Sure-footed goat on the Dragon’s Head Rock, at Lanyu’s southernmost tip

The only detailed guide to Lanyu in English is in The Islands of Taiwan, on pages 195-216.

The only detailed guide to Lanyu in English is in The Islands of Taiwan, on pages 195-216.

 According to a couple of local girls we got talking to while hiking up to the marvellous Heaven Lake (天池), Lanyu (蘭嶼, Orchid Island) isn’t as quiet as it was a few years ago, but for me, as a first-time visitor, it’s an absolutely magical outpost of Taiwan, unlike anywhere else in the country; it’s far more rugged and pristine even than Green Island, its nearest  neighbour, and although the numbers of visitors prepared to put up with the three-hour boat ride over from the Taiwanese mainland are increasing (on summer weekends at least), so far Lanyu, like the smaller islands of the Matsu group, remains blessedly undeveloped, tourism-wise, in comparison with Green island, Penghu or Kinmen.  

Kaiyuan Harbor, the main harbor on Lanyu, on the island’s west coast

    To get to Lanyu, you first have to get yourself to either Taidong or Kenting; boats from each of these places cross the ocean to Lanyu in 3 and 2.5 hours respectively. Unfortunately our trip across from Taidong took nearly six, after thick grey smoke emanating from the direction of the engine half way through the voyage caused a brief emergency. Green Island had already receded into the distance, and Lanyu was still just a distant blotch of dark color ahead, and while the ship’s engineer dashed around looking harried, passengers crowded off the outside deck into the cabin to escape the thick fumes: a few worried souls even rushed to put on their life jackets!  Luckily the problem was fixed without the boat bursting into flames, but the remainder of the trip was taken at half speed, and it seemed as though we’d never reach dry land!

The north coast of Lanyu, looking west from below the lighthouse

   First impressions of Lanyu as we rounded the rugged northwestern point of the island and limped down the eastern coast was quite spectacular. Lanyu is a real, rugged volcanic island, but also an amazingly lush one. This place isn’t so much a green island as an emerald one.


   Members of the  Dawu tribe make up the vast majority of the population, although Taiwanese settlers have been coming in in increasing numbers over the last few years, setting up homestays all around the island to supplement the couple of rather dour hotels that were once the only places to stay here. It seemed to me that much of Lanyu’s increasingly lucrative  tourist economy seems to be enriching the pockets of the Taiwanese rather than the Dawu. All the big expenses of the trip – the hotel (NT$1,600 a night), and the boat fare (a seriously steep NT$2,000 for a return trip of 62 kilometers each way) seem to be run by Mainlanders; only the eateries we ate at each night, the little corner stores where we bought food and drink, and a couple of shops selling simple but pretty, handmade souvenirs using aboriginal designs were locally owned.

The main street in Hongtou village

    A loop around the road circling Lanyu is 36 kilometers long (exactly twice the length the road around Green Island), so a set of wheels is pretty much essential. Our scooter was at the port to greet us, which was just as well as it’s five kilometers from the little harbor to our hotel, in the island’s main settlement, an untidy jumble of buildings known as Hongtou (紅頭). By various accounts, the machines for rent on Lanyu  are in pretty poor nick.  A fine jet of gas spurted out of the first bike we tried as we filled its tank; we were luckier with the next one, which didn’t leak, although the brakes hardly worked and the engine roared like a tractor. Still, it got us around, and Lanyu is a fantastic place to explore, whether on the back of a bike, on foot, or with mask and snorkle.

Old Man Rock

The scenery around the island is simply superb. Bizarre coral or volcanic formations such as the Jade Girl Rock (玉女岩) and the Twin Lions (雙獅岩) are familiar from tourist brochures, but the whole island is a showcase of bizarrely eroded rocks, such as the huge rock stack known as the Old Man (老人岩), the weird contortions of the Dragon’s Head (龍頭岩), and (my favorite) the stunning Mantou Rock (饅頭岩), which looks like a rough, pointed pinnacle from the north, but when seen from the south turns into a shapely, symmetrical dome rising out of the blue sea, looking just like one of those steamed bread buns found in  7-Eleven.


