National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area
| Taiwan is rich in scenic beauty, and has several spectacular National Scenic Areas where tourists can take in the wonderfully varied scenery of the island. This month we are going to explore three of these areas together.
1. North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area
Our first stop is the North Coast National Scenic Area. This area extends along the top of the island from the charming old river port of Danshuei to Keelung , North Taiwan 's biggest international sea port.The coastal road winds between the hills and the rocky shore along what is known as the Jumping Stone Coast , from the days before the road was built when travelers along the north of the island had to jump from rock to rock.
The surf is big here, and the sun light always bright.The North Coast has many geological sights and curiosities, including the huge igneous boulders of the Jumping Stone Coast , and the natural stone arch of Shihmen, formed by wind and water erosion.Further along the coast is one of the most spectacular and strangest of Taiwan 's geological wonders: Yeliou Geological Park .
Sedimentary rock, over 200 million years old, extends as a peninsula north into the sea. The action of the wind and waves has, over millennia, shaped the rock into a series of natural sculptures which are both unusual and beautiful. Most famous among these is the Queen's Head, which seen from the right angle, resembles the profile of an Egyptian queen complete with crown.
There are also other formations, such as the Tofu Rock, which looks like giant slabs of smooth tofu, the Fairy Shoe, which looks like a huge traditional Chinese slipper, and the Candle Rocks, which look like slender candles standing along the shore. This stretch of the coast is also one of the best places on the island for viewing migratory birds, especially in spring and autumn.
In addition to the natural scenic wonders of the coast, the old port of Danshuei is one of the most charming places to get a sense of Taiwan 's history. Founded by the Spanish across the river from the foot of Guangyin Mountain during the 16 th century, it served as the island's main port for most of the 19 th century. The town is full of enchanting winding lanes and traditional old houses. The sunset over the estuary is always spectacular and well worth catching.
For more information about the North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.northguan-nsa.gov.tw
2. Northeast Coast National Scenic Area
The second destination on our tour of Taiwan 's scenic areas is the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area. This is a spectacular reach of coastline facing the East China Sea on its northern stretch, and the Pacific on the southern stretch.
The fishing ports are justly famous for their wonderful seafood, served up right on the edge of the harbor. The mountains above the sea here are particularly rich in natural volcanic hot and cold springs, and many of the hot-spring establishments in this area of the country take advantage of the view over the sea.
Further inland are the impressive Shihfen Waterfalls, which can be reached by the narrow gauge Pingsi Railway from Keelung .
For more information about the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.necoast-nsa.gov.tw
The third place on our tour is the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area, which is situated southwest of Taipei and covers three beautiful mountains: the Lion's Head Mountain , Lishan, and Baguashan. Each mountain has its own character and scenic attractions, and together they comprise one of the most spectacular and interesting scenic areas on the island.
Lion's Head Mountain , so called because from the right angle it looks like the king of the beasts, is the home to many Buddhist monasteries and retreats. The mountain is riddled with caves, and many of the Buddhist temples and retreats were originally built inside them.
The mountain is a thriving Buddhist center, so there are many restaurants serving vegetarian food, as well as centers for Buddhist studies. The mountain is peaceful and has many walking trails where you can enjoy the view, the sights and sounds of the forest, and the enchanting pagodas.
Lishan is home to another of Taiwan 's aboriginal tribes, the Atayal, and visitors here will be impressed by their festivals, with dancing and wonderful singing. The mountain sits on the cross island highway, and is a hub for travelers going from East to West and North to South. The journey along the highway can be hazardous, especially in the wet season when there are frequent mudslides. The area was affected by a massive earthquake in 1999, but still provides spectacular views reminiscent of Switzerland 's Alps . The mountain is a staging post for visitors on their way to Syue Mountain , Taiwan 's second highest peak, which is covered in snow in the winter months.
For more information about the Tri-Mountain National Scenic area, visit: http://www.trimt-nsa.gov.tw/