Situated off the coast of mainland China, the mountainous island of Taiwan teems with people in massive urban developments, but at the same time hides some picture-perfect, breathtaking vistas and natural attractions. Jet into the airport at the capital, Taipei, and the island below greets you with majestic peaks, rolling hills and plains, basins and inlets, tropical beaches and green forests.
At the foot of the mountains cluster the crowded industrial cities and towns. Modern, high-rise buildings play backdrop to numerous traditional folk festivals, and ancient temples sit alongside glass-fronted boutiques in the bustling streets. Old and new live in harmony in Taiwan, and visitors will be enthralled as much by the bustling metropolis of Taipei as with the array of natural attractions throughout this relatively small island.
In the six national parks there are thousands of species of wildlife, 20 percent of which are rare or endangered, including the Mikado pheasant, the Hsuehshan grass lizard and the Formosan rock monkey. Unique experiences include taking a ride on the Alishan train, one of only three mountain railways in the world, and hiking up northeast Asia's highest mountain, Jade Mountain, and taking in the spectacular sunsets above a sea of clouds. With its volcanic origins, tropical climate and Polynesian flavour, Taiwan has deservedly been dubbed the 'Hawaii of Asia'.
Taiwan has long had an uneasy relationship with its larger neighbour, China. In 1684 the island became the refuge for the remnants of the deposed Ming Dynasty and when Mao's Communists forces took control of China in 1949 the nationalist leaders, and over one million supporters, fled to Taiwan. Economically, the island quickly became an Asian success story but its independence from China was never recognised by many governments - primarily due to the Republic's greater political and military firepower. Many Taiwanese would like an eventual reuniting with mainland China, but not on the terms suggested by their dominant cousins.
Taiwan boasts some of the most spectacular national parks in Asia, and our two week tailor-made tour is the ideal way to discover them. Explore mountainous Yangmingshan National Park with its steaming hot springs, gushing waterfalls, picturesque lakes and terraced rice paddies, board the tilting Taroko Express to visit Taroko National Park’s Swallow Grotto and Eternal Spring Shrine, discover the area of outstanding natural beauty that is Kenting National Park including the botanical gardens and coral limestone caves, take the rare Forest Train to Alishan where giant trees dating back thousands of years await and enjoy a cruise on beautiful Sun Moon Lake.
Markets & Malls
No trip to Taiwan would be complete without visiting one of the country’s famous night markets. Buzzing with noise and energy the vibrant markets are a great place to shop for bargains and present the perfect opportunity to sample a wide variety of authentic Taiwanese food and snacks. From pan fried dumplings and oyster omelettes to fresh squid and bubble tea - a Taiwanese favourite made from brewed tea, milk and balls of tapioca - the food and drink is cheap and delicious. Shilin, Raohe and Shida are the most well known markets but with over 100 dotted across the country, each offering its own styles and specialties, it would be difficult not to stumble across one. A shopper’s paradise, whether you have a lot to spend or not, Taiwan is also home to huge shopping malls, such as Taipei 101 and of course, the excellent night markets, where you can pick up a bargain whilst smelling the delicious aroma of authentic Chinese food cooked on stalls throughout the market.
Located just a few miles off the coast of China Kinmen Island attracts visitors year round with its military past. Learn about the fascinating history of the island, which has been a source of tension, war and fierce political debate for over half a century. Discover Wentai Pagoda, originally built in 1387. This five-storey hexagonal building served as a navigational marker for ships negotiating the treacherous waters near Kinmen. Explore Guningtou Battle Museum which tells of China’s ill-fated 1949 attack on the island and spend time at the August 23rd Artillery Battle Museum which is filled with and surrounded by guns, tanks and shells - a must for military enthusiasts.opper’s paradise, whether you have a lot to spend or not, Taiwan is home to huge shopping malls, such as Taipei 101 and of course, the excellent night markets, where you can pick up a bargain whilst smelling the delicious aroma of authentic Chinese food cooked on stalls throughout the market.
There is a reason why Taiwan holidays are high on the list of favourites amongst travel journalists in the know!