Road trips are often neglected by Taiwanese tourism officials as a way to visit the island nation. In fact, without snow in the winter most Taiwanese highways have superior road conditions compared to the ones in US. Examples of such beautiful highways are Route #8 and #14. Together these two routes cross Taiwan east to west and meet at Taiwan's highest highway point at 10,744 feet (3275 meter).
(Disclaimer: the author did the route mainly by bicycle in various events)
Taichung: Big River
Starting from the beginning of Route 14 is the wide river-bed scenery. Due to Taiwan's steep and high mountains, the riverbed area is quite wide with a small amount of flowing water except during heavy rains or typhoons.
River bed scene seen on the bridge near Taichung.
Miscanthus field at the river bed near Caotun.
At this section, the wide river is also surrounded with Taiwan's majestic mountains in the background.
The jaw-like Ninety-Nine Peak near Taichung.
Taichung -> Puli: Tunnels and river valley
As the route continues into the mountains, there are lots of tunnels along the way, sometimes only at one side of the road. Many tunnels are formed after a major slide blocked the road.
At this section, the river becomes narrower and nearby mountains are not too high, forming a nice, approachable river valley scenery. Small, semi-hidden mountain towns can be seen along the way.
A small town with many local deer farms, hence the dear statue on the bridge.
Puli - Good Mountains and Good Water
Puli is a large town before Route #14 begins its ascend up the mountain. It is a basin area and is surrounded by mountains. Many mountain climbers rest here for a night and start their adventure in the morning.
Puli -> Renai: Steep River Valley Scenery
After Puli, the river becomes even more narrow and the mountains grow bigger. The river valley is no longer approachable and it feels as if the mountains are going to close in at any moment.
Renai: Cool Mountain Town
Renai is a popular high-mountain tourism/agriculture town on Route #14. It features wide mountain valley views and farms. Unfortunately the place is a bit overdeveloped and has too many hotels.
Renai -> Wuling: Riding Along the Ridge Line
The route from Renai to Wuling, the highest point of the roadway, follows the mountain ridge line closely. As a result you can always see the route ahead of you at a distance. As you near the top of ridge the mountain views are always great.
Wuling: Over 10,000 feet
Wuling is the highest roadway in Taiwan at over 10,000 feet elevation. Here, the mountain showcases its alpine scenery, with forests giving way to mountain meadows.
Wuling highest roadway point mark
Wuling -> Tiensiang : Inside Taiwan's Big Mountain Forest
From Wuling to Tiensiang, the route goes through a typical Taiwan big mountain forest. You get tree-covered big mountains, big trees, big rocks and steep valleys.
Tiensiang -> Hualien : The Taroko Gorge
From Tiensiang to Hualien is the famous Taroko white marble gorge. Here, one has cliffs, steep gorges, and buildings built next to them.
Tunnel going through a massive cliff.
The white marble gorge can be seen at far right.
Hualien : The east shore
Hualien is the end of Route #8, along the eastern Taiwan shore.