   We never got organised enough to hire out snorkeling gear to explore underwater, although we heard that diving and snorkeling are both superb here, but I can vouch for Lanyu’s hiking as being the finest in all Taiwan’s offshore islands. Lanyu is a pretty rugged place (its highest point is 551 meters high), and most of the interior is guarded by a rampart of extremely steep slopes, covered in thick, dense undergrowth and infested with a nasty red bug called the tsutsugamushi mite, whose bite causes a serious, sometimes fatal infection which together contrive to make the center well-nigh inaccessible. However there are several places to get into the interior with relative ease and safety.

Heaven Lake, reached by a steep but scenic hike

Hidden in the highlands of the interior close to the island’s southern tip, Heaven Lake (天池)  is a startlingly large body of water for such a small island. This natural lake, nestling in thick forest about 350 meters above sea level is reached by the island’s best hike: a steep, muddy trail (70 – 90 minutes each way). Get there early if going on a summer weekend . Despite being a hot, and in one place quite tricky, climb, Heaven Lake seems to be a compulsory part of the Lanyu tour for the Taiwanese, and hundreds of them were clambering up as  we headed back down. On the other hand, you might want to forget it  after heavy rain, when the trail would probably be reduced to a slippery and dangerous quagmire.

Little Heavenly Lake is dry most of the year, but the area is stunningly beautiful, and seems to be free of the masses that descend on the larger Heaven Lake (in the south of the island) on weekends

  Far less popular it seems is the Little Heaven Lake (小天池;  apparently there’s only water in it for a short period after a typhoon), close to the island’s northwestern tip. It’s a short but scenic hike out there from the road up to the lighthouse, and side trails  lead to the edge of the cliffs with great, lonely views over Lanyu’s impressive coastal landscape. Overgrown trails continue into the interior, but the very real threat presented by the tsutsugamushi mites here mean it’s probably not worth the risk.

Jade Girl Rock

  With a sea that blue and beaches that deserted, not going in once during our three days on the island was a shameful missed opportunity which I swear I’ll put right on my next visit, but we did get in a full afternoon soaking in one of the island’s best-kept secrets – its wonderful cold springs.  Green Island’s seaside hot springs seem to be common knowledge these days to locals and foreigners alike, yet I hadn’t heard a peep about the similar but completely undeveloped coastal springs on Lanyu (on the east coast, a kilometer or so southeast of Yehin (野銀) village) until an hour or two before I found myself soaking in them. Unlike the bath-hot waters of Green Island, the springs at Lanyu are cold, but the flow is powerful enough to flood a whole system of  rock pools (both shallow and surprisingly deep) in the coral with fresh water, and it’s heated by the sun  until swimming-pool warm. Wear footwear as the jagged coral is painfully spiky in places. Sea water mixes into the pools closer to the sea, and the brackish water hosts an amazing variety of colorful tropical fish, which we enjoyed, thanks to a handy pair of swimming goggles. We were far from alone here, but most people stayed in the pool furthest from the sea, with its soft coral-sand floor, leaving the rockier pools beyond to us and a handful of others. The place is so natural, unspoilt and beautiful, it’s hard not to regret the concrete pools and changing rooms (however discreetly low-key they are) that have compromised the natural  spectacle of the far better-known springs at Green island.

The cold springs at Yehin

   Lanyu’s natural heritage enchants, but what truly makes the island unique and memorable is its aboriginal culture. Old traditions are dying out, and (outside of traditional events such as the flying fish festival in spring) the only place you’re likely to see male tribe members in their traditional thongs and metal helmets is in photos hung on the walls of a couple of souvenir shops around the island, but this still feels utterly un Han Chinese.  Lanyu’s famous canoes are a conspicuous presence in bays around the island, and although it’s clear some of them at least are there for tourists, a few of them are definitely meant for serious use. The island’s famous underground houses are nowhere to be seen in five of the six villages around the island these days, replaced by functional but thoroughly commonplace concrete box houses.  However a whole area of the village of Langdao (朗島), on the north coast, consists of these traditional Lanyu residences, and although some are falling into ruin, some are still preserved, and even lived in. Next to each is the elevated portion of the residence, where flying fish are laid out to dry and the males of the family have their long siesta, while closer to the seashore a row of long, narrow structures are also shelters, each housing a family boat.

Pigs roam the streets of Lanyu’s settlements in generous numbers. These two are best friends, we were told, growing up together!

