One of my favourite places in the world is Lyudao or Green Island, off the eastern coast of Taiwan. I first visited way back in 2007 as part of my grad trip with my university friends. Back then I was happy to let my friend do all the planning and just tag along, and it ended up being one of my all time favourite places in the world.
9 years later as I embarked on my career break, I knew I had to head back to Taiwan again and Lyudao was definitely on my list of places to revisit. Would it still live up to my rosy memories? I was curious to see how Lyudao would have changed in almost a decade, and I’m quite glad that while it’s definitely modernised especially compared to neighbouring Lanyu aka Orchid Island that I also visited. But lot of Lyudao has not changed that much` my first visit – for me it remains one of the most beautiful places to see in Taiwan.
So, if you want to head to Green Island and see this lovely offshore Taiwanese island for yourself, here’s everything I know to help you get there!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GREEN ISLAND AKA LYUDAO
- How to get to Lyudao
- Where to stay on Lyudao
- Getting around Lyudao
- Things to see on Lyudao
- Experiences on Lyudao
All info is correct as of May 2016 when I visited
HOW TO GET TO LYUDAO
The journey to Lyudao is a little notorious and really dependent on the weather – the best time to go is in Summer around April. Luckily, this island is fairly close to mainland Taiwan – just one hour away even by ferry so it’s quite easy to get to. There are two ways to get there I’ve listed them here but you can also find more details and contact numbers on the Taitung tourism website.
The fastest way to get there is by plane, you’ll need to:
- Fly from Taipei’s Songshan Airport to Taitung Airport – 50mins
- Fly from Taitung Airport to Lyudao Airport – 15mins
The only airline that does the Taitung-Lyudao hop is via Daily Air – there are 6 flights in a day, though flights are often cancelled or delayed if the weather is back, especially during monsoon season. More on their website here (mostly in Chinese).
The planes are really small (19 seaters) and are often fully booked months in advance. What a lot of people do (especially when they are trying to fly off the island) is put their name down on the waiting list for the date they want to leave as soon as they arrive. After that it’s a bit of a waiting game to see if you can get a flight.
It costs about NT$3,000 (around S$133) in total for a round trip flight, but I’d only recommend this is you are really, really prone to seasickness, as you do save a fair bit as compared to the ferry. You do need to be lucky enough to score a flight though!
The other way to get there is to go by land and ferry
- Find your way to Fugang Fish Harbour – you can take a train to Taitung and then take a taxi or a bus if you time it right to Fugang
- Take a ferry from Fugang to Lyudao Nanliao Harbour – 1 hour
The first time I did this, I had a combination of really choppy waters and terribly sick people retching all around me in the cabin, so while I wasn’t seasick, it was not a pleasant journey.
The round-trip ferry ride cost me NT$920 (about S$40). The boats are considerably bigger than the planes so there’s a higher chance you can get on a boat last minute as compared to a flight.
The ferry ride should take about an hour at most. It’s an enclosed cabin and unfortunately you don’t have the option of going outside, but they have improved air circulation vastly and the seats are pretty comfortable, so I found it quite effortless. Ferries may also be cancelled if the weather is bad and seas are deemed too rough!
CAN YOU GO FROM LANYU TO LYUDAO OR VICE VERSA?
My original plan was to go from Lyudao directly to Lanyu and hopefully save myself some ferry time (Lanyu is 3 hours by ferry from Taitung) but the short answer to this question is – don’t count on it. You’ll need to ask the locals or the ticket office if any ferries are making any trips during that period during the busy summer period, but the likelihood is still quite low.
Also the funny thing is that while there may be a chance to go from Lanyu to Lyudao, you can’t get from Lyudao to Lanyu by ferry directly unless you go back to Taitung first.
WHERE TO STAY
The last time 9 years ago, we didn’t make any prior bookings because we couldn’t find much information online, but now there’s quite a fair bit available online.
This time around, I stayed at Love in Sanasai or Sanasai Inn, which is designed to look a bit like Oia in greece with its blue domes and white walls. I like its proximity to the ferry terminal – even though it’s so close by and I was planning to just walk over, the owner had a sign to greet me and gave me and my backpack a lift back to the hostel on the back of a scooter!
I stayed in the 4-bed girls dormitory which were really comfortable – fixed bunk beds with a lot of headroom, your own cupboard to stash your stuff in and curtains you could pull so it was almost like a cubicle. Also, aircon! Definitely recommended – more here! It cost me 600NTD per night – that’s about S$25 via booking.com.
GETTING AROUND ON LYUDAO
Lyudao is a really small island, especially if you compare it to Lanyu – you could circle Lyudao in about an hour of continuous riding one main road (Huan Dao Lu). Because of that, I think the best way to get around is by electric scooter as you don’t even need a driving license to rent one, and you don’t have to top up fuel either – just change the battery pack or recharge.
Electric scooters technically have a maximum speed of 40km/h, and you could rent a normal scooter if you wanted to but it just doesn’t seem necessary. Cars are also available – we rented one the first time we were here as we were in a group, but there are very few cars as compared to scooters. It feels more free to just ride solo on a scooter around the island, so I’d recommend this as the most fun way to get around!
I rented my scooter from my guesthouse at NT$600 per day. It came with a spare battery in the seat and I could swap out the batteries whenever I needed – it was nice not having to pay for fuel!
THINGS TO SEE ON LYUDAO
Lyudao is a small island, but it’s great for just chilling out on. Here are some of the things I think are worth checking out on the island. I’ll start from the harbour area in the west and move clockwise around the island.
Nan Liao Harbour
This is where the ferries arrive and depart. If you needed to rent a scooter, you can do so just outside the harbour area quite easily.
