Islands Of Taiwan

A scattered collection of islands, some off Taiwan's western and southern coasts, and several right on the periphery of mainland China, Taiwan's numerous islands are fascinating destinations rarely visited by outside travelers. Many of these islands are geographically and physically disparate, ranging from beautifully clear white sand islands to rocky, imposing mountains that have been hollowed out into military fortresses. One thing that these islands do have in common, however, is that they are far-removed from much of the hustle and bustle of major urban areas, such as Taipei and Kaohsiung.
A scattered collection of islands, some off Taiwan's western and southern coasts, and several right on the periphery of mainland China, Taiwan's numerous islands are fascinating destinations rarely visited by outside travelers. Many of these islands are geographically and physically disparate, ranging from beautifully clear white sand islands to rocky, imposing mountains that have been hollowed out into military fortresses. One thing that these islands do have in common, however, is that they are far-removed from much of the hustle and bustle of major urban areas, such as Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Experiences

Beaches of Penghu

Rivaled only by the white-sand beaches of Kenting in Taiwan’s far-south, Penghu’s pristine beaches border the sort of translucent tropical waves which adorn screensavers and greeting cards across the world. Given that Penghu is a lesser destination within Taiwan, a country little-visited by outside visitors, it is likely that you’ll be one of a few visitors here. Additionally, unlike Kenting, Penghu has almost 194 miles (312 kilometers) or shoreline, overwhelming visitors through sheer choice.

Green Island

Ludao, or Green Island, was once home to the Ami, a group that comprise the majority of Taiwan's aboriginal population. Under the auspices of Chiang Kai-shek and his successors, Green Island became a prison camp for the many Taiwanese dissidents, among them writer and satirist Bo Yang, most famous for his novel The Ugly Chinaman, a critique and expose of Chinese culture.

Kinmen (Jinmen)

Mere miles from mainland China, Kinmen (or Jinmen) is the northernmost limit of Taiwan. During the Chinese Civil War, Kinmen was the site of fierce fighting and relentless shelling from the Communist Chinese forces; today, however, thanks to improved relations, Kinmen is a quiet, tranquil island; because it was listed as a military zone for years, development was forbidden – leaving its many temples and historical structures intact.

Kinmen Knives

One fascinating trinket found on Kinmen are knives made from the steel of propaganda shells, of which several hundred thousand were fired at Kinmen during the Chinese Civil War. Unlike regular shells, which fragment upon impact, propaganda shells are made from high-quality steel that split open to reveal leaflets and posters. With such a plentiful supply of steel, several artisans began to forge knives – the most famous of whom is undoubtedly Maestro Wu, whose work is sold all over Kinmen and Taiwan.

Lanyu Island

A volcanic island formed millions of years ago, Lanyu, or Orchid, Island is home to the Yami people. While there have been a history of tensions between the Yami and the central government in Taipei, today Lanyu is a pristine island with rugged mountains and thick forests, peeking out of the deep blue waters of the South China Sea. Given its distance from the main island of Taiwan, Lanyu is a peaceful, serene destination, with abundant natural wonders.

Matsu Islands

Named after Mazu, the goddess of the sea, Matsu is, along with Kinmen, a stone's throw from the mainland Chinese province of Fujian. Once a military base, Matsu today is a quiet, relaxing island with a wealth of abandoned fortresses, tunnels, and even a bird sanctuary. For a glimpse into the lives of Taiwanese soldiers, garrisoned in concrete bunkers and awaiting attack from the mainland, visit any number of landmarks: the Bei He tunnels, carved into solid granite, and the Iron Fort, overlooking a small cliff by the sea.

Penghu Islands

Known as the Hawaii of Taiwan, the Penghu Islands are a collection of reefs, islets, and shoals that were designated a National Scenic Area by the central government. Unfortunately, this did not grant the Penghu Islands full protection, thereby forcing residents of the islands to balance economic development and ecological preservation. Today, while Penghu’s white-sand beaches and cerulean waters remain immaculate, its natural wonders are threatened by a deluge of visitors.

Snorkeling and Diving on Green Island

While the waters off Green Island are home to a number of extremely fast currents, they also host myriad corals - including the world's largest living coral head, measuring 12 feet (4 meters) wide and almost two stories high. The dive sites throughout Green Island feature a mix of hard and soft corals.

Snorkeling and Diving on Penghu

The warm waters of Penghu host a stunning range of dazzling, polychrome tropical fish, swaying hard and soft corals, as well as hundreds of species of marine plants. While the currents nearby can be treacherous for inexperienced divers, the stunning underwater views are rare, and among the best in Taiwan.

Yami

The Yami are the original inhabitants of Lanyu, and have, like many other aboriginal groups, faced discrimination. Today, however, their culture has flourished, partly as a result of a reversal of longstanding central government policies against Aboriginal culture. The Yami live in houses built partly into the ground, and build and steer bangalays, elaborate, swift canoes with distinct, pointed prows.

Zhongshe Historical Village

A rare example of sanheyuan, (a three-sectioned residential compound) design, Zhongshe is a series of quaint, stone structures that have withstood the passing of the centuries. Assembled from roughly hewn coral, as both stone and wood were lacking, Zhongshe was one of the first settlements in Penghu. After the village had begun to fall apart, locals pushed through restoration efforts - and petitioned for Zhongshe to be put on a list of protected historical sites.

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With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.

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Travelogues

Chang Dai-chien: The Strange Residence of Taiwan’s Greatest Artist

Author
John McMahon

Chang Dai-chien was one of Asia's greatest artists, and his peculiar life is on display in the outskirts of Taipei.

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The Subtle Butterfly Migrations of Taiwan

Author
Juanita Pienaar

Every year in the winter and again in the early spring a few million butterflies migrate from northern and central Taiwan to the south.

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Dozen Dream Destination: East Coast of Taiwan for the Road Trip

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Travelogues

Taiwan's East Coast is known for its temperate climate and laid-back culture – all best experienced from the open road.

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Searching for the Formosan Black Bears of Taiwan’s Yushan National Park

Author
John McMahon

Along one of Yushan's most popular hiking routes, travelers will find evidence of one of Taiwan's largest mammal species: the rare Formosan black bear.

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Instagram Taipei: Shooting Taiwan’s Capital

Author
Jordan Hammond

Jordan Hammond takes his camera to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, for a look into the motorbike waterfall, low-flying planes, and the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

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Politics Squared: A Look at Tiananmen Square and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

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Jeremiah Jenne

Tiananmen Square and Chiang Kai-shek's Memorial – two very different monuments, two very different dictators, and a divergent history that maintains much in common.

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