Taiwan's outer islands are some of the most beautiful and scenic places in the whole country, and each of them can be considered a secret paradise. You can find the best beaches, snorkeling, and diving on these islands. You can also find rich and important historical sites here. Transportation may be difficult, but you will never regret visiting Taiwan's outer islands, and no trip to Taiwan should be complete without doing it.
In this blog, we will introduce the main outer islands in Taiwan that are open to tourists (there are 166 islands in Taiwan, this blog only covers a few), point out their unique traits, and compare them to each other. This way you can best prepare for your trip to the outer islands, and at the same time know what you are missing out on. All the outer Islands are great, and I highly recommend visiting them all if you can.
Map: Please see a map of the islands covered in this blog below:
Okay, let's get started with an introduction of each of the islands. The main islands areas of Taiwan which are inhabited and open for tourists are basically Xiaoliuqiu, Orchid Island, Green Island, Matsu, Kinmen, and Penghu.
Xiaoliuqiu Island 小琉球
Xiaoliuqiu (aka Little Liuqiu, Lamay Island, or Lambai Island) is a small island paradise off the southwestern coast of Taiwan. The island is known for its clear water, amazing coral reefs, white sand beaches, and quiet laid back atmosphere. Only a short half hour boat ride from the Taiwan mainland, the island is easily accessible. In addition, the island is small enough that you can round the entire island by scooter in a matter of minutes...(read more)
See above for our drone footage of Xiaoliuqiu.
Green Island 綠島
Green Island is a paradise off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. Once a prison for political enemies of the KMT, it is now a tourist hot spot. It is one of the best places to snorkel and dive in Taiwan, one of only three salt water hot springs in the world, and it also includes amazing volcanic rock formations and scenery all around the island...(read more)
See above for our drone footage of Green Island.
Orchid Island (Lanyu) 蘭嶼
Orchid Island (not to be confused with the Fijian Island of the same name), known in the the local Tao language as Ponso No Tao (Island of the people), and in Chinese as Lanyu (蘭嶼) is a secret indigenous people's paradise off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. It is different than any other place in Taiwan, and has the best preserved indigenous culture anywhere in the country. If Taiwan's best tourist activity is experiencing the culture of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, then Lanyu has the best tourist experience anywhere in Taiwan...(read more)
See above for our drone footage of Orchid Island.
Turtle Island (Guishan Island) 龜山島
Guishan Island (literally Turtle Mountain Island) is a turtle shaped island off the coast of Yilan in Eastern Taiwan. Once inhabited by fisherman, it is now a coast guard base, but is open for day tours. The island tour includes beautiful sea cliffs, hiking, a lake, abandoned village, military tunnels, and whale watching just offshore...(read more)
Keelung Islet 基隆嶼
Keelung Islet is a small but tall rock off the coast of Keelung City. It first opened for tourists in 2001, but was closed in 2013 due to Typhoon damage, but then opened again in 2019. You can hike to the top of the island to its lighthouse and enjoy the views of Taiwan's Northern Coast. You can take a ferry ride to the island from Keelung harbor, but tourists are barred from visiting in the winter months.
Matsu Islands 馬祖列島
The Matsu Archipelago is a group of small islands off the coast of China that belong to Taiwan. Acting for a long time as military outposts for Taiwan, the islands have recently opened to tourists. Here you can find traditional stone house villages, magical "blue tear" bioluminescent phenomena, wild sika deer, military museums, a Mazu memorial park including the largest Mazu statue in the world, a variety of local food, and much more to explore...(read more)
Matsu - Beigan Island 北竿島
Beigan Island is a one of the two largest Islands in Matsu (officially Lienchiang County, Taiwan), and has some of the best preserved traditional stone made fishing villages on the islands. There are also many historical military sites, as the islands were part of the front line during the Chinese Civil War. It is easily accessible via airplane or boat from Taipei...(read more)
Matsu - Nangan Island 南竿島
Nangan is the largest Island in the Matsu Archipelago. Besides being the main transportation hub to the other islands in Matsu, it also has traditional stone house villages, military museums, a giant statue of Mazu, a variety of local food, and much more to explore...(Read more...)
Matsu - Daqiu Island 大坵島
Daqiu Island is a small island in Matsu (Lienchiang County), Taiwan that is home to hundreds of wild Sika Deer, and is a "deer watching paradise.“ Once home to a small village, then ROC military base, this island is now home to only one man that takes care of the hundreds of deer on the small island. It is a worth while day trip for anyone visiting the Matsu Islands.