   Walking along the narrow paths through the traditional part of the village is a slightly uncomfortable experience. It’s clear that the aboriginals are fed-up with insensitive tourists, and just being there seems a bit of an invasion. An old man resting in one of the huts-on-stilts glowered at me as I passed through, and asked for NT$200 to take a photo – the first time I’ve been asked for money in exchange for a photo in all my 17 years in Taiwan.   Lanyu’s menfolk in general seem to be going through a depressed time. All around the island, we saw them passing the day laying and dozing in these raised shelters, which offer shade from the sun, yet catch the breeze blowing in from the ocean. Some of the younger men get work at weekends as guides taking groups up to Heaven Lake, and some go fishing, but otherwise it looks like there’s little work to go around.


   What with a nuclear waste dump (which can still be seen, with attached harbor, at the southern tip of the island) and unpleasant past experiences at the hands of rude tourists, Lanyu’s people are, at first glance, far less open than the Taiwanese.  While we never met anyone who could be called unfriendly (apart from that poor old man at Langdao), and did meet a number of people who greeted us with a smile, I (a Western, light-skinned, brown-haired tourist)  had the unique (for Taiwan) distinction of being more-or-less ignored by many of the locals, and I felt almost invisible at times, so it was especially touching being invited to join a very unusual and memorable church service in a cave on the island’s north shore on Sunday morning, our last day on Lanyu. Quite by chance we were passing the Five Hole Cave (五孔洞), a series of large caverns piercing one of the island’s highest vertical cliff faces, and heard the mellifluous strains of aboriginal singing coming from one of the caves. Standing well back from the congregation, which sheltered in the shade of the cave, an aboriginal man came up behind me, motioned for me to walk up and join the singers, and gave me a low plastic chair to sit on.

Sunset at Dongqing

   There were more friendly, relaxed locals at the east-coast village of Dongqing (東请), which I thought easily the nicest and most interesting of Lanyu’s six settlements. Set on one of the island’s loveliest bays, below the suggestively named Nipple Mountain (乳頭山; a trail leads to the top of the craggy little hill, from where the view is quite breathtaking), the village compliments its outstanding natural setting with the island’s liveliest social event: the daily afternoon/night market, where you can buy grilled flying fish (very tasty but with zillions of tiny bones!) and barbecued mountain pig, along with more familiar Taiwanese delicacies such as stinky dofu, shaved ice and pearl milk tea.

The impressive Mantou Rock looms a hundred meters above the surrounding ocean

The locals here are very friendly and happy to see respectful tourists, and chatted happily until we finally broke off the conversation to gawk at the clouds turning bright pink. Another magnificent Lanyu sunset (we were treated to two, each of rare beauty),- it would have been an even more awesome sight if we’d been on the west coast!  One of the stalls at Dongqing is manned by a decidedly Western-looking face; Leon, originally from Canada, is the only Westerner currently living on Lanyu, with his aboriginal wife. It’s well worth paying his stall a visit: the friendly and voluble Canadian cooks great grilled pork and sausages, and is  a mine of information and fun stories. Ask him about his river tracing trip into the interior of the island….

View from the summit of Nipple Mountain, Dongqing

GETTING THERE: It’s only really worth going to Lanyu between late spring and early fall; the weather, according to locals, is truly horrible in winter, and at that time transport to the island is hard to find. Transport and lodging facilities on Lanyu are both still quite limited, so if you’re going on a weekend in the height of summer (as we did) you should book a couple of weeks early.  Small planes fly several times daily from Taidong to Lanyu, but they’re extremely heavily booked (I’ve heard some Taiwanese book the trip six months in advance!), and are delayed or cancelled in bad weather.  The ferry from Taidong (there are also boats from Houbihu (後壁湖) in Kenting) is much easier to book, although times of sailings don’t seem to be fixed. Try the Lanyu Star website for details (in Chinese only): although you’ll need to make a phone call to check times of sailings and make a booking. Most ferries seem to dock in Green Island on the way/from Lanyu, so it’s possible to visit both islands in one trip.


   Most homestays on Lanyu are booked solid for months in advance, but there are a couple of hotels in Hongtou   village which have many rooms and seem easy to book at short notice. The best resource for information (and about the only really good map I’ve seen of the island) is the guide (in Chinese only) to Taidong County published by Outdoor Life Books Co. Ltd, and available in nearly all bookshops. The book has sections on both Green Island and Lanyu, and a good list of accommodation on both islands, with phone numbers, plus contact numbers of ferry companies.

