A Great Adventure on the Eight Extreme Points of Taiwan

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Extremes on Taiwan

Taiwan is an archipelago composed of more than 60 islands and islets, spreading a land area over 36,000 square kilometers. Interesting, when we talk about Taiwan, we only focus on the main island of the archipelago because Taiwan proper makes up 99% of the land area! Today I’m going to reveal the extreme points on the main island of Taiwan to see where we can go to mark on the map of this unusual trip after I finished my less-than-a-day road trip through the four horizontal extreme points of Taiwan proper last year – a tiring 20-hour drive!

Cape Fugui – the Northernmost Point

My family and I started from the suburb of greater Taipei and planned to set off on a sort of round-the-island road trip clockwise. So, the first stop should be the northernmost point of Taiwan – the Cape Fugui, which is said to get the name from the Dutch nearly four hundred years ago meaning “corner”, or cape, tip, etc., from the word “hoek”.

Fuguei Cape
Fuguei Cape (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

At that time, most of the Chinese settlers either speak Hokkien or Hakka and the pronunciation of that Dutch word sounds exactly like “rich and powerful” in Hokkien, giving it also an auspicious connotation in the locals’ mother tongue. It is located approximately at the middle point of the north coast, which was formed from the lava flow of the volcanos in modern-day Yangmingshan National Park. The landmark of this point is a black-and-white octagonal lighthouse and the history of the structure can be dated back to 1896 under the Japanese rule.

Fuguei Cape
Fuguei Cape (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

The Benchmark – the Official Sea Level

Not far away from the scenic coast of northern Taiwan, we drove into Keelung City before we stopped at the National Museum of Marine Science and Technilogy, which is about five kilometers away from one of the largest ports in Taiwan – Keelung Port. The predecessor of the museum is the largest coal-fired power plant built during the Japanese era. After it was decommissioned in 1983, the central government decided to build a maritime museum here in the OT/BOT framework.

datum benchmark
Datum Benchmark (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

The gigantic building was in fact pretty much well-preserved and renovated into a post-modern edifice showing the public the interesting knowledge about the ocean and marine lives. Right across the road, the inobvious marker of the “sea level”, which is called “datum benchmark”, is right on the sidewalk. Were it not for the cute cartoon-like mascots, passersby wouldn’t even notice it. The existence of a benchmark is to accurately measure the elevation of an object in land survey given that the tides go up and down quite hugely in most part of the world.

datum benchmark
Datum Benchmark (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Cape Santiago – the Easternmost Point

Surprisingly, it’s not a long drive to the easternmost point of the island, which is under the jurisdiction of New Taipei City. The history of the cape can be traced back to the Dutch Formosa period when the Spaniards actually controlled the north for a short while. The Spanish reached the northeast coast and named that area Santiago out of their Christian belief. The landmark of this point is a beautiful purely white lighthouse against the blue sky on a sunny day and has been a popular tourist destination on the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area thanks to its extensive view of the East China Sea and the Pacific from the higher ground of the cape. Same as the lighthouse on the northernmost point, the history can be dated back to the Japanese era though it’s said the Spanish might build a castle here during their presence. Luckily the above three extreme points can be done around half a day before the longer drive to Taroko Gorge, where we spent the night at a post office guesthouse.

Cape Santiago
Cape Santiago (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Wuling – the Highest Road Point

Meandering along the mother river of the world-famous Taroko Gorge, we drove to an elevation of around three thousand meters above sea level in roughly two hours along the eastern section of the Central Cross-Island Highway. Made of much hostile terrain, Taiwan is extraordinarily well-webbed with paved roads. The highest point on any paved roads throughout the island is a place called “Wuling”, which reads “military mountain” in Chinese.

Wuling
Wuling (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

This mountain pass has stunning snowcapped landscape during a cold winter and the place name was given by the ex-president Chiang Kai-shek out of a place from his hometown in mainland China. The melting snow can still be seen on the shadow side of the mountains as we were there in February and the landmark of this point is a two-meter tall classic Chinese-style monument bearing the place name and the elevation of 3275 meters above sea level, which is also a famous IG spot for those who are always clothed in heavy down jackets waiting for the snow to fall on them in January or February each year.