It was definitely the highlight of our entire trip to Matsu... (Read more)
Other Islands in Matsu:
Kinmen (aka Jinmen or Quemoy) is a group of islands off the coast of Xiamen, China, belonging to Taiwan. For years it was the front lines and closest territory to China during the Chinese Civil War, which has not officially ended. Now that the war with China has come to a close due to the establishment of the "status quo," Kinmen has been open to tourism, especially from that of China. Kinmen has the highest concentration of museums and historical buildings in almost anywhere in Taiwan, as well as local cuisine, beaches, and scenery, making it an ideal vacation destination for both Taiwanese, Chinese, and other foreign tourists...
The Main Island of Kinmen 金門
Most of the people, food, museums, and architecture are found on the main island of Kinmen. Also, there is also an abandoned army tank stuck in the sand there that is popular for visitors, if you can find it.
For our full blog on Oucuo Beach, click here.
Little Kinmen (Lieyu) 小金門 (烈嶼)
Little Kinmen is literally a mini Kinmen. It also sits just across the water from Xiamen, China as seen in the photo above. To get to Little Kinmen, you can either walk to take a scooter onto a ferry from Shuitou Pier. The cost for a scooter is 200 NT round trip, and the cost for one person round trip is 120 NT. The ferry comes roughly every hour and its a ten minute journey.
Now, you can also go to another outer island in Kinmen, Dadan Island (大膽島) as of Jan. 2019. I visited in Oct. 2018, so I just missed out..(read more)
See above for our drone footage of Kinmen.
Penghu Islands 澎湖群島
If Taiwan is the best kept secret in Asia, then Penghu is the best kept secret of the best kept secret in Asia. It has just everything you could possibly want from a tropical island vacation getaway. Less than an hour plane ride from Taipei with multiple flights daily, its also easy to get to. We are sure that a trip to Penghu is one that you will not regret, and there will be more things to do than you could ever have time for...(read more)
Can I say Shanshui Beach is perfect? I recommend staying at a hostel close to this beach for easy access.
Penghu - Qimei Island 七美鄉
Qimei is a beautiful island getaway on southernmost end of Penghu County. You can get there by boat or by plane from Makung. The main attractions there are the iconic double heart rock (Twin Hearts Stone Weir), as well as little Taiwan rock. Getting there is not easy, but it is definitely worth the visit. For our full blog on Qimei click here.
Other Islands in Penghu:
Jibei Island 吉貝嶼
-Jibei Sand Tail 吉貝沙尾
-Jibei Stone heart Wier 吉貝心型石滬
Dongji Island 東吉嶼
-Dongji Lighthouse 東吉燈塔
-The eye of Dongji 東吉之眼
-Qiming Temple 啟明宮
-Japanese Barracks 日軍遺跡
-Tiger Head Mountain 虎頭山
Xiji Island 西吉嶼
Sea Caves on the North Coast 北岸海蝕洞
Basalt cliff 海蝕溝與海崖
Abaondoned village 聚落
-Green Sea Turtle Protection Center 綠蠵龜保育中心
-Tiantai Mountain 天臺山
-Hua Ancient House 花宅古厝
-Wangankou Beach 網按口沙灘
Dongyuping Island 東嶼坪嶼
-Jinlong Pagoda 金龍塔
-Chifu Pagoda 池府廟
-Chifu Temple 池府塔
Xiyuping Island 西嶼坪嶼
-Huaniang Temple 華娘廟
-Sea Stack 海堆
Hujing Island 虎井嶼
Hujing Island Columnar Basalt 虎井柱狀玄武岩
Tongpan Island 桶盤嶼
-Tongpan Island Geopark桶盤嶼地質公園
And also the other 70 or so small Islands and Islets in Penghu. Maybe one day this blog will include them all!
Bonus: The three islands connected to Taiwan by bridge
1. Heping Island 和平島
Heping Island Park is a geo-park and water park on Heping Island, just outside of downtown Keelung. Here you can find many interesting rock formations in the sedimentary rock along the seashore. There are also salt water swimming pools, amazing places to go diving, a playground, hiking trails, and historical sights. Some would say this island is the world's best kept secret. It is definitely worth stopping here along Taiwan's northern coast...read more.
