Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan’s Oddly Shaped Rock Formations

Yehliu Geopark’s surreal scenery

photography by: Omri Westmark

For millennia now, cities across the world have been adorned with intricately designed monuments that inspired billions of people throughout history. Concurrently though, mother nature has outcompeted humanity with its own set of marvels. Tucked away on the northern outskirts of Taipei, Yehliu Geopark boasts sweeping ocean vistas alongside a hodgepodge of naturally formed sculptures, many of which bear an uncanny resemblance to real-world things.

Brief History and Info

Well before the Island of Formosa was first inhabited, the Datun Volcano at the northern tip of Taiwan forged its way upwards, leaving a craggy cape in its wake. Extending 1,700 meters into the East China Sea, Yehliu Promontory as it is locally known, is located about 25 kilometers northeast of downtown Taipei.

 

Since its violent birth, the cape has been repeatedly subjected to the elements, with gales, waves and rain eroding its surface over the course of millennia. As the narrow sliver of land was battered by the breakers, part of its stratum underwent a rapid weathering process, resulting in dozens of otherworldly rock formations that dot the landscape. Due to the elevated terrain of the headland’s northern half, it might be visually akin to a large turtle from afar, hence its moniker “Yehliu Turtle”.

 

In an attempt to protect the cape’s delicate structures, in 1978, the local authorities transformed the entire place into the Yehliu Geopark, which shortly thereafter became a scenic getaway for the region’s urban dwellers. The site is now incorporated into the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area and is also home to an ecologic park as well as Taiwan’s first marine park.

 

The park is open every day from 8:00AM to 5:00PM and is widely accessible by public transportation.


Notable Formations

What makes Yehliu Geopark particularly intriguing is the sheer diversity of rock formations huddled together in a relatively small area. Visitors who explore the multiple points of interest throughout the cape will come across hoodoos, caves, ocean potholes, melting erosion panels and joints, to name just a few.

 

The park’s single most famous rock is undoubtedly the Queen’s Head. As its name suggest, this natural sculpture is reminiscent of a long-necked lady whose head is topped by a crown, purportedly Queen Elizabeth. It is estimated that the rock was formed over the span of 4,000 years by multiple weathering forces. In fact, the queen’s 125-centimeter-tall neck is still being eroded at a rate of 2-5 millimeters per year.

 

The aforementioned queen is apparently accompanied by a smaller counterpart by the apt name of Cute Princess. Nestled along the main walkway, the rock was formed in 2010, when it split off a larger monolith. After it received its royal status, the Cute Princess was voted in an internet poll as the future successor of the Queen’s Head.

 

Both the queen and princess are categorized as mushroom rocks (though featuring exceedingly odd shape), hundreds of which are scattered across the park. These formations are the result of different weathering rates within the stratum. The mushroom’s upper part often contains a larger amount of calcium carbonate and therefore, is far more resistant to weathering forces. Over time, those small variations got accumulated, forming the iconic umbrella-shaped structures throughout the cape.

 

Further afield along the cape’s rugged coastline is the Tofu Rock. This seawater- drenched formation features an orthogonal grid of crevices and rectangular rocks, created by the battering waves over thousands of years.

 

Likewise, Yehliu is home to a medley of rock formations which strikingly resemble specific objects and animals, including the Gorilla Rock, the Pineapple Bun Rock, the Dragon’s Head Rock and the Japanese Geisha Rock, to mention but a handful.