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(Taiwan) - Volcanic island – Lanyu – Orchid Island

Lanyu (蘭嶼) or the Orchid Island is a tiny island located 60 km off the south east of Taiwan. Though stretching for merely 45sq km, the small island with its serene locale, is one of the most popular destinations of Taiwan. It is called Orchid Island because of the butterfly orchids that once grew there in abundance. It is a wonderfully interesting, friendly and unspoiled weekend destination and well worth a visit.

Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan
Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan

There are no beaches of note and much of its rugged mountainous hinterland is inaccessible, but the island nevertheless boasts a verdant picture postcard beauty. Orchard Island was once populated by just the Yami tribe, which made its living raiding villages and breaking heads in Taiwan, as well as in China's Fujian Province. Orchid Island is home to around 3,200 people, most of whom are Yami, or are descendants of the tribe. Islanders rely on farming wet and dry taro, yams and millet and they also rear pigs and goats. Sinicization programs, which ran from the mid-1950s until as recently as 1980, have been responsible for the collapse of much of the traditional Yami way of life.

How to get there

Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan
Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan

The island is accessible by sea or air.
Daily Air (德安航空) is the airline to offer flights to Orchid Island. The flight duration is half an hour and the daily frequency (six flights per day) is dependent on weather conditions. Purchasing tickets for these flights is problematic, however, as unless visitors have an exceptional amount of political clout the company doesn't take reservations.

Ferry trips to the island is available from Taitung's Fukang harbor. Two boats run daily trips to and from Orchid Island, and both are based out of Fukang Harbor in Taitung. Roundtrip tickets cost between NT$2,000 and NT$1,550 and are available on the boat before sailing time.


Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan
Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan

There are a couple of hotels on the island but neither the Lanyu Ocean International Hotel (蘭嶼海洋國際飯店) or the Lanyu Hotel (蘭嶼別館) could be described as four-star in quality. And their prices are not cheap.

The best way to enjoy a few days is to stay at one of the many smaller hostels run by locals. Costing from NT$300 to NT$500 per night the hostels are clean and offer both single and dorm rooms. Guests are allowed to use the kitchens and some owners will even offer to cook for their visitors.

There are hostels in five of the island's major townships, but if you're looking for a picturesque and rustic setting, then one of the best villages to stay in is Yehyin (野銀村). Located on the west side of the island, it's home to 100 people and is the only place on the island where village elders still reside in traditional Yami underground housing.

How to get around

Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan
Lanyu - Orchid Island - Taiwan
Visitors can circumnavigate Orchid Island on foot in a couple of days, but the best way to see it is to rent a scooter. The condition of the scooters isn't that great and chances are that either the speedometer, gas gauge, or both, will not work. But with daily rental costing an average of NT$300 per-day you can't really complain.

Helmets are not mandatory, but do take care as gravel trucks, cement mixers and buses can cause problems for the unwary. In addition to large vehicles, sections of the road are in pretty bad shape and there are plenty of blind corners.

Visitors can also explore the island by bus. It traverses the island every hour from between 8:30am and 4:30pm.

Some necessary information for Lanyu travel:
Yehyou village (椰油村): The Lanyu Ocean International Hotel (蘭嶼海洋國際飯店), call (089) 229 482.

Hongtou village (紅頭村): The Lanyu Hotel (蘭嶼別館), call (089) 342 226.

Yehyin village (野銀村):
The Fuyin Hostel ( 恩民宿), call (089) 732 763.
The Yinhui Hostel (恩惠民宿), call (089) 732 979.
Yehyou village (椰油村):
The Lanshang Hostel (籃翔民宿), call (089) 732 236.
Hongtou village (紅頭村):
The Lanyu Hostel (蘭嶼民宿中心) (089) 731 601.
Yuren village (魚人村):
The Mingyun (明霞民宿) (089) 732 554.

Air transport
Daily Air Corporation (德安航空), call (089) 362 489.

Sea transport
The Golden and Common Star Ferries (金星/恆星), call (089) 281 477.

(Wiki, Taiwan and Taipei)

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