2. Sanxiantai 三仙台
Sanxiantai is one of the most beautiful spots on the East Coast, an area full of beautiful geology and natural scenery. It is known for its iconic arching footbridge that leads to the island of the three immortals (Sanxiantai, literally three immortals platform). The ocean views and unique rock formations make it an ideal place to take a stroll and enjoy nature's beauty...(read more)
3. Qijin Island 旗津
Qijin Island (aka Cijin Island or Chijin Island) has one of the most accessible sandy beaches to any urban area in Taiwan. Besides the nearly 10 Km stretch of sandy shores, the island also has an old street with tasty snacks, a seafood market, a lighthouse, an ancient fort, a star tunnel, a shell museum, and much more. It is one of the most popular destinations in Kaohsiung and definitely worth a trip...(read more)
Other Islands not included above:
Waisanding Shoal (外傘頂洲): Sand bar off the coast of Yunlin County.
Wuqiu Island 烏坵島: Military islands between Kinmen and Matsu.
Pratas Island (Dongsha 東沙): Military Island in the South China Sea.
Taiping Island (Nansha 南沙): Military Island in the South China Sea.
The three northern islands: Huaping, Mianhua, and Pengjia north of Keelung.
Lalu 拉魯, which is a small island in Sun Moon Lake.
For a full list, check out this Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_of_Taiwan
General Scientific Comparison of the Islands:
Total land area size:
Average year round temperature:
Average time needed to travel there by the average traveler:
Comparison and Analysis of Taiwan's Outer Islands from a Foreign Tourist Perspective:
Note: The following comparisons and analysis have no basis in science, and are purely the opinion of the author, an American foreigner in Taiwan who has visited all of the main outer islands in Taiwan in the past four years with a young family, and some Twitter followers. Please note that these views are totally biased. The best way to see which island is the best for you is to visit each island for yourself.
Best Islands for snorkeling:
Best Islands for diving:
Best Islands for Culture:
Best Islands for Food:
Best Islands for Exploring:
Best Place for Island Hopping:
Easiest Islands to get to:
Islands with the best weather year round:
Islands with the best accommodation choices:
Most family friendly islands:
Most extreme and exciting islands:
#4 Green Island
#5 Orchid Island
According to the above, Penghu is the winner, and it is not even close. But not all categories have equal importance; some things might be more important to you than others. You really have to visit all the islands to know how each island makes you feel.
Twitter online poll:
From a poll of over 200 Twitter fans, Penghu won by a large margin but not a majority. Orchid Island and Xiaoliqiu came next, followed by Green Island. Kinmen and Matsu were not included in the poll.
You can click on the tweet above and read the comments, but I will quote some of them here:
@kendouhua: "Matsu was my favorite, followed by Lanyu/Orchid. Was going to go to Kinmen this winter break but the weather there was worse than Taipei's."
@jieruixiansheng: "蘭嶼 [Orchid Island] for the win"
@AshishDasnurkar: "I voted for Penghu. I haven't been to Orchid but I do like all others for different reasons. Xiaoliuqiu is a great 1 or 2 day trip. Green Island is fantastic for views, bike or scooter riding but overall Penghu has a lot to offer but it's also bit over crowded at times."
@ziomatrix223: "In my opinion, Lanyu (or "Pongso no Tao" in their native language) is the most beautiful and peaceful island around Taiwan… And the unique, indigenous Yami culture there is the main reason that it differs from other islands."
@ZeezyMulla: "Lanyu is definitely the most beautiful above ground and underwater. Local people are friendly and you can hike, walk, scoot around the island and every turn is something new and breathtaking."
@laorenchanna: "Orchid is the most beautiful. And at least used to be the least touristed (bet that’s changed). I also loved Matsu. But I like all the islands."
@Neighblog: "I've not been to Orchid, but of other three Green just felt the most different to the mainland. Penghu was nice but I got sunburnt so bad I had to go to hospital."
@jmsunseri: "Xiaoliuqiu was nice! I went last year for some turtle snorkeling and paddle boarding."
@josambro: "I’m partial, having once been a resident of Penghu. However, Xiao Liuqiu is definitely the most accessible."
@formosajaymac: "I would rate [Kinmen] number one, but that's probably just me. Lanyu second."
@thefrugalexpat1: "My favorite has been Penghu, but I did love Xiaoliuqiu."
From the above, you can see that the people that liked Orchid Island (Lanyu) the best were also the most vocal about it (personally I like Green Island more than Orchid Island). But, someone liked one of all the major outer islands the best, which just tells you that they are all awesome, and there is something in these islands for everyone.
Personally, I like Xiaoliuqiu the best because it is easy to get to, and has nice beaches, and sea turtles. I have also been there the most times, a total of three trips. Penghu is also great. And so are Kinmen and Green Island. Matsu and Lanyu are also cool. They are all amazing. If I had to rank the islands, I would do so as follows:
The best island is up to you to decide. I promise you will not regret visiting any of these islands. re all
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.