TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- It was announced earlier this week that Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau is going to plow NT$40 million (US$1.3 million) of public money into subsidizing tour groups to visit certain national scenic areas in the south of Taiwan.
Any tour group which is planning to visit attractions at any of the five specified national scenic areas will be entitled to apply for an accommodation subsidy of NT$500 per person and 50% of their total travel costs. The total subsidy is capped at NT$30,000 per tour group or NT$50,000 per tour group if they are visiting Penghu (澎湖).
Using public funds to subsidize tourism in this way is a strategy that is not without its critics. But to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s credit, this scheme does seem to be part of a broader strategy to raise the profile of some of the many natural attractions in the south of Taiwan that too many tourists miss out on.
How effective it is remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the five national scenic areas being focused on have a lot to offer. So, whether you are hoping to take advantage of the subsidy to join a tour to the region, or are simply interested in seeing some of Taiwan’s less-hyped scenery, we have decided to profile each of the five national scenic areas in question:
1. Siraya National Grand Scenic Area, Tainan - two Siraya National Scenic Area
(Image credit: Wikimedia)
The Siraya National Scenic Area is the youngest in Taiwan. It was designated in 2005 and named after the Siraya indigenous people who inhabited this area. It covers 12 rural districts, eleven of which sit in Tainan, while one, Dapu Township, is officially in Chiayi.
It is fondly referred to by locals as "a land of abundance" owing to the area's many farms which produce a large variety of fruits and other produce. If you want to cruise through rural Taiwan and sample some of these delicacies, the Siraya National Scenic Area is a good place to head.
You can even arrange tours of places like Guanziling and Jibeishua through the National Scenic Area Administration. But there are a few sights and attractions to explore too.
The area is one of Taiwan’s hot spring hot-spots, with Guanziling a major resort, but other springs dotted around the area. There are a lot of dams in the area too, including Wushantou Dam and reservoir, which offers plentiful flora and fauna as well as being a great spot to view cherry blossoms.
There are no shortage of historic sites to see too such as the Old Tainan Canal and buildings like the Lutaoyang Jiang Family Historic House, a large and extremely well-preserved Fukien style farming village, featuring bamboo-weaved houses and 200-year old mud dwellings. The Cailiao Fossil Museum also offers an insight into the area’s abundance of pre-historic remains.
2. Maolin National Grand Scenic Area, Kaohsiung Maolin National Scenic Area
(Image credit: Wikimedia)
The Maolin National Scenic Area sits in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range on the border between Kaohsiung and Pingtung. It is another area with a rich indigenous history and culture to explore.
You can see and learn more about this in places like the Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park as well as by paying a visit to villages such as Sandimen. At Duona village, you can also see some well-preserved examples of the unique slate houses of the Rukai Tribe.
There are no shortage of scenic attractions to enjoy too. It is perhaps best known for its butterflies, with both the Purple Butterfly Valley and Maolin Ecological Park being hot-spots for thousands of varieties, including the famous Purple Crow Butterflies, which migrate here in their millions for a short window every winter.
There are also a lot of Hot Springs in the area, many of which are commercially run and can be enjoyed for a small fee. Baolai Hot Spring and Bulao Hot Springare perhaps the two best known but there are many more to explore. And the mountainous landscape means there are also a high number of suspension bridges in the area which, as well as being impressive feats of engineering, also offer some spectacular views of the surrounding scenery.
3. Dapeng Bay National Grand Scenic Area, Pingtung Dapeng National Scenic Area Safety
(Image credit: TaiwanDay.com)
Dapeng Bay is Taiwan’s largest lagoon. It is around 3 meters deep on average, but up to 6 meters deep in some places.
It is not as naturally beautiful as some of the areas Scenic areas on this list as the touch of man can be seen in almost everything here. But, there are still some interesting and beautiful things to explore.
Towards the top of the lagoon is the Datan Wetland Park , which is dominated by mangrove, where all kinds of seabirds, shellfish, and insects can be spotted. There are more birds and fish to be seen around the rest of the lake too.
Dapeng Bay has plenty of other activities available too. Visitors can take boat trips around the lagoon to learn more about the area and there are also pedalos and other water sports available at busy times too.
The most famous landmark on the lagoon is the Dapeng Bay Bridge, which opens to let ships into the lagoon and features a regular light show and opening ceremony. It is also home to the Penbay International Circuit which is, for the time being, Taiwan’s only motor racing circuit and home to regular events as well as a rather unusual airplane-shaped viewing platform.
Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area also includes Little Liuqiu, a small coral island off the coast of the nearby town of Donggang which boasts far more natural beauty including coral reefs, rock formations, plentiful wildlife and plants, and a rich local culture and cuisine. It is however hugely popular with tourists making visits at peak times extremely congested.
4. Penghu National Grand Scenic Area, Penghu Penghu National Scenic Area
(Image credit: Wikimedia)
The Penghu National Scenic Area covers most, but not all, of the numerous islands and islets that make up the Penghu archipelago. It attracts plentiful numbers of tourists in the summer months when the cooler sea breezes make it a pleasant alternative to Taiwan’s stifling humidity.
But in winter, when Penghu is regularly subjected to gales, numbers drop significantly. Many tourists are drawn by Penghu’s numerous picture-postcard sandy beaches. But Penghu is much more than a beach resort.
It is a hugely popular destination for birdwatchers, with twitchers coming from around the world to see more than 200 different species of migratory birds that visit the islands every year. Penghu is also famed for its Green Turtles, which still lay eggs on the island and while viewing this is strongly discouraged, visitors can still learn more at the Wangan Green Turtle Tourism and Conservation.
Penghu also has some fascinating geological features, including its well-known basalt columns, and as it is not so overdeveloped as the rest of Taiwan, many historic buildings and features remain, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the 558 stone weirs, which were a traditional fishing method.
This year will see Penghu being the focus of the Year of Bay tourism initiative, which is intended to promote Taiwan as an eco-tourism destination and highlights its marine tourism assets. As a result, the subsidies being offered for tour groups will not be available in Penghu until 1stOctober to coincide with this event.
5. East Coast National Grand Scenic Area, Taitung - East Coast National Scenic Area
(Image credit: eastcoast-nsa.gov.tw)
The East Coast National Scenic Area stretches from Hualien to Taitung down the rugged and relatively unspoiled south-east of Taiwan. Its location on the edge of the Philippine and Eurasian tectonic plates has resulted in a unique geography featuring coral reefs, beaches, unique geological formations, islands and beaches.
It is littered with small fishing villages, many of which offer amazing local seafood restaurants. There is a rich tradition of agriculture here too with many spectacular rice paddies overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. For those looking for exciting pursuits, the East Coast National Scenic Area is also developing a growing reputation for surfing with some of the best waves in the region to be found here.
A few of the most popular attractions in the area include the Shitiping coastal terraces, a unique rocky outcrop with spectacular rock formations and a great variety of seaweeds and marine animals. Xiaoyeliu is another of the regions geological wonders, while Sanxiantai is probably the most recognizable sight thanks to its unique bridge, but also offers fascinating scenery and great ecological diversity on the island itself.
The East Coast also has a rich indigenous heritage with many tribes still thriving in the area and numerous opportunities available to learn about their culture and heritage, as well as sample their unique cuisine.