Nature & Nurture: Meet the Aboriginal Artists of Taiwan

We aim to introduce travelers to the rich nature and aboriginal culture of Taiwan, Asia’s most underrated Travel destination. Anthropologists now believe that all aboriginal cultures in Oceania and New Zealand may have originated from Taiwan. We will be spending the week meeting the many tribes who through literature, dance and song keep their culture alive for the next generation to learn and appreciate.


DURATION OF THE TRIP: 8 days –7 nights


We aim to introduce travelers to the rich nature and aboriginal culture of Taiwan, Asia’s most underrated Travel destination.  Anthropologists now believe that all aboriginal cultures in Oceania and New Zealand may have originated from Taiwan. We will be spending the week meeting the many tribes who through literature, dance and song keep their culture alive for the next generation to learn and appreciate.

You will have a chance to walk through jungles, swim in waterfalls, sing the songs of ancestors and discover the art that is defining and sustaining the aboriginal community.  With so much of the world going either digital or mass tourism, this is an opportunity to get off the grid and discover cultures that remain proudly linked to the past and to the values of the past: Family, Nature and Tradition.

Expect rafting, cycling, hiking . A good level of physical fitness is recommended


Day 1 Taipei to Yilan

Welcome to Taiwan, today you’ll arrive in Taipei City.  Depending on your arrival time we’ll try to introduce you to some of the most dynamic aboriginal artists and activists in the city.  This includes Mulinung who teaches Aboriginal Dance and Song at one of Taipei’s most prestigious universities, and Manav who along with his family opened the Red Room as a forum for artists (aboriginal, Taiwanese, and foreigners) to mix, mingle and exchange cultures.

After exploring Taipei City we will head out by private car or train (at your preference) to the beautiful city of Jiaoxi, with the ocean at its foreground and rainforest covered mountains with natural hot springs in the background.Jiaoxi (and its sister cities of Yilan and Toucheng) have long been known as Taiwan’s most picturesque cities.  We’ll spend the night at the Silks Hotel in Yilan.


Day 2 Yilan to Aboriginal Village to Jiaoxi

In the morning we will head out with our private car and guide to our first Aboriginal Village of the Atayal Tribe. The tribal leader  was originally an architect in Taipei but left the city-life behind to better connect to his tribal roots. Using his skills he built the village complex we’ll be visiting today, providing housing and cultural spaces for other members of his tribe.

We’ll be spending the full day here doing a variety of activities with the tribe, including traditional work with textiles, archery practice, learning how to create aboriginal music, and finally a traditional aboriginal feast cooked for us and the other guests.

Afterwards we’ll be heading for a short ride to our next destination of Jiaoxi, which is known in Taiwan for its mountains and hotsprings. Here we’ll be staying at the Royal Hotel in Jiaoxi, a bespoke accommodation that offers a great location for our activity tomorrow.


Day 3 Jiaoxi

Today is a full day of Hiking!  We’ll be heading to Taiwan’s famed Mariana Trail to witness two of Taiwan’s most beautiful natural wonders. The first is the gorgeous rainforest waterfall of Wufengsi. The second is the full day hike from the same location in the park to the peak of Mariana Trail. Please note though, for those who would only like to visit the waterfall this is of course OK!  There are plenty of other options for those who wish to only do the waterfall and one other activity, but not the challenging Mariana Trail. Notably we can take you to the Lanyang Museum which features cutting edge architecture and great information on Taiwan’s natural environment and its connection to the aboriginal communities.

The Mariana Trail has a deep spiritual connection to Taiwan’s Christian community. The back story is that a group of Taiwanese hikers got lost, and not knowing what to do prayed, then (according to legend) the Christian Figure of Mary appeared and showed them they way down from the mountain. In response they built a beautiful church and garden at the start of the trail and a viewing platform at the end. No matter your faith the view and hike here is breathtaking.

The Trail will take us through several landscapes, from rainforest, through bamboo and pine trees, before finally ending at a landscape that feels like the Scottish highlands (only with bamboo instead of grass) along the way we’ll pass by several waterfalls and natural river systems perfect for cooling off in. Along the way we will have a chance to spot birds, butterflies and monkeys as this trail is densely populated with a variety of flora and fauna.

This hike will take us roughly the whole day, afterwards we’ll take you to our favorite restaurant in Jiaoxi (and one of the most famous in Taiwan!) before retuning to our hotel for the adventure tomorrow.


Day 4 Jiaoxi – Hualian  – Taroko Gorge

After our challenging hike the day before, we’ll relax in the morning at our hot springs hotel. After a late breakfast we’ll head from Jiaoxi by private car to the charming small city of Hualien.

Today is a day for relaxation. We will be staying at the Taroko Village hotel which was originally the village complex of the Taroko Aboriginal people before they decided to refurbish the buildings as an accommodation and property center.

The Hotel is special as it’s one of the few within Taiwan’s gorgeous Taroko National Park complex. Taroko in the aboriginal language means Echo, and you will see why. As far as the eye can see, you will be surrounded by beautiful mountains, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and bamboo forests.   Should you shout in any direction, chances are a crystal clear echo will return as a gift. Please feel free to wander around and enjoy these gorgeous surroundings before our evening activities.

In the evening we’ll enjoy a feast of Taroko style aboriginal cooking. This will be followed by a wonderful performance from locals (and kids) of the Taroko Aboriginal tribe, that will give you another introduction to Aboriginal Song and Dance.

Afterwards, enjoy the stars and crisp air. We have a long day of hiking tomorrow.


