Executive summary by darmansjah
The waterfall at Taroko Gorge is just a taste of the national park's dramatic relief
Why Go? The blue-green Liwu River cuts through marble-walled canyons, lush vegetation and cliffs so outsized they block out the sky at TAROKO GORGE, north of Hualien. Most visitors tour the Taroko National Park by road, but there are numerous hiking trails to get away from the weekend and holiday crowds (taroko.gov.tw).
Getting There The gateway city of Hualien is just over two hours on the fast train from Taipei (US$16). Buses to the gorge take one hour (US$3), while a return taxi trip with stops costs around US$86.
Where to Stay The Leader Village Taroko rents out quality wood cabins with old-time porches to take in the view. It also serves excellent Taiwanese aboriginal food such as barbecued wild pig (leaderhotel.com; from US$150).
Why Go? TAINAN is Taiwan’s oldest city, and a thriving centre for its traditional culture. Outside 17th-century forts built by the Dutch, lively night makes sell regional dishes, while in the city’s many venerable temples, people toss divination sticks. The old harbor area of Anping has seen an ambitious restoration programme (tncg.gov.tw).
Getting There – Tainan just under two hours by high-sped rail from Taipei (US$47), but note that the HSR station is 30-40 minutes by bus from the centre. The regular fast train from Taipei goes to the city-centre station (US$23; four hours).
Where to Stay – The Tayih Landis is a five-star hotel which often has package deals. Rooms are modern sintyle, with plasma TV and workstations (from US$155; tayihlandis.com.tw).
Why Go? Summer in the PEGHU ISLANDS , 30 miles off Taiwan’s western coast, is the best time to enjoy the archipelago’s beautiful beaches, basalt cliffs and traditional Chinese-styles homes with walls made from coral. Unless you’re a windsurfer, that is, for whom the strong winds in winter and spring make for world-class surfing (Penghu.gov.tw).
Getting There – Mandarin Airlines, TransAsia Airways and Uni Air fly from Taipei’s domestic Songshan Airport to the islands’ main town of Makung Book through travel agents rather than the airline websites, unless you know Chinese.
Where to Stay – The Penghu Sunrise is a bona fide b&b with ocean views, bright rooms and English-speaking hosts. It’s in Guoyeh, seven miles east of Makung, and close to some great beaches (from US$55; sunrisebb.idv.tw).