When Portuguese sailors first caught sight of Taiwan in the 1540s, they were so struck by the island's scenery that they called it Ilha Formosa—"Beautiful Island." Of course, the lush, topographic landscape of Taiwan was already well-known to its aboriginal residents, the oldest of whose cultures go back as far as 30,000 to 40,000 years.
Though a hodgepodge of cultures and traditions have exerted their influence on Taiwan throughout the centuries to create its unique culinary scene, architectural history and street culture, Taiwan's natural beauty remains in a class of its own. Studded with eight National Parks, 18 National Forest Recreation Areas and 14 national scenic areas, there's no shortage of natural wonder in Taiwan. And one of Taiwan's most stunning natural features? Its waterfalls.
Taiwan's climate and geography have made it ideal for the formation of these cascading streams. The country has a mix of subtropical and tropical climates, and Taiwan's seasonal monsoons dump an average of 98 inches of rain a year on the island. The country also lies on a complex convergent plate boundary that created a mountainous, heavily forested terrain in the east. Together, these elements create a saturated, craggy landscape with plenty of space for waterfalls.
From one of the largest in East Asia to a waterfall that appears to drip gold, here are seven of Taiwan's can't-miss falls:
The Shifen Waterfall is notable for its great girth. Weighing in as Taiwan's widest waterfall, Shifen, located in Pingxi District along the Keelung River, has a height of around 66 feet and a width that almost doubles that. Its appearance might be somewhat familiar for Western audiences—it gets its nickname, "Taiwan's Niagara Falls," from the famous waterfall that straddles the America-Canada border.
The waterfall resembles its North American cousin because its cascading waters hit against rocks that push against the water in the opposite direction. While Shifen might not be as much of a household name as Niagara, it is the most popular sight along the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail, which has become famous in its own right. The Keelung River, which collects more than 236 inches of rain a year, feeds the stunning falls.
"Niagara" isn't Shifen's only nickname, reports GuidetoTaipei.com—it's also called the "Rainbow Pond." That name becomes obvious upon viewing. The constant crash of water into the lake creates a mist that forms an almost ever-present ROY G. BIV dream.