If the world’s cycling enthusiasts pooled their ideas and designed a country that is ideal for bicycle vacations, they would likely come up with a place remarkably similar to Taiwan.
Taiwan is 394 km long and 144 km across at its widest, so end-to-end or around-the-island rides can be accomplished within a vacation of normal length. The country has both vibrant cities and delightful countryside. More than three quarters of the 23.9 million people are crammed into little more than a tenth of the country’s land, while large areas such as the east are thinly inhabited. Between October and March, the weather is usually dry, and the temperature at sea level averages a comfortable 16 to 24 degrees Celsius (61 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit).
Cyclists appreciate that road surfaces throughout Taiwan are well maintained, and that delicious and inexpensive food and drink is available almost everywhere. Because many Taiwanese commute by motorcycle or scooter, car owners are used to sharing the road with two-wheelers. Two recent surveys concluded that Taiwan is one of the world’s safest tourist destinations.
Given all of these advantages, it comes as no surprise that many locals love to ride in their free time. International bike buffs will quickly bond with their Taiwanese counterparts. You may live on opposite sides of the world, but the fact that you both get around by pedal power creates immediate common ground.
For the benefit of both local cyclists and visitors from overseas, the Taiwan Tourism Administration is sponsoring the 2023 Taiwan Cycling Festival. Until November, activities aimed at different demographics are highlighting the bike-friendly appeal of various locations, but these are just a small selection of the tremendous possibilities that Taiwan offers to anyone who is keen to pedal.
Each cyclist has his or her favorite area, and for many residents of north Taiwan, it is Zhuangwei Township in Yilan County. Located between Yilan City and the Pacific Ocean, Zhuangwei’s flat landscape is characterized by paddy fields and small plots in which farmers diligently cultivate cantaloupes, spring onions, watermelons, and other cash crops.
If views of the Pacific and turtle-shaped Guishan Island are a priority, riders approaching from the north should stick to Provincial Highway 2. For those who prefer quieter back roads, there are plenty of options. Popular stopping points on the coast route include Yongzhen Seaside Park, where the sunrise is often breathtaking, and Baoan Temple, a shrine filled with exceptional wood carvings.
For many tourists who come to this corner of Yilan, Zhuangwei Sand Dunes Ecological Park and the Seaside Swing are must-sees. At the former, a bicycle-only path winds through an appealing landscape that has been enhanced by sublime architecture and art installations. The latter is a swing seat made of driftwood on which countless visitors have posed for photos with Guishan Island in the background.
Anyone planning a serious bike expedition will find the https://taiwanbike.tw/en website useful. It provides information on dozens of cycling trails and suggested routes, including a 960.8-km epic that goes all the way around the country. For each, there is a list of recommended attractions, an elevation profile, and a map showing bike rental locations, bus stops, and places where riders can find food and refill their water bottles.
If riding through Zhuangwei whets your appetite for the glories of Yilan, consider setting aside the better part of a day to follow taiwanbike.tw’s Yilan Lanyang Plain Coastal Bike Tour. This leads cyclists from the center of Yilan City, across the broad and powerful Lanyang River, then along one of its tributaries, the Luodong Creek. Turning eastward, they will come to Fifty-Two Jia Wetland, a hotspot for birdwatchers, and Dongshan River Water Park.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate Taiwan’s scenic northeastern corner, the Golden Mountain and Sea Bike Tour is a 45.1-km epic. Much of the riding is on bike-only trails, and there are no serious gradients. Attractions en route include the charmful fishing village of Mao’ao and the Easternmost Point of Taiwan. Cyclists with surplus energy can hike up to the 88-year-old Sandiaojiao Lighthouse.
Tourists who have registered in advance for a YouBike account — this is easy to do through YouBike’s English-language website — can pick up a shared bicycle at Mudan Railway Station, the western end of the Golden Mountain and Sea Bike Tour route.
As part of the YouBike 2.0 initiative, the authorities are rolling out e-bikes at many rental points. When fully charged, these machines can provide up to 80 km of eco-friendly touring without the rider having to break a sweat. Through the YouBike app and website, users can check how many bicycles are available at a particular station, whether any of them are e-bikes, and if they’re charged up. At the end of a YouBike journey, the bicycle can be returned to any of the 5,200-plus rental points.
Of course, not every visitor has the energy or inclination to ride a bicycle. Tourists who prefer to let someone else worry about driving and navigating should look into Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus services. Complete information, including routes, schedules, and fares, is available in English, Chinese, and some other languages at www.taiwantrip.com.tw.
Most folding bicycles can be taken aboard the Gold Fulong Shuttle Bus, which connects Ruifang Railway Station with popular tourist spots including Jiufen, Longdong Bay Ocean Park, Fulong, and Mao’ao. There are three services per day on weekdays, and five on each Saturday, Sunday, and national holiday. A one-day hop-on/hop-off pass is a bargain at NT$50.
The Gold Fulong Shuttle service terminates at Magang, which happens to be the northernmost point on another bike-friendly tourist shuttle service, the Yilan and Northeast Coast Route. The latter’s stops include Beiguan Tidal Park and Wushi Harbor, location of the highly worthwhile Lanyang Museum. It terminates at the hot-spring resort town of Jiaoxi, which is linked to Taipei by numerous buses and trains. Eight buses per day ply the Yilan and Northeast Coast Route, and a day pass costs NT$60.
To build synergies within the regional tourism and hospitality industries, the Taiwan Tourism Administration recently coordinated the creation of the Great Northeast Tourism Union, a destination marketing body that brings together leisure farms, community development associations, and entities that preserve agricultural and mining heritage. Many of the member businesses focus on local revitalization and take an approach in keeping with the global Slow Movement.
Other useful sources of information include the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area (https://www.necoast-nsa.gov.tw) and the Taiwan Tourism Administration’s national website (www.taiwan.net.tw). If you struggle to find an answer to a particular question, call the tourism hotline at 0800- 011-765 (toll-free within Taiwan). If they cannot give you the information right away, they will call you back, usually within half an hour.