With the hot springs of Zhiben on its doorstep, nature-rich Green Island just off-shore, and the Highway 11 coast road (one of Taiwan’s best road trips) heading northwards from the city, there are plenty of reasons to leave Taitung – but you would be foolish not to linger for a day or two. Sandwiched between the ocean and mountains, Taitung has a laid-back, bohemian style such as think arty café-galleries, quirky B & Bs, and great seafood restaurants. The sea is too rough for swimming in, but you are not here for a beach holiday anyway instead, head for a dip in Huoshui Lake in Taitung Forest Park, a tranquil freshwater pool surrounded by forest and gardens.
Something of a cyclist’s paradise, Jiji is a small town located in Nantou County. The famed Green Tunnel route that cyclists take through the area runs alongside the old railway line which in itself, is a major tourist attraction. The small town architecture, such as the historic train station, and the natural beauty of the countryside makes for an idyllic combination drawing tourists in their droves year after year.
This small, traditional city is far sleepier than its west coast neighbours, but it is home to some of Taiwan’s most magnificent temples. Lose yourself in Longshan Temple, with its 10,000 square-metre complex of ornate halls, hand- carved deities and gilded prayer rooms, all of which date back to the 18th century. The Glass Matsu Temple, meanwhile, is constructed from 70,000 pieces of glass, it is particularly magnificent at night, when the entire complex is lit by LED lights.
The scenic town of Ruifang was once nothing more than a stop on the line to the more popular destinations of Jiufen and Pingxi. However, in recent years a lively, quaint little town developed around the station. It is a well-known stop for hikers that take the many trails that wind their way through spectacular natural landscapes.
Slip away from the bright lights of Taipei to discover Jiufen, a mountainous settlement 40 minutes from the capital, surrounded by waterfalls, forest and dizzying peaks. Believe it or not, this peaceful spot was once a thriving metropolis known as ‘Little Shanghai’, thanks to its prosperous gold mining industry in the 1930s.
Today, you can wander through the old mining tunnels and trace the area’s rich heritage at the Gold Museum, part of the beautifully-restored Gold Ecological Park. It is like stepping back in time, with Japanese-era architecture and the chance to pan for your own treasure.