EAST | 東部
Eastern Taiwan is the soul of Taiwan. The most preserved and untouched parts of Taiwan are here. It’s isolated by the mountain range, and a pain to get to (no HSR on this side of the island), but that is also the secret to its alluring beauty. Eastern Taiwan encompasses Yilan (right by Taipei, but already more beautiful), Hualien (home of the famous Toroko gorge) and Taitung (the most remote county in Taiwan). The region is inhabited by many aboriginal tribes, which have maintained cultural heritage in various villages. Things move extra slow here. You feel a little closer to nature, and a world away from city life. From the rice fields to the overly friendly locals, it feels like Taiwan at its purest.
Yilan is just east of Taipei, making it a popular day trip out of the city. The lush landscape and peaceful views are signature of the eastern coast while the proximity puts it at an advantage to Hualien and Taitung. Connected to Taipei by a lengthy tunnel, Yilan offers countryside charm and many different attractions to make it a well-rounded getaway. From hot springs to sacred trees, from a cultural park specializing in traditional arts to a popular night market, Yilan is rich in culture and abundant in natural beauty. They are particularly famous for the scallions that grow here (and of course the fully loaded scallion pancakes they make with them).
Hualien is south of Yilan, and the biggest county in Taiwan. Most of it is rural, with mountains on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east. Hualien is a favorite tourist destination for nature lovers, the most famous of which is Taroko National Park, a gorge with marble canyons and waterfalls around Liwu River. Along the picturesque coast there are breathtaking cliffs, while further in there are mountains, lakes and valleys that all offer diverse ecological excursions. About a 2 hour train ride from Taipei and dotted with hot spring resorts and super cute bed and breakfasts, Hualien is a popular weekend getaway.
Taitung is the most remote part of Taiwan. Unless you fly in, it takes a while to get to Taitung, but that is a part of the experience (the scenic coastal train from Taipei is an attraction in itself). Here is the most untouched parts of Taiwan and perhaps the region where aboriginal culture feels most prominent. Taitung is known for a laid back lifestyle, friendly people, excellent rice and beautiful scenery. Similar to Hualien, there are many attractions in the mountains and many more along the coast. From geological wonders to fishing towns by the sea, to hot springs and forests in the mountains to farms and hot air balloons in the valleys, Taitung is a well-protected paradise with so much to offer. The small town vibes will win over the most stubborn urbanite to want to bike through the rice fields. And if that’s not enough, there are also a couple islands off the coast that make for the perfect side trip from the trip.