The Portuguese sailors who glimpsed Taiwan from afar nicknamed it "Ihla Formosa", or "beautiful island", and that beauty endures even centuries later. Taiwan's nature continues to amaze new visitors with its epic mountains and sweeping groves. Here are the 5 best national parks to explore this island's stunning natural scenery.
1. Yushan National Park
A classic example, Yushan National Park draws mountaineers and hikers from around the world to tackle its peaks. It is home to Yushan Mountain (also known as Jade Mountain), the largest peak in Taiwan and East Asia. Not in the mood for cliffs? The park boasts plenty of glorious scenery in its own right, such as a three-day hike to Jiaming Lake, an iconic Taiwanese treasure that will dazzle you with pure natural glory. Though the park is hard to access and less developed compared to others, the lessened crowd allows for a closer experience with nature and the magnificent wildlife.
2. Kenting National Park
Looking for something a little more relaxed and family-friendly compared to Yushan's hardcore attraction? Kenting National Park at the southern tip of Taiwan makes for a fine choice, with a stunning coastline that is amazingly photogenic. Explore gorgeous forests in the morning, then unwind at the beautiful white-sand beaches, all in the same day–that is the potential of Kenting National Park. Opportunities for greater exploration abound, with botanical gardens and even limestone caves. On your next trip to Ihla Formosa, give Kenting a try!
3. Yangmingshan National Park
Situated between Taipei and New Taipei City, Yangmingshan is one of the easiest parks to access–odd for one famous for being a prime sample of Taiwan's zany volcanic geology. The smell of sulfur exudes from the sulfur deposits in the earth. Seven Star Mountain, Taiwan's largest dormant volcano, is the main attraction of the park, but it holds plenty of other draws, from glorious waterfalls to stunning lakes. And Yangmingshan carries a more nuanced beauty as well: alluring flowers like calla lilies and hydrangea blossoms flourish closer to the earth.
4. Shei-Pa National Park
Shei-Pa National Park is home to Snow Mountain, Taiwan's second-tallest mountain, but don't think it plays second fiddle to anything. In the wintertime, it becomes one of the island's most breathtaking places. A classic way to experience the mountain is by going on the Holy Ridge, a 5-day overland adventure with views that even rival great Yushan.
5. Taroko National Park
We can only end with the best. Situated in gorgeous Eastern Taiwan, Taroko has been touted as the most beautiful place in Taiwan, and it is the epitome of epic Taiwanese natural wonder. Its main attraction, Taroko Gorge, boasts stunning peaks and cliffs of marble that extend up to 19 kilometers. To explore this epic canyon, less experienced hikers can use the well-maintained Lushui Trail, while the more adventurous can try Shakadang Trail, with the crystal clear waters of the Shakadang Stream as a company. The roads around Taroko Gorge can be twisty for those new to the place, though, so look into getting a tour guide or something similar at the start.