The biggest city on the east coast, HUALIEN (花蓮; huālián) sits on a mountain-fringed plain 26km south of Taroko Gorge, making an ideal base for expeditions to Taroko National Park. It is also one of the world’s major producers of marble, and elegant stonework is used liberally all over the city to adorn temples, pavements, the airport and even the train station. The relatively large number of tourists passing through give Hualien a laid-back, holiday-town atmosphere, with a growing number of pleasant teahouses and attractive restaurants where you can try delicious local specialities, as well as a handful of absorbing temples and an inexpensive stone market.

Brief history

Hualien has a relatively short history, making it something of a frontier town: Chinese settlers from Danshui established the first village in 1851, but conflicts with various aboriginal tribes, including a fierce battle with the Sakizaya, resulted in the colony being abandoned twice and only in the 1890s did a permanent settlement take hold. The Japanese had a strong impact here, the region becoming an immigration zone for poor Japanese families during the occupation era, but Hualien remained a remote place for much of the twentieth century: it wasn’t until the 1920s that the Japanese hacked out a road to replace the old track up the coast to Suao; the Central Cross-Island Highway was completed in 1960; and the rail line from Taipei opened in 1980. Today Hualien is a city of 110,000, unique in having almost equal numbers of Hakka, Hoklo, mainlander and aboriginal citizens: the last group are primarily Atayal and Ami.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Taiwan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Cool Taipei: 8 tips for exploring the city

Cool Taipei: 8 tips for exploring the city

As the only democracy in the Chinese speaking world and the most progressive city for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, a legacy of artists and activists have worked to ma…

19 Oct 2016 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan

10 street foods you need to try in Taiwan

Taiwanese xiǎochī, or “small eats”, are justly famed, and no trip would be complete without several street food feasts. Night markets are among the best …

11 Nov 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
The best of the world's smallest countries

The best of the world's smallest countries

Qatar Jutting northwards into the Persian Gulf, Qatar is one of the world’s smaller nations (about the size of Yorkshire, England), but it is also the world…

29 Oct 2014 • Greg Dickinson camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook