Lanyu (Orchid) Island in Taiwan the Radioactive Beauty?

Lanyu (Orchid) Island, Taiwan

Anyone who has been to Taiwan will certainly attest to the island’s beauty. Just off its coast lies another tourist attraction: the Lanyu Island, an exquisite little island that has its own unique traditions and culture, and offers travellers the enticing possibility to enjoy a relaxing island getaway.


Named after the indigenous Phalaenopsis (or butterfly) orchids that were once abundant on the island, Lanyu was initially declared an ethnological research area that was off-limits to the public; the island eventually became a tourist destination after the restriction was lifted in 1967. Located nearly 60 km off the south eastern coast of Taiwan, Lanyu is a small land mass that stretches for only about 45 sq km. One of Taiwan’s thirteen volcanic islands, Lanyu is covered with thick heaps of volcanic rock that resulted from eruptions thousands of years ago.

Lanyu Island is inhabited by about 4000 people, more than half of which belong to the aboriginal Tao community, an ethnic group that migrated to the region hundreds of years ago. The indigenous inhabitants lead simple lives, governed by native Taiwanese traditions; it was perhaps the restriction to travel to the island that helped preserve these heritage and lifestyle in this area more than the mainland. The natives mostly work as farmers and fisherman, with fish and other seafood serving as a major source of sustenance. Just like everything about it, the architecture of the island is also distinct, and the natives build unique abodes along hills and embankments.

Travelling to Lanyu Island

There are two ways to reach the island: by sea and by air:

  • By sea: Lanyu is accessible by boats or ferries, which leave from Taitung city’s Fukang harbour that serves as a gateway to the island. The boat trip, that takes around three hours, gives passengers a chance to enjoy the sights and wonders of the sea; in rougher conditions, however, the trip can be less enjoyable. Boats travel to and from Lanyu daily, and roundtrip tickets are available on the boats before they sail.
  • By air: Flights to Lanyu Island have a duration of about half an hour, and the daily frequency of flights depends on the weather conditions. Purchasing tickets can be tricky as there are no reservations, and the system relies on a waiting list at the check-in counter. But despite this snag, travelling by air does provide passengers a captivating bird’s eye-view of the majestic waters of the ocean.

Once on the island, you can simply travel by foot, although a more convenient way to get around is by scooter; there are also buses that take visitors around the island. Lanyu is small and it takes only a couple of hours to circumvent the island, so it can also serve as a stopover to or from another more prominent city. There are a couple of hotels and some modest restaurants on the island, but you can also opt to stay at one of the smaller hostels that are run by the locals.

What the place is famous for

Lanyu Island is best known for its natural beauty. Lanyu has picturesque coastal scenery, and its volcanic countryside is fascinating to explore. Its terrain is rocky, and because of its structure, the island has unique coastal rocks that have been carved into different shapes by the weather; viewing these works of nature has become one of the biggest attractions of the island. Looking for a bit of underwater adventure around Taiwan? Lanyu Island also provides visitors the exciting opportunity to discover the beauty of the underwater world through scuba diving, which has become a popular activity over the last decade. Tourists can see the beautiful coral reefs that surround the island and are considered to be amongst the best in this part of the world.

Yikes! What’s this I hear about Radiation?

A less pleasant reason for the island’s fame is a controversy surrounding the nuclear waste storage facility that was built there in 1982, but while the issue remains controversial, the presence of the facility should not worry you from visiting the island. All superheroes go through some sort of experience with radioactive substances – who knows, you may just become the next Fishman!

Gear Up, You Explorer!

On the whole, Lanyu Island provides tourists a chance to reconnect with nature and spend some time soaking in the beautiful environment. The small Taiwanese island showcases the preserved traditions of a people, while giving you the opportunity to both savour life and marvel at the wonders of nature. Its tropical climate, serene environment, lush vegetation, striking mountainsides, and picturesque scenery have made it a popular travel destination for couples looking for the perfect setting for their honeymoon. Best time to visit is in the summer months when you can enjoy the outdoors and lie basking under the sun on the beach.

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