After a night of storms, stars and a magical sunrise, camping in Sanxiantai has been one of the coolest spots where I spent a night while backpacking solo in Taiwan.
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Camping in Taiwan is one of the best ways to explore the country, whether you camp in the mountains or by the beach, you’ll surely have great adventures on your backpacking trip around Taiwan.
Some of the most beautiful landscapes in Taiwan are located on the east coast national scenic area.
Along the coast you can find lots of great beaches where you can practice numerous water sports, from surfing to kayaking and fishing trips.
The mountains are very close to the coast line so you can also go on hiking adventures on the same day that you camp by the beach for example.
One of the most famous and distinctive landmarks in the east coast is the scenic area of Sanxiantai.
Sanxiantai roughly translates as the “terrace of the three immortals” after three of the eight immortals in Chinese mythology stopped in the area, from this point there are a couple of variants in the legend as some say that the islands caves are their footprints and others say that the three prominent rocky mounts are the immortals themselves.
I personally like more the second version of the story. But this post is about camping in Sanxiantai and not about debating Chinese mythology 🙂
The scenic area of Sanxiantai
Although now it’s an island connected by an 8-arched bridge which resembles a dragon, Sanxiantai used to be a cape that was slowly “disconnected” from the mainland by erosion.
Until 1987 the island could only be reached during low tide and the construction of the scenic 400 meter long arched bridge solved this access problem.
The islet covers an area of 22 hectares and its highest point is of 77m above sea level. Surrounded by coral reefs, sea-eroded trenches, caves and other geological features.
The islet also features the first light beacon to be built in the east coast of Taiwan which dates from 1915 when the country was still under the Japanese rule.
How to get there
Sanxiantai is 60 Km north of Taitung city and can easily be reached by car, scooter or public bus. Check out here for cheap hotels in Taitung.
If you go by public bus, you can take the 8101, 8102, 8103, 8109, 8119 or 8120. They tend to leave from Taitung bus station every 10-30 minutes and you can board them in pretty much any small village along the coast.
Some of these buses stop in the nearby village of Chenggong, from there you can just walk half an hour to the Sanxiantai bridge.
Make sure to get an Easycard when you arrive to Taiwan to have cheaper bus/metro rides!
If you’re planning to go camping in Sanxiantai, I recommend you to go late in the day, just before sunset as the area is relatively small so you don’t want to set up your camp early when there are many tourists around.
Once you cross the scenic 8-arched bridge, there’s a short boardwalk which is around 700m long.
This “trail”, as it is called on the information boards, takes you around the island and at the far end of it you can turn right and walk on a proper trail that will take you towards the Hehuan Cave and the Light House.
You can definitely spend at least an hour in between exploring the Hehuan Cave (make sure to bring a strong headlamp!) and climbing up to the Light House for some wonderful views.
At Hehuan Cave there are signs mentioning that poisonous snakes live there, I didn’t see any but it’s always good to be on the safe side and careful wherever you go.
The climb to the Light House does not take more than 5 minutes. All the way up is on man-made steps and some of them can be very steep.
As it was rainy on my visit there the steps were also a bit slippery so try to avoid going on flip flops to Sanxiantai as they’re also not going to be helpful when walking on the sharp rocky trail.
Camping in Sanxiantai
There are numerous campsites all over the Taiwan, many of them are free.
If on the other hand, you’re looking for adventures and are a keen wild camper you should know by now some basic common-sense rules when camping in places that could be a bit of a grey area in terms of whether is allowed or not.
Sanxiantai is one of these grey area places as there are no signs explicitly forbidding to camp but being such a touristy attraction I’d not doubt that if anyone working on the area catches you camping may ask you to leave.
So, leave the task of pitching your tent for as late as you can. When I pitched mine there were only a handful of fishermen by the coast and I was not bothered by anyone…
…Except by the storm!
On my night camping in Sanxantai there was a big typhoon on its way to China and Taiwan was heavily showered by strong rains and winds.
If you have a similar experience, be really careful and make sure to pitch your tent away from any rock formations as there can be landslides.
MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS
I pitched my tent in a grassy opening that was safeguarded of the tides by the “mountains”. It’s kind of a miniature valley which you will find as soon as you leave the boardwalk and walk some 40 meters to the right of the trail.
I think this was the most beautiful spot on the island, and also the only one with a grassy ground as the rest is either solid conglomerate rocks or dense vegetation.
Even on this spot you have to be careful not to be too close to the rocks as many of them do not look super stable and could fall at anytime, specially with a strong storm!
Whenever I camp in one of these “grey area” sites, I avoid being intrusive and do not attempt to make a fire or leave any traces of my presence.
As I was only planning to camp in Sanxiantai for one night I took ready-made oniguiris and sushi from a 7Eleven for my dinner and breakfast on the following day but if you’d like some ideas for cooking dinner when camping in Sanxiantai have a look at my post about easy camping food ideas.
At the entrance of the Sanxiantai Scenic Area, next to the parking lot, there are some restaurants and souvenir shops.
The night camping in Sanxiantai felt like two different places as from late in the day it was raining a lot but then at around 3am the storm disappeared and I was rewarded with the sight of millions of stars!
Sunrise at Sanxiantai
As I was camping in Sanxiantai in August, it meant that the sunrise was really early so I woke up at 4:30am.
That was the best decision of the day!
It is said that Sanxiantai is the first place in the Taiwanese mainland to welcome the first glimpse of dawn and I was rewarded by a truly spectacular one!
The peace of the place was sharply contrasted by the strength of the waves against the rocks. I was absolutely speechless.
Because of this location being the first one to receive the new day in Taiwan, many people already make their way to experience the sunrise in Sanxiantai. However, everyone stays by the bridge and I was the only person contemplating the sunrise from the island.
Just when the show of lights and colours ended and it was properly daylight I went towards the bridge and still got a fantastic display sight!
I could already see a few people on the shore that went there for the sunrise and in just a few minutes already the bridge was starting to slowly fill up with people so I decided to head back and pack my tent.
Alternative to camp in Sanxiantai
If by any chance, you decide to camp on the same spot I did and someone tells you to move away you can also camp by the beach next to the bridge.
The pebbled beach is not at first sight a place where you’d think to camp but if you walk a little bit you will find sandy areas which look ideal for a beautiful camping night and also a great angle to enjoy the sunrise with the silhouette of the bridge and the island.
As always, make sure to respect the locals, leave no trace behind and take all your rubbish back with you to the nearest city.
Have a look at my other posts about backpacking in Taiwan if you’re looking for more inspiration on your solo travel adventures and my post about places to go hiking in Taiwan if you’d like some more hiking ideas.
Feel free to drop any comments and/or questions!! happy adventures! 🙂