When I visited Taiwan, I felt compelled to explore some of the island’s beautiful national parks. Taipei and Kaohsiung can be hectic at the best of times, so I was soon itching for a chance to get lost in the natural beauty which continues to captivate millions of locals and international tourists alike. I’d like to show you around the five national parks that I consider as the most breathtaking and memorable in Taiwan.
1. Kenting National Park
2. Yangmingshan National Park
I visited Yangmingshan, located to the northeast of Taipei, as a day trip from the city. I took Bus 260 outside Taipei Main Station and before I knew it, I had taken leave of my urban surroundings and was bound for nature. The tranquillity of the park contrasts sharply with the frenetic pace of life in Taipei, so it’s no surprise that thousands of the city’s denizens head out here to relax and chill out. The park is ideal for hiking, and there are many well-signposted trails for doing just that. The most popular of these trails is the Tianmu Trail, which features a 1,000 step stairway and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area at the summit. It’s a bit exhausting but rewarding!
3. Taroko National Park
Taroko Gorge, an enormous marble-walled canyon stretching for 19 kilometres, dominates the heart of this 1,200-kilometre park in the east of Taiwan. The gorge was cut by the narrow Liwu River, forming a watery path framed by steep and sharp cliffs on either side. The whole park encompasses three administrative counties of Taiwan: Taichung, Nantou and Hualien. Taroko boasts 34 species of indigenous mammals, including black bears and Formosan rock macaques. The flora is also incredibly biodiverse, with everything from bamboo to pine trees growing in different sections of the park. Taroko draws its name from the Truku aboriginal tribe, who were the original human inhabitants of the area.
4. Yushan National Park
Yushan, also known as Jade Mountain, is the tallest mountain in Taiwan and the centrepiece of Yushan National Park which lies in the interior of the island. During winter months, the summit of the mountain is capped with a thick layer of snow which shines like jade, hence the name. While I was too timid to climb to the 3952-meter peak, I greatly enjoyed taking in the magnificent views of the lush forested landscape from a less exhausting height. Additionally, two permits are required to climb any mountain in the park; one from the National Park Office and another from the local police station. If you’re considering making the ascent, be advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment!
5. Taijiang National Park
Taijiang distinguishes itself from the other parks on the list by virtue of it being a primarily urban park, situated largely within the southwestern coastal city of Tainan. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and I was very eager to learn about its past by visiting historical sites like Fort Zeelandia, which was a fortification built by Dutch colonists which has now been turned into a museum. Taijiang had once been a large inland sea, but it silted up in the 18th century as a result of the development of salt mining and fish farming in the region, and the park’s area is now made up of 50 sq km of and 340 sq km of sea. The sea holds an incredible array of life, ranging from exotic fish and birds to ancient crustaceans that can be found nowhere else, and it’s possible to take a boat ride to see them up close. If you’re a lover of all things aquatic, then I’d strongly urge you to check it out!