The 15 Best Highlights to See on Green Island (Ludao)
Though there are plenty of spectacular islands, rolling mountain ranges and pristine oceans to see in Taiwan, for locals, there’s only one place to spend a summer vacation, Green Island! Known by locals as Ludao, the island was born from the flames of the earth beneath it, leaving behind a rugged volcanic coastline topped by windswept hilltops and open meadows.
Located 33 km east of Taitung city, the island of a sparse 3000 inhabitants and a small contingent of indigenous tribes ticks all the topical paradise boxes. Dramatic shores, unique hot springs, and some of the most vibrant oceans anywhere on earth are just a few of the reasons that the island has gained such a reputation! As such, let’s find out the best things to see during your time on Green Island!
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Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs
Taiwan is not short of some incredible hot springs! Though the toasty water of Beitou and Wulai are among the best, for locals, this is considered the best of all! The Zhaori Hot Springs are one of only three saltwater springs in the world, the other two being in Japan and Italy. The pools are fed through underground seawater that’s been heated by the immense volcanic activity that remains below the island.
Temperatures range from a snug simmer to a crustacean boiling high! Either way, the real treat is being a stone’s throw away from the waves crashing against the rocky coast!
Best of all, from March to October, these hot springs are open 24 hours a day! Of the many places to see the sunrise on Green Island, there aren’t many more luxury options than this!
Little Great Wall (Siao Changcheng)
Not only does Taiwan share a lot of cultural similarities with their neighbouring Chinese cousin, but Taiwan also has their own replica of China’s most iconic attraction! Winding its way across the coastal cliff edge, the Little Great Wall may be much smaller than its Chinese counterpart, but it’s equally as beautiful!
The dipping and diving trail provides some of the best views the island has to offer as it leads towards a pavilion overlooking the coast. From the lookout, you not only have a perfect view of the open ocean and the island’s volcanic shorelines, but also a picture-perfect angle to see the island’s most iconic rock formations, speaking of which…
Pekingese Dog Rock & Sleeping Beauty Rock
While some people may find images in the clouds above, the Taiwanese like to find images in the stones that surround them! Looking across the coast from the Little Great Wall, you’ll see the most famous formations on Green Island, the Pekingese Dog and the Sleeping Beauty.
With a little squint of the eyes and a sprinkle of imagination, you can see how they earned their name. The boulder stood in the middle of the ocean resembles a kneeling dog facing out to sea while the one beside it looks like a girl laying on her back. Get your postcard-worthy shots right here!
Ride Around Green Island
There are plenty of worthwhile sites all around Green Island, and in true island fashion, the best way to see them all is on the back of your own scooter! The 18 km ring road encircling Green Island is easily one of the most photogenic roads in the country, and better yet, it passes all the must-see sites.
Not only that but getting about the island by scooter is almost a necessity! Though a public bus runs every hour or so, it’s more convenient taking a scooter, and obviously the coolest option! They cost around NT$350-600 per day, and most accommodations will even provide one for you. So hop on and take a ride!
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Born from the fire and flames of the volcanic activity below it, Green Island’s rugged coastline creates the perfect setting for some vibrant coral reefs. A myriad sea turtle, hammerhead sharks and lethal sea snakes are just a few of the critters that explore amongst the shipwrecks scattered around the island.
Though the entire shoreline is worth exploring, there are few spots that top the list, including Nanliao, Tapaisha and Chaikou.
Shilang Diving Area is closest to the bustling Nanliao Village and is one of the most popular. The gentle current and abundance of sea life make it an ideal spot. Advanced divers can also explore the world’s largest mushroom-shaped porites coral, and even a functional letterbox (yes, that’s right!) in the shape of a seahorse!
With a long pathway leading into the ocean, Chaikou and Dabaisha are favourites amongst beginners and advanced divers alike! The walkways drop you right in the heart of the reef and the dazzling sea life that surrounds them.
Green Island White Terror Memorial Park
On a gorgeous tropical paradise, the last thing you’d expect to find is one of the most horrifying landmarks in human history!
Though today Taiwan is a bastion of democracy in Asia, it wasn’t always like that. From 1949 to 1987, the country was governed under an era of martial law known as White Terror by the corrupt and often violent KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party). During this time, Taiwanese intellectuals and the social elite were targeted as suspected Communist spies or sympathisers. In total, about 140,000 people were imprisoned and thousands were executed.
The prison on Green Island, ironically nicknamed Oasis Villa, housed 2,000 political prisoners in two concentration camp-style prisons where they were sent to be reformed and forced into gruelling physical labour.
