A subtropical island dotted with pines and palms, Taiwan welcomes spring early, in late-January. During this time, cherry blossom trees are in full bloom, and there are plenty of parks and mountains to see the beautiful blossoms, which take on a striking dark pink hue in contrast to Japan’s lighter variety. These five scenic spots around the country offer an abundance of these fleeting beauties.
1. Yangmingshan National Park, Taipei
A quick bus ride from the sprawl of downtown Taipei, up the misty mountain of Yangmingshan, a world of pine forests and hot springs beckons. Around mid-February, the dark pink cherry blossom trees in Yangmingshan National Park are in full bloom. Do wear good walking shoes as there is a lot of hiking along the snaking path around Yangmingshan Flower Clock and Zhuzihu (Bamboo Lake). While there are cafés nearby, locals often pack a picnic and eat under the blooms. By late March, after the cherry blossoms have withered away, beautiful white calla lilies cover the park area.
2. Wulai, New Taipei City
By mid-February, Wulai’s turquoise-glowing rivers are even more picturesque when the rows of pink cherry blossom trees surrounding them begin to bloom. Start by exploring the area around Wulai Hot Springs and follow the river down Pubu Road (Waterfall Road) to the raging Wulai Falls. While it’s too cold for a dip this time of the year, the juxtaposition of dark pink blossoms against the white rapids makes for dramatic photo opportunities. Wulai is also a stronghold of Atayal Aboriginal culture, so stop by a mom-and-pop shop on Wulai Old Street for a hearty plate of steamed bamboo clams and wash it down with sweet millet wine.
3. Mingchi National Forest Recreation Area, Yilan
Just over two hour’s drive from Taipei, Yilan County is often overlooked by travellers who head to Taroko Gorge in Hualien or the surf beaches of Taitung. This just means thinner crowds and better pictures, especially at Mingchi National Forest Recreation Area. A visit to the towering cypress forest in this untouched sliver of nature rewards you with fantastic views, and it’s even prettier in early spring when the bright pink cherry blossom trees frame its paths. Hike up to Mingchi Lake, and along the way, look out for the rarer white cherry blossoms.
4. Alishan, Chiayi
The best way to see cherry blossoms on Alishan, Taiwan’s highest mountain, is by riding a century-old red train. Built under the Japanese colonial government, the Alishan Forest Railway originally transported timber for export. Now it brings visitors up to the national park where gorgeous cherry blossom trees greet them. Alishan is also known for its high mountain Oolong tea, and many teahouses have outdoor seats where guests can admire the pink blossoms. There are a variety of cherry blossom species on the mountain, which bloom at different times during the season. This means a visit between January to March will likely yield success.
5. Cingjing Farm, Nantou
Known among locals as the Alps of Taiwan, this popular couples’ retreat in the mountains of central Taiwan does indeed have all the makings of a Swiss getaway, including pastoral white sheep, Tudor-style cottages offering home stays and a curiously named Small Swiss Garden. But instead of snow, bright pink cherry blossom trees cover the farm by late February, making it even more romantic. Follow the 500 metre-long Sakura Trail from the Small Swiss Garden up to the Equestrian Show Stage for the best view.