Many people recommend starting with the West coast of Taiwan and moving counter-clockwise when riding around the island. There are a few reasons for this – the higher population means more places to stop and fuel up and stay overnight, and more English speakers also helps with easing yourself into the Taiwan way of life, if you’re just visiting short term. It is also much flatter than the East, albeit most of the riding is along a pretty busy highway.
In addition to taking the coastal road that skirts around the edge of Taiwan, there are a few mountain passes as well. We planned to tackle the northernmost road that crosses the mountains, Highway 7, aka the Northern Cross Highway. Our route took us from Hsinchu to Luodong (near Yilan), via Guanxi and Baling, a total of about 160 km. The mountain pass topped out at 1170 m elevation, and Baling and Guanxi are spaced in a way that breaks up the climb nicely.
As I wrote before, the day after I finished teaching at Royal we packed up our bags and started to cycle around Taiwan, something referred to here as 環島 (huandao), meaning ‘circle the island’.
Our trip can be neatly broken down into three sections: 1) the northern cross highway over the mountains; 2) the east coast and 3) the west coast. I want to write about it in some detail for any future interested cyclists, so I will break it down into three posts based on those divisions. But before we get there…