Hualien is probably Taiwan’s most beautiful county, hiding spectacular sights at every corner and boasting several natural wonders. Located in a mountainous area, Hualien’s landscape is jaw-dropping and unique. It’s a great place for trekking, mountaineering and bird watching, especially in the famous Taroko National Park. Hualien also has a strong aboriginal culture, and there are many places where you can learn more about it. Planning your Hualien itinerary is pretty easy as public transportations well serve the county.
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If you can only go by public transportation, you’ll need to count two full days on your Hualien itinerary to see all of the major sights.
You can take a one day trip to Taroko National Park. Take the bus 1133; the day pass is NT$250. Start by the Shakadang trail, then go to Buluowan, and later, continue to the Swallow Grotto and the tunnel of the nine turns. On the way back, stop at the Changchun Shrine. If you leave early, this can be done in one day.
The second day, take the bus 303 and visit Cingsio Temple, Liyu Lake, Yunshanshui Ecological Park, and Danongdafu Forest Park. You can buy a day-pass for NT$250.
Before planning your Hualien itinerary, check out this site, for bus routes and timetables.
In the night, visit Hualien night market, one of the biggest I’ve seen in Taiwan.
If you plan to rent a car or a motorbike, you can add a day or two to your Hualien itinerary and visit some of the places listed below. If you don’t have to return the car to Hualien, you can follow the East Rift Valley route, and spend a night somewhere along the way down to Taitung (or the other way around). Among the most scenic spots, you’ll find: Liushishi Mountain, Lintian Forestry Center, Matai’an Wetland, and the Walami Trail
A 13km long easy trek through waterfalls, lush green ferns, low-altitude natural hardwood forest, and Japanese cedar trees. It’s an excellent place for bird-watching.
Baiyang Waterfall Trail
Part of Taroko National Park, this 2 km long trail is known for its many tunnels. Some of them feel like being in a cave, so bring a flashlight. As always in Taroko, the landscape is spectacular.
Yan Zi Kou or Swallow Grotto
A must-add to your Hualien itinerary, this small trail is around 1 km, and most of it is along the road. The rock formations there, are a must-see, it’s like small caves and tunnels. It’s a really unique place, walking along the gorge, you’ll see hundreds of small holes on the opposite rocks, made by erosion and where swallows live.
Probably Taroko’s most famous trail, you simply cannot plan your Hualien itinerary without including it. It’s one of my favorite because you’re in the shadow the whole time and the trail is flat hence not too tiring; and of course, the views are amazing. The path is around 4km so 8 back and forth and is along the river. The water is so blue; it looks fantastic. You’re not supposed to swim there, to protect the eco-system, but many people do it anyway.
Tunnel of the Nine Turns
One of the trails where you’ll get the more spectacular views with the cliffs facing each other. The path is only 700 meters, and a tunnel has been built so that the visitors can view the rock folds, and the joints and faults of the marble cliffs.
Changchun Temple Trail
This short but intense trek will take you to spectacular views and to the Dongtian Xianfu cave shrine, carved into the rock. Further, the trail leads to Changuang Temple. From there, there’s a road going back to the main highway and the Changchun Temple.
There are around 20 trails in Taroko National Park, ranging from easy strolls to hard-core mountaineering. You can check out their website for the full list. The harder treks cannot be undertaken without a guide and require a permit.
Hualien is amazingly beautiful, and you should add a few of the sights listed below to your Hualien itinerary to discover more of this great county.
Located in Shoufeng Township at the foot of Liyu Mountain, Liyu lake offers a peaceful retreat. Surrounded by nature and serenity, enjoy some quiet time, trekking around the lake or sailing on the lake’s smooth waters.
You can rent bicycles and go around the lake; the path is around 5 kilometers. You can also trek in the nearby forest on Liyu Mountain. If you want to spend the night there, there’s a campsite near the shore of the lake.
Another great place to enjoy the view and a must-add to your Hualien itinerary. From August to September you can see the vast fields full of daylilies in bloom. Winter is also a good time to go as it’s quieter (less touristy).
Located east of Chishang, Dapo Pond is an inland freshwater pond. It’s a good place to take pictures, especially at sunset. Flora and fauna are rich and varied, Dapo pond is a great place for bird watching. Several outdoor activities are offered on sight, and you can rent a bike to go around the lake.
Luoshan Recreation Area
In Luoshan, you can see the impressive Luoshan Waterfalls. They are about 120 meters high and are located on different levels. You can see them when coming from the Provincial Highway No.9. The surroundings are verdant and lush, with several majestic cliffs. Because the area is really steep, it has been protected and left practically untouched.
You can also take a look at the mud volcano. The grounds ejects gas and fire, and the mud smells like salt. The locals collect the gas and use it to produce energy.