On the east coast

 More photos:

39 thoughts on “Lanyu

  1. Hi Richard,

    I have been trying to source information on camping on Lanyu but to no avail. I guess there is no campsite available on the island.
    We are planning a cycle camping around the islands of Lanyu and Green island. Where do you think is the best bet location around Lanyu for camping.

    Great write up.

    Camping in Taiwan

    • Thanks, Spencer,
      To be honest although I didn’t see anyone camping while on Lanyu, I wasn’t really looking either! I’m pretty sure there’s no official campsite (even hotels and homestays are in short supply, compared with the multitudes of places to stay on Green Island). If, however, you were to camp out rough and pack up the next morning fairly early, I don’t suppose you’d have any problems.
      Unfortunately most of Lanyu is either too mountainous, too overgrown or (usually) both, but the Qing Qing Grasslands (behind the Old Man Rock in the far south of the island) immediately spring to mind as a good place to camp if it’s not too windy, as the grass in many places is quite short cropped, you’re well away from any village, and the scenery is magnificent; plus you shouldn’t have to worry about getting bitten by those nasty bugs which are apparently quite a problem on the island (and in parts of Taiwan too: I’ve had friends who all came down with scrub typhus after getting bitten – probably by a similar nasty – while hiking in the southern mountains of Taiwan). I suppose the banks of Heavenly Lake would also be a nice place if you can lug your gear up there (it’s a good hour’s hike even if you travel light, and there’s a short near-vertical section which might be tricky with gear, although continue up the little gully past the roped ascent and there’s a much easier (if less fun) alternative trail climbing up a few meters further on the left).
      Hope you have a great trip; it’s a really magnificent place!

  2. Hi Richard,

    I just wanted to write and thank you for the information provided on this site, and at the same time leave a few comments on my recent trip (last week of April, 2011) for the benefit of anyone else who might be planning a visit.
    Searching around on the Internet, it was difficult to find much information in English about Lanyu, so your inside scoop was quite helpful. Like yourself, I have lived in Taiwan for quite some time (since 1989), and had for many years thought about making a trip over to the island. However, for a variety of reasons, many previous attempts to make the trip were thwarted; primarily because typhoons seemed to magically appear whenever a window of opportunity appeared and I got really serious about a trip. Most of what you wrote here on your site seems pretty on the mark.
    My wife and I made the trip via the ferry out of Houbi Hu(Hou bi hu); about a 20-minute drive southwest of Kenting. After hearing all of the horror stories, I must say that I was actually a bit disappointed with the boat ride over. A local in Lanyu said that the waves were “medium” the day that we arrived, but the ride was pretty smooth, and there was none of the throwing up everywhere that I was told that I would surely be subjected to. Going back the sea was a bit choppier, but still people slept through it.
    Based on what you wrote here, I decided to choose a homestay in Dongqing. This particular one was much more expensive than most others that I researched online (a good list of homestays can be found, in Chinese, here:, but still OK. Although we went through each of the villages, I can’t really compare them too authoritatively because we were only on the island for three days and didn’t thoroughly ivestigate everything. Generally, though, I didn’t see much difference in the levels of friendliness between the villages. Everyone was pretty comparable to what you would find in a small town or aboriginal area on the mainland. You do, however, sometimes get that Pacific islander vibe where guys hanging drinking, night or day, look at you like “what are you doing here?” Women and children generally seem to ignore you unless you are buying something. My wife is Taiwanese, and my spoken Chinese is passable, so communication wasn’t a problem, and I can’t really assess the English ability level there, but I think you’d have a different experience there if you tried to rely only on English.
    We rented a scooter from the homestay. The Lonely Planet travel guide says you might want to just walk around the island. I don’t see that as a very practical choice. It’s noteworthy that there’s only one gas station on the island (located near the ferry harbor). If you run out of gas on the other side of the island, you’re SOL, so be sure to fill up.
    We did the Heaven Lake hike, and it was nice. I’m a bit past my prime and not a regular hiker, so I was huffing and puffing at times, and realistically, there are a couple of brief points there that require actual climbing as opposed to hiking, so it’s not for everybody. We were told that the mite that you mentioned in this site is no longer a problem on the island. I’m not sure how that could have changed so quickly, but that’s what our guide said as both he and I hiked in shorts.
    Due to morning and evening haze, we didn’t get to see any sunrises or sunsets, nor were there any great views to be had from the Heaven Lake trek. However, there is a road that runs up to a weather station on top of a northern mountain that provides some really nice west coast views. There are no lights on the road if you get caught there after dark, and if you go off the road there, you’ll really be going off the road.
    Generally, we had a good time in Lanyu. The food was good, and the people were nice enough. However, if that’s the last bastion of Taiwanese aboriginal culture, it is a sad statement for the other tribes. Truthfully, while there is, indeed, a more aboriginal feel there, for the most part, it is not tremendously different than other really rural parts of Taiwan or other Taiwanese islands. Maybe that’s just the perspective of a longtime Taiwanese resident, and more probably it’s because we were outsiders there for only three days. In any case, it wasn’t quite intriguing enough that we will be rushing back in the near future.
    Sorry Richard. I didn’t mean to try to hijack your site. It’s just that you’ve got a great site here, and it seemed like a practical place to share our experience with others that might be planning a trip to Lanyu. I know reading about your experience was a great help to us.


