The East Rift Valley is known for its vast swathes of lush and unspoiled countryside © 徐月春, Wikimedia Commons
For Western visitors, the main draws are the valley’s natural appearance and opportunities to go hiking and white-water rafting.
The broad and largely unspoiled expanse of lush countryside between the Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Range is indeed lovely. More than 150km long, the valley is drained by three waterways: the Hualien River flows into the ocean near the city of the same name; the majestic Xiuguluan dominates the centre; and the southward-flowing Beinan cuts through some of Taiwan’s best rice-growing country.
Guangfu 光復 (Guāngfù) is a good base for exploring the valley. Two-thirds of the township’s 14,000 inhabitants are aboriginal. The substantial Hakka minority came here to work in the sugar industry, which until a few years ago dominated the local economy. The sugar refinery still stands, but most of the cane plantations are now being afforested. The hot springs at Ruisui, developed during the Japanese era, still attract substantial numbers of Taiwanese tourists. However, for Western visitors the main draws are the valley’s natural appearance and opportunities to go hiking and white-water rafting.