Taiwan information - general information
The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (from Portuguese (Ilha) Formosa, meaning "beautiful (island)"), is located in East Asia off the coast of mainland China, southwest of the main islands of Japan but directly west of the end of Japan's Ryukyu Islands, and northwest of the Philippines. It is bound to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait, to the west by the Taiwan Strait and to the north by the East China Sea. The island is 394 kilometers (245 miles) long and 144 kilometers (89 miles) wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation.
Taiwan can be divided into five regions:
- Central Taiwan — This region includes the Central Mountains, central western coastal area, scenic Sun Moon Lake and Taichung city. Counties: Changhua County, Miaoli County, Nantou County, Taichung County.
- Eastern Taiwan — This area, cut off from the rest of the island by mountains, contains Taiwan's most striking natural scenery, including the famous Taroko Gorge (Tailuge Gorge) and the cities of Hualien and Taitung. Counties: Hualien County, Taitung County, Yilan County.
- Northern Taiwan — the capital, Taipei, and the high-tech hub, Hsinchu, are located in this region, as well as the Yangmingshan National Park. Counties: Hsinchu County, Taipei County, Taoyuan County.
- Southern Taiwan — This area is more tropical than the rest of the island, with many beaches and coconut palms. Taiwan's second largest city, Kaohsiung, and oldest city, Tainan, are located in the south of the island. Counties: Chiayi County, Kaohsiung County, Pingtung County, Tainan County, Yunlin County.
- The Outlying Islands — Green Island, Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu, Orchid Island and Penghu.
Taiwan has many large cities and towns. Below is a list of nine of the most notable. Other cities are listed under their specific regional section.
- Taipei (臺北 or 台北) is the seat of government of the Republic of China and its center of commerce and culture. Taipei is home to the world's currently tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101.
- Hsinchu (新竹) is a center of hi-tech industry, and one of the world's leading manufacturers of hi-tech components. Hsinchu Science Park is the home to many hi-tech companies.
- Hualien (花蓮) is located near Taroko Gorge, and is considered one of the most pleasant of Taiwan's cities.
- Jiufen (九份) - this former gold mining town located on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination.
- Kaohsiung (高雄) is the second-largest city on the island. It has one of the busiest sea ports (the Port of Kaohsiung) in the world and it has the island's second-largest airport, Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH).
- Keelung (基隆) is the a center of transshipment in the north, and is located about a thirty minute drive from downtown Taipei.
- Puli (埔里) is located at the geographical center of the island, and it serves as a good base for exploring the central mountains and Sun Moon Lake.
- Taichung (臺中) is the third largest city in Taiwan, and has an abundance of interesting cultural amenities and activities.
- Tainan (臺南) is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital during imperial times. It is famous for its historic buildings and snack food.
People tend to think of Taiwan as a small, crowded island filled mostly with electronic factories, and if you stay in Taipei or along the west coast you might indeed maintain the illusion, but the island has some surprisingly lofty peaks and it's definitely worthwhile to explore the mountains and national parks of interior.
- Alishan - misty forests of giant cypresses and amazing sunrises at the center of the island, reached by a scenic narrow-gauge train
- Kenting National Park - located at the extreme southern tip of the island, this park is famous for its beaches and lush vegetation.
- Shei-pa National Park - a park spanning mountains and rivers located in Hsinchu County - great hiking trails
- Sun Moon Lake - nestled at 2,500 feet in lofty mountains in Nantou County, this lake is famous for its clear sparkling blue water and picturesque mountain backdrop.
- Taipingshan - a historic logging area and one of Taiwan's most scenic spots. Located in Yilan County.
- Taroko Gorge (太魯閣 Tàilǔgé)- an impressive gorge located off the east coast
- Yangmingshan National Park - spanning a mountain range overlooking Taipei
- Yushan - at 3,996m the highest mountain in not just Taiwan, but all East Asia
Taiwan has a marine tropical climate, meaning cool winters (15°C) from October to December, and sweltering, humid summers (above 30°C) from June to September. Occasional typhoons are experienced as well, especially in the south. Spring is nice, but it rains more than during autumn.