Interested in embracing astonishing forests and mountains while enjoying hot springs in winter? Just go for an exciting wild hot spring adventure that challenges your physical ability! Besides the numerous public bathhouses in hot spring scenic areas spread across Taiwan, there are some surprising—although more challenging—options hidden between forests and rivers, just waiting for you to discover. These wild hot springs gushing out of wild chasms are often situated in less accessible locations, a fact that helps to preserve their primitive beauty due to having fewer tourist visitors. In this issue, follow Dear b&b, forsake your mundane worries, and prepare to hike and climb. We are going to land on some of the most beautiful wild hot springs in Taiwan, to feel that steaming joy after a difficult trudge, and to relish the breath of Mother Nature.
Lisong Hot Spring in Taitung: wander through the small town of Chishang and discover a wonderland surrounded by emerald-colored rocks
Speaking of wild hot springs, Lisong Hot Spring in Taitung, praised as the most beautiful wild hot spring in Taiwan, ought to be every hot spring hunter’s first stop. The low-water season between November and April is the best time to visit. Different from most wild hot springs that gush out of cracks in the rocky ground below, Lisong Hot Spring pours down like a waterfall from above. To enjoy this wonderful hot spring, you need to complete a one-hour hike, gripping rope railings along the way. Especially on the later-half of the journey, cutting down to the river requires both of your hands and your full attention in order to climb down the nearly-vertical cliff. After you reach the riverbed, you will have to climb up more big rocks, rappel down once again, and cross the chilly river in order to behold the astonishing greenish rock faces which shine like emerald tapestries. The rocks around Lisong Hot Spring are constantly awash in spring water, creating a picturesque surface layer of crystallized calcium carbonate coating and greenish algae. After soaking in the soothing hot spring, you will certainly feel that your previous trudge has been handsomely rewarded.
After enjoying the hot spring, take a one-hour drive to either Chishang or Guanshan Township to experience the slow pace of small town Taiwan. While in Chishang, get a bento box at Quanmeihang, and have a firm rice bagel with homemade jam for dessert at Bike de Koffie nearby. Or try some fried tofu skin that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and observe the tofu-skin-making process at Dachi Tofu Skin Shop. If you are still feeling energetic and looking for further activities, just rent a bike and tour around the town. The route from Dapo Pond, passing through Daguan Pavilion where you can overlook the boundless rice paddies to Wan-Xin Road, also known as Heaven Road, will relieve your mind and body once again!
Hayouxi Hot Spring in Pingtung: appreciate the beauty of rainbow rocks and visit the Drekay tribe
Keep heading south, and you will arrive at Wutai Township in the southernmost Taiwanese county of Pingtung. Hidden within the lands of the indigenous Drekay (Rukai) tribe lies a hot spring surrounded by extraordinarily colorful rocks—Hayouxi Hot Spring, also called “the clouded leopard hot spring.” The only time of year that you can access this wild hot spring is between December and March when the water level is low. Moreover, the journey is not an easy one. To get there, the locals will drive you through more than ten riverbeds in an off-road vehicle, which takes about 40 minutes. Then you will have to follow your local guide to wade along the river for another 40 to 60 minutes until you finally reach the hot spring. Luckily, you will be accompanied by colorful calligraphy- and painting-like rocks along the way. The bright and multicolored rocks towering above the destination are the result of basalt containing iron, sulfur, quartz, and other minerals, awash in the sulfur spring water. It feels like you are beholding the artwork of the gods, long forgotten in the middle of the wilderness.
After the day-long wading journey, you arrive back at the Kabalreladhane (Kabelelathane or Shenshan) Tribe. The Shenshan Aiyu Ice shop offering aiyu jelly with millet is a must-try. The mixed texture created by the silky aiyu jelly and the glutinous millet is surprisingly refreshing and delicious. Tour around the tribe and visit the slate-built Wutai Presbyterian Church designed by important indigenous artist Valialane. Then stroll along Tathigarane, the slate alley, to appreciate the Drekay tribal aesthetics through murals, exquisite totems, and handmade sculptures in front of local residences.
Lelegu Hot Spring in Nantou: pass through Pattonkuan’s magnificent mountain scenery and discover the Jiji Rail Line
Let’s travel to our last stop, Nantou County in central Taiwan. To get to Lelegu Hot Spring, the highest wild hot spring by altitude, you will have to hike along the national historic site known as the Batongguan (Pattonkuan) Japanese Era Crossing Trail which was established during the Qing dynasty and cuts across central and eastern Taiwan. Departing from the Dongpu trailhead, this hike requires about three hours, including passing through the steep Fuzi Cliff where you can see the magnificent valley landscape of the Chenyoulan River. However, in order to reach Lelegu Hot Spring, you need to trace the river even farther upward, passing by several colorful rocks awash in hot spring water along the way. Only when you see the steaming stream, will you know that you’ve finally arrived at your destination. As you listen to the babbling stream, enjoying the hot spring pool shaped by random stones, you are free to move the stones around, allowing you to mix different amounts of hot spring and river water to adjust the temperature, experiencing a soothing natural spa!
After leaving the mountain area, it takes about an hour to get to the Jiji Rail Line, the longest branch rail line in Taiwan. Your first stop ought to be the most beautiful train station along Jiji Rail Line, Checheng Station. Checheng Village used to be one of three primary logging sites in Taiwan. Nowadays, you can visit the Wood Museum and learn about the history of the Taiwanese logging industry. The pond that was once used to store logs aside and the scenic round-the-pond trail will provide you with even more delight. Next, head to Shuili Station not far from Checheng, where you will find Erping Popsicle Shop offering traditional Taiwanese popsicles, and Dong’s Ba-wan offering a chewy, meat-filled snack—a tip for eating ba-wan: first eat the skin saving the meat for last, and then add more soup before you finish it off! Last but not least, don’t forget to make a trip to Jiji Green Tunnel for a leisurely walk under the shady rows of trees.
This winter, for all you adventurous travelers who are ready and willing to challenge yourselves, make a trip into mountains, discover wild hot springs, and experience Taiwan’s beautiful wilderness. Keep in mind, if you are not familiar with this kind of outdoor activity, hiring a professional guide is advisable. However, as long as you are well-prepared, and equipped with all the necessary hiking and river-tracing gear, wild hot springs will definitely reward your hard work and surprise you with their otherworldly magnificence.