Our Guide to Yilan 宜蘭懶人包
Yilan is a gem on Taiwan's northeast coast. It has rugged mountains, waterfalls, a flat coastal plain, a volcanic island, hot springs, and some of the best beaches in Taiwan. In addition you can find night markets, seafood markets, museums, and much more to explore here. It is definitely worth a stop on your next trip to Taiwan.
Historical Background of Yilan:
Before Chinese settlers came, the area around Yilan was inhabited by the Ketagalan Aboriginal tribe, whose language is now extinct. The name Yilan comes from this language.
The town Toucheng literally means "first town" in Chinese, because it was the first settlement in Yilan, settled in the late 1700s. With the nearby Wushih and Touwei Harbors around the same time, it became the economic focal point of Yilan. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s Wushih Harbor and Touwei Harbor silted in, reducing their function.
With the advent of the Japanese-built Yilan railway line in the mid-1900's, as well as constant floods and continual silting of the harbors, Toucheng Old Street quickly lost its importance economically and fell into decay.
The Japanese also built logging railways up to Taipingshan to harvest lumber.
The first path between Yilan and Hualien was a trail built in the Qing Dynasty that was completed in 1876, in order for the Qing to better control aboriginal peoples on the east coast. Later after Japan took control of Taiwan, they widened the path and built 9 bridges and 14 tunnels along the way, making it drivable for cars (one way only) by 1932. Because much of the road was next to cliffs that underwent constant landslides, it was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world at the time. In the 1980s the ROC government further widened the road, and the two-lane highway was completed in 1990. In 2020, the section of road between Su'ao and Dong'ao was bypassed by a tunnel.
Currently Yilan has a population of over 450,000. An High-Speed Rail extension is planned for Yilan, and is expected to be completed by 2036.
You can find a map of places we will cover in this blog below:
Places we will cover in this blog:
Let's get started:
Nanao Old Trail 南澳古道
Nanao Old Trail (aka Nanao Historic Trail or Nanao Old Raod) is a historic hiking trail in Yilan County, Taiwan. It was once a major route for the Ayatal aboriginal tribe, and was improved by during the Japanese colonial era. Now you can hike only a small section of the original trail, but you can still see beautiful mountainous scenes, rivers, and wildlife, as well as appreciate the history (read more here).
Suhua Highway Monument 蘇花公路安魂碑
The Suhua Highway Monument (蘇花公路安魂碑) and nearby Kailu Xianfengye Temple (開路先鋒爺廟) commemorate the 13 workers who died building the road from Su'ao to Hualien from 1932 to the present. It sits on one of the most scenic viewpoints of the highway between Su'ao and Dong'ao, overlooking Dong'ao Bay. It is definitely worth a stop on your next trip to the east coast of Taiwan...(read more).
Nanfang'ao Lookout 南方澳觀景臺
Nanfang'ao is the third-largest fishing harbor in Taiwan and is an important part of the local economy. Just above the harbor along the Suhua highway is an amazing lookout that gives a 180-degree view of southern Yilan, Su'ao, and the surrounding area. It is definitely worth a stop on your next trip to the east coast of Taiwan...(read more)
Su'Ao Neipi Beach 蘇澳內埤海灘
Su'Ao's Neipi Beach in the Nanfangao area (Yilan County) is perhaps the most beautiful beach in northeast Taiwan. It is known for its romantic atmosphere and large waves, which attract surfers from all around. Popular activities here include surfing, kite surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, hiking, and watching the sunrise. (read more)
Su'ao Crayon Factory 蜡藝蠟筆城堡
Su'ao's Crayon Castle (officially Luck Arts Crayon Factory) is a crayon factory castle in Su'Ao township in Yilan County, that has been specifically designed as a DIY experience center for kids where they can make their own arts and crafts, as well as their own set of markers, and crayon in the shape of Taiwan! The DIY activities include making markers and crayons, face painting, painting porcelain, making chalk, and water coloring. Basically, it is a paradise for young children. (read more)
Taipingshan (aka Taipingshan National Forest Recreational Area 太平山國家森林游樂區) is a magical mountain paradise in Datong Township of Yilan County in Taiwan. It has an old Japanese era logging railroad track which has mostly been abandoned, but part of it has been restored with a working train. In addition there are hot springs, Taiwan's largest alpine lake, hikes, wildlife, and endless mountain scenery to explore...(read more)
Fanfan Hot Spring 梵梵溫泉
Fanfan Hot Spring is a popular hot spring in Yingshi Village, Datong Township, Yilan County. It is one of the most easily accessible wild hot springs in Taiwan, so it sees many visitors year round. If you are in the area, you should consider taking a dip here...(read more)
Turtle Island (Guishan Island) 龜山島
Guishan Island (literally Turtle Mountain Island) is a turtle shaped island off the coast of Yilan in Eastern Taiwan. Once inhabited by fisherman, it is now a coast guard base, but is open for day tours. The island tour includes beautiful sea cliffs, hiking, a lake, abandoned village, military tunnels, and whale watching just offshore...(read more)
