TRAILS with TEMPLES

One feature of Taiwan’s trails that is pretty unique is the preponderance of temples that you can see along the way. Big ones, small ones, grand and humble, Taoist, Buddhist, Confucian, temples of all persuasions can be found along the trails here. In fact, it might be harder to find a trail that doesn’t feature a temple of some kind. With that in mind, I’ve only included walks that have a temple that’s particularly noteworthy in one way or another – perhaps it is the starting point of the walk, maybe it has some particular story to it, or perhaps I just think it looks pretty.

NEIHU’S PATH LESS TRAVELLED


The hills around Jinmian Shan are crisscrossed with hiking trails of varying degrees of popularity and difficulty. This post details one of the quieter walks that you can do in the area.

MIAOLI’S LION’S HEAD MOUNTAIN (獅頭山)


Lion’s Head Mountain in Miaoli is just one of many peaks scattered across Taiwan to be named due to its resemblance to the King of the Jungle. What sets this particular lion apart from the others is its enduring role as a site of spiritual significance. Dotting the mountain’s slopes visitors will find a proliferation of temples, some of which have been open to worshippers for over a hundred years.

ALISHAN SISTERS PONDS LOOP (阿里山:姐妹池O型)


Alishan has been a popular destination with tourists for decades, the lure of the mountain air and beautiful forest scenery drawing in the crowds. These days visitors still flock to the park to enjoy the forest, the sunrise and the picturesque little red trains that ply the narrow-gauge tracks through the trees. This trail will take you on a short and easy wander around some of the sights.

TAMSUI-KAVALAN TRAILS: DALI to YILAN (淡蘭古道北路:大里/外澳/頭城/礁溪/宜蘭)


This leg of the journey ties up the northern, middle and southern routes on their route into the centre of Yilan. Along the way you can stop to take in some grand coastal scenery, soak up the sun at the surfer beach in Wai’ao, visit Toucheng’s historic old street and dip your toes in Jiaoxi’s hot spring waters. Although it may not seem like the obvious place to go for a stroll, those who do walk this way will certainly find plenty to keep themselves interested.

ZHISHANYAN STROLL (芝山岩)

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In this quiet suburb of Taipei sits a hidden gem of a trail. Suitable for people of all ages and abilities, the trails of Zhishanyan have layer upon layer of history to reveal. On these slopes you can encounter a potted version of Taiwan’s past lives, the walk takes in prehistoric bones, the waves of mass immigration from China, a tragedy from the Japanese colonial era and Taiwan’s recent military past.

YONGHE RIDGE LOOP (國旗嶺/鄧公嶺/烘爐地南山福德宮)

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Whilst Taipei’s northern and eastern hills tend to get most of the attention, this trail to the southwest of the city has plenty to offer the traveller who strays from the well-trodden trails of Yangmingshan Park. Indeed, as the locals know, Yonghe District has well-trodden paths of its own to explore. This route takes in ancient banyans, views to both the north and the south, all manner of trail types and enough temples to satisfy the very keenest of temple aficionados.

TAIPEI GRAND HIKE – MAOKONG (南區茶鄉大縱走 – 貓空)

The closing section of Taipei’s long distance path leads you up into the tea-growing hills of Muzha. There’s a waterfall, one of Taiwan’s top 100 religious sites, (Chihnan Temple), and the opportunity to take a rest stop in your pick of Maokong’s famous tea houses.

SUN MOON LAKE FULL CYCLE LOOP


For those wishing to experience all of Taiwan in a short time, you could do a lot worse than trying out this loop. As a microcosm of Taiwan it covers almost all the bases: grand temples, spectacular mountain scenery, aboriginal culture, bustling old streets and well crafted tourist experiences, (and of course sharing the road with motorists who view traffic rules as optional).

CAOLING HISTORIC TRAIL (草嶺古道)

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This historic and very accessible trail will take you over the hills from Dali to Fulong next to an inviting river stream. Better yet, you can look forward to a refreshing swim once you've reached your destination.