Where soothing hot springs and beautiful mountains converge
Tucked away in Heping District’s lush forested valley, about an hour and a half east of Taichung, the Guguan Hot Springs combine steamy therapeutic bathing and breathtaking mountain scenery in one. A visit during autumn or spring is particularly rewarding as its cherry blossoms and maples put on a gorgeous technicolored display.
These mineral-rich hot springs reside in the tiny Bo’ai Village that straddles the Central Cross Island Highway. Although the village appears modern, the ancient hot springs have been a top spot for royalty since the Japanese colonial era in the late 19th century.
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Legend has it Emperor Meiji once bathed in its steamy waters, and soon after, his wife conceived a highly-anticipated male heir to the throne. Nowadays, loved-up Taiwanese couples visit in the hopes of creating their own ‘little emperor,’ making it a popular destination for romance. (Maybe head somewhere else if you’re aiming for a baby girl, though).
The hot springs themselves lie within the aptly named Guguan Hot Springs Park in the middle of town. Within, a series of odourless carbonic acid-rich springs hover around 48C, the ideal temperature for a relaxing dip. Its low-alkaline, naturally carbonated water is also said to be good for the skin and soothing for the soul. The attached Hot Spring Cultural Museum is worth a quick look if you fancy learning about the history and geography of the region.
A more private alternative to the public pools is the array of posh spa resorts that line the Dajia River. If your budget permits, an overnight package in these opulent lodgings includes unlimited access to their hot spring-fed spas, although you can opt to pay a fee for a day pass instead. The facilities here are better than the park, and you’ll get a scenic view of the river and valley below.
Soaking in steamy water isn’t the only attraction in Guguan; several lovely hiking trails wind their way through the lush Bashan Mountains along the roaring Dajia River. The short but steep Shaolai Trail sees you climbing up and down stairs for an hour or so, reaching a viewpoint with breathtaking vistas along the way. For something a little more challenging, embark on one of the ‘Heroes of Guguan’ trails instead.
These seven well-marked forested routes range from a few hours to a full day and provide plenty of opportunities to relish in the region’s scenic splendour. Of course, after a long and strenuous workout, there’s nothing better than soaking your aching muscles in the hot springs back in town.
For a more easily accessible vantage point, cross on to the pedestrian-only Guguan or Shaolai suspension bridges. These dangling bridges are excellent spots to admire the scenery and snap a sweet holiday pic for Instagram. Keen fishers can try their luck catching a trout from the waters below, or you could opt to sample the delicious delicacy at one of the local restaurants instead.
No. 102, Section 1, Dongguan Road, Heping District, Taichung City, Taiwan 424
The plush HOSHINOYA Guguan is the best place in town, with sleek contemporary rooms that boast large picture windows looking out over the lush valley below. Downstairs, a peaceful pond garden and private spring-fed pools make this among the top hot spring resorts in Taiwan.