Out in the foothills of former Kaohsiung County are tropical badlands, hills of easily eroding material that makes the landscape look so unique that you must think that it's on the moon. In the summer of 2014 the Foreigners in Taiwan team took a journey to this park in Tianliao which showcases these hills with trails and beautiful scenic views, and 4 years later here is the blog. It's definitely a strange landscape especially for Taiwan, and is worth a visit especially if you want to get some unique photos. You can also see some nearby mud hot springs.
Moon World is part of a stretch of badlands that cover a large swath of southern Taiwan near the central mountain range. Typical badlands are found in dryer climates, are composed of sedimentary rocks, typically have very little vegetation, and have deep valleys or ravines. The badlands in Taiwan are unique in that they are in a tropical rain forest. How is this possible?
The rocks at Moon World are composed of mudstone, sandstone, shale, and chalk. Because of high alkaline levels due to chalk in the soil, trees and grass cannot grow, and basically the only plant that can grow in the soil is spiny bamboo. The lack of vegetation as well as high rainfall gives way to quick eroding hills, or badlands. The Caoshan River and the Ganglin Rovers also helped to carve out the landscape and bare hills.
Because of the white greyish color, the hills seem to glow when in moonlight,hence the name "Moon World." However to the casual observer, the landscape looks like the surface of the moon as well.
All Day. However buses and restaurants will not run all day (there is no 7-11, only round-table chicken quick fry restaurants 土鷄).
We have stayed at and recommend Chao She Hotel (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Hotels.com here, or Expedia here) IHI Sanduo Travel Hotel (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Hotels.com here, or Expedia here), and Mingli Hotel (you can book on Agoda here, Klook here, or Hotels.com here) which are three inexpensive and high quality choices in downtown Kaohsiung. I also have stayed at and recommend Kaohsiung Meinong Rabbit Paul Homestay B&B (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, or Trip.com here), a quiet B&B in rural Meinong, and Chengching Lakeside Resort (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com or Trip.com here)and the Grand Hotel Kaohsiung (you can book on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Hotels.com here, or Expedia here) which both offer breakfast buffet and free entrance into Chenqing Lake Park. I have also stayed at the 85 sky tower which offers great views of the city; you can search for rooms in the 85 sky tower on Agoda here, Booking.com here, Hotels.com here, Expedia here, or Trip.com here).
Find out more about where to stay in our Taiwan hotels guide or search for the best hotel deals in Taiwan here. We recommend booking through Agoda here, which provides the best quality selection of accommodation on the islands.
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You can find more tours and activities in Kaohsiung such as Pier 2, Meinong Hakka Museum, Hamasen Railway Museum, Suzuka Circuit Park, i-Ride Kaohsiung Visual 5D Flying Theater, National Science and Technology Museum , Senya Village Restaruant, Austin Land, Ski School Indoor Ski Slope, and many more on Klook here or KKday here.
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How to Get There:
By Bus: You can either take the Kaohsiung City bus Red 70B from the Gangshan MRT station, or Kbus 8042 from Tainan HSR station.
You can book tickets to travel to Kaohsiung via inter-city bus on Klook here.
You can book tickets to Kaohsiung via high speed rail (HSR) on Klook here or KKDay here.
Book tickets via the normal train (TRA) on Klook here.
You can also book a Kaohsiung Travel pass here.
Take the Tianliao Exit on National Highway 3 and take provincial highway 28 to Tianliao.
Looking for scooter rental in Kaohsiung? You can check out Klook here or KKday here to search for options. You can check also out our scooter rental guide here.
If you are looking for car rentals, you can search Qeeq here, KKday here, or Klook here. You can also check out our car rental guide here.
Please refer to the map below:
I have been to Tianliao Moon world three times and I can tell you it is the best place to see badlands in Taiwan. I highly recommend visiting this unique sandy landscape in the middle of a subtropical jungle.
Check out our drone video above for an overview of the area.
Or check out the 360 degree spherical panorama above.
My first time to Tianliao in 2014 we decided to take the MRT from Kaohsiung to Gangshan station, and from there take the Red 70B bus to Tianliao. On the bus ride, our driver straight up got lost! He ended up calling one of his coworkers, and what should have been a one hour bus ride quickly turned into three hours. We think he was new to the route.
It was a weekday, and we were the only three people on the bus that entire three hours.
When we finally got there it had just stopped raining, and we had the entire park to ourselves (despite this, there was still an amah or two waiting to sell us sugar cane juice at the entrance).
We made our way first to the main trail with the best view.
View of the moon world with a statue of the moon.
I was a little disappointed because other photographers made it look like moon world was a desert with no vegetation, but there is still greenery everywhere.
At the bottom of the clay hills is recently deposited clay washed down from the last rainstorm. These hills are slowly washing away before our eyes!
A view of the scale like skin of the moon world hills.
If you look closely, there is another moon world within the moon world.
Further down the path, a board walk begins. In 2014, we came just in time to see people put the finishing touches on construction there.
At the top of the boardwalk are some nice views of the surrounding area.
We did not have the best weather that day, but it was still nice.
I feel like one heavy rainstorm will wash this boardwalk right off the mountain.
When we reached the end of the boardwalk, we decided not to go back up the mountain the way we came, but instead got lost in some local farmer's fields.
Some of the board paths are nice for taking selfies too.
Rain or shine, Moon World always has beautiful landscapes to enjoy.
Nearby you can check our some of the natural mud hot springs. If you really like mud hot springs, you can even take a dip in one of them at a hot spring resort in Guanziling, about an hour car ride north.
And here is the FiTW team minus one on that eventful July day. Don't worry about the respectful gap in between us.
This particular mud hot spring only went off like once every half hour, and the above video is proof of its volcanic nature. We waited forever to get this footage. It's no old faithful, but still pretty cool.
What's a trip to moon world if you don't get a photo of the actual moon?
Just so you know, after we were done with our hike of Moon World we looked around for something to eat. First of all, there is nothing to eat except chicken quick fry. On a weekday, all the chicken quick fry restaurants are totally empty. We waited around for like an hour for the cook to wake up from his nap and make us some overpriced fried noodles and fried rice. So be prepared to have limited food options if you decide to come for the whole day on a weekday.
After visiting the Moon World in 2020, it was clear that the moon world had changed quite a bit. For one, they built a brand new visitor's center next to the parking lot (with bathrooms), as seen in the slideshow below:
They have added some professional stalls for the local farmers selling produce. Before there was always a line of local farmers in the parking lot selling things.
Also now there are a few animal shaped bushes around.
See more photos of the area above. I was glad to see Tianliao Moon World was a popular location for instagrammers even on a weekday.
This time I made sure to get lots of drone footage also from one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan.
The view from straight up is kind of cool. This one looks like a deer.
Above you can see some unfiltered drone shots.
Please feel free to like, comment, and share, to help more people learn about this beautiful natural wonder!
You can find more tours and activities in Kaohsiung such as wake boarding, water skiing, SUP paddle boarding, Pier 2, i-Ride Kaohsiung Visual 5D Flying Theater, Ski School Indoor Ski Slope, and more on Klook here or KKday here.
You can check out our full travel guide to Kaohsiung here.
You can also check out our full travel guide to Taiwan here.
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.