Taiwan's Offshore Islands

Tags: geography | island | tourism

Are you looking for a place where the waters are clear and the skies are blue, and countless stars stud the sky at night? Or would you like to wander through remote and picturesque fishing villages? Then pack your bags and visit the offshore islands of Taiwan!

Taiwan is located along the southeast coast of the Asian continent, on the fault line where the Euro-Asian and Philippine continental plates meet. This unique geographic location and frequent seismic activity, not only created an extremely diversified topography and natural environment on Taiwan, but also resulted in the diverse characters of its off-shore islands. Main off-shore islands consist of Penghu, Green Island, Orchid Island, Kinmen, Mazu, Turtle Island and Little Liuqiu as their locations, topographical characteristics, and human activity differ, each has its own unique scenery and culture. Therefore, each island offers something different, satisfying the varying needs of visitors, whether these have a natural, historical, or cultural nature, or simply consist of sightseeing, snorkeling, or sport fishing.


Penghu is Taiwan's largest offshore island and is situated in between mainland China and Taiwan. It actually comprises 64 small islands and has a combined coastline that stretches more than 300 kilometers. Each season has its own particular scenery, and rich natural and cultural resources are found here. The landscape here is characterized by basaltic rocks, coral reefs, marine erosions, and beaches, while the fishing culture and migratory birds add an extra dimension to the picture.

Jishan Islet's basalt landscape in Penghu
Photo by: Shang Lei Jen


Old house in Penghu
Photo by: Hsu Shih Jung


Double heart stone fish trap in Penghu
Photo by: Xing-Rang Ye


Green Island

Green Island is located some 33 kilometers off the coast of Taitung in eastern Taiwan, and is a volcanic island where winds blow and waters eat away at the rocks all year round, creating a beautiful and diverse coast.

The Great Marine Wall on Green Island
Photo by: Eugene Yeh

Green Island Lighthouse
Photo by: Xi-Huang Lin

Morning on Green Island
Photo by: Yang Ya-Jhu


Orchid Island

Lanyu, or Orchid Island, is situated off the southeastern coast of Taiwan and, like Green Island, its neighbor to the north, was raised from the sea floor by the accumulation of volcanic lava. It has a moist and rainy climate, and its mountain areas (which occupy most of the island) are covered with dense rain forests that are filled with a great variety of plant and animal life. Coral reefs decorate the surrounding seas, and the Japan Current which flows past brings in large numbers of fish. This makes Orchid Island a paradise for fishermen and skin divers. The island is inhabited mainly by Tau tribespeople, aborigines who still retain much of their traditional culture and lifestyle. Their traditional stone houses are built mostly underground to avoid extremes of temperature as well as the ravages of typhoons, and their Flying Fish and Boat Launching festivals are seen nowhere else on earth. In addition to savoring the beautiful island scenery, during a trip of Orchid Island you can also enjoy a glimpse into the fascinating Tau culture.

Tatala boats on Orchid Island
Photo by: Rui-Qi Liu



Drying flying fish on Orchid Island
Photo by: Zhuang Jie


Hen Rock in Lanyu
Photo by: Eugene Yeh




Lying just 2,100 meters off the coast of mainland China at the nearest point, this hilly island composed mostly of granite and has a history that derives largely from war. It can, therefore, be termed a "battlefield island," and it possesses unique battlefield scenery. But Kinmen is more; it also contains numerous traces of history, and the government has designated 21 historic sites within its small area. It also has large numbers of houses built in the traditional southern Fujianese three-sided courtyard style, giving it a rich atmosphere of times past.

Kinmen's house of southern Fujianese style
Photo by: Hsu Shih Jung

Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor Inc.
Photo by: Robert


August 23 Artillery War Museum in Kinmen
Photo by: Hsu Shih Jung



Situated in the northeast corner of the Taiwan Straits and separated from mainland China by only a narrow strip of water, Mazu, like Kinmen to the south, is also made up largely of granite. Its scenery consists of sea-eroded terrain, natural sand and pebble beaches, sand dunes, precipitous cliffs, and other scenic features. In addition to its beautiful jagged coastline and the migratory birds that pass through and provide precious ecological resources, Mazu also offers traditional eastern Fujian villages built on mountainsides as well as defensive fortifications built by the military. 

Birds in Mazu
Photo by: Chou Li Long-De

Dapu Village in Dungchu


Beihai Tunnel in Matzu
Photo by: Hsu Shih Jung


Turtle Island

This small, solitary island located about 10 kilometers off the coast of Toucheng in Yilan County has volcanic terrain that, from certain angles, looks like a turtle floating in the sea. Among the features of the island are high cliffs, steaming fumaroles, welling underwater hot springs, mountain peaks, sea-eroded caves, a lake, and unique cliff vegetation, as well as rich marine ecological resources. It is a perfect place to study volcanic terrain and the natural ecology.

Turtle Island from the air
Photo by: Lin Min-Jen

Undersea hot spring at Turtle Island
Photo by: Zhang WenXiong


A freshwater lake on Gueishan Island (Turtle Island)
Photo by: Shen Yen Wen


Little Liuqiu

Lying in the sea about 14 kilometers to the southwest of Donggang in Pingtung County, Little Liuqiu is the only one of Taiwan's numerous offshore islands that is composed of coral. Three special features make this island unique: the finest location for viewing the sunset, the most species of coral, and a terrain made up of coral. Strange coral rock formations stand throughout the island, and its ocean scenery is entrancing. Since this is a fishing island, its inhabitants are intensely religious; there are a great many temples here, each with its own unique features and special attractions.

Coral reefs in Little Liuqiu (Hsiau Liouchiou)
Photo by: Sun-In AV Corporation

Little Liuqiu Coastal Scenery
Photo by: Hung Chih-Jen

Biyun Temple in Little Liuqiu (Hsiau Liouchiou)
Photo by: Sun-In AV Corporation

Text and images are provided by
Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation & Communications, R.O.C.