Wuling
Wuling (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Puli – the Geographic Centerpoint

The Puli Township is in the landlocked county of Nantou and is nicknamed the “heart of Taiwan”. There’s a geographic centerpoint monument surrounded by a lush green park right by the foothills of the Huzi Mountain, which is famous for parachuting and paragliding. It may not be very central on the map of Taiwan but has been used by the land surveyors as the centerpoint of the whole island. For those who want to visit the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, they’ll have to go pass the town though it’ll be a bit of detour to visit the landmark. Unfortunately as we arrived, we found the whole park was closed for reconstruction. The sign says it won’t be finished until September of 2024. Today we spent the night at Chiayi City, of which the local delicacy must be the shredded turkey over rice. The locals like to boast about having access to dozens, if not hundreds, of the “turkey rice” restaurants around the clock!

Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Guosheng Lighthouse – the Westernmost Point

After checking out late in the morning, we drove across the Tropic of Cancer in Chiayi toward Tainan. It took about an hour to get to the sandy and windy part of the west of Tainan City. On the way to the westernmost point, we visited a newly-opened visitor center in Qigu District, which has been a major salt production location for centuries. The Island No. 6 of the Qigu Tourist Service Center is definitely the highlight of the visit. Winning the 2022 Muse Design Award, the designer Mr. YuLiang Chen placed an installation art piece on a pond in a shape like an gigantic hollowed salt cube, which expresses a specific type of tranquility of this desolate expanse of flat ground near the coast.

The Island No. 6
The Island No. 6 of (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

The visitor center structure echoes the ubiquitous embankments near the coast and rivers in this area. Some rooftop patios offer excellent view and, together with the Island No. 6, they all become posh spots for Instagram celebrities and alike. A few minutes’ drive further to the west of this attraction, you’ll get to a desert-like coastal area with a towering steel-framed lighthouse. It’s been treated as the landmark of the westernmost point though the sand dunes keep expending toward the Taiwan Strait. One of the lunch options here will certainly be one of the popular barbecue buffet restaurants where you grill your own oysters with unlimited quantity!

Guosheng Lighthouse
Guosheng Lighthouse (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Kaohsiung Cross-Harbor Tunnel – the Lowest Point

After the hardwork of dealing with the oysters, we headed for Kaohsiung, which has the largest port in the country. The port of Kaohsiung used to be a lagoon and was made into a major harbor in the mid-19th century after some of the ports were opened to foreign trade by the Qing dynasty administration. The lagoon used to be located to the east of the Qijin peninsula, of which the ancient name “Takow” was given when the Chinese immigrants came ashore nearly four hundred years ago. In 1975, the south end of the peninsula was cut through to get a second entrance and Qijin turned out to be an island! In 1984, a cross-the-harbor tunnel was built at a length about 1.7 kilometers, 14 meters under sea level! So, this has become the
lowest point of any place you can go to on Taiwan proper. Pulling over on the roadside seems to be impossible so we simply drove through it before we could find a place to take a picture right by a port police station on the western end of the tunnel.

Kaohsiung

 

Eluanbi – the Southernmost Point

On day four, according to our plan, we only visited the Eluanbi to leave enough time for traveling back to Taipei. Eluanbi is no stranger to the overseas visitors coming to Kenting National Park. Located in the southernmost tip of Taiwan, the cape is widely known for its oldest and brightest lighthouse on Taiwan proper. Built by the British Empire, the 21.4-meter tall structure is designed into a fortification due to the frequent harassment of the indigenous people. The neighboring area in the park is also an excellent tourist attraction to see the coral rock forests with abundant tropical flora and fauna. However, we parked the car in a nearby parking lot and went even further down south toward a cylindrical monument right by the real
southernmost point of the coastline. It took us roughly 15 minutes for the walk on a well-paved path and I found most of the visitors are local Taiwanese. We absolutely ventured off the beaten track!

Eluanbi Lighthouse
Eluanbi Lighthouse (Photo credit: Edison Tours)

 

Linking All the Extremes of Taiwan

This grand tour had been nurturing in my mind for years before we made a big circle connecting the four extreme points of the island within 24 hours by car. We could’ve finished it in three days if we didn’t include some hiking and gourmet stops on the way through the aforementioned extremes. I believe that, however, any trip without appreciating the beauty of lofty mountains and tasting flavorful foods wouldn’t be complete in Taiwan. If Taiwan can “touch your heart”, as our Tourism Administration promotes, visiting any of the extreme points on the island in your holiday program will surely make your visit more diverse and special compared to other ordinary tourists.

 

Visitor Information

Opening hours

All the extreme points mentioned in the article don’t require admission or are closed by any sort of gates because they are either simply landmarks on the roadside or the
structures of a lighthouse or a monument.

How to get there?

You’ll have to drive a car to do this! It would take days or months if you want to take the public transport.

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