While the array of sights and heavenly street food in Taipei are worth a visit to Taiwan alone, the island fondly known as “Formosa”, offers some of the most intriguing landscapes once you venture outside the city limits, beyond the skyscrapers and neon lights.
Located just north of Taipei is one of the most surreal spots on the island — Yehliu Geopark.
Yehliu is a cape that stretches from Datun Mountain a massive 1700 meters into the sea. Here, you can experience the raw power of geological forces at work as you step into what could likely be compared to a walk on the moon.
With some assistance from erosion and weathering, the limestone and calcium carbonate surfaces have become fractured with giant rocks, pot holes and fossils. Before you think “rocks, oh how fun” these are not like normal rocks you see walking along the beach – unless it was the set of a sci-fi movie.
While you can see a few of these interesting seascapes from the nearby roads, a visit inside the Yehliu Geopark is easily worth the $50 NT (about $1.50 US).
There is an information booth and some English signage to alert you to the types of rocks and interesting formations you will find inside. Many of the bizarre features have recognizable names based on their physical resemblance to other objects or even people.
The most well-known is the Queen’s Head rock – an iconic image of Taiwan that resembles the profile of an Egyptian queen. This rock is such a treasured symbol of Taiwan that you cannot get near the rock itself. Between cameras and eagle-eyed security guards stationed on either side, no one lays a finger on the Queen. Continued erosion has reduced the circumference of her neck and it is believed that another five to ten years could cause the neck to naturally break off so they are quick to ensure no human forces speed that timeline up.
Other notable formations include the honeycomb rocks, which get their name from an obvious resemblance to honeycombs. Their uneven surfaces allow the water to pool and further erode, creating their unique appearance.
Ginger rocks were squeezed together and resemble the ginger root – a culinary staple in Taiwan. Another food related set is the bean curd rocks, which can be seen further down the coast as well. Also called chessboard rocks, they are smooth and level rocks that are separated by deep joints.
Be sure to look for the individually named rocks, which may be more difficult to spot in some instances. Some of these include Elephant, Bee Hive, and one of my favorites, the Fairy Shoe.
While it’s easy to spend the entire day in the Geopark, the surrounding area is also worth a stroll. Onsite is a “Gifts from Yehliu” market that is home to every type of dried seafood imaginable, and on weekends, it is not uncommon to see vendors drying seaweed on the sidewalks. Adjacent to the Yehliu Geopark is Ocean World, where you can see a dolphin show and wander the underground aquarium tunnels.
Yehliu Geopark is easily reached on public transportation (taxi, city bus or a combination of MRT and city bus) from Taipei City, Keelung, and the Danshui MRT Station. For those wishing to drive, Provincial Highway 2 is the best route, just follow signs for the north coast scenic area. For specific detailed directions from different points in and around Taipei, please see the Yehliu Geopark website.
No 167-1 Gang Dong Road
Yehliu Village, Wanli Township, Taipei County, Taiwan
Hours: 7 days a week, 8am – 5pm
Admission: NT 50 for adults and NT 25 for children