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Island of Trees: Taiwan’s Magnificent Woodlands

Here’s a statistic that astounds many who’ve never visited Taiwan: About 58% of the main island is covered by trees or bamboo, with stands of hardwoods accounting for more than half of this area. That’s a higher percentage than in the US, Canada, or Brazil. The figure for the UK is a mere 12%.

This is even more impressive when you appreciate how just densely populated Taiwan is, and that typhoons occasionally obliterate woodlands. Taiwan has 670 people per square kilometer; the UK has 259, whereas the US has a mere 36. When a typhoon strikes Taiwan, it isn’t the strong winds so much as the heavy rains that endanger forests. Downpours often trigger landslides in mountain areas, sweeping trunks, branches and stumps downriver and out to sea.

There’s another reason why the health and size of Taiwan’s forests in recent decades is remarkable. Before the invention of synthetic camphor, the island was the world’s no.1 source of camphor. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, demand for camphor (which was used to make mothballs and other products) led to large-scale felling of camphor trees in the foothills. In the same era, pioneers cleared other types of woodland so they could launch Taiwan’s famous tea industry.

Sublime, accessible forests can be found around Alishan and Yushan National Park. One of favourite paths is the Tefuye Historic Trail. However, if you wish to hike the entire route (which is very worthwhile), you’ll need a car and a driver to pick you up at the other end. During the slow drive between Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge via Hehuanshan, you’ll see steep high-altitude woodlands like those pictured top right.

The island doesn’t just have a lot of trees – it also has tree species that grow nowhere else on Earth, such as Pinus Taiwanensis (Taiwan red pine, pictured lower left). Most specimens are found quite high in Taiwan’s mountains, but there’s a splendid if ailing Taiwan red pine at Cingshueiyan Temple in the foothills of central Taiwan.

Recognizing the role of forests in limiting atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and safeguarding vulnerable slopelands during torrential rains, Taiwan’s government has long championed afforestation. An essential initiative unfolds in East Taiwan, where Danong Dafu Forest Recreation has planted over a million trees on former sugar plantations. The site attracts wildlife such as yellow-throated martens and avid birdwatchers who rise early to spot feathered wonders. For those eager to experience Taiwan’s natural wonders, contact us today.


ExploreTaiwan’s Forests

For travellers seeking to explore Taiwan’s magnificent and accessible forests, locations like Alishan and Yushan National Park offer sublime experiences. The Tefuye Historic Trail, a favourite, presents an exciting path, but the full journey requires a car and a driver to pick you up at the other end. While traveling between Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge via Hehuanshan, you’ll encounter steep high-altitude woodlands, each a testament to Taiwan’s natural beauty. 

This is where a Taiwan private tour shines, as you can rely on the language skills and local expertise of our licensed and experienced guides, allowing you to savour a memorable experience.

As a tour operator dedicated to catering to the needs of English-speaking and European visitors, Life of Taiwan offers a comprehensive range of luxury and family tours of Taiwan. Contact us today, and our expert travel designers will share their expertise and assist you in planning a customised trip that aligns with your interests and requirements.