Physical geography can often be one of the most exciting subjects to plan a school trip around. It provides students (and teachers!) with an opportunity to visit some incredible locations – mountains, lakes, coasts. However, there are seldom few places where you can get up-close-and-personal with a variety of these real-life examples in one tour.
A week in Taiwan sees students visit the sea, a dormant volcano, and spectacular lake. They see cliff formations, mountains, thermal falls, and paddy fields. In one tour, you’ve got the chance to explore a huge variety of natural landscapes, geological formations, and unique regions. We’ve pulled a selection below of the best places to visit on a Taiwan geography trip.
Yangmingshan National Park
Taiwan’s position on the Pacific Ring of Fire (though without the levels of activity experienced by Japan and the Philippines) means that the country is predisposed to some amazing geological formations. One of the best places to see this is in the Yangmingshan National Park, close to Taipei City. One of nine national parks in Taiwan, it’s home to some spectacular sights – none more exciting than the dormant Mount Qixing. At over 1,100m tall, it’s Taiwan’s tallest dormant volcano! A trip to this area reveals fascinating sulfur deposits and fumaroles, as well as the chance to explore the effect of tectonic and volcanic activity on the natural landscape.
Located on the east side of Qixing are the Lengshuikeng Hot Springs. Formed by a historic lava flow down the mountain that formed a barrier lake, this drained to leave the marshy lake that’s there today, filled with precipitated sulfur. It’s known locally as the ‘Milk Lake’ thanks to its cloudy colour, and while it’s classified as a hot spring, it’s colder than many at 40C.
But Yangmingshan is holds many more beautiful features. While you’re visiting the area, you’ll seei beautiful waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and mountains. It’s also home to over 100 species of birds, and a visit at the right time of year sees a cherry blossom display to rival Japan’s sakura season.
Beitou Thermal Valley
For somewhere a touch hotter than Lengshuikeng, head to the Beitou Thermal Valley. Situated in the foothills of Yangmingshan, Beitou provides a unique geographical experience. The thermal valley is the source of the creek running through the hot spring park. The water is high in radium, and can reach up to 90C – at one point, locals were allowed to boil eggs in it! The heat of the water has earned Beitou the nickname ‘Hell Valley’ – but don’t be put off! The area is an remnant of a volcanic crater, making for a fascinating geography field trip.
It’s also an incredibly educational visit, as while you’re there you can visit the Beitou Hot Springs Museum. Located in a former historic bathhouse, the museum opened in 1998 and documents the heritage of the region and the science behind the valley, and preserves features of the original bathhouses in exhibitions. All of this means that a visit to Beitou is a must on any Taiwan geography trip.
Taroko National Park was established in 1986 by the Taiwanese Government, in an attempt to preserve the natural beauty of Taiwan. Covering over 92,000 hectares of the country, it’s home to some of the most dramatic landscapes you can find – and none are more dramatic than the Taroko Gorge, from which the park takes its name.
Formed by both geological movements and erosion thanks to the Liwu River at its base, Taroko Gorge is an astonishing natural sight. Formed of marble – a resilient stone, yet still worn away by the river over millions of years – the steep cliffsides are topped with abundant plants and lush jungles. Hiking along one of the many trails reveals some spectacular panoramas down the gorge valley. In short, it’s a perfect place to get a glimpse of geology in action.
While you’re in Taroko, be sure to visit the Qingshui Cliffs. Designated one of the eight wonders of Taiwan, they provides the most amazing view over the Pacific Ocean you can see in the entire Park – and is said to be the only place you can see three distinct colours in the water. The tallest peak here, Qingshui, rises a whopping 2,400m above sea level!
Alishan National Forest Recreation Area
Located in Chiayi, the Alishan Forest Area is a stunning 1,400 hectare region of lush vegetation. Once a hugely influential logging region, the natural beauty of Alishan meant that tourism gradually became its primary economy. It’s now one of the most popular places to visit, whether coming from abroad or from within Taiwan.
The area is known to be fairly damp – they get 209 days of rainfall a year, contributing to the amazing flora – but it’s also the reason the area is so renowned. The climate means that budding ecologists can see plant life from a variety of climactic regions, from tropical bamboo to temperate high-mountain tea plants. It’s also home to the ‘sea of clouds’, where you can head upwards to look down upon, quite literally, a sea of clouds!
Though the area once had an abundance of cypress trees, today there are fewer than 50 that stand at over a millenia old. These can be seen on the Giant Tree Trail, which leads to the famous Xianglin Giant Tree. At over 45 metres high, it’s believed to date back 2,300 years! You can also visit the Sacred Tree, which now lays on its side – it once stood at 52 metres, and was said to be 3,000 years old.
Sun Moon Lake
Possibly one of the most famous destinations in Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a stunning alpine lake in Nantou County. Deriving its name from its shape – the small Lalu Island in the centre ‘divides’ the lake into the shape of a sun and a crescent moon – it’s a stunning cultural region. Surrounded by misty mountains and forests, it’s no wonder that the lake has been designated a ‘Beautiful Scenic Attraction’.
No Taiwan geography trip is complete without a visit to Sun Moon Lake. While it’s home to some amazing outdoor activities – like a cycle around the spectacular Xiangshan Bikeway or a hike up the Hanbi Trail, it’s also a unique place for its human geographies. While visiting Sun Moon, you can learn more about the unique history of the Thao and Bunun Indigenous tribes, and their relationships with the natural landscape. It’s also an area known for its black tea production, so a visit to learn more about this part of Taiwanese industry is a must.
For the best views, be sure to take to the water. Sun Moon Lake is renowned for remaining placid year-round, so whether you visit in winter or summer, rain or shine, you’ll be able to head out onto the calm surface for some truly magnificent panoramas.
Find out more about our Taiwan geography trip here.
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