    P.S. It seems that Leon must have returned to Canada. Apparently, no foreigners live on Lanyu now.

  3. Hi Russ,
    Thanks for all the info! Sounds like you had a great time on Lanyu. I’ll be back this summer I hope: Lanyu is one of my favorite corners of Taiwan – maybe it was the summer weather we had on our trip that made the difference, but I found the place magical! Sorry to hear Leon’s gone; he was a fun bloke.

  4. Hi Richard, while searching for more info on Lanyu, i accidently landed up on your blog and found it very informative.
    I am in taiwan for a conference in Nov second week and somehow Lanyu seem to have fascinated me to make a dash there. But i am unable to get thrugh links with home stays specially budgetd ones.

    Also Is Nov second half a goos time to visit Lanyu??/// Also i plan to take off for about 10 days to explore Taiwan things which are very much unique to taiwan Any advise.
    I have generally used Couch and Hostelling International mostly in my out of countyr travels.


  5. Richard,
    We just returned from Taiwan and spent 2 days on Lanyu and loved it. While we were there we had dinner in a small restaurant the owner showed us this old book they had that had very old pictures of Lanyu before it had the roads, most of the pictures were in black and white. Are you aware of this book and where we might could buy it?

  6. Hi,

    I have been trying (so gar infructuously) to find out when the Yami (Tao) Launch Boat Festival in Lanyu is taking place this year…Could you please help or point me in the right direction?


    • Hi Pablo,
      You’d probably do best having a Chinese speaker approach either Lanyu Township office ( or phone a couple of homestays there for info- the Lanyu Township website list of activites seems hopelessly out of date, the other sites I’ve found so far either offer the same basic tourist info (homestays, places to see etc) or are aimed at residents. If you happen to find an online source that has any useful info, please let me know. I’ll be in Lanyu in a couple of months and hope to track down some reliable channels for finding out info on the various festivals and rituals on the island (for next year…)

      Good luck!

  7. Hi Richard,
    Some wonderful information here – thank you.
    I am planning a trip to Lanyu, hoping to take the boat from Kending. Do you have any tips on where to book tickets? I’ve scoured the internet, to no avail. Perhaps I should just go to a travel agency and ask them there. Did you buy your boat tickets in advance?
    Many thanks,

  8. Howsit Richard, just wandering if you saw any decent surf on Lanyu? Ive been to Ladyu (green island) and saw some potential but no waves.. Lanyu apparently has proper sand bottom beaches too? Any info would help. Thanks mate. John

    • Hi John, Lanyu has a few smallish beaches but nothing as big as Green Island – it’s a lot rockier, probably too much so for surfing; I’m not sure how the land shelves away underwater either. But so few people (relatively) make it there that it’s really, really undeveloped. I think the biggest no-no for lugging a surfboard down there though is the likely reaction of the Dawu (the aboriginal inhabitants) – they’re still very traditional and have an long and impressive list of taboos, including things such as who can fish in which patch of water, a beach where only women can swim etc, that are observed to this day, so I think you run the risk of offending someone by dropping a board in and having a go. If you speak Chinese though you could always head down there and there and ask around – they’re friendly people, and the island is stunning, of course!
      Good luck!

  9. Dear Richard,
    This is most helpful and with stunning photographs! I’ve gleaned quite a bit of information from reading your blog… and am inspired to start up my own from travels! Thanks so much for being there to document and tend to our inquiries!

