Taiwan’s Natural Wonders

For a small Asian nation that was once labeled the island of industry, Taiwan has a surprising amount of green space and scenic wonders. Forested mountains, with about 200 peaks higher than 9,800 feet, cover two-thirds of the island, with the remaining area consisting of highlands, coastal plains and basins. The Central Mountain Range stretches 167 miles along the center spine of the island from north to south. To the west lies the Yushan (Jade Mountain) National Park, with northeastern Asia’s highest peak at 12,966 feet.

In Taiwan’s interior waterfalls, lakes, rivers and gorges abound, while along the coast are dramatic cliffs, volcanic outcrops, rocky coves, sandy beaches and windswept offshore islands. To protect this natural scenery and the wildlife that thrives here – there are 18,800 species of wild animals including 500 bird species – six national parks have been created. In addition, 12 national scenic areas and 16 forest recreational areas have been designated throughout the island nation. Among these are:

Yangmingshan National Park is within the greater Taipei area and has the country’s most well developed volcanic topography with crater lakes, conical peaks, hot springs and seasonal carpets of flowers and an abundance of butterflies.

Taiwan’s Natural Wonders
Jan 03, 06 | 2:26 pm

For a small Asian nation that was once labeled the island of industry, Taiwan has a surprising amount of green space and scenic wonders. Forested mountains, with about 200 peaks higher than 9,800 feet, cover two-thirds of the island, with the remaining area consisting of highlands, coastal plains and basins. The Central Mountain Range stretches 167 miles along the center spine of the island from north to south. To the west lies the Yushan (Jade Mountain) National Park, with northeastern Asia’s highest peak at 12,966 feet.

In Taiwan’s interior waterfalls, lakes, rivers and gorges abound, while along the coast are dramatic cliffs, volcanic outcrops, rocky coves, sandy beaches and windswept offshore islands. To protect this natural scenery and the wildlife that thrives here – there are 18,800 species of wild animals including 500 bird species – six national parks have been created. In addition, 12 national scenic areas and 16 forest recreational areas have been designated throughout the island nation. Among these are:

Yangmingshan National Park is within the greater Taipei area and has the country’s most well developed volcanic topography with crater lakes, conical peaks, hot springs and seasonal carpets of flowers and an abundance of butterflies. www.ymsnp.gov.tw

The Northeast Coast scenic area, not far from the capital, has beautiful coves and beaches, coastal rock formations and rivers and is home to an extensive array of aquatic scenery and marine life. Fishing villages and lighthouses dot the landscape and one of the country’s most popular hiking trails, the Tsaoling Historic Trail attracts hikers.

Beginning on the central East Coast and moving inland, Taroko National Park has 27 of the country’s highest peaks and features one of Asia’s natural wonders the Taroko Gorge – also one of the most popular scenic attractions on this island nation. The marble gorge – with the Liwu River rushing through it – continues for about 12 miles through deep canyons with lush vegetation, hiking trails and an extensive variety of animal and plant life.

Further inland from Taroko, the Shei-pa National Park is where two mountain ranges meet. With forest trails, river valleys and 51 mountain peaks higher than 9,800 feet, the park is also home to a rare species of landlocked freshwater salmon – a leftover from the Ice Age.

Almost in the center of the country at 2,460 feet above sea level, the island’s largest freshwater lake lies in the Sun Moon Lake scenic area. A shimmering turquoise jewel, the lake – once called where water and sand meet – is one of the leading scenic attractions in Taiwan. Still and serene, its northern side is shaped like the sun and its southern end like a crescent moon. Temples, shrines and a pagoda in honor of Chiang Kai-shek’s mother dot the surrounding hills. The 26-mile path that loops around the lake is made for cyclists and there are nine hiking trails in the area.

Alishan scenic area lies to the south of Sun Moon Lake and is noted for its spectacular sunsets. Visitors drive up through tea plantations finally reaching an altitude of 9000 feet and an environment more alpine than Asian. Here Jhushan is famed for its sea of clouds. People flock to see the view at sunrise with jagged peaks poking through the clouds. Depending on the season there are cherry blossoms or fields of wildflowers to admire and aboriginal villages to explore. The Alishan Forest Railway offers one of the world’s most scenic train rides in toy-like steam locomotives.

In the tropical far south lies Kenting National Park, designated the country’s first national park and one of its most popular recreation areas. The pristine waters, warm climate and beautiful sandy beaches draw Taiwanese and visitors alike. Coral cliffs, limestone caves and sand rivers and sand waterfalls are unusual aspects of this ecosystem. Coral reefs teem with shell life and tropical species and the lakes have 20 kinds of freshwater fish. There are 184 species of birds and during the year migratory birds stop here from Siberia, China and Japan on their way to the Philippines.

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