Orchid Island

Overview

Introduction

It takes a fair chunk of time to get to this peaceful 17-sq-mi/44-sq-km island located 37 mi/60 km off Taiwan's southeastern coast, but it's worth the effort. There are plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkeling (take your own gear), hiking, sunning and cave exploration among beautiful and rugged scenery. Driving around the island takes about two leisurely hours—watch for coastal rock formations such as Lion Rocks, the Beauty Stone and the Battleship Fleet.

This island, called Lanyu by the locals, is home to 4,250 Yamis, one of Taiwan's indigenous tribes, and it's possible to visit the friendly people in their villages. Yami society is a strongly matriarchal one, probably of Polynesian ancestry. (The Yamis are thought to have come from the Batan Islands in the Philippines thousands of years ago.)


The best time of year to visit is in the spring, when colorful festivals celebrate the launching of the Yamis' new boats with their exquisite, delicate carvings and decorations. You can shop for Yami clay dolls, polished shells, carvings of boats and other local handicrafts, and, when they're in season, fantastic mangoes and coconuts.

Tour both the northern and southern parts of the island. If you plan to do extensive hiking, we suggest hiring a Yami guide to show you some beautiful lava flows, rock formations and excellent lava pools.

Orchid can be reached by a six-hour, often extremely rough, boat ride from Taitung, but transportation plans can be delayed (coming or going) because of strong winds. We recommend prebooking this program before leaving home—the island's three hotels are often full. 45 mi/75 km east of Kenting National Park.

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