The Ultimate Taiwan Touring Route

I bet I’m nowhere near the only one to think “I should just ride my scooter round the island one day”. After almost ten years I never got round to it, and anyway, I thought, riding strictly ‘around’ the island is not really the most scenic route, is it?

So I decided to try and plan a route ‘around’ Taiwan that covers all the most scenic mountain and coastal roads but avoids the boring heavily populated areas and also makes a loop without having to double up. The idea is just to ride all the scenic roads.

Here’s what I came up with. I’m taking five days this 10/10 weekend to try it out. Thing is I don’t know those southern roads at all. I’d be interested in what others think, and especially on some rough travel times for some of them. Here it is:

[Edit: I successfully completed the route. I’m editing in times, distances and description, if anyone’s interested. The times are for riding fast on a scooter with very few, very short breaks. In almost all cases this is faster than it takes for driving, as I disregarded speed limits and overtook cars often :-)]

  1. [b]Northern Cross-Island Highway /b: Taoyuan, Daxi - Yilan, Luodong
    While not as spectacular as the Central and Southern, the Northern is still a great ride, with some great mountain views, and little traffic. 3h15m, 130KM (Daxi-Fuxing 25m, -Baling 45m, -Mingchi 35m, -Qilan 50m, Luodong 40m).

  2. Suhua Highway (9): Yilan - Hualian
    I don’t really like the Suhua. Too much traffic. Be careful of those gravel trucks on corners. Still, some nice scenery, and on a holiday weekend, I was going much faster than the cars with the scooter. 2h35m, 115KM (Ludong-Suao 15m, -DongAo 25m, - Heping 55m, - Taroko turnoff 40m, -Hualian 20m).

  3. Huadong Highway (East Rift Valley) (9): Hualian - Taidong (Inland)
    This is a great straight ride with open roads and not much traffic. Most people prefer the views of the coastal route, but actually I like this big open valley scenery just as much. If you don’t mind speed limits, you can just full throttle it almost the entire way. 3h10m, 174KM (Hualian - Fenglin 30m, -Ruishui 30m, -Yuli 30m, -Chishang 35m, - Taidong 1h5m).

  4. [b]Southern Cross-Island Highway /b: Taidong - Gaoxiong County
    A great mountain road with little traffic. Nice alpine forests at the top (and scary tunnel with no lights). Gets up to 2750m. 3h40m, 136KM (Chishang-Yakou Tunnel (top) 1h40m, -Meishan 30m, -Baolai 30m).

  5. Yanshan Highway (27-185-1-26): Gaoxiong County - Kending
    I messed this up a bit and ended up going through Pingdong city instead of the 185 route. From there down to Kending is mostly urban until you get to close to Kending. Also this is one area where a car would have made better time, as the wind down near Kending was the strongest I’ve ever had on the roads. It forced me to slow right down. 3h15m, 167KM (Baolai-Gaoshu 40m, -Pingdong City 35m, -Fangliao 40m, Hengchun 1h5m, -Kending 15m).

  6. Nansui Highway (26-200-9): Kending - Taidong
    Great coastal highway with little traffic and nice coastal views. Some nasty wind jsut north of Kending though. 3h, 160KM (Kending-Gangkou 30m, -Anshou 1h40m, -Taidong 50m)

  7. Dongchen/Coastal Highway (11): Taidong - Hualian
    More nice straight coastal highway. Very scenic. 3h45m, 180KM (Taidong-Donghe 55m, -Changbin 1h, -Shuili 1h15m, -Hualian 35m)

  8. New Central Cross-Island Highway (8-14甲-14): Hualian - Puli
    The best road of the lot of them, in my opinion. Stunning views with Taroko Gorge at the bottom, and amazing mountain tops at 3500m at the top - that’s really high. The traffic eases off after Tianshang, but still expect a fair bit int he weekends. As you get higher you’re quite likely to be driving slowly through heavy fog, then you see a few rays of sunlight, and suddenly you’ve punched through the clouds and you’re under blue sky with beautiful alpine forest all around you and a sea of clouds below. Then the road gets really high. My scooter - which usually does amazingly well for a 150cc machine - had difficulty with the altitudes and was slowed down to 30kph, but made it no problem. The top of the road is just incredible. I stayed at Qingjing on the other side, which is a really nice place (still quite high up). Both the fog and the altitude slowed me down quite a bit, and the traffic maybe a little. In a car, on a weekday, you might make better time. 4h50m, 168KM (to Puli) (Hualian-Taroko 20m, -Tianshang 30m, -Guanyuan 1h40m, -Dayuling 10m, -top 25m, -Qingjing 50m, -Puli 55m).