Today the prison stands as a harsh reminder of that time, and to commemorate those who fought for their freedom, democracy and human rights. Oh, and if you thought it was over, Green Island is STILL home to a notorious prison today, which houses the country’s most notorious leaders in organised crime!
Standing 33-meters high and overlooking the island, the Ludao Lighthouse has become the island’s iconic landmark. It comes with quite a story too, one that was born from disaster.
In 1937 an American cruise liner, the SS President Hoover, struck a nearby reef and sank. The bewildered locals tried everything they could to rescue the passengers for hours on end! As a sign of gratitude, the US donated a lighthouse to the island the following year, in the hope it would prevent something like that from happening again. Quite a story!
In the highly spiritual nation that is Taiwan, one diety is regarded higher than any other. Figures of Guanyin, or the Goddess of Mercy, can be found throughout countless temples, though the one at this cave was created by nature!
The cavern was formed over millions of years by underground rivers eroding the rising coral reefs, and in its wake, leaving behind a stalagmite that supposedly looks like the iconic deity. It does take quite a leap of imagination to see it, but that doesn’t stop locals from flocking to the site, much like it did many years ago!
The story goes that a group of fishermen lost their way and were guided by a fireball towards the seashore and later towards the cave. Ever since it has been the most important religious site on the island.
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The scenery encircling Green Island is some of the most fascinating anywhere in the country! And of all the amazing spots to marvel from, the coast of Youzihu is amongst the best. The expanses of coral reefs, black volcanic rocks and a myriad of sea caves provide plenty to explore.
Even better, the first settlements on the island were established right here! To this day the area still has traditional houses made out of the surrounding reef. Therefore it’s one of the best places to see the prehistoric history of Green Island!
The Blue Eye
Every decent paradise should come with its fair share of instageammable spots, and this one tops this list! Once you reach the coastline at Youzihu, follow a side road on the left until you reach an opening in the cliff face. As you enter you’ll hear the echoing of distant waves as the cave opens up onto the vast coastline and a baby blue backdrop of the skyline above it!
The unique shape of the cave earned it the nickname of the Blue Eye, thus it has become the island’s number 1 photo op! Scores of locals regularly crowd the cave for their chance to pose for their obligatory silhouette photo. Pretty cool snapshot though!
The Secret Cave at Youzihu
While you’re still at Youzihu, there’s another spot worth checking out, and this one is still a secret… for now at least! Head right of the impromptu parking lot and keep following the coast across the uneven volcanic coastline until you reach a beautiful little sea-cave cut off from the ocean.
As it’s only connected to the sea during high tide, the cave acts as an enormous rockpool trapping a myriad of different sea critters within! The beams of light cutting through to the bottom of the pool really brings something different to this one!
After a long day of swimming amongst abundant sea life and exploring volcanic crevices, there’s no better way to end the day than with a nice relaxing drink! Better yet, why not have one in the middle of a fairytale?
On the edge of the coast road, there’s a little bar called Oasis which has a collection of private tents with streams of fairy lights hanging in-between. Each tent becomes a personal little booth where visitors can enjoy a cocktail in the beautifully relaxing surroundings. Definitely mark this one out on Google Maps!
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One of the island’s most iconic residents is the adorable Sika deer which roams freely about the island! Though they may not be native to Green Island, they were brought here in the 70s and quickly flourished to the point where there were more deer than people!
Sadly their numbers dwindle on the mainland, but here on Green Island, they are protected in the Sika Deer Ecological Park! It’s one of the best spots to find these gentle creatures, though you could run into one almost anywhere.
If you couldn’t find one, don’t worry, one will likely come across your dinner plate while you’re on the island…
On a gorgeous little island surrounded by rolling mountain ranges and pristine nature, there are a fair number of hiking trails that are worth spending your day on. One of the nicest is the Kuoshan Ku Tao Trail, which begins behind Nanliao Village and goes all the way to the east side of the island for about 1.8 km.
Though it may be tempting to reach the island’s peak on Mount Huoshao, sadly the military outpost wouldn’t be too happy with your presence! Instead, you could explore the Across Mountain Historic Trail which leads you into the heart of the island and the summit at Amei Hill.
The Hilltop Meadows At Niutou Hill
As this list should show, Green Island isn’t short of some incredible spots to marvel at its coastline! After following a meandering boardwalk to the open meadows of Niutou Hill, you’ll see why it was worth the effort to get here! The scattering of volcanic rocks across the windswept grasslands and the wide-open coastline of the north really is awe-inspiring!
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A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.