Yilan Children's Festival 童玩節
Yilan International Children's Folklore and Folkgame Festival (宜蘭國際童玩藝術節) is one of the largest children's festivals in Taiwan, occurring every year during summer break along the Dongshan River in Yilan. It features a large outdoor waterpark as well as musical performances, exhibitions, games, and cultural events. It has become a yearly tradition for many families in northern Taiwan...(read more)
Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市
Luodong Night Market is the largest night market in Yilan and is one of the area's top tourist destinations. The night market covers a large area and usually is packed with people. Delicacies here include mutton soup, shaved ice, duck noodles, and onion pancakes. It is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Yilan...(read more)
Jiaoxi Hot Springs 礁溪溫泉
There is a popular trend in Taiwan to let fish eat the skin off of your feet. These places are usually related to "hot springs" in some way. I have done this a few times, but the last time we were in Jiaoxi it seemed like the town specialized in fish foot massage places. In fact, I later found that Jiaoxi is the foot massage capital of Taiwan...(read more)
Wufengqi Waterfall 五峰旗大瀑布
Wufengqi is a beautiful waterfall, only a five minute scooter ride from Jiaoxi. If you are looking for a peaceful place to connect with nature, and you are looking for an easily accessible hike for your family, then this is the place for you...(read more)
Toucheng Old Street 頭城老街
Toucheng Old Street (officially Heping Street 和平街) is the oldest street in Yilan, dating back to the Qing Dynasty. It was once the economic center of Yilan, but it's importance was later replaced. Now it sits as a monument to the past, with few changes as compared to its former glory. It's definitely worth a stop on your trip through Yilan. For more about the old street, check out our full blog here.
Guide to Toucheng 頭城懶人包
Toucheng Township in Yilan is known for its amazing beaches, but there is much more to do here, such as visit Lanyang Museum, visit Turtle Island, enjoy seafood, traditional fishing harbors, recreational farms, hiking, cycling, surfing lessons, and much more. Here is a short guide to Toucheng, to let you know the variety of activities that you can enjoy here...(read more)
Lanyang Museum 蘭陽博物館
The Lanyang Museum focuses on Toucheng's history and artifacts. If you want to learn about the history of Toucheng, this is the place to visit. It is also a beautiful building, designed in the shape of Cuestas, or slanted rocks that appear commonly along Toucheng's coastline...(read more)
Wai'ao Beach 外澳沙灘
Wai'ao Beach (aka Gangao Beach 港澳沙灘, or Wai'ao Ocean Recreation Area 外澳海水浴場) in Toucheng township of Yilan County is one of the most popular surfing destinations in Taiwan. It features a long flat sandy beach and constant waves. It is also a special beach in Taiwan because you have a constant view of another island in the distance, Turtle Island. It is definitely a great beach worth visiting. For our full blog on this beach, click here.
Double Lion Beach 雙獅沙灘
For our surf lesson, we went to Double Lion Beach across the street. There are less people here and awesome waves. The reason it is called Double Lion Beach is because of the two lions in front of the temple that looks over the beach...(read more)
Toucheng Leisure Farm 頭城農場
Toucheng Farm is not just a farm but also a leisure area, hotel, restaurant, and activity area. Here we also fed water buffalo, learned sustainable farming, the ancient art of sweet potato baking, lime juice fermentation, and painted T-shirts. Overall it was a fun time that the whole family can enjoy...(read more)
Daxi Fishing Port 大溪漁港
Daxi Fishing Harbor in Toucheng Township, Yilan County has one of the biggest seafood markets in the area. Originally it was smaller, but when the residents of Turtle Island were moved here, they expanded the harbor so that more boats could fit. This is where you can get some of the freshest seafood there is, every day at 2:30 PM...(read more)
Caoling Old Trail 草嶺古道
The Caoling Old Trail (aka Caoling Historic Trail) is a section of the Danlan Old Trail connecting Gongliao District of New Taipei to Dali District of Toucheng Township in Yilan. In the past it was an important shipping route for goods from Yilan to Tamsui. Now it is a popular and family friendly hiking route due to its convenient public transportation, slow elevation gain, grassy mountain hills, and great views of the surrounding area. For more about this place, see our blog
Caoling - Fulong Bicycle Loop 草嶺-福隆環狀線
The Fulong-Coaling-Sandiao Cape- bike route is one of the most biker friendly routes in Taiwan, the roughly 2 hour loop is something that the whole family can enjoy. It includes a 2KM ride through the Old Coaling Railroad Tunnel, as well as a ride along the Sandiao Cape coast on an enclosed bike path, where one can enjoy great views of the ocean, Turtle Island, wavy geological features on the coastline, and historical stone villages along the way. This bike route is highly recommended for people of all ages. For our full blog, click here.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more guides to Taiwan to come!
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.