SEE THE BEAUTY OF TAIWAN
Information and photos provided by Taiwan Tourism Bureau
Taiwan’s railways offer an endless variety of experiences, and the views lining their routes provides an infinite range of fascinating scenery. If you want to get a close look at the island’s natural beauty without having to suffer the troubles of unfamiliar roads and the frustrations of traffic congestion, then you could do no better than choose a railroad tour and immerse yourself in the delights of enchanting coastlines, awesome mountains, placid farmlands, and engrossing countryside.
The history of railroads in Taiwan dates back to 1887. It began during the declining years of the Qing Dynasty, when court official Liu Ming-chuan started to work on a section of track in the northern part of the island. The Japanese expanded on that beginning when they occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, when the round-the-island network was completed after the island was restored to Chinese rule. Today, more than a century after its small beginning, Taiwan’s convenient railway network consists of the West Coast Trunk Railway, East Coast Trunk Railway, North-Link Railway, and South-Link Railway. Passenger service is divided into four classes, offering travelers a choice depending on their destination, the urgency of their trip, and the size of their pocketbooks.
Try Cruise-Style Trains – ez Travel
The scenery along the railroad glides by in a never-ending sequence of change, and each line has its own unique characteristics. The long, narrow, mountainous nature of the island’s terrain lines the length of the railways with exquisite scenes of mountains and rivers, allowing the rail passenger access to scenes that are out of reach of the highway. Taiwan’s railroads are far more than just a tool of transportation; they embody a deep affinity with the development of local culture and society, and have left behind large numbers of historical relics, including old stations and track sections that hark back to the past and reveal unique facets of local history.
Following is a brief introduction to the characteristics of Taiwan’s trunk railway lines :
West Coast Trunk Line system
This line includes the Keelung to Kaohsiung north-south line, the Taichung Line (Zhunan to Changhua), Pingtung Line (Kaohsiung to Fangliao), and South-Link Railway (Fangliao to Taitung New Station).
Main Line, Taichung Line, Pingtung Line :
The main cities served by this system include, north to south: Keelung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung. Each of these cities has its own local customs and natural scenery, and itineraries through them are quite diverse. Travelers can arrange tours of the Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung metropolitan areas, they can savor the famous delicacies of Miaokou (Temple Mouth) in Keelung, see the fascinating City God Temple in Hsinchu, taste the snacks of Danshui and the seafood of Pingtung, enjoy the pottery of Yingge and the wood-carving culture of Sanyi, and observe the historical sites of Sanxia and Tainan. They can also choose a tour through the countryside of Chiayi, or go bird-watching at the estuary of the Keya River in Hsinchu or the Cengwen River in Tainan.
South-Link Railway :
This is the only railway line in Taiwan that gives you access to both the Taiwan Straits and the Pacific Ocean. Passing through the southernmost extremity of the Central Mountain Range, it links Pingtung in the west with Taitung in the east, along the way allowing passengers to enjoy views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, the awesome natural sights of the mountains, and the lovely mountain-and-sea views and also the indigenous cultures of southeastern Taiwan. Among the most famous sights of this route are the daylily fields of Taimali, the hot springs of Zhiben, the Bamboo-Pole Festival of the Atayals, and the vast expanses of the Pacific.
East Coast Trunk Line System
This system encompasses the Yilan Line, which reaches from Badu to Su-ao, the North-Link Railway which runs from Su-ao to Hualien, and the Hualien-Taitung Line, which together form a complete system that serves all of eastern Taiwan and displays the attractions of Yilan, Hualien, and Taitung.
Trains run along the seacoast, with the high mountains on one side and the vast ocean on another providing the most intoxicating scenery on this part of the round-the-island railway. Travel these lines and you will experience the permutations and changes of natural beauty. After passing though the flat vastness of the Lanyang Plain, and enjoying the bucolic flatlands and the distant sight of Turtle Island along the way, you will pass through Su-ao. The scenery outside your window will undergo a drastic change as majestic sights of mountain and sea appear before your eyes. Tourist sites along the way include the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, the Lanyang Plain, Turtle Island, the East Coast National Scenic Area, the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, Taroko National Park, and Taroko Gorge with its Swallows’ Grottos, Tunnel of Nine Turns, Bulowan, Cuilu Precipice, Tianxiang, and the Liwu River. Besides enjoying the stupendous masterworks of nature’s art, travelers here can also arrange itineraries that will allow them to experience indigenous cultures, bird watching, hot springs, rustic old towns, and other unique sites of the area.
In addition, there are also slow trains that run along narrow-gauge railways: the Alishan Forest Line, Jiji Line, Pingxi Line, and Neiwan Line. For those who have just come to Taiwan, riding on this kind of tourist train that proceeds at a leisurely pace allows passengers to enjoy the scenery along the way, all the while providing a new and interesting experience.
This line runs through Pingxi District in New Taipei City, and can be boarded at the Ruifang Station or Houtong Station on the main railway line. Travelers in this branch line can savor the beauty of mountain cliffs, streams, and waterfalls along the way, and experience the rustic lifestyle of country villages and small mining towns. The main scenic spots along the line are the Shifen Waterfall, Wildman Valley Waterfalls, and Lingjiao Waterfall.
This line is located in the easternmost part of Hengshan Township in Hsinchu County. You can board trains on this branch line at the Hsinchu Railway Station. As your train moves slowly along the track, passengers will gain a feeling of the rustic life in mountain towns. The main scenic spots along the line include the Beipu Scenic Area and the Wuzhi Mountain (Wuzhishan, Five-Fingers Mountain) Scenic Area.
This line passes through bucolic scenery in Changhua and Nantou countries, giving access to “green tunnels,” historic sites, rivers, old pottery kilns, and the little town of Jiji. A ride along the Jiji Line is like a trip into the past.
Alishan Forest Line
Alishan Forest Railway carries passengers through four climatic zones–tropical, subtropical, temperate, and frigid–and each section of the line passes by truly unique scenery. It also allows you to experience a “corkscrew” ride as it winds its way up one of the mountains along its line; it ends up at the Alishan National Scenic Area, where you can see the spectacular sunrise, sea of clouds, sacred tree, flower season, and mountain pathways.
The railroad will always have an allure for travelers that other methods of transportation cannot match. Are you ready to take a romantic journey by rail? Take a trip on the Taiwan railways, and you will not be disappointed!