Taiwan is one of the most unsung tourist destinations in all of Asia, its modern emergence as an economic and industrial powerhouse still overshadowing the staggering breadth of natural, historic and culinary attractions this captivating island has to offer.
A fascinating mix of technological innovation and traditional Chinese and aboriginal cultures and cuisines, Taiwan is one of the only places on earth where ancient religious and cultural practices still thrive in an overwhelmingly modernist landscape.
On any given day, the casual visitor can experience this unique juxtaposition of old and new, witnessing time-honored cultural practices while still taking in technological milestones such as the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, and the new High Speed Rail that links the island’s two largest cities.
Beyond the narrow corridor of factories and crowded cities along Taiwan’s west coast is a tropical island of astounding beauty, with by far the tallest mountains in northeast Asia and some of the region’s most pristine and secluded coastline. Add to this the impressive array of cuisines - with specialties from all corners of China as well as authentic aboriginal and Japanese fare - and you’ve got one of the world’s most well-rounded and hospitable holiday destinations.
Though the Republic of China's territory includes dozens of small islands in the Taiwan Strait and the Pacific, the main island known as Taiwan covers the vast majority of the land area under Taiwanese administration. Almost two-thirds of Taiwan is covered by mountains, with 258 peaks over 3,000m (9,850ft), most of them heavily forested. The highest of these, Yushan (Jade Mountain), is northeast Asia's tallest mountain at 3,952m (13,042ft).
While mountains dominate Taiwan's center and rugged east coast, the island's western third is mostly alluvial plain and is host to most of the population. The two Pacific islands, Lyudao (Green Island) and Lanyu (Orchid Island), are popular holiday destinations, while the Taiwan Strait archipelagos of Penghu and Matzu hold historic and cultural appeal. And just a few kilometers off mainland China's Fujian coast, the tiny islands of Kinmen and Lieyu remain under Taiwanese control.