A welcome break from the heat, Taiwan does cool down for a period of about 3 months, from December to the end of February. In Nantou County, this means the average temperature drops from 30+ degrees Celsius every day in the summer, to about 21 degrees in the winter. For those coming from a colder climate, it wouldn’t make a difference whether it’s summer or winter- both are summer-like. But for those acclimatized to Taiwan temperatures, the difference between 30 degrees and 21 degrees is the difference between wanting to go to a waterfall, and wanting to go to a hot spring! Fortunately, both are in abundance in Taiwan.
So, before the temperatures inevitably begin to rise to a sweltering heat, my girlfriend Ting and I took our chance to sneak in a hot spring adventure. Using Follow XiaoFei as our ever-handy adventure guide, we came upon Jingying hot spring, located right in our home county, Nantou County.
Jingying hot spring is about an hour and a half drive from Taichung city, taking highway 6 for about 40 minutes and then switching to the blue shield highway 14. The drive along highway 14 itself is beautiful. Think winding roads with scenic views of mountains on all sides, the whole way there. Once you’ve gotten to the access road leading down to the river bed, you have two options. You can continue the drive down all the way to the river bed, where there is space for parking. Or, you can park on the street above the access road and walk down.
The access road down to the river has enough space for one car only, meaning if you are on your way down, along the very steep and narrow road perched on the side of a cliff, and you are met with someone coming back up, one of you has to reverse or find space to pull over so the other can pass. Going to a hot spring is supposed to be relaxing, but for me, this way of getting there is so stressful it negates any enjoyment I’d get out of visiting the hot spring. Even if I were to successfully get to the parking space at the bottom, I’d spend the whole time at the hot spring worrying about whether or not I’d be confronted with another car on my way back up. So what we did was park near the top of the access road, and walk down. On the way back up, we hitchhiked and snagged a ride back up to our car. Win win! This is what I would recommend to anyone who decides to go.
The hot spring baths are within 500 meters of the bottom of the access road. When we went, 5-6 natural baths, varying in size, were scattered along the side of the river. Nestled in the river bed under lush, towering mountains, Jingying hot spring is a natural paradise. The experience of stepping into hot water, mere feet away from the cold, rushing river, is surreal. It made me feel like a kid again, slipping into the natural hot bath, escaping the cool air. Eventually ,though, when the hot spring gets too hot, you can hop into the river to cool off. There is nothing like sitting in a natural tub of hot water and taking in the pristine views that so much of Taiwan’s nature offers.
Whether you’re in the North, South, East or West of the island, there are plenty of similar spots to choose from. And while they may be similar in nature, so far each of the hot springs I’ve gone to has been special in its own way, and each well worth going to. The differences in the trek getting there, as well as the physical setting of each, offers a unique experience each time. Lisong and Hongye hot springs, located outside of Taitung; Jingying hot spring located in the only land-locked county of Nantou; and Shikeng+Qikeng hot springs in Kaohsiung county- all have been incredible. With that in mind, the best advice I can give is to leave the bath bomb at home and get outside!