  9. Central Loop (14-3-18-21): Puli - Nantou - Jiayi - Alishan - Sun Moon Lake - Puli
    The Puli - Nantou - Jiayi part of this was urban and full of traffic lights, but the Alishan - Sun Moon Lake part was great. On a weekday there was almost no traffic for a lot of it. The road goes up to 2600M past Alishan, through the Yushan Forest Park, then down past mountain farming villages to Sun Moon Lake. The road is in great condition too. I did this loop from Qingjing, but these times are from Puli - 7h15m, 311KM (Puli-Caotun 40m, -Douliu 1h15m, -Meishan 30m, -Chukou 35m, -Alishan 1h25m, -Shangdongpu 30m, -Shuili 1h30m, -Sun Moon Lake 30m, -Puli 20m).

  10. Central Highway Yilan Branch (14-14甲-8-7甲-7): Puli - Lishan - Yilan
    Back up the Central again is great, and Lishan is well worth a visit. It’s a beautiful mountain village with excellent views. The 7甲 is a long road that connects the Central to the Yilan part of the Northern. The first half, past Lishan, is really nice, winding through mountain farming villages. The second half is in really bad condition though, and gets a little dull. It’s a long ride. 6h20m, 200KM (Puli-Qingjing 55m, -top of the Northern 40m, -Dayuling 25m, -Lishan 1h, -Nanshan 1h45m, -7甲/7 junction 45m, -Yilan 50m).

  11. Northern Coastal Highway (2): Yilan - Jilong - Taipei
    I’ve done that route enough times, so I skipped and came back over the 9 via Pinglin, which took about 1h40m to Xindian (72KM).

You can check out the whole map here.

I’ve done the northern roads and central-cross island before, so have a fair idea of how long they will take. It would be helpful to have time estimates for Hualian to Taidong, Taidong to Kending and the Southern Cross-Island. Oh, and the 7甲. Also, that Alishan loop is the part I’m the most unsure of. How long is Jiayi to Alishan and Alishan to Sun Moon Lake? Finally, for the Western part of that loop, is there a good alternative to the 3? I see that there’s a route that goes down past Zhushan to Meishan on the 149 and 149甲 and then meets the 18 (Alishan Highway). How does the compare to the 3. More scenic? How long would it take?

Any help appreciated, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.


What a great route, Bu.

Hualian to Taitung: I think it’s about 4 hours.

Taitung to Kenting: another 3-4 hours.

Southern Cross: Taitung to Gaoxiong: probably 6 hours at least on a scooter.

Jiayi to Alishan: 3 hours.

Alishan to Sun Moon Lake: That’s a long one. 3-4 hours I think with all the turns in the road.

The 149/159/169 around Fenqihu, Reiuli, Taihe, Meishan is way more scenic than the 3. That’s some of my favorite driving country out there. Just endless roads, magestic vistas and little towns. But check on road conditions first especially after all the typoons recently. No idea how long it will take to drive but count on 6 hours.

From Nantou I would take the 139 or one of those smaller roads down to Ershui. The back roads from Changhua to Ershui are quiet and roll through some pretty country.

Or from Puli I would head straight down to SML, then go to Alishan and on the way to Jiayi head north on the 169/149/159 etc up through the Alishan Scenic Area to Zhushan and then get on one of the small roads to Ershui and then Changhua. Ask cfimages which is the best country road to Changhua as he bikes around here. I’ve driven the route a few times but forget which road I took.

Thanks MM. I’m also thinking for the inland route Hualian to Taidong, would the 193 be better for most of that than the 9? And would that be much slower?

I have a bit of a dilemma with conflicting goals. On the one hand, I want the scenic routes. On the other hand, I’ve only given myself 5 days to do it, which really might prove to be impossible, even though I’m planning to ride 10 hours or more a day. So although I want scenic routes, I don’t want tiny country roads that take forever. Anyway sometimes a nice uncrowded good road, where you can just open up and get some speed, is fantastic too.


[quote=“Bu Lai En”]Thanks MM. I’m also thinking for the inland route Hualian to Taidong, would the 193 be better for most of that than the 9? And would that be much slower?

I have a bit of a dilemma with conflicting goals. On the one hand, I want the scenic routes. On the other hand, I’ve only given myself 5 days to do it, which really might prove to be impossible, even though I’m planning to ride 10 hours or more a day. So although I want scenic routes, I don’t want tiny country roads that take forever. Anyway sometimes a nice uncrowded good road, where you can just open up and get some speed, is fantastic too.


The 193 would be slower as you’ll go through a lot of small villages where you’ll need to slow down. The scenery is about the same on both as you are riding through a valley. The 193 is better on a bike; for a scooter, especially if time is pressing, take the 9.