Day 4 Taroko Gorge

Today will be a full day of hiking, we’ll be taking you to the most beautiful sites of Taiwan’s world wonder, the Taroko Gorge. There are multiple trail options we can choose from, suitable for all ages and with multiple points of interest. For animal lovers we can take you to the trails that have the highest density of Taiwanese Macaque Monkeys. For those looking for a challenge, we can take you along trails that hug the canyon-side and require a full day of hiking.  And for those looking for a variety of scenery we can take you along trails that feature multiple kinds of terrain, ranging from waterfalls, to rivers to forests.

In the evening we’ll return to our property for a final nights stay before our next destination tomorrow of Hualien.


Day 5 Taroko-Hualian

The recommended Hotel for today is this: Chill sort of Sea-Side vibe.

Early in the morning we’ll head back to Hualian and take you to a locally known artisan where aboriginals head to buy their knives:

These are essential to the aboriginal tribes and it’s said that every tribe has one and this is part of the tradition handed down from male to male generation. The owner and knife maker will explain to us the history, craft and differences between tribes .

Next will go to pick jade from the river in a spot that only the most local of locals know about. Here you’ll have a chance to pick up with your bare hands Jade from the River Bed. However this Jade is not high quality, it is more for the experience of seeing the stone in the wild. We’ll then take you to a local store where they will teach you to make jewelry from the found Jade.

In the evening we will head to the Hualian Cultural and Creative Industries park to see local artists (both aboriginal and Taiwanese) selling both traditional and modern crafts. We will be near the night-market as well as several other great local eateries.  We’ll dine out with our guide and discuss the next portion of our trip: rafting and heading to the coastal city of Taidong.


Day 6 River Rafting- Taidong

Today early in the morning we’ll head out boating with a local tribe. This will be much different than other boating activities. Each boat will have a local aboriginal guiding us as we traverse the rivers and explaining the history and impact the river has had on their lives. (We’ll likely be able to experience the fun of rolling on a few rapids as well! )

These guides are all from the Amis aboriginal tribe and will be introducing us to this nature as well as their culture, which has always had deep relationships with the mountains river and sea, since historically there were no roads connecting them to the outside world and they had to rely on boats and mountainside exploration. If the conditions are right we can even try fishing and shrimp-catching using traditional aboriginal methods.

After our journey we’ll enjoy a delicious local lunch with the tribe. We’ll then set out for the journey to Taidong by private car. Upon arrival we’ll then check-in and rest.

We’ll enjoy dinner at a nearby local restaurant specializing in Taidong’s fresh fruits and vegetables, afterwards we’ll head to  Tiehua Music Village, where local artists and musicians perform songs of both Taiwanese and aboriginal culture nightly. It’s a great cultural space showcasing the warm-hearted multiculturalism that exists throughout Taidong. Here you can listen to music, head in and out of charming cafes and purchase works from local artists.  (please note the village is only open from Thursday to Sunday.)


Day 7  Taidong  

After breakfast, we’ll head to The Taiwan Early People’s history museum is one of the best museums in the country for exploring the links and betrayals that revolve around the history of Taiwan’s aboriginals and later colonialists from Europe, Japan and China. The museum offers outstanding exhibits about the various aboriginal tribes, their habits and customs.  

One of the most outstanding exhibits is a full space dedicated to both traditional Aboriginal Music, and tracing its evolution to being a force for social protest about the treatment of aboriginals, and later its full-scale adoption into mainstream pop and rock music.

After the Museum, we will head to Tamali to meet with Taiwan’s most famous Aboriginal Writer: Sakinu (of the Paiwan tribe) .  As well as one of the Taiwan’s most famous Aboriginal carpenters Sisi. The traditional housing and statues featured here (among the most authentic in Taiwan). Were hand carved by Sisi and the houses were constructed by the larger aboriginal community along with Sakinu.  Sisi will meet us today to explain the significance of the traditional Aborignal wood carvings as well as to discuss how Aboriginal Architecture technique and style compares and differs from Chinese-style architecture. He will also be teaching us a few (simple!) techniques that go into making the beautiful aboriginal woodcarvings and totems that can be seen throughout aboriginal villages.

Later on the tribe will be teaching us to make the traditional meal of Ao Bai, this dish is traditionally only made on special occasions such as the birth of children, to worship ancestors or celebrations like weddings or holidays.

That evening we’ll be eating with the tribe, roast chicken, vegetables, and other traditional dishes will be served. During and after the Dinner Sakinu will be sharing stories, both folklore and also stories offering insight into himself, and how his writing has allowed a new generation of aboriginals to reconnect with their roots. And how the traditional and modern can co-exist.

We’ll be spending the night at the tribal long-house for the night, talking, eating and exchanging stories into the night.  


Day 8 Taidong –Taipei

We’ll wake early in the morning for a final hike with either Sakinu (depending on his availability) Or another local aboriginal guide we will head into the mountains and the woods to learn about Aboriginal Hunting culture and the connection of the forest to traditional Aboriginal Folklore and culture.  Aboriginal tribes are reintroducing hunting as a ceremony for young men to engage in. A fascinating debate that we can discuss further with our guides.

Then in the afternoon we will head to Taiwan’s hidden gem of Dulan.  The scenery here is some of the most beautiful in Asia, with gorgeous beaches, sheer cliffs and a laid-back vibe that has attracted multiple retirees, hippies, and artists.  We’ll have lunch at a café whose views into the ocean have become famous throughout Asia. We will also stop at what many consider to be the most beautiful coffee shop in Taiwan, built literally into the roots of a Banyan Tree.

Then after a beautiful lunch it will be time to say goodbye to Taidong, we will transfer back to Taidong train station and journey back to Taipei. With memories of the Aboriginal Tribes, amazing nature and communities we got to know during our time in Taiwan.

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