TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- It may seem hard to believe given the perishing conditions we have been enduring in Taiwan of late, but the idea of going camping is a pretty popular one here.
For all the Taiwanese love their home comforts, getting out into nature and spending a few nights under canvas is a growing trend. The prevalence of outdoor equipment shops across the country is proof enough of this.
Of course, the Taiwanese entrepreneurial spirit has leapt upon this as a great business opportunity and campsites have been opening up in numbers all over the country. Some of these are run by opportunists and can be damaging to the natural environment as well as just plain illegal. We naturally would not advise you to stay at any sites like this.
But there are plenty of legitimate ones around too, such as the Bishan Campground (碧山露營場) in Taipei’s Neihu District, which is reopening later this month after a revamp. These offer you all the basic facilities you need from a campsite, and often a bit more besides.
But more importantly, they offer the opportunity to get out and explore "Ihla Formosa" in a totally different way and to escape the urban sprawl for some a more rural environment. In this article, I have highlighted a few of my favorite campsites around Taiwan. Why not share yours with us on our Facebook page or Twitter feed?
1. Wuling Farm Camping Ground - 武陵農場
Wuling Farm (Photo courtesy of Jerry Lai/Flickr)
This beautiful campsite is situated high in the Central Mountain range in Shei-Pa National Park(雪霸國家公園). While it officially lies in Taichung County, visitors are strongly advised to set off from Yilan for a two-hour drive, rather than depart Taichung for a much longer and more treacherous journey.
Whichever way you choose to get there, it is definitely worth the drive though. It is one of the most picturesque parts of the country with plenty of hiking trails to explore, including the climb up Snow Mountain (雪山), the second highest peak in the country.
It is also one of the best spots in the country to enjoy cherry blossom in the spring. It gets busy around that time, but there is plenty more flora and fauna to enjoy all year round. If you want cooler temperatures, beautiful scenery and some peace and quiet, Wuling Farm is definitely a good place to head to.
2. Liyu Lake Campground, Hualien - 花蓮壽豐鯉魚潭露營區
Liyu Lake (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Liyu Lake is one of the most popular scenic areas in the East Rift Valley area. Just 18km from Hualien, this 1.6km long lake is the largest inland lake in the region and is named after Liyu Mountain, which is located on its eastern shores.
As well as enjoying the natural scenery, there are plenty of recreational facilities available around the lake, including sailing, water sports, cycling tracks and hiking trails. It is also home to a very well equipped campsite just to the south of the lake.
At night the area is blissfully quiet and tranquil and all that city center traffic feels a million miles away. Being on the east coast, there is usually a great night sky to enjoy too, but enough facilities close by, that you will still be able to find something to eat for breakfast within easy reach the next morning.
3. Jingshan Camping Ground, Yangmingshan – 陽明山菁山露營場
Jingshan Camping Ground - the view from Yangmingshan (Photo courtesy of Li Chen LIN/Flickr)
People looking to escape Taipei for a night or two but without either the means or the motivation to travel too far often head to the surrounding mountains. And the Yangmingshan Jingshan Camping Ground offers them the opportunity to enjoy more than a hurried day trip.
Despite its close proximity to the city, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore and some spectacular city views to enjoy. These are, of course, every bit as good at night as they are during the day. You are also close to the Jinshan Hot Springs, which are a great place to relax and soak away your cares.
The Jingshan Camping Ground does not offer a total escape from city life, but it is a good bet for a quick getaway and a change of environment.
4. Baima Pavilion, Tsengwen Reservoir - 曾文水庫白馬亭
Tsengwen Reservoir (Photo courtesy of Michael A. Turton)
If you are looking for somewhere a little more off the beaten track, then the Baima Pavilion overlooking Tsengwen Reservoir is worth trying out. The facilities are extremely basic as this is a viewing point rather than an official campsite, although camping is not banned here. The pavilion itself offers some shelter from the weather but that’s about all you will get.
However, if you can put up without running water for the night you will be rewarded with some stunning views of the reservoir and the surrounding mountains as well as access to plenty of great hiking trails. And you are far enough away from civilization to be able to enjoy some genuine peace and quiet.
Access to the Baima Pavillion can be tricky in vehicles as the road is not in great shape. Drivers of regular cars may struggle in places, but if you are driving a 4WD or a powerful scooter you shouldn't have too much trouble making it up there. And there is of course also the option to walk too. However you get here, it is certainly worth the tricky journey up.
5. Lüshui Heliu Campground, Taroko Gorge - 太魯閣綠水合流露營區
Lüshui Heliu Campground (Photo courtesy of Taroko National Park)
There is no debating that Taroko Gorge is one of the must-see sites in Taiwan. But for most visitors, that entails peering through a coach window before driving an hour south to stay in Hualien. But Taroko is just as magical at night too, as anyone who has stayed at the Lüshui Heliu Campground can attest to.
The site is located around 16km into the gorge itself, between Cimu Bridge (慈母橋) and the Lüshui area. It comprises 12 wooden platforms situated slightly away from the road and offering decent views up and down the river. It is available on a first-come, first-served basis and there is limited parking, which can be used by visitors during the day, so be prepared to wait.
But it is worth the wait because at night, the traffic disappears and campers are left with nothing but the sounds of the river, the surrounding wildlife, and the stars shining into the gorge, plus the occasional snoring fellow camper if you are unlucky. If visiting Taroko is a must, spending the night sleeping under the stars there, is another thing to add to your bucket list.
6. Shitiping Campground- 石梯坪
Shitiping Campground (Photo courtesy of East Coast National Scenic Area)
Shitiping is one of the most popular attractions on Taiwan’s East Coast, with visitors drawn by both the stunning geological features and the spectacular mountain and sea views. But the Shitiping Scenic Area is also home to one of the most spectacular camping facilities in the whole country.
For a very affordable night, visitors can pitch their tent under the stars and the sort of peace and solitude that can only really be found on the eastern side of the country. In summer months, there is also a barbeque for campers as well as organised tours of the site.
But perhaps one of the biggest highlights of camping here is waking early to enjoy the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean and the spectacular light show it casts on the mountains and surrounding landscape.