Nan Liao Village
Just north of the harbour area is the main Nan Liao village where you can find food and shops. The 7-11 and Family Mart are along this stretch as well if you want to pick up snacks or find an ATM, and the one petrol station on the island is around here too. There’s a lovely promenade of sorts where you can take a stroll along the water’s edge and admire the view while sitting on wooden benches facing the sea, it’s great for sunset! Most of the times I had meals along this stretch.
Lyudao’s airport can be found in the north west corner of the island. It’s very tiny and mostly consists of a counter and a security area.
Just off Chai Kou Village is a road that leads you to the lighthouse area. It’s free to enter, and while you can’t actually climb to the top of the lighthouse as it’s still functional, you do get a nice view of the surrounding area. There is a pretty nice pool right next to the lighthouse, good for a dip!
This is a popular spot for snorkelling and diving – I love how you can see the shore and rock pools when the tide is low – there’s a special stone path that you can walk on to prevent harming the rocks.
Human Rights Memorial
Lyudao has an infamous prison that was once used to house political prisoners during the ‘white terror’ period from the 1940s to the 1980s, where the government tried to silence its dissidents. There is still a working jail located near Zhong Liao Harbour – don’t try to enter this area! The actual memorial is located in the Lyudao Culture Park area – the large rock formations here are hard to miss. This old jail is now empty, instead filled with information boards about its history, as well as life-sized standees of people reenacting life in the jail as you peek through the doorways and windows.
Huandao Road splits into two here – the rather unpaved road leads you to Swallows Grotto or Yan Zi Dong, which is supposedly an impressive cavern by the seaside. I have no idea why I missed this though – somehow I thought I’d seen it previously but looking at pictures online I actually haven’t! >_< . Regardless, the other fork in the road goes inland and uphill, and will bring you to the eastern part of the island.
Niu Tou Shan / Ox Head Hill
Located in the northeastern corner of the island, the path to Niu Tou Shan is easy to miss – look for a little sign and parking area. You need to park your scooter and then walk on paths and grass towards the coast, where you will be rewarded with some amazing greenery and coastal views.
It is apparently named because if you approach the base of the hill from Gong Guan village, it looks like a Ox head with curling horns. I missed this the first time I was in Lyudao and was very glad to discover it this time around.
Guan Yin Dong
This limestone cave is pretty small and has a stone Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy)statue in it. Personally I don’t think it’s that interesting – you won’t need to spend that much time here. Legend is that while lost at sea, some fishermen followed a fireball that they saw to safety and that it led them to this statue, so they set up an altar for their offerings.
You Zi Hu
This abandoned little village is at the bottom of a cliff – you need to ride quite carefully down a very narrow gravel path on your scooter to get to this spot. It’s mostly stone structures left amidst flourishing greenery and a stunning beach and sea view. These ruins are supposed to be prehistoric, but they aren’t protected in anyway -you are quite free to check them out and I even spotted a rather eye catching graffiti here.
(Apparently there is a waterfall nearby which I didn’t know about! This blog post has more info)
Hai Sheng Ping / Xiao Chang Cheng
The Hai Sheng Ping bay remains my favourite place in Lyudao, mostly because it has an amazing view overlooking the famous Pekinese Dog and Sleeping Beauty Rocks. The path that leads to the viewing towers is called Xiao Chang Cheng, which translates into Little Great Wall. It’s an easy climb though, and I’d take some food along and have a little picnic at the viewing terraces because it’s just so pretty!
Zhao Ri Hot Spring
Probably one of my favourite hot springs in the world. This is one of the few saltwater ones by the sea, and commands the most amazing sunrise view if you make your way to the outermost pool. Don’t bother going too early as they will only let you in closer to sunrise, but if you are quick enough you can save yourself a nice scenic spot to soak. Entrance is NT$200 and you can buy it at the door – I got mine directly from my hostel owner the day before though.
There is also a trough where you can cook some food in hot spring water – I like Hot Spring eggs – you can easily buy eggs or vegetables or even prawns from the town, but make sure to bring some extras so you can test out optimal boiling time. I only had 2 eggs and dropped 1 of them >_<
Fan Chuan Bi
This viewpoint is right next to the Hot Springs, so if you rather not pay to enter the Hot Springs, head up here instead. It’s a short climb up some stairs and you have an entire green patch of grass to loll about on.
Great White Beach / Da Bai Sha
This is perhaps the prettiest beach on Lyudao with lovely white sand, good to just chill out on. It’s also nice for snorkeling and has a long platform like the one in Chai Kou.
EXPERIENCES ON LYUDAO
Here’s a list of what you can do besides explore the island:
- Snorkeling – This is quite common and easy to arrange. You usually get a wetsuit and snorkel and the guide will pull you along on a floating ring. Or consider renting or bringing your own gear and just heading out on your own to snorkel at Chai Kou or Da Bai Sha Beach
- Scuba Diving – I managed to find some time to do a little diving here and saw the famous Mushroom Rock while it was still standing. It has since fallen over unfortunately! It cost me NT$3,650 for 2 dives.
- Night Tour with a Local Guide – Explore the island by night and check out the wildlife. I did this tour the first time I was here and saw some of the local deer, frogs and even an endemic stick insect
- Eat flying fish – summer is flying fish season and you should definitely order a lovely deep fried flying fish dish for dinner!
I hope this little guide helps you get to Lyudao aka Green Island! It’s definitely seeing more tourists than when I first visited back in ’07, especially during the summer season. But it’s relative remoteness means that it’s still not crazy crowded so you can find lots of quiet spots to chill out at away from the crowds.
Have you been to Green Island? Drop a comment here if you have and share this with your friends that you want to visit Taiwan with!