Often, those visiting Taiwan, or even those who simply live in Taipei and wish to take trips out of the city, will venture to Yilan County. This is the beautiful coastal region of Taipei famous for its beaches, rice patties, and cong you bing. Having lived in Yilan for two years I would like to share several of my must-visit destinations in the area. As it is just an hour’s trip from Main Station or City Hall station, City Hall is better, this is a very easy part of Taiwan to get to. Many even work in Taipei for the week, or just the work day, then return back to their families in Yilan.
First, let’s talk about the beaches. For foreigners, one of the primary motivations for heading out to Yilan is for the beaches. As the coast is fairly rocky, there tend to be just two beaches that are frequented. They are Fulong and Waiao. Both are quite a bit different and usually, one person vastly prefers one over the other. If you like water sports, such as swimming and surfing, and don’t mind sizable waves, or black sand, Waiao is the beach for you. It is also not overly supervised. This is a good thing in Taiwan, as often lifeguards will panic and whistle you in when the water passes your ankles. It also has some of the best surf in the northeast corridor, with a friendly surfing community. You can always go and grab a pizza and some drinks a Drifters too, after a day on the waves.
Now, this isn’t me, as I prefer to spend most of the time in the water, but I have heard complaints about how the black sand is ugly and burns your feet…. Wear sandals? These are never complaints I’ve had, but I’ve heard them. If you are less into water-based activities and really just want a pretty white sand beach to lay on all day, with green mountains adorned with temples sloping into the sea on either side of you, then Fulong is your choice. This beach will cost you some money to get into. It’s not too much and there are ample shops close to shore where you can restock on food and/or beverage. It is beautiful here but expect small waves and a small roped off swimming area.
One of the most famous aspects of Yilan County are the hot springs of Jiaoxi. They are easy to find, as it’s a small city and they are a its major attraction. Nestled into the base of the foothills which precede the more major mountains around Yilan is Jiaoxi. With its volcanically fueled hot springs it has become a major destination for those escaping Taipei for a weekend. You can find private hot springs, public hot springs, and even hot spring water parks. You may be required to wear a speedo or even nothing at all, but that’s up to you to decide, as there are many establishments here to choose from. Though only in my late twenties, I have accrued a few major injuries and its hard to beat what a hot spring can do for them.
Staying in Jiaoxi lets get to one of the must major aspects of any venture, the food. Jiaoxi in a way lacks a true night market, but its market is still present and constantly bustling. Most of the food here is of the traditional variety with many small dish vendors, which is perfect, because you are going to want to try a little bit of everything. There are also many traditional circle table restaurants and more standard sit-down places where you can eat
as well. For westerners sick of Asian lagers, you can even find craft beer here in varieties that will at least give you a brief rest bit from Taiwan beer. The market in Jiaoxi has one major advantage over its counterparts in Yilan City and more famously in Luodong, and this is that its shops are spaced nicely. You don’t really need to jostle for a position to reach your desired vendor.
Yilan City is your next major stop, south of Jiaoxi, and as food goes, it isn’t nearly as popular as Jiaoxi or Luodong. This however can come as a bit of an advantage, because you are able to find what you need cheaply and without much wait. I would recommend several of the small bars and cafés within walking distance of the train station but would also recommend a trip down Shenong and Nuzhong road. In particular, the vegetarian restaurant across from the university is a gold mine. The noodle shop at the corner of Nuzhong and Yizhong road has some of the better noodles and beef noodle soup that I have ever had.
Finally let’s get further south to Luodong, as this is probably where any foodies trip to Yilan County will bring them. The market is going to be a ten-minute walk from the train station, but that isn’t too bad. Once you are in proximity to it you won’t be able to miss it. It is shoulder to shoulder packed with people at points, so make sure that when you see something you want you immediately get in line. I recommend the stinky tofu fries, the cong you bing, oyster omelet, and the octopus’ balls… The latter could simply be considered cool because of how swiftly they go about making them! Once you have an assortment of food, escape the main throng for the park surrounding a pond which the night market encompasses. There you can find some peace and quiet while you enjoy some hard-earned eats.
Hiking is something I never got to do as much as wanted to do out in Yilan County, but I did get to venture too two places worth sharing. Lin Mei Shi Pan is one of them, a short trip from Jiaoxi’s main city, it is scenic but also in the ability range of most. You follow along a river for a way and then up into the mountains a bit more. At nearly every point there is a view of water, be it the river or some tributary. I remember taking ample pictures during this hike, so if you like that, and don’t want to exhaust yourself scaling an actual mountain. It is a solid choice.
A second place I traveled out to was Beiguan Tidal park, a short trip north of Toucheng. Here there are a couple of winding paths that weave across the rocky shore of northern Yilan. I loved my time here and enjoyed the views from the highest points I could reach. Other than high rocky points the place is full of beautiful plant life and wave carved outcroppings. There are some cannons pointing in the direction of Turtle Island, and a map of Taiwan carved into the stone. This place has to be at the top of my list of locations to check out.
Here is a list of highly recommended hiking destinations, I feel like I missed much of what is available to hike. Hopefully, I can make trips out to some of these places and add my thoughts about them to this article later.
One of the best hikes I was able to experience in Yilan was Matcha Mountain, as it is popularly known. This hike was quite close to where I lived in Jiaoxi for two years. As a hike, its first four kilometers are an easy stroll up wide trails and past Scenic Wufongci with its lovely pavilion, Catholic Monastery, and waterfall hiking trails. The Match Mountain hike takes travels leisurely up the mountain until things change 1.6 kilometers from the top. From here on, it’s a staircase straight up the mountain. However, travelers that finish this hike will enjoy truly amazing vistas.
Other Recommended Hikes
- Shengmu Hiking Trail
- Tangweigou Hot Spring Park
- Yuemeikeng Falls
Tyler W. Golec
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