle the geology, while paddling in the azure waters amongst flitting butterflies and buying fresh-baked yams from the local aborigines. Elsewhere in Taroko, the Eternal Spring Shrine – built in 1960 to commemorate the men who died constructing the nearby highway – is a favorite amongst photographers, as is the giant Buddha and Tian Feng Pagoda at Tianxiang.

Kinmen

One of Taiwan’s western outer-islands, Kinmen’s former life was as a military outpost, and as such it’s a unique addition to Taiwan’s collection of national parks. The Zhaishan Tunnel which bores through some of Kinmen’s granite hill, for example, was once a supply station for military boats but now provides hikers with a unique subterranean walk. Another surprise blessing of its past is that Kinmen forewent modern industrial development, like much of the rest of Taiwan, and therefore retains alongside its healthy ecosystem, some prime examples of Fujian-style architecture in the 12 villages under the Park’s administration.

The Others in a Nutshell

Four additions make up Taiwan’s roster of national parks, these being Yushan (with its sweeping mountain range), Dongsha (another gorgeous island, south of Kinmen), Taijiang (home to the west coast’s most spectacular walks) and Taroko’s slightly smaller neighbor, Shei-pa, inhabited by a number of rare animals and plant species.

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