Chike mountain is another scenic spot famous for its lilies fields. You can tour around the fields and visit the area’s three unique sights. Two of them are weird shaped rocks, and the third is the Wang Family Historic Residence. Typical of the local architecture style, the house is open to visitors.
Located along the Provincial Highway No.11, Fanshuliao offers breathtaking views of two contrasting types of landscape, both carved by the Fanshuliao River. On one side, a broad valley and on the other, a vertical-walled gorge.
In the past, aboriginals living here promised anyone who could vault across the gorge to make him chief. Many people tried, and the bamboo grove you can see today is what remains of their attempts (as they used bamboo poles to climb.)
Located on the Suao-Hualien Highway, Qingshui cliff offers one of the best views over Taiwan’s Pacific coast. The cliff is more than 1,000 meters high, is almost vertical, and drops directly into the ocean. There’s about 20 km of whirling roads and spectacular sights.
Hualien is home to many aboriginal tribes; you should add a village or two to your Hualien itinerary so you can discover their culture and traditions.
Satokoay Historical Site
Satokoay is home to several prehistoric megalithic stone pillars. Several relics dating back to 3000 years ago have been found on the site, from the Quillin, Huangangshan, and Jinpu Cultures.
In Amis, Satokoay means “where the main house pillars are.” The site is considered sacred, and these stone pillars represent the place where the ancestor’s spirits rest. Many local legends surround these structures, and often aboriginals come to make offerings before the harvest season to appease the gods.
Near the site, you’ll find the marker for the Tropic of Cancer, in summer, the sun is perfectly aligned with the tropic, creating a shadowless effect.
Buluowan Culture center
Buluowan is a settlement where the Atayal tribe formerly lived before being moved out by the Japanese. Mountains surround the area, and it’s full of nature. There’s not much to do, but the landscape is great. From March to May, thousands of wild lilies are at bloom. In this area, you can trek through the Huanliuqiu Trail. It’s a small and easy hike with amazing views.
There’s also a cultural center with a small museum to learn more about the Atayal culture. You can usually see elderly Atayals demonstrating how to weave cloth and rushes using the traditional method. The cultural center also offers several traditional houses you can spend the night in.
Matai’an Wetland Ecological Park
Located in Guanngfu Township, Matai’an wetland is a marsh full of bubbling fountains, a great place to observe wildlife such as birds, frogs, and fishes. It’s also a good place to learn about the Amis and their unique way of fishing (Palakaw), and to try aboriginal food.
Taibalang Tribal Village
Located east of Guangfu Township, Taibalang is an Amis village. They settled there from Fengbin Township after the sky god told them to. You can see the “Taibalang Place of Origin Memorial Stele” next to the watchtower.
The best time to go is in August, during the yearly sacrificial ceremony. The rest of the year, you can see the traditional houses and their totems and wood carvings. You can also visit the Culture Center to look at some artifacts and learn more about Amis traditions and ways of living.
Apart from trekking and sightseeing, there are a few activities you can add to your Hualien itinerary such as rafting or bathing in hot springs.
Visit a tea plantation at Wuhe Terrace
Driving through the tea plantations in Wuhe Terrace is a treat for the eyes. You can stop and roam around the fields. You should also sample the local tea. The region is famous for its Honey Peach Black Tea which won a gold medal at the World Tea Awards in 2006.
Wuhe terrace is located in Ruisui and is accessible by public transportation.
Fuyan Recreational Forest area
Aka the butterfly valley, the best time to go is from March to August. There are also several hot springs you can bath in nearby.
Ruisui, Hongye & Antong Hot Springs
All of the three springs are located near Ruisui. The Ruisui hot spring consist of man-made pools, so it’s not like a wild hot spring, but the view around is great, it’s right in the middle of the mountains. The buildings were built by the Japanese and are similar to an onsen.
The Hongye Hot Springs was built by the Japanese and are now a hotel. The surroundings are also great; the landscape is really colorful. Nearby you can bath in the river, where cold water and the one from the hot spring meet.
Antong is a third option nearby, also a hotel. The water there is drinkable, they make a particular type of coffee with it.
Ruisui Rafting Visitor Center
If you like rafting, this is the place for you. The activity takes place on the Xiuguluan River for about 24 km. The best time to go is during summer, the landscape is just gorgeous, there are several canyons on the way. Over 20 hard-to-cross torrents and rapids provide a thrilling experience that you should add to your Hualien itinerary.
Related articles to help you plan your trip to Taiwan:
- Taiwan Complete Travel Guide
- Things to do around Kenting National Park
- Best day trips from Kaohsiung
- Taitung Travel Guide – Best things to do
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