Most travelers to Taiwan will visit Taipei, the capital city and perhaps one or two of the more popular daytrips from there. Those daytrips include the Wulai aboriginal area, just south of Taipei or the mountains of the east coast. To get further off the beaten path and to the places where the locals themselves go to vacation you need to head south.
To get to Southern Taiwan take the High Speed Rail line south to either Tainan or Kaohsiung and then the Pintung line to Fangliao. At Fangliao you can take the south link line to Taitung. If going to Kenting National Park, you will need to either rent a car or alternately book a tour with pickup at Fangliao train station. There is an express bus service from the last high speed rail station (Zouying) but the sights of Kenting National Park are spread out, so some form of personal transport is recommended.
Taitung (also sometimes translated as Taidong) is the city with the highest percentage of residents with aboriginal heritage in all of Taiwan. Although in the scenic mountainous eastern part of Taiwan it is much less crowded than the other more northern areas such as Hualien.
There are quite a few sights in Taitung City itself. The National Museum of Prehistory tells the story of the aboriginal people of Taiwan. A little farther north is the Beinan Cultural Park which consists of the archeological excavations of two aboriginal village sites. Also while in Taitung city be sure not to miss the wonderful Taitung Forest Park. This park running along the Luye River to the sea is best explored by bike. Rentals are available at the entrance.
Take a trip outside Taitung city to the Luye valley region is very rewarding. This scenic valley was first settled by the Japanese during the occupation years and was intended as an agricultural area. High above the valley is the Luye Tea farm, part working organic tea farm, part tourist attraction. For those who aren’t tea drinkers, the farm still provides excellent views over the valley below.
Kenting National Park
Further south is Taiwan oldest national park, Kenting National Park. This is Taiwan’s beach playground. Checheng is the northern gateway into Kenting Park with the best beaches being the west coast beaches, south of here to Eluanbi. Kenting City has the highest concentration of resorts and restaurants in the area with the best diving and snorkeling about 6 Km south of here next to Sail Rock.
Eluanbi is the farthest point south in Taiwan and is home to the magnificent Eluanbi Lighthouse. Various trails around the lighthouse wind down by the seashore and around surrounding forest areas and make for good hiking.
Kenting’s east coast is buffeted by strong winds blowing off the Pacific. This creates whirling sand dunes best viewed at Chiupeng.
The Bottom Line
Southern Taiwan is a good place to escape the high tech bustle of the north and the heavily populated west coast. Here you can experience a little bit of what the natural island was like before the major Chinese immigration of the 17th century. There is no place better to remind you of how Taiwan got its original western name, Formosa (or beautiful).