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The island nation of Taiwan may be best known for urban Taipei, with its sophisticated restaurants, modern architecture and world-class museums.
However, travel advisors in the know can help clients take advantage of the country’s stellar outdoor recreation opportunities, as well. Ocean views, deep canyons and picturesque country roads are all waiting to be discovered by visitors. Here are some top picks from Taiwan travel experts.
CyclingCathy Hung, deputy director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau office in Los Angeles, grew up in Taiwan and spent a lot of time biking around the southern part of the island. One of her favorite trips took place when she was 16 years old: a four-day ride from Taitung to Hualien. Hung describes this area along the Pacific Ocean as one of Taiwan’s most peaceful locales.
“I expected to see the dark-blue ocean and fields of yellow rapeseed flowers,” she said. “Unfortunately, it was raining during my trip, and there was not much to see. But the sights and scenic areas near Sanxiantai and Shiyusan were my favorite attractions along the journey."
Around We Go: Hung recommends a new around-the-island bike route that opened to the public in December.
Called Cycling Route No. 1, the trail runs for 400 miles and takes visitors to many of Taiwan’s most beautiful sites.
HikingNate Guilfoyle, director of reservations for Avanti Destinations, says one of his favorite Avanti itineraries in Taiwan is a 13.5-hour tour of Taroko Gorge, which includes a 7-mile hike.
Together with an English-speaking guide, guests explore the mountains and marble canyons inside Taroko National Park. The extensive hiking trail follows the Shakadang River as it winds through the gorge.
“The Taroko Gorge Tour is definitely my favorite adventure in Taiwan,” Guilfoyle said. “The train to Hualien is peaceful and full of beautiful green countryside, and when you arrive in Hualien, you start to realize the size and majesty of the Taroko Gorge valley.”
Photo Op: Guilfoyle says that travelers should be sure to take in the magnificent views from Cimu Bridge, the only bridge in Taiwan built from Hualien marble.
www.avantidestinations.comBird-WatchingKaiyote Snow, owner of Kaiyote Tours in Port Angeles, Wash., is an avid birder, and she says Taiwan is one of her top destinations for the sport. She especially enjoys birding in the Taroko Gorge, where she’s on the lookout for little forktails and common kingfishers, as well as the 15 endemic species that are found here.
As good as the birding is in Taiwan, Snow says she is most impressed by the warmth of the local residents.
“The birds are always my excuse to go, but when I arrive in the country, it is the culture, food and people that draw me in,” Snow said. “My favorite memories are not of any specific bird, nor any specific hike, but of the amazing people I met on my journey.”
Required Reading: Snow advises birders to bring good binoculars and the latest English version of A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan, by the Wild Bird Society of Taipei.