Though the island nation of Taiwan has plenty of treats to offer within its borders, there are a few hidden gems scattered along its coastlines. A Taiwanese summer itinerary would be amiss without one name – Ludao.
Located just 33 km east of Taitung city, the island and its 3000 inhabitants, which include a small contingent of indigenous tribes, play host to regular tropes of mainlanders. Born from the volcanic flames that brew beneath it, the island boasts dramatic shores, unique hot springs, and some of the most vibrant oceans anywhere on Earth!
As small as Ludao may be, there is still plenty to pack into your travel itinerary. As such, here’s everything worth doing across 2 days on Ludao.
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Table of Contents
For the first day of your Ludao itinerary, we’ll stick to the north-western edge to explore some of the island’s natural beauty and learn a little more about its horrific history.
The first sight for many arriving on the island is the 33-meter-high Ludao Lighthouse, which has become the island’s most iconic landmark.
Its construction came after an American cruise liner, the SS President Hoover, struck a nearby reef and sank in 1937. The stunned locals worked tirelessly for hours to rescue the stranded passengers. In return for their kindness, the US donated a lighthouse to the island the following year, in the hope it would prevent any further incidences.
The lighthouse now stands next to a pristine turquoise lagoon that’s fit for any tropical island. It’s the perfect spot to start off your Ludao itinerary!
Snorkelling / Diving
Being a tropical volcanic island, Ludao’s jagged coastline creates the perfect conditions for vibrant coral reefs to flourish. As such, an immense amount of sealife inhabits the island’s shores.
From a myriad of sea turtles and hammerhead sharks to lethal sea snakes and the occasional sighting of whale sharks, there’s a litany of life amongst the island’s shipwrecks and mushroom-shaped porite corals, some of which are the largest in the world!
Though the entirety of the coastline is worth diving into, a few spots are a must! Nanliao, Tapaisha and Chaikou attract the greatest amount of visitors.
Green Island White Terror Memorial Park
As jaw-droppingly serene as the Ludao may be, it comes with quite a tragic history.
Taiwan once endured 38 years of martial law under 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.
During that time, the most notorious prison for these unlucky individuals was right here on Ludao. The ironically nicknamed Oasis Villa housed 2,000 political prisoners across two 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 commemorates those who fought for their freedom, democracy and human rights. Oh, and if you thought it was over, Ludao is STILL home to a notorious prison today, which houses the country’s most notorious leaders in organised crime!
On a gorgeous little mountainous island, there are a fair few trails that lead through its central peaks.
One of the nicest is the Kuoshan Ku Tao Trail, which begins behind Nanliao Village and goes all the way to the eastern edge of the island.
Though it may be tempting to reach the island’s peak on Mount Huoshao, sadly the military outpost there prevents you from doing so. Instead, you could explore the Across Mountain Historic Trail which takes you through the heart of the island and towards the summit of Amei Hill.
The ultimate guide on visiting the aboriginal volcanic island off the coast of Taiwan, Lanyu
What to see, how to get there, where to stay
Spotting Sika Deer
Once a regular sight on the mainland, sika deer are one of the few creatures native to Taiwan. Though they weren’t originally found on Ludao, they were brought here in the 70s and flourished to the point where there are now more deer than people!
While their numbers sadly dwindle on the mainland, here on Ludao, they are protected in the Sika Deer Ecological Park! It’s one of the best spots on the island to find these gentle creatures, though you could run into one almost anywhere.
If you can’t find one, don’t worry. You’ll likely come across one on your dinner plate whilst on Ludao anyway…
After an action-packed day of swimming amongst vibrant corals and exploring volcanic crevices, there’s no better way to end the day than with a nice relaxing drink! Better yet if it’s in a photogenic setting!
Tucked in between the minimal development on the island, Oasis has a collection of private tents with streams of fairy lights hanging in between. Each tent becomes a little getaway where visitors can enjoy a cocktail in the tranquil, eye-catching surroundings.
The second day of our Ludao itinerary will focus on exploring the immense natural landscapes of this magnificent island!
Amongst Taiwan’s many beloved gods and deities, one is regarded higher than any other – Guanyin. The Goddess of Mercy has countless temples and figures devoted to her throughout the country. Yet, Ludao has one of the more unique offerings to add to your itinerary.
The story goes that a group of lost fishermen were guided by a fireball towards the seashore and later towards the cave. Inside the caverns formed from eroded coral reefs stands a stalagmite that supposedly looks like the iconic deity.
Honestly, it’s pretty hard to envision, but that doesn’t stop locals from flocking to the site.
Want to learn more about temples in Taiwan? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Taiwanese Temples.
The Blue Eye
The mesmerising volcanic coasts and unstoppable force of erosion have created a number of natural marvels across Ludao (many of which we will be exploring in today’s itinerary!) By far one of the most jaw-dropping is found along the coastline of Youzihu.
Down the road along the coast, you’ll come to a cliff face that opens up onto the vast coastline with a baby blue backdrop of the skyline above it! The unique shape of the cave earned it the nickname of the Blue Eye. As the crowds of millennials will attest to, it’s easily one of the most instragrammable spots on the island.
The Secret Cave at Youzihu
Not so fast! The coast of Youzihu has even more treats for you to explore! On the opposite end of the coast, as you keep following the uneven volcanic coastline, you’ll eventually reach a beautiful little sea-cave cut off from the ocean.
As it’s only connected to the sea during high tide, the cave becomes an enormous rockpool trapping a myriad of different sea critters within! The beams of light cutting through to the bottom really brings something different to this one!
Little Great Wall
Though Taiwan does share a lot of cultural similarities with its cross-straight neighbour, Taiwan prides itself on its originality. That being said, there was just one cultural phenomenon that just had to be replicated.
Winding its way across the coastal cliff edge, the Little Great Wall may be much smaller than its Chinese counterpart but provides an equally beautiful view nonetheless.
Speaking of the iconic wonder of the world, make sure you check out The Ultimate Beijing Guide: The Great Wall (Badaling).
The dipping and diving trail leads to a cliff-side pavilion which gives a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and Ludao’s volcanic shorelines. It also provides the perfect viewpoint to see the island’s most iconic rock formations, speaking of which…
Pekingese Dog Rock & Sleeping Beauty Rock
Like any good coastal destination, locals enjoy finding images in the rocks that surround them. While most take quite the leap of imagination, two of Ludao’s greatest offerings are instantly recognisable!
Across the coast from the Little Great Wall, you’ll see the aptly named Pekingese Dog and Sleeping Beauty.
With a little squint of the eyes and a sprinkle of imagination, you can see how they earned their name. The boulder that stands in the ocean resembles a kneeling dog facing out to sea while the one beside it looks like a girl laying on her back.
Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs
Of the many natural wonders Taiwan has, hot springs are by far one of the most enjoyable! Though the toasty waters of Beitou and Wulai are favoured amongst locals, the ones on Ludao are 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 underneath.
Temperatures range from a snug simmer to a crustacean boiling high! All the while they’re placed just a stone’s throw away from the waves that crash against the rocky coast!
Better yet, from March to October, these hot springs are open 24 hours a day!
To see Taiwan’s hot spring culture at its finest, read The Ultimate Travel Itinerary: Beitou in 1 Day.
Ludao Main Street
Though there is very minimal development on the island, the main street acts as the central hub for most travellers. With a line of restaurants, souvenir stores and hotels, it’s most likely where you’ll set up camp and finish your day.
Best of all, it has all the island’s best street food and snack vendors, so come here for a bite to eat!
Also, be sure to check out the quirky prison-themed store Brother Story for a more lighthearted prison experience.
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