Since time is pressing you can skip the small Alishan roads. You’re going to get enough great scenery along the routes you have chosen. That said, it still might be faster along the back routes to Changhua as the 3 tends to have a lot of lights. Again, I would ask cfimages about this part.

Where are you planning to stay along the way? Campgrounds, hotels?

Well, I hope to sneakily pitch my tent anywhere I can after dark, and get up at dawn - beaches, roadside grassy areas, wherever. If that’s totally impossible, then the cheapest campground or little minsu, I can find. I’m roughing it. :slight_smile:

Did a similar trip before last Chinese New Year. I would suggest that after you do the southern cross-island instead of going all the way to jiayi you go to a small aboriginal town called SanMin which is on the number 21. It is a great place to stay and you can take a small road over Tea Mountain (chashan) to get onto the Alishan road. Saves a lot of time and shit driving. Ask anyone in sanmin and they’ll tell you when the road is. It is near the turn of for sanminghuo (the natural gas outlet thing).

You might want to check the road conditions too because of the typhoons. I remember seeing on the news that the 7 at yingshi is out (but you can cross the bridge and get round). The 7(^) (Lishan road) was out too as well as the number 8.

Thanks. I was wondering about road closures. Where can I check. I’m optimistically thinking that they’ll all be open by now, even if it’s like last time I drove the 7 with half the road fallen away in many sections - ie badly damaged but still passable (esp on a scooter rather than car).

Ah yes, that road from Sanmin to Alishan is an excellent route. I did that in my car a couple years ago. Plus the ride up and through Sanmin is very pleasant. Little development so has a Taiwan-of-old-feel to it.

Lots of new campgrounds around Bu. If you give us a rough idea where you will be each night I can recommend some places.

Probably Taidong, Kending, Qingjing Farm, somewhere round Puli.

All kinds of great spots around Taidong. At Taitung Hongyeh hot springs the local aboriginals have set up a nice campground with tiled hot spring pools. Just Hsiao Yeliu just north of Taitung also has a nice seaside campground. Or south of Taitung at Jinfong, again the local aboriginals have set up a nice riverside campground with hot springs. Or the beach at Taimali south of Taitung is perfect for camping. Lots of driftwood and literally miles and miles of empty beach.

Kending, lots of campgrounds. There is a great one just off the main road. Turn down Dawan Rd at the MacDonalds and you’ll see it across a lot as you come round the bend. Right on the beach. Perfect.

Qingjing? I hate that place but you could stay at the guesthouse in nearby Hehuanshan for pretty cheap.

Puli, there used to be a campsite at Carp Lake just outside Puli. Call this number and see, it’s a restaurant right on the lake: 049 298 5445. There’s also a hostel in Puli but I don’t have the number.

Sounds like an awesome trip !!

Thanks for the camping suggestions MM. I’ve noted them in my notebook so I can use them if need be.

No suggestions other than that you have yourself a blast. I’m envious.

You have made some great route choices. Highway 9 inland between Taidong and Hualien is a big dull road. I think you’d be much better off on the coast (Highway 11). Also, on your ride from Kending to Meinong, I would suggest that you skip Meinong and instead stay on the east side of the Laonong River heading north from Gaoshu on Highway 27.

Agree with Feiren. Take the 11 rather than the 9, but watch out for cops. That road is made for riding fast! Beautiful, but there’s often very irritating crosswinds.

According to his itinerary he is taking both the 11 and 9.

I’ve just come in the door after paying for my latest conversation with the traffic cops on highway 9. They really are working hard on that road…

The Southern Cross, and Central from Puli to Taroko were very very quiet these last few days. Road conditions were fine, but avoid Jiasien, Kaohsiung County, (bridge missing), and be aware the road from Puli towards Wushe has several rough sections.

MM, you will be pleased to hear Chingjing is suffering, having earned virtually nothing for over a month. Might this be the start of the end?

Avalokitesvara knows I do not take pleasure in the suffering of others. That said, a bailout (with forced relocation), ala Fannie and Freddie for these non-performing entities would be fine with me.

In any case, good to hear you have been above sea level lately.

Hey Mugatu, thanks for the link to the road conditions. It’s excellent with pictures and maps of alternative routes. I think there’s only one impassable road I’ll need to make a little detour for and two which are nasty but passable.

MM, I’m curious why you hate Qingjing. It’s pretty and there’s a Starbucks so I can have coffee in the morning. That makes it a nice place to stay (although, actually getting up at 5AM, coffee may be out, I now realize). Or is it just the farm you hate?

Yep I’m doing both the 9 and 11 on the Hualian-Taidong section (9 on the way down and 11 on the way up, so that the sea is on my right). I may still do the 193 instead of much of the 9, if I have time up my sleeve.