    We’ll try to head to Lanyu at the end of Oct. Hopefully, there will be no Typhoons! 🙂

  10. Hi Richard,

    We are trying to plan a trip to Lanyu, and wondered if you have any information about booking flights from Taitung to Lanyu in advance, with out actually visiting Taitung before we need to fly. We have tried the Daily Air website but it’s all in Chinese and we have no one that can help us with that at the moment!!

    Also – do you know much about scuba diving from the island?

    • Hi Samantha,
      Thanks for writing! The Daily Air website is a pain as it because as you say it’s only in Chinese, but if you’re flying out to Lanyu at this time of year there’s a good chance you can just get on a flight at Taitung airport without having to book, or at least get on standby the same day. However flights are often cancelled during the winter, if the weather doesn’t cooperate. By the way if you pre-book accomodation on the island there’s a chance your hosts might be able to book the flights for you.
      As for diving, this time of year is of course low season, and you might have trouble organising something. Having said that a friend was in Lanyu a couple of months ago and managed to sort something out just by asking around, although you’ll need Chinese ability for that. Diving this time of year is easier to arrange in nearby Green Island. You could try contacting English-speaking Green Island Adventures ( They do also organise trips on Lanyu and might be able to help out there as well. Good luck and have a great trip!

  11. Hey Richard. Thanks for posting. Was amazing to see these photos. A friend and I were planning to visit here. I was wondering if you knew of hotel or other accommodations available.

    Many thanks,

  12. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for all of this information and gorgeous photos. We will be going there at the end of this month. Could you please suggest how to hire a motorbike? Could you also please suggest some accommodation? Lovely post, the best there is on Lanyu! Thanks!
    BTW, do you think we will make it one time if we use the 3:30 ferry to get Taitung and the last overnight train to Taipei?

    Thanks a ton!


    • Hi Cymthia, Hope you enjoy Lanyu! Hiring a scooter once you’re on the island is really easy – if someone doesn’t approach you at the ferry terminal simply ask your homestay, or in the tourist info booth at the airport – they rent scooters to arrivals. As for finding accomodation, it’s generally pretty simple once you arrive, if you speak Chinese. On my last trip someone approached me.
      You’d be safer allowing a day or two of leeway at the end of the trip though, as boats (and planes) are often cancelled, especially outside of the summer months, and there may not even be a boat everyday. Best to double-check first, and give yourself a cushion in case you can’t get off the island the day you want.

    • Hope you have a great trip!

      Richard SaundersPhone: (02) 8809-2790Cell: 0921-252-144 – Off the Beaten Track: ablog documenting my travels around Taiwan and elsewhere Updates, revisions, photos, and more from my two Taipei Escapes books Photos, revisions etc from my book Yangmingshan: the Guide

  13. Hi Richard,
    Like the rest we stumbled upon your site while searching for info on Lanyu. It’s a great help, thank you so much. Your a lucky person being able to go their once every so often.
    I was wandering though if you have any more information on hotels, B&B’s or any other accomodation?

    Thank you so much,

    Greetings from Amsterdam

    • Thanks Shanna; glad you like the blog! As for accommodation on Lanyu, it’s difficult to find and book in advance unless you read Mandarin, and even then most of it isn’t online; I mention a couple of places in my book The Islands of Taiwan (available in bookshops in Taipei!) I always just turn up and find a homestay upon arrival – there are quite a few small places scattered around the six villages, and unless there’s a big event you should have no problem finding somewhere when you get there (there’s a small tourist office across the road from the harbour, down the road through the Lanyu Boat gate, which should be able to help with a bed if you speak Chinese). Hope you have a great time!

  14. Hello again, just wanted to give you a headsup the link for the ferry on this page does not work. Thanks again for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

    • Hi; thanks for writing! I’ve never been to Lanyu in winter, but several different friends have, and say the weather was OK. IT’s not as sunny as Kenting, but what what they say it’s not a ‘no-go’ area like Penghu or Matsu in February! The main problem will be transport out there – boats are uncommon this time of year (and only go from Taidong) and planes can also be disrupted by windy weather or poor visibility. Also around CNY of course, all transport gets packed out – Lanyu itself could well be unusually crowded.
      If this is your only chance to see the amazing Lanyu, then it’s certainly worth trying to get there over CNY; if you can postpone till the summer though, Kenting (despite the crowds) would make for a more relaxing trip for CNY – loads of places to get away from everyone if you hire a scooter, plus the weather will be better, hopefully, with some sun!

  15. hi Richard! thx for yr amazing blog… just looking ard for info for my upcoming trip to Lanyu in early May n hit yr blog! it is such a great read! just a tot – is it safe for a woman to venture alone there & is there any website that tells us abt e schedule of ferry between Lanyu n Green Island? cos my frens will be diving at Green Island for a couple of days n I wanted to explore Lanyu while they r diving…

    • Thanks, and glad you like the blog!! Unfortunately in my experience although there are ‘timetables’ there seems to be no fixed schedule that is actually stuck to for boats to Lanyu. You can try phoning 089 281 503 (Lanyu Star), one of the ferry companies that run this route, or (they specialize in Green Island, but may be able to hope with the ferry to Lanyu as well. Alternatively if you book your accommodation in advance they should be able to help you with ferry times. And yes, Lanyu should be absolutely OK for single women – I’ve never seen any very drunk Yami on my visits, and in fact the aboriginals are generally either very welcoming or tend to ignore foreigners, so you should have trouble whatsoever. Enjoy your trip: Lanyu is one of Taiwan’s very, very finest corners!

  16. Hi Richard,

    Nice blog! Like others, I’m having a hard time trying to find accomodations in Lanyu, and am hoping you can recommend places with websites and/or email? I was also hoping to find a tourguide who can take us around the island and give us some background of the locals, but the only guide I could find hasn’t responded to my email. Do you know any English speaking guides on the island?

    I will be going in the beginning of October, and am also looking for dive shop info. If you know of any reputable companies, please let me know.

    I’m travelling with my 80 year old father…wondering if the water will be too choppy for him to snorkel in October? Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Penny, thanks for writing! Lanyu is utterly unlike the rest of Taiwan, and has only the most basic facilities, with little accommodation, not many food opportunities no medical facilities that will really help, and transport communication with mainland Taiwan can be unstable from October onward, so please be sure you know exactly what you’ll be getting yourselves into if you go! Diving facilities there are also not very well developed, and the waters are notoriously choppy and currents strong, especially in winter, although you could try contacting Green Island Adventures, who may be able to help you out if you really want to go. Personally I’d suggest you try Green Island instead, which has far, far better facilities, is closer and much better connected to Taiwan, and is still extremely beautiful. There are also more dive spots, with some more sheltered places. Green Island has a website (in English) with accommodation options, or you can try my book, the Islands of Taiwan (on sale in bookshops in Taipei). Hope you both have a great trip!

  17. I just arrived here and i have a big emotion. Why ? I am from french polynesian country, whose name is wallis and futuna islands. 3000 years ago, people left taiwan and travelled all around the big ocean. 3000 years after, i was surprised tbat people had co served same words….like taliga for ear, gusu for mouth, mata for eyes, tolu for 3, lima for 5, fitu for 7, fatu for stones….
    Austronesian languages are effectively divided in formosan section and malayo polynesian one.
    i found same plantation of talo on the island, same characteristic


  18. Great blog, wonderful photos of Lanyu. It’s sad for me to read that the island seems to be somewhat of a tourist mecca, now, to the detriment of the relationship between visitors and locals.

    I visited Lanyu in the late 1970’s, when half the population still lived in the traditional semi-subterranean dwellings, while the other half had been forced into government-issue cement houses. The people were friendly and wonderful! We stayed at a hostel near the airport (the only accommodations on the island) which served meals. The older men all wore the loincloth, and at the time, it was “fashionable” to wear what appeared to be used men’s suiting jackets with bare legs hanging out. I was there during the traditional New Year, when all the young people were home from college, and they were very welcoming, unbelievably so! Back then, Lanyu was a tourist destination undiscovered by Westerners, including the Western students who studied in universities around Taiwan. My travel companion was one of those students, and she was the only one in her student group and university in Taipei to visit the island.

    I’m glad to read that at least the canoe tradition is alive, and the flying fish festival. I’m saddened by the news that Lanyu is now the site of a nuclear waste dump. That really says something about the Taiwanese/Chinese attitude toward the islanders–nothing has changed in that regard!

    Thank you for your blog. Best wishes.

    • Thanks for the fascinating writeup! It sounds like Lanyu was even more amazing back in the 70s. It’s still pretty undeveloped, and not nearly as spoilt as many other parts of Taiwan, because it remains tricky to reach and with no luxury hotels (yet!), so it’s still an amazing place to visit, but it must have been even more amazing when you were there! Thanks, Richard

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