When most people think of Taiwan, due to a limited cultural influence on the world, they tend to think of it much like China. To outsiders, Taiwan is all temples and fast paced cities. While it does have those things, upon closer inspection it is a country set up for the adventurer. Not only are adventure travellers flocking to Taiwan to enjoy skydiving and bungee jumping, but its natural landscape is filled with beautiful, challenging hikes, long range bike trails and experiences to take visitors out of their comfort zone.
Climbing the Jade Mountain
At 3,952 metres, Yushan, otherwise known as the Jade Mountain, is Taiwan's tallest mountain. Located in its eponymous national park, it dominates the surrounding skyline. It is only natural that Taiwan's tallest mountain is also its most popular hike. It is so popular that the starting trailhead comes with its own hostel for visitors that make the five hour trip from Taipei. The mountain can be climbed in a rigorous single day ascent or a more leisurely two day affair. The trails to the summit are well marked and the weather is usually very stable, leaving little reason to bring a native guide. On a clear day from the summit both the Pacific Ocean and the Taiwan Strait can be seen to the east and west, respectively. The trail features eco-toilets for comfort and a small cabin at the summit, but even with all these extra comforts, it is still a challenging climb.
Cycling through Chishang
Chishang is a long, fertile plain that cuts through the Eastern Rift Valley and is backed by the Central Mountain Range to the west and the Coastal Mountain Range to the east. It is most famous for its collection of verdant and picturesque rice paddies fields. The Chishang government has gone to great strides to bring their residents closer with nature. Instead of building meaty roads or massive highways, they built a sprawling series of bike paths to help people get around. These paths connect towns and travels through kilometres of rice paddies. The scenery of endless bright green rice seedlings backed by snow-capped mountains makes biking in Chishang one of the most unforgettable experiences in Taiwan.
River Tracing the Golden Grotto
Although first developed in Japan, river tracing has become a beloved hobby for many visitors and Taiwanese locals alike. This unique adventure combines hiking, bouldering and climbing in many of the country's beautiful river canyons. Taiwan has its challenging river tracing spots, but the Golden Grotto is as manageable as its name is alluring. This beautiful slot river canyon sits just south of Taroko Gorge National Park featuring an 8-hour track that is challenging, but still accessible for most. There are tall boulder fields to climb, shallow, clear river beds to wade through and refreshing sky blue grottos cut into the limestone of the canyon to refresh hikers during the balmy summers in Taiwan.
Snorkel off the Green Island
The Green Island isn't usually on the bucket list of most visitors when they come to Taiwan, but it should be. Home to only 3,000 people, the Green Island lives up to its name; its villages meld into the verdant plains and forests, only tapering off when they reach the golden sand-lined shore. While the island is an experience in and of itself, off the shore it is home to some of Taiwan's most well preserved coral reefs. While the Green Island is great for snorkeling in every direction, there are only three points of access: Chai Kou, Shi Lang and Da Bai Sha. Diving boots are a must due to all the coral as well as a wetsuit due to the occasional jellyfish presence. Snorkelers will be treated to beautifully clear turquoise water as well as ample marine life, though they are not quite as vibrant in colour as in other popular snorkeling countries.
Experience Indigenous Culture on a Jungle Hike
Looking at the country now, most visitors probably won't realize that is was still home to native indigenous tribes that lived in its jungles only just 100 years ago. While these tribes have integrated into modern society, they have not forgotten where they came from. A few years ago, the leader of the Bunun group of people rescued a swathe of land that used to belong to their tribe from modernization and turned it into a living museum to Bunun traditions and customs. No, visitors won't be strolling through endless halls learning about this nearly lost culture; instead they will be treated to a full day of trekking through the jungle with native guides. This strenuous trek leads visitors over fallen logs, climbing up 10 metre trees, and under thick groups of vines that are longer than a football field and thicker than a footballer's arm. Throughout this walk, visitors will be educated on the way people used to live, hunt and sometimes just